Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Have We Given Up the Fight Before We Even Began?

The problem with climate change is that you either fight it or it wins and fighting it is going to be painful, costly and immensely difficult. Even then there's no going back. A win for humanity and other life on Earth would be something short of extinction.

Chris Hedges threw in the towel yesterday in a thoughtful and well-reasoned essay.

Today, the Washington Post's Philip Bump laments that his country has decided to pass on the fight against climate change.

...to the extent that action on addressing climate change is still a viable fight in the capital, on Tuesday we could declare a winner: Climate change is here, and the United States has accepted it. President Trump’s decision to roll back even measured efforts to curtail carbon-dioxide emissions and news about Arctic sea ice combine to paint a picture of a country that’s living through climate change and deciding not to do anything about it.
...Trump made rejecting the need to address climate change central to his candidacy for the White House. Sure, he once signed an open letter calling on Congress and Obama to address climate change, but he renounced that position in short order. Before he announced his candidacy, his Twitter feed was littered with tweets of skepticism about global warming; afterward, he made an embrace of the fossil-fuel industry central to his pitch to voters.

On Tuesday, the administration announced a long-expected move: The Environmental Protection Agency was replacing Obama’s plan to limit pollution from coal-burning power plants with a plan of its own, which would allow more pollutants to escape into the atmosphere. That includes greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, which get trapped in the atmosphere and keep heat from escaping into space. It also includes particulate matter, microscopic particles that can be inhaled and lead to health complications. As the New York Times notes, the EPA’s announcement itself estimates that 1,400 more Americans may die annually because of the increased number of particulates allowed to be emitted from power plants. 
At its heart, though, this is a decision about whether to make the decisions necessary to try to limit the long-term effects of climate change. Again, there’s little question in the scientific community that the climate is changing as a result of human activity, something that most Americans accept. The question is whether the country and planet decide to make the changes needed to reduce how severe the changes to the climate will get. Trump, true to his campaign promises, said no in the abstract last year when he pulled out of the global Paris climate accord. The decision on power plants, though, is more significant because it’s more concrete. Power-plant emissions are one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, and the Trump administration has decided to set aside a significant effort to curtail them
That’s coupled with the administration’s decision this month to freeze fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles rather than allow mandated improvements to those standards to move forward. Vehicular emissions are the other biggest source of greenhouse gas in the United States.
As the Trump White House and the Republican Congress throw in the towel, their Canadian mini-me, the Trudeau government, will complacently bleat "competitiveness, competitiveness" and say they have no choice but to follow in Trump's path. Oh we'll do some meaningless gestural shit and preen over our goodness but we're America's satellite and we are locked into their orbit.

Meanwhile, Australia has joined the United States in backing out of its 2015 Paris Climate Accord commitments.

Mr Turnbull’s signature energy policy – the National Energy Guarantee – contained a pledge to cut Australia’s emissions by 26 per cent, based on 2005 levels, by 2030. The laws would have helped the country meet its obligations under the Paris climate agreement.

But after rebel Liberal Party MPs led by former prime minister Tony Abbott threatened to vote against the legislation – which would have triggered a crisis of confidence in Mr Turnbull – the PM decided to back down. 
It was Mr Abbott himself who signed Australia up to the Paris climate agreement, and it was he who at the time announced the emissions reductions target of 26 per cent from 2005 levels. 
In 2014 he even said Australia could reduce emissions by up to 28 per cent, saying: “There’s a definite commitment to 26 per cent but we believe under the policies that we’ve got, with the circumstances that we think will apply, that we can go up to 28 per cent.” 
Despite the boast, he was later reported to have told colleagues he was “misled” while in Paris, and recently argued that using energy policy as a means of reducing emissions is “madness”.

“In politics you have to focus on what you can deliver,” Mr Turnbull said on Monday, adding the legislation would not pass parliament if it contained an emissions target.
Cheaper power has always been our number one priority when it comes to energy policy,” he told reporters.


Anonymous said...

That just makes me so sad. Anyong

The Mound of Sound said...

I suppose that is the only fitting reaction, Anyong, sadness.