New York Times Champions Two “Leave It In The Ground” Proponents — Jay Inslee & Lee Wasserman

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Over the weekend, the New York Times featured two op-ed pieces that advocate for reducing or eliminating the amount of fossil fuels consumed by humans. When you come right down to it, given what we know about global warming, nothing else really matters in the coming election and every election to follow. If we don’t stop burning fossil fuels, we will cease to exist. Simple as that. All the flag waving in the world won’t alter our fate one iota.

Jay Inslee Spells It Out

Image courtesy Governor Jay & First Lady Trudi Inslee (CC BY-ND license)

Jay Inslee is the Governor of the state of Washington and a candidate for president. He writes in the Times that the usual advice given candidates by political consultants is, “Just shut up about climate change if you want to be elected. They set up a false dichotomy between the economy and the environment, saying you can’t fight for good jobs and for clean air. There is a change happening: Americans really feel climate change in their daily lives — and they are demanding leadership from their politicians like never before.”

“The science is clear: We must take major action to reduce carbon pollution in the next decade, or our communities and our children’s lives will suffer dramatic and irreparable harm. The next president will choose whether America leads the world in building a clean energy economy, or we leave our communities facing turmoil and destruction.

“Climate change cost the United States economy at least $240 billion per year during the past decade, and that figure is projected to rise to $360 billion per year in the coming 10 years. We cannot afford the costs of inaction.

“So it is time for Democrats to ignore the standard inside-the-Beltway thinking that talking about the environment risks electoral defeat. The politics of climate change have changed. And the clearest proof point comes from an unlikely source: President Donald Trump himself.”

Inslee is referring to a bizarre news conference the putative president gave on July 8 during which he made the outrageous claim that he and his minions have been “good stewards of our public land,” reduced carbon emissions, and provided Americans with the “cleanest air” and “crystal clean” water. Those claims are so patently absurd they beggar belief. The fact that the man with the world’s most massive ego was flanked during the conference by a former lobbyist for the coal industry and a former lobbyist for the oil industry tell us all we need to know about his disastrous environmental policies.

David Victor, director of the Laboratory on International Law and Regulation at the University of California, San Diego, said the speech was the starkest example to date of the disconnect between Mr. Trump’s rhetoric and reality. “This speech is a true ‘1984’ moment,” he told the Times.

Richard Newell, the president of Resources for the Future, added, “There’s this factoid out there that the U.S. is a leader in reducing emissions. That is just not true. It is disingenuous to both celebrate the decline in U.S. CO2 emissions at the same time that one promotes the use of coal power. You can’t have both.” In a recent speech, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York said, “Try as he might to say otherwise, President Trump has proved himself probably the staunchest ally of the worst polluters of any president we have ever had.”

“So, why would the president give a big speech lying about his record on the environment?” Jay Inslee asks. “Because he is scared. He knows that climate change is his weak spot. According to a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, only 29 percent of Americans approve of Mr. Trump’s position on climate change while 62 percent disapprove — a wider gulf than on any other issue polled. And Mr. Trump’s own internal polling says his terrible record pillaging the environment is a huge obstacle to his re-election.”

Inslee says Americans are coming face to face with climate change in the massive floods in the Midwest, the raging forest fires in California and the Pacific Northwest, and the more powerful storms hitting the Gulf of Mexico and the Eastern seaboard. He says people want their political leaders to act responsibly to transform the economy to low and zero emissions activities that will provide well paying employment to millions.

“They know that our nation can rise to this challenge — that we’re still the America capable of accomplishing big things, just as we did when we defeated fascism, put a man on the moon and created the internet age. The days of Democratic fear should end now: We’re not going to win on climate by running the same duck-and-cover campaigns of the past, nor by offering ‘middle-ground’ approaches that fail to confront this challenge. More than ever, Americans want bold solutions to the climate crisis. Democrats can beat Donald Trump if we elect a nominee who will challenge him on this issue.”

And yet at the national level, Democrats are running away from climate change at every level. Instead, they are scuffling over what Joe Biden did or didn’t do with regard to busing in the 1969. That hardly seems like a strategy designed to defeat the tyrant of Pennsylvania Avenue.

“Putting climate first is critical: History shows us that if an issue is not the top priority of an administration, it’s not likely to get done,” Inslee adds. “I love being governor of Washington but on my last day on earth, I want to be able to look my grandchildren in their eyes and say I did everything I could to solve the climate crisis. We will defeat Donald Trump by attacking his failures on climate change, not by running from the issue.”

Lee Wasserman Asks, “Why Are We Still Looking For Oil And Gas?”

Lee Wasserman is the director of the Rockefeller Family Fund. Yes, they are the group that owes their enormous wealth to John D. Rockefeller, the industrialist who founded Standard Oil, the predecessor of Exxon Mobil. In another op-ed for the New York Times, Wasserman wonders why people are hell bent on extracting more fossil fuels if humans have only a few decades — at most — to avoid catastrophic climate change.

While acknowledging that the current occupant of the Oval Office is the worst of the worst, he has nothing good to say about Barack Obama and Justin Trudeau either.

“It was President Barack Obama, after all, who described ‘all of the above’ as the preferred non-choice of energy sources. He enthusiastically embraced the fracking boom that is now primed to unleash a tidal wave of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. His successful effort to end the country’s export ban on fossil fuels encouraged industry to go after every ounce of oil and gas it could find — and it is finding plenty. Taken together, President Obama’s legacy is a nation that produces more oil and natural gas than Saudi Arabia.”

Sobering thoughts. Addressing climate change is not as simple as electing a Democratic president — any Democratic president — apparently.

“Climate policy can get complicated fast, but there is really only one question to ask when considering an official’s climate bona fides: Will his or her policies lead to an increase or decrease in the amount of fossil fuels coming out of the ground?

“One peer-reviewed study found that to have a 50 percent chance of meeting the Paris accord’s target of staying “well below” 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit of additional warming, we must refrain from burning much of the fossil fuel reserves currently listed as assets on the balance sheets of energy companies.”

Those companies, of course, intend to burn every molecule before the climate Armageddon arrives, even though doing so will guarantee is arrives decades earlier than expected.

Wasserman has equally harsh words for former California governor Jerry Brown, who pushed hard for measures to reduce carbon emissions from the transportation and utility sectors while aggressively promoting oil and gas extraction in his home state.

“California is one of the leading producers of crude oil in the country. Nearly 5.5 million Californians live within a mile of an oil well and of those, 1.8 million — nearly 92 percent of whom are people of color — live in areas already burdened by pollution. Relentless efforts by environmental and public health advocates to convince Governor Brown to at least minimize drilling in and around the most congested neighborhoods for health and safety reasons, in addition to sheer climate necessity, failed.

“Certainly, money generated from extraction is an important revenue source for California. But if Mr. Brown couldn’t leave a carbon-based nickel on the table, and if, ultimately, the same will be said for his successor, Gavin Newsom, how can we expect Donald Trump to do more?” Once again, just voting Democratic is no guarantee that climate change will be addressed in any meaningful way. We need different democrats, ones who will take the climate emergency seriously and will do what needs to be done to address it responsibly.”

Wasserman has nothing but scorn for Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau. Shortly after his government declared a climate emergency, he approved “a $5.5 billion expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline that will link Alberta’s tar sands to British Columbia.”

“Mr. Trudeau’s government bought the pipeline to ensure its expansion. That the government had to step in underscored the lack of a business rationale to transport bitumen, one of the world’s dirtiest oils, 600 miles across Canada for shipment to Asia.

“But Mr. Trudeau would not let the pipeline go. His devotion to one of the world’s more destructive projects makes President Trump’s embrace of Big Oil look like a schoolboy crush. Keeping coal and Canada’s carbon-intensive tar sands in the ground are at the top of every list I’ve seen about what we must do to avoid full-blown climate catastrophe.

“If this pipeline expansion is completed, no matter how committed Mr. Trudeau may be to green energy, he will be remembered as the person at the center of losing our last, best opportunity to safeguard what remains of our fragile climate system. His government will own it.”

Strong words for a politician who styles himself as a progressive leader.

Wassserman does have high praise for Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York, who has shown a willingness to curb fossil fuel production in his state while promoting low and zero carbon strategies for the transportation and utility sectors. “Mr. Cuomo signed legislation authorizing one of the most ambitious climate plans in the world to wean the state’s entire economy (not just its energy sector) from fossil fuels. The governor is acting as if our life depends on it.”

There is an important election coming up next year, one which will determine whether the United States continues with its “Drill, Baby, Drill” policies of destruction or transitions to a rational response to the growing climate emergency.

“Those of you who care about whether the next president will do what she or he can to slow or prevent the next great extinction and mitigate human misery should follow closely whether a candidate is serious about keeping fossil fuels in the ground or is focused only on reducing demand for them,” he says. If it’s the latter, that person will be part of the problem, not part of the solution, Wasserman warns.

It’s your vote. If you are still mad about the 60s and people driving welfare Cadillacs, you will just vote for whoever promises to deport the most migrants and levy the biggest tariffs against former friends who are now our enemies. But if you are interested in addressing climate change in a meaningful way, you should ignore all that extraneous noise and vote for the person who champions “keep it in the ground” policies.

Otherwise, you are wasting your vote and consigning the Earth to a tragic end, one that will see most forms of life extinguished. Cockroaches will survive; they always do. But unless you are a cockroach, voting for same old, same old is a monumentally bad idea.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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