Climate in the Age of Resentment

Submitted: Jun 04, 2017
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

 It is not easy to put President Trump's exit from the Paris Climate Accord in perspective, perhaps because it is the new perspective, the world as it now is; and that is hard to accept. The general contour of this new perspective is that while large majorities of the public support environmental laws like the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water and Air acts even though they do impose limits on the capitalist economic system, today special interests have such a strong grip on at least two of the three branches of government (the judicial branch is still in question) that the United States government will no longer lead or follow intelligent environmental policies unless the sane majority regains control of -- for a start -- both political parties.

Our bar for sanity is low: stay on your medication and avoid overindulging your resentments.

And it is not easy to imagine how or when that could happen. Harbingers of doubt include Bernie Sanders' tremendous showing in the primaries, Democratic Party hacks' shenanigans against the Sanders' group at the convention, Sanders' inability despite more than a half-hearted attempt to persuade his supporters to vote for Clinton, and the General Election itself with a majority of the popular vote going for Clinton while the Electoral College went for Trump. And there is a special place in political Hell reserved for the Clintons and their clingers-on for their attempt to rekindle a Fifties' style Red Scare (only this time it would be what, a "Russian Cyber-Scare"?).

However we want to put it, it is evident at least to those who have remained active politically through the last 30 years that there has been a breakdown of American leadership across many fields, not all of them political. And resentment has crept into this widening gap and grown with it. And not all that resentment is coming from the People's  side. And this resentment has worse consequences than the opiate epidemic because it is either unacknowledged or exploited.

Trump has brought a lot of raw anger to the surface, the scent of sulfur is in the air, and it is not easy to see where government by major parties that have both -- wherever their hearts may wander between elections -- sold their souls to the richest special interests will end because it is dark, dangerous ground. -- blj

6-2-17

Christian Science Monitor

USA POLITICS

Paris pullout: Defiant US Climate Alliance emerges in its wake

US states, cities, and companies have banded together to try to meet the emissions reductions goals set by the Paris climate pact, despite President Trump's decision to withdraw.

Peter Grier, Jessica Mendoza, Henry Gass

https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2017/0602/Paris-pullout-Defiant-US-Climate-Alliance-emerges-in-its-wake

JUNE 2, 2017 President Trump’s historic decision to withdraw from the Paris global climate accord has produced an extraordinary reaction from a group of US states, cities, and corporations opposed to the move. They’ve banded together in a loose coalition that intends to try and meet US greenhouse gas emission targets set by the pact, despite official Washington policy.

Does American leadership always reside in the White House? That’s a question to which the US Climate Alliance – which includes the governors of at least four states, dozens of mayors, and more than 100 corporations – may provide at least a partial answer. 

“I have to say, the president’s short-sightedness and just offensive breaking of a promise that this country made with the rest of the world is really inspiring others to step forward into the void of leadership that he has left," says Libby Schaaf, the Democratic mayor of Oakland, Calif, in a phone interview. “I believe in some ways his action is going to inspire more philanthropists, more industrial leaders to come out and say, ‘We as Americans are not breaking our promise.’ ”

There’s partisanship in this action, of course. But it is also driven by a concern on the part of many non-national officials and executives – including some Republican leaders – that the United States needs to keep its eye on building new jobs and industries around the work of adapting to a changing global environment.

“These are not tree-huggers,” said Mindy Lubber, president and chief executive officer of Ceres, a sustainability advocacy group, in a phone briefing Thursday organized in support of the new coalition.

 

 Climate change: Is your opinion informed by science? Take our quiz!

That said, some of the biggest names in the nascent organization are politicians long opposed to the Trump administration’s America First approach to world affairs. They include Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor and billionaire, Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic governor of New York State and possible 2020 presidential candidate, and Jerry Brown, Democratic governor of California. New York and California – together with the states of Washington and Connecticut, which have also signed on – represent nearly one-quarter of America’s gross domestic product (GDP).

“Donald Trump has absolutely chosen the wrong course. He’s wrong on the facts,” said Governor Brown on the Thursday phone call, which was organized by the World Resources Institute.

The new group is trying to determine if it can submit a greenhouse-gas emission reduction goal to the United Nations alongside those submitted by almost all the world’s sovereign nations. Given the size of the California and New York economies it is possible this goal could approach the one pledged by former President Barack Obama of a 26-28 percent reduction in emissions by 2025, measured against 2005 levels.

It’s the 26 percent reduction goal, itself non-binding, that Mr. Trump has said that the US will no longer take steps to meet, during his administration.

Why companies are getting greener

But politics isn’t the only reason for the new group’s formation. It also reflects the fact that many states and localities have already taken steps to try and reduce emissions, under voter and corporate pressure.

About 30 states have already adopted mandates that require utilities to reduce their use of fossil fuels and increase use of renewable energy, for instance.

Corporate leaders also see green energy as an aspect of many developing industries and possible marketing tool. They don’t want to cede leadership in this area to competitors such as China. Many lobbied Trump to stay in the Paris agreement and were unhappy when he withdrew.

“Disappointed with today’s decision on the Paris Agreement,” tweeted Jeff Immelt, chairman and CEO of General Electric, following Trump’s announcement. “Climate change is real. Industry must now lead and not depend on government.”

The world is now moving in a different direction than the US on the environment, and if US companies don’t move with their global competitors they will be left behind with primitive technologies and primitive manufacturing processes that won’t match up in the years ahead, says William Rees, an ecological economist at the University of British Columbia.

Boosting oil and gas production and attempting to revive the coal industry is 19th -century thinking, says Professor Rees. That won’t work for companies that want to maintain global market share in the 21st century.

“No corporate entity that has an international status is going to want to climb onto a 19th -century bandwagon, and that’s what Trump and his people represent,” says Rees.

Not just happening in the Arctic

Meanwhile, it is states and cities that are already being forced to deal with the realities of climate change on a practical level. This includes not just East and West Coast cities dealing with rising oceans but Middle American places like South Bend, Ind.

Last August South Bend had one of the most devastating storms in its history, says Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a Democrat who made a brief run for the leadership of the Democratic National Committee earlier this year. Seven inches of rain fell overnight. Families had their homes destroyed by rainfall and flash flooding.

“We have to stop thinking of climate change as something that happens in the Arctic, and recognize it as something that’s impacting us at home,” says Mr. Buttigieg.

South Bend is now reengineering its sewer systems as a “green infrastructure” that can handle increased rainwater. It’s revising its city forestry plan to include trees better fitted for a changing climate. It has retrofitted police cars and other city vehicles to run on natural gas, and optimized traffic lights to reduce idling times.

“This is one of the many issues where the federal level of politics has let us down, and when that happens it’s increasingly fallen to cities to step up and take a leadership role,” Buttigieg says.

On the other hand, Tom Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, says the federal level did not let down US voters in this instance. Trump was right to withdraw from the Paris agreement, he says.

Many of the adjustments away from fossil fuels made at the city and corporate levels are the result of onerous regulations that the Trump administration is now in the process of unwinding, he says. And the Paris agreement carried a real cost for US taxpayers. The US had pledged up to $3 billion in aid for poorer nations to make their own investments in renewable energy. (Of that amount, $1 billion has been paid.)

That’s money that the GOP-controlled Congress was not going to authorize, Pyle points out. Given all that, “there is really no reason to be in the agreement at all,” he says.

A determination to do more

It’s unclear whether the pro-Paris group of non-federal government and businesses can earn any sort of official standing with the UN overseers of the climate agreement. The accord was designed around nation-states, not ad hoc groups of concerned organizations.

But even a separate pledge would indicate that leadership in the US has passed to different levels and progress is being made, according to former New York City Mayor Bloomberg and other leaders of the effort.

That could counteract one of the biggest worries of environmental groups: that the US action could spark an “us, too” reaction among other nations. The thinking would run along predictable lines. The US isn’t going to participate. Why should we?

This sort of thinking could trickle down to the individual level of mayors and companies both in the US and around the world, says Timmons Roberts, a professor of environmental studies at Brown University in Rhode Island.

 

But “that’s not what I’m seeing now,” he says. “I’m seeing a defiance and grim determination to do more.”

 

 

6-2-17

Los Angeles Times

Why are so many CEOs bashing Trump over the Paris accord? Money and public opinion

David Pierson and Ivan Penn

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-business-opposition-paris-20170602-story.html

Leaders of industries haven’t historically been leaders on climate change.

Then why would Tim Cook, Elon Musk, Bob Iger and Jeff Immelt — a veritable who’s who of Fortune magazine cover models — so vocally criticize President Trump’s move to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate accord?

Leave politics and platitudes about saving the planet aside, experts say, because the companies’ positions on the Paris accord boil down to their business interests.

“It’s all about who their stakeholders are,” said Shon Hiatt, a professor of business administration at USC. “For multinational enterprises, they need to represent stakeholders, not just in the U.S., but all over the world.”

Mirroring their opposition earlier this year to the White House’s travel ban, the nation’s leading corporations are saying the president’s stance is bad for their bottom lines. That’s especially the case now that economic momentum for renewable energy appears to be irreversible.

When a company such as Facebook criticizes abandoning the Paris accord and pledges to power its data centers entirely with renewable energy, it does so with the knowledge it makes good sense both from a public relations standpoint (5 out of 6 American voters say the U.S. should stay in the Paris agreement, according to a Yale University survey) and from a business perspective.

“Most corporate strategies that integrate climate change are based on market forces,” said Don Reed, a managing director in PwC’s U.S. Sustainable Business Solutions practice.

The decline of fossil fuels

Among the biggest market forces undergirding the high-profile opposition to Trump’s climate policies is the recent embrace of clean energy.

Though renewables made up just 10% of total U.S. energy consumption in 2016, they represent nearly two-thirds of the growth in the utility sector last year.

That’s because power produced by wind and solar is increasingly cheaper than virtually all other sources of electricity generation, including fossil fuels such as natural gas and coal, which at its cheapest and dirtiest costs about 6 cents a kilowatt-hour.

By comparison, wind power now costs 3.2 to 6.2 cents a kilowatt-hour; solar 4.6 to 6.1 cents and natural gas 5 to 8 cents, said Mark Cooper, senior research fellow for economic analysis at the Vermont Law School’s Institute for Energy and the Environment.

By Cooper’s count, 22 states with 55% of the nation’s gross domestic product and 40% of the carbon emissions can comply with the Paris agreement. And 61 mayors have voiced their commitment to clean energy.

That could “neutralize” the effects of the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the agreement, Cooper said.

“The revolution is here,” he said. “It’s happening. The dominant interests that are being replaced understand what’s happening and are just trying to resist.”

Public opinion

Executives aren’t exactly straying from the mainstream when they say global warming is a problem. About 70% of Americans believe climate change is real, according to the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

When Musk, the head of Tesla, counters Trump by quitting two of his advisory councils, he knows he has the vast support of a customer base that feels strongly enough about pollution to splurge on luxury electric vehicles.

That’s not to say Musk’s public stance is devoid of risk — his ventures require government support in terms of subsidies and regulations. But for the most part, Musk stands to gain by aligning with science and the values of his customers.

In the past, those disagreements may have been hidden from public view given the inherent risk chief executives face choosing sides. But the stakes of today’s debates, be they over immigration or climate change, are making it harder for executives to stay silent in the face of public outrage.

“What makes this particular period in American history unique is that there are so many divisive issues forcing these individuals to speak out,” said Arvind Bhambri, a business professor at USC. “This phenomenon of disagreeing with a president has always existed. What’s different is taking a public position while being the CEO of a large and visible company.”

Given the business community’s influence on society, Bhambri said executives and their companies should not be afraid to take a stand.

Already, corporations have weighed in to support less restrictive immigration policies and LGBTQ rights, and pushed for boycotts, such as when North Carolina tried to enact a discriminatory bathroom bill — though none of those stances were on par with defying a sitting president.

To find similar instances, one has to go back as far as the Industrial Revolution, when tycoons such as railroad magnate William H. Vanderbilt had the power and sway to be outspoken against presidential policy, said Michael McGerr, a history professor at Indiana University.

The fact that corporate executives have spoken out so forcefully about Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate accord reflects these leaders’ future-forward thinking, he said.

Responding to climate change is “both economically smart and socially wise,” McGerr said.

The current feeling on climate change is similar to corporate executives’ shift in views on same-sex marriages, he said: “They’re both a genuinely felt reading of what’s good for the company, and they become an openly held set of values.”

 

 

09/29/2015/Updated Sep 29, 2016

Huffington Post

Congress’ Assault on Endangered Species Act Does Not Mirror Public Opinion

By Jamie Rappaport Clark

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jamie-rappaport-clark/at-what-cost_b_8215738.html

 

Since January, over 80 legislative proposals have been proposed in Congress to dramatically reduce protections for imperiled wildlife protected under the Endangered Species Act. While most are standalone bills, many are extraneous amendments attached to must-pass legislation such as the authorization bill for the Department of Defense, or the appropriations bill for the Department of the Interior and other federal agencies, where they don’t belong. If adopted, these measures would cripple the Endangered Species Act by having politicians making biological decisions best left in the hands of government scientists, undermining the conservation of imperiled wildlife for decades to come.

Many may be surprised to learn about Congress’ closeted assault on imperiled wildlife. The public deserves to know because when it comes to this issue, Congressional action is directly contradicting public opinion.

nationwide poll released this summer found an overwhelming majority of Americans, 90 percent of the registered voters polled, support the Endangered Species Act. Even in specific states where special economic interests have sensationalized species listing decisions, support for the Endangered Species Act remains extraordinarily high.

Four separate, state-specific polls surveyed registered voters in Colorado, Missouri, Montana and Indiana finding broad-based support for the Endangered Species Act extending across the political spectrum: 80 percent of Coloradans74 percent of Missourians75 percent of Montanans and 83 percent of Indianans support the ESA.

Taken alone, these are compelling numbers, but the four polls also find voters have strong opinions about who should make key decisions under the Endangered Species Act. Because a number of anti-ESA legislators currently seek to strip specific species of their Endangered Species Act protections, the polls asked residents whom they believe should determine which species should be protected under the Act. Across all four states, the strong majority of respondents believe it should be biologists at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, not members of Congress. In short, Americans want politicians to leave science to the scientists when it comes to endangered species conservation.

Polluting industries and special economic interests - and with alarming frequency, their willing allies in Congress — always roll out dire predictions of economic doom in the face of regulations or new ESA listings. But the poll results show that support for endangered species conservation remains strong and that the public just doesn’t buy the argument that we have to choose between jobs and conservation.

Here’s just one example: last year the Gunnison sage-grouse was listed as a threatened species in Colorado. Industry, big oil and politicians tried to strike fear in the public, proclaiming that protecting the bird would cause economic devastation throughout the affected region. The anti-ESA interests hammered the public with their message that a choice had to be made between jobs and imperiled wildlife conservation. Even so, this recent poll found seventy-eight percent (78%) of registered voters in Colorado reject the notion that the Endangered Species Act “hurts the economy and destroys jobs,” believing instead that “the law is necessary” and that “we can protect our natural heritage for future generations while growing our economy and creating jobs.” Just like the Oregon Spotted Frog or the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse in Colorado, the case of the Gunnison sage-grouse is turning out just the same: despite hysterical claims of economic doom and gloom leading up to the listing of a species, in fact none of that has ever happened after the listing. The Gunnison sage-grouse was ultimately listed - getting the federal protections it needs to survive - and the economy of the affected area has moved on, pretty much as it did before.

So next time you hear politicians tell you the Endangered Species Act is a huge job killer, or that we can’t list specific species without dire economic consequences, pause a moment to think about who stands to benefit from any weakening of the act or species’ protections. Because the answer is almost invariably polluting and other economic special interests. And sadly, too many in Congress are in the pocket of these corporate entities, doing their bidding on Capitol Hill and elsewhere.

Congress must remember where the public stands on these issues and represent their constituents instead of special interests. Thankfully, Congressman Grijalva and 91 other members of Congress recently took a stand against the House majority’s continued assault on our imperiled wildlife by sending a letter to the Obama administration urging it to reject any FY 2016 spending legislation that includes attacks on the Endangered Species Act.

This show of support is exactly what we need as negotiations on a final spending bill continue this fall. As Congressman Grijalva and the others that signed this letter urge, instead of destroying our wildlife heritage, our elected officials must work to protect it. Our proud tradition of protecting America’s imperiled wildlife should be a congressional priority, not an item to be bargained away at the budget negotiating table, or otherwise slipped silently into must-pass legislation.

 

5-6-1997

University of Michigan

 

Public Opinion on Species and Endangered Species Conservation

 

Brian Czech

 

www.umich.edu/~esupdate/library/97.05-06/czech.html

...Conclusion

Our results suggest that species conservation is of greater concern than other issues and attitudes that have become associated with the concept of environmentalism. Specifically, the Endangered Species Act seems to be highly valued for 2 reasons. First, the public is generally concerned about the extinction of species, and the ESA is the only law that directly addresses that concern. Second, the public is most concerned about posterity, and has a basic understanding that the ESA dissuades activities that liquidate depleted resources and make them unavailable to future generations. In addition to the ESA, the public, on average, favors policies that would eliminate subsidies to resource extractors, promote population stabilization, and temper the consumption of natural resources.

 

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