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Trump’s climate science jihad portends a more bigly U.S. carbon footprint

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Caption

The imposing American carbon footprint for which Donald Trump apparently takes great pride.

by Len Bahr, Ph.D.

For those of us who perceive global warming and its horrifying ‘accoutrements’ as the ultimate threat to our species, the year 2016 was extraordinary. My personal concern is considerably heightened by the fact that today, April 4, 2017, is the first birthday of my grandson Hudson Riefle Bahr Jones, who will reap the consequences of whatever action or inaction is taken during the next few years by the most profligate carbon emitting nation on earth, in terms of per capita CO2 generated.

During 2016 we saw the lame duck Barack Hussein Obama taking heroic rear guard action to offset the trajectory of climate change, with a landmark legacy Clean Power Plan and a series of other measures. Meanwhile, his would-be but seemingly long shot successor Donald Trump was declaring global warming a job-killing Chinese hoax. It has become painfully obvious since the election that Mr. Trump has absolutely no concept of the second law of thermodynamics, or the impossibility of perpetual motion.

Throughout the campaign dynamics of 2016, underdog Demo Bernie Sanders kept Hillary’s feet to the fire on climate change but the issue never gained traction. This was due largely to a disinterested mainstream media, for whom global warming was a marginal, niche issue of interest only to elite greenies. Thus, during the most intensively covered and vehemently argued presidential campaign in history the most threatening issue for humankind was virtually ignored. This fact was documented in quantitative terms by Emily Atkins in her March 24 article in newrepubic.com (see fig. 1). Here’s a quote: 

The most likely explanation for this (lack of coverage on climate issues) is that, in 2016, the TV news networks largely focused on Trump—Trump’s speeches, Trump’s election, Trump’s empty podiums. And Trump, of course, does not talk about climate change, because he doesn’t think it’s real or problematic. Now that he’s president, Trump is ignoring climate change in even more consequential ways—by choosing a climate denier to lead the EPA, and by proposing to stop funding any effort to fight it. Clearly, the Trump administration would like the media to ignore climate change. It should not give him what he wants.

Media ignores climate change during 2016 POTUS campaigns. Graphic from new republic.com.

Fig. 1. The mainstream media virtually ignored climate change during the 2016 POTUS campaign. Graphic from new republic.com.

The absence of climate change discussion during 2016 was reversed during the final week of March 2017, which saw a spate of reports about a Trump-Jihad on action to reduce global warming. For example, on March 24 motherjones.com published an article by Cally Carlswell on the parallels between Ronald Reagan’s EPA administrator Anne Gorsuch* and her current Trump-appointed counterpart Scott Pruitt. On March 27 motherjones.com published an article by Rebecca Leber on the Trump plan to dismantle President Obama’s climate change initiatives, summarized in an executive order that includes the following language:

It (the executive order) directs the EPA to revisit the Clean Power Plan, which limits carbon pollution from power plants and was considered the centerpiece of former President Barack Obama’s climate policy. Additionally, Trump is asking the Justice Department to stop defending the plan in court.

The president will instruct agencies to rescind a moratorium on coal leasing on public lands; rewrite limits on methane emissions from the oil and gas industry; and ignore the EPA’s current calculation on the costs of carbon pollution. There are also broad directives reversing an Obama initiative requiring that federal departments consider climate mitigation strategy and the national security risks of global warming.

On March 27 nola.com|thetimes-picayune published a biting opinion column by Bob Marshall, who satirized the GOP push to reverse progress on air and water pollution. On the same day Time magazine published an article by Rhea Suh with the Natural Resources Defense Council that is pointedly critical of Trump’s actions and includes suggestions as to what can be done about them. Here’s a quote:

Since the Industrial Revolution ushered in the age of coal, oil and gas, humans have increased the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by more than 44%, to concentrations not seen in some 3 million years. Nearly half the increase has come since 1980, and 2016 marked the largest one-year spike on record. That carbon pollution traps the Earth’s heat and warms the planet. Last year was the hottest since global record-keeping began in 1880. It was the third record-breaking year in a row. Of the 17 hottest years on record, 16 have occurred in this 17-year-old century.

On March 28 The Old Gray Lady New York Times published an editorial titled President Trump Risks the Planet, spelling out the consequences of recent actions by the POTUS to reverse Obama’s legacy agenda. On the same note on March 29 newrepublic.com published an article on the practical aspects of Donald Trump’s executive order to eliminate the Obama Clean Power Plan. Not to be outdone, on March 29 vox.com published an article by David Roberts on the sobering significance of Trump’s energy-related decisions.

Also on March 29 thehill.com published an article by Timothy Cama on the house passage of a bill to restrict the kind of science that EPA could use to justify regulations, based on cost/benefit analysis. This restriction forbade, for example, using the concept of the monetized social cost of carbon emissions, as developed by government agencies during the Obama years and currently priced at $36/ton of carbon emitted,. That subject was discussed the same day in an article by Ramin Skibba in slate.com. Also on March 29, bloomberg.com published an article by Cass R. Sunstein on the practical aspects of the use of the social cost of carbon emissions.

Finally, The New Yorker published a summary article by Amy Davidson in its April 17 issue on what Donald Trump’s executive order to the EPA really means. Read it and weep with me.

*Mother of Neil Gorsuch, currently awaiting Senate confirmation as a Supreme Court justice.

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  1. Kelly Haggar says:

    Hmmmm. Forget about Len and Kelly. Neither of us is ever going to convince the other of very much. But lately I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the Average Joe and Jane. Saw two recent polls; 88% of La folks like the 2017 draft of the CPRA’s Master Plan, while nationally 75% support some major changes to the flood insurance program.

    But then Maxine Waters’ reform of NFIP passed by YUGE (can I say that?) margins with pretty much zero opposition . . . until it went into effect, or was about to, and then all heck broke loose. Then the reform of the reform made the whole program even worse than before the changes.

    Hmmmm, part 2. So how in the world are we gonna reach any policy majority, be it on carbon, or the coast, or bribing people to continue living in kill zones? “Give the people $1.30 in services for $1.00 in taxes and they’ll take the deal every time.” It’s like that Field Poll in Calif (2014), where 65% of every demo supported that state’s carbon things, unless it raised elec rates or prices at the pump. Then support flipped, again across all demos, to 65% opposed.

    I dunno. Maybe the US isn’t really ready for self-gummit?

  2. Edward Bodker says:

    Len,

    As I suspect you realize, the media is fixated on Trump personally. The ramifications of his policies are second tier news. The good part of all this is that the public has, in the absence of better coverage, the opportunity to use social media to find and disseminate the news in ways conventional media doesn’t. Your blog is one example.

    One thing I’ve heard little media coverage about is Trump’s declaration of Nationalism, “put America first.” This goes hand-in-glove with climate change denial. Why? Because by reinforcing nationalism, it makes it all right to think of the people and resources of the rest of the world, as commodities to be used without consequences of conscience. Where we need to expand our relationship with other countries and the environment, Trump is proposing to grab as much as possible. “Grabbing” is Trump’s approach to everything not just pussy. But he’s not alone, we are all spoiled with the goods and wealth that’s come our way. Through industral and political might, we have exploited so many people and hoarded so much of the earth’s resources that it’s become a form of culpability denial. Who wants to know that poverty in Ecuador is strongly linked to American petroleum companies who went in, fostered instability in that government while extracting most of the convenient oil at little cost and paying very little profit to that country. Then when they left, the hundreds of oil fields that were subject to few regulations were abandoned with petroleum waste on the surface of the land were it continues to damage the water, people’s health and the agricultural lands of Ecuador. We can’t disrespect other countries and the earth without it eventually degrading our moral values and our own stability. Regulations matter.

    Humans are linked to the environment, embrace that and we learn to give and take in a respectful relationship. If we go too far in abstracting other humans and the ecosystems of the earth we destroy ourselves. Denying the concerns of climate change is nothing more than the logical extension of objectifying nature and other humans. Nationalism equals Climate Change Denial.

    • Kelly Haggar says:

      Ed, perhaps you ought to dig a little deeper into that Ecuador situation. Here’s Chevron’s press release after winning last August:
      https://www.chevron.com/stories/appeals-court-affirms-rico-judgment-against-lawyer-behind-fraudulent-ecuador-lawsuit

      Chevron has never operated in Ecuador. Texaco Petroleum (TexPet), which became a subsidiary of Chevron in 2001, was a minority partner in an oil-production consortium in Ecuador along with the state-owned oil company, Petroecuador, from 1964 to 1992. After TexPet turned its remaining share of the oil operations over to Petroecuador in 1992, pursuant to an agreement with Ecuador, TexPet agreed to conduct a remediation of selected production sites while Petroecuador remained responsible to perform any remaining cleanup. The government of Ecuador oversaw and certified the successful completion of TexPet’s remediation and fully released TexPet from further environmental liability. Petroecuador, however, failed to conduct the cleanup it promised and has continued to operate and expand oil operations in the former concession over the past 20 years.

      OK, OK, what else would one expect Chevron – – or any other oil company? – – to say? Maybe the ruling should be considered? Chevron’s press release has a link to the opinion itself;
      http://theamazonpost.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/CA2-Opinion.pdf

      Two snippets from it:

      page 2 of 127
      line 20 . . . The district court found, following a bench trial, that the
      line 21 Ecuadorian judgment had been procured through, inter alia, defendants’ bribery, coercion, and fraud,
      line 22 warranting relief against defendants Steven Donziger and his law firm under the Racketeer Influenced
      line 23 and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961-1968, and against all defendants-appellants under
      line 24 New York common law.

      “inter alia” means “among other things”

      page 3 of 127
      line 2 . . . Noting, inter alia, that appellants do not challenge the
      line 3 sufficiency of the evidence to support the district court’s factual findings, that the Ecuadorian
      line 4 appellate courts declined to hear and resolve the above charges of corruption and expressly preserved
      line 5 the parties’ rights to litigate those charges in United States courts, and that the district court’s judgment
      line 6 has imposed in personam restrictions on the appellants without disturbing the Ecuadorian judgment,
      line 7 we find no basis for overturning the judgment of the district court.
      line 8 Affirmed.

      Hmmmm. Chevron? Maybe we should try the Harvard Law Review?
      See http://harvardlawreview.org/2016/12/chevron-corp-v-donziger/
      Dec 9, 2016; 130 Harv. L. Rev. 745

      In Ecuador, the litigation took a turn for the scandalous. Among other things, Donziger used an inflated damages figure to try to pressure Chevron into a settlement17×

      17. Id. at *6–7.
      and submitted fraudulent expert reports to the court.18×

      18. Id. at *8. Donziger also coerced then-presiding Judge Yanez into appointing a “neutral” expert who cooperated with the LAPs in exchange for under-the-table payments. Id. at *10–16.

      In 2011, Judge Zambrano awarded the LAPs a $17.292 billion judgment consisting of $8.646 billion in compensatory damages and $8.646 billion in punitive damages.19×

      19. Id. at *20.
      But Judge Zambrano did not write the judgment.20×

      20. Id. at *24.
      The LAPs’ trial team did,21×

      21. Id.
      after agreeing to pay Judge Zambrano $500,000.22×

      • Edward Bodker says:

        Kelly,

        Thanks for researching this and giving it some thought. I think your point is that Chevron/Texaco was not held legally responsible for the pollution it left in Ecuador.

        I don’t doubt that they won a legal battle. My point is that they operated in Ecuador for 18 years taking advantage of the fact that Ecuador had few or no environmental regulations at the time and so they operated without concern for the environment and that in turn resulted in an environmental mess and a great deal of human suffering. There was wide spread political corruption at the time and Texaco operated in that country with close ties with the politicians and they operated basically without over-site. At the time their land was being polluted, local people received little or nothing for the petroleum being extracted on their property. The locals protested their land was being polluted and the government responded, to Texaco’s benefit, by brutally suppressing these local farmers.

        Legally you are correct, Texaco won.

        Morally, the environment and the people lost.

        Deregulation or few regulations leads to environmental abuse and excessive profit for powerful corporations.

        • Kelly Haggar says:

          The record in this case does not support your idea that Texaco got away with something. Is there a different book or paper you have in mind, outside of the fraud uncovered in this record, which supports your theory of what happened down there?

          • Edward Bodker says:

            You might watch the documentary on YouTube entitled “The End of Poverty?” Part of that documentary references Ecuador’s environmental problem, the corruption of the government and its relationship with foreign oil companies including Texaco. I can’t verify the accuracy of that documentary but it won a number of international awards and raises some disturbing questions.

            I truly appreciate your concern for what the records show. It’s important to get to the truth but most aren’t willing to put forth an effort.

            Did Texaco get away with something depends on:

            1. Whether they payed reasonable royalties that were negotiated with and went directly to the land owners or if they negotiated with and most of the money went to a corrupt government.

            2. Did Texaco use prudent environmental safeguards that it would have used in the U.S. or did they do something less? Did they leave the environment in a condition that wouldn’t have been acceptable in our country?

            3. Did they clean up after themselves or did the work out an unenforceable arrangement with a third party to accept that responsibility but who didn’t follow through?

            The documentary I reference above builds a case that the land and the people who lived there were worse off after petroleum extraction than they were before. Does the record you refer to claim this to be false.

            Does the record you reference show who and how much Texaco payed royalties to?

            Do the records you reference show that Texaco activities didn’t create environmental problems?

            Perhaps I’m wrong and Chevron/Texaco is setting an example that enforceable environmental regulations aren’t necessary. I can’t verify everything but I’m open to correction.

  3. Anonymous says:

    It seems as though if folks will take a few minutes to read through the written news rather than cable TV, they might actually be somewhat well informed. The same can probably be said for many subjects.

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