How the Sunrise Movement changed the Democratic conversation

Ruairí Arrieta-Kenna writes:

“When we were taught about the civil rights movement as kids, it was told to us as if a few big marches just happened and then the laws changed,” Emily LaShelle told me last weekend as she smoked a cigarette. Behind her, a group of her peers played Frisbee in a field while the sun set behind them. “But there was so much more work and effort by activists behind the scenes,” she said. “And that’s the kind of work we’re teaching people to be involved in for this movement.”

LaShelle is 21, with short-cropped blond hair and a nose piercing. Her movement is the Sunrise Movement, an organization of mostly twenty-something climate activists who are best known for seemingly instantly and improbably injecting the idea of a “Green New Deal” into the national conversation. This past week, more than 70 Sunrise activists, including LaShelle, traveled to a rural, multifaith retreat center along the Hudson River, about 50 miles north of New York City, to take part in a weeklong boot camp that’s intended to transform them into the next generation of climate activists—who, in turn, are supposed to transform American politics.

Sunrise has already moved shockingly swiftly on that front. Last November, Sunrise activists joined newly elected Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in a splashy protest at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office that catapulted the group to national relevance. The resulting publicity added thousands of people to the group’s ranks of supporters and active volunteers. Less than a year later, Sunrise’s proposal for a Green New Deal has gone from being widely mocked as an overly ambitious socialist fantasy (or the “Green Dream,” in Pelosi’s words) to being endorsed by 16 of the Democrats running for president—most recently by none other than Joe Biden. Four years after it was founded by several activists in the fossil-fuel divestment movement on college campuses and a climate policy researcher supported by the Sierra Club, Sunrise has become an influential force not just in climate activism but in Democratic politics. And its oldest staff member is only 33. [Continue reading…]

Trump’s relentless war against science

The Hill reports:

President Trump is directing all agencies to cut their advisory boards by “at least” one third.

The executive order issued Friday evening directs all federal agencies to “evaluate the need” for each of their current advisory committees.

The order gives agencies until Sept. 30 to terminate, at a minimum, one-third of their committees.

Committees that qualify for the chopping block include those that have completed their objective, had their work taken up by other panels or where the subject matter has “become obsolete.”

Another defining factor listed includes whether the agency itself has determined that the cost of operating the agency is “excessive in relation to the benefits to the Federal Government.”

Critics say the order is another administration attack on experts who provide scientific advice.

“For the past two years they have been shrinking and restricting the role of federal science advisory committees,” Gretchen Goldman, the research director with the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union for Concerned Scientists, said in a statement. “Now they’re removing the possibility of even making decisions based on robust science advice. It’s no longer death by a thousand cuts. It’s taking a knife to the jugular.” [Continue reading…]

The Guardian reports:

A member of the Trump administration’s National Security Council has sought help from advisers of a conservative thinktank to challenge the reality of a human-induced climate crisis, a trove of his emails show.

William Happer, a physicist appointed by the White House to counter the federal government’s own climate science, reached out to the Heartland Institute, one of the most prominent groups to dispute that burning fossil fuels is causing dangerous global heating, in March.

In the messages, part of a group of emails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, Happer and the Heartland adviser Hal Doiron discuss Happer’s scientific arguments in a paper attempting to knock down the concept of climate emergency, as well as ideas to make the work “more useful to a wider readership”. Happer writes he had already discussed the work with another Heartland adviser, Thomas Wysmuller. [Continue reading…]

Greenland just lost 2 billion tons of ice

CNN reports:

Over 40% of Greenland experienced melting yesterday, with total ice loss estimated to be more than 2 gigatons (a gigaton is equal to 1 billion tons).

While Greenland is a big island filled with lots of ice, it is highly unusual for that much ice to be lost in the middle of June. The average “melt season” for Greenland runs from June to August, with the bulk of the melting occurring in July.

To visualize how much ice that is, imagine filling the National Mall in Washington DC with enough ice to reach a point in the sky eight times higher than the Washington Monument (to borrow an analogy Meredith Nettles from Columbia University gave to the Washington Post.)


The sudden spike in melting “is unusual, but not unprecedented,” according to Thomas Mote, a research scientist at the University of Georgia who studies Greenland’s climate.

“It is comparable to some spikes we saw in June of 2012,” Mote told CNN, referring to the record-setting melt year of 2012 that saw almost the entire ice sheet experience melting for the first time in recorded history. [Continue reading…]

Pope Francis declares ‘climate emergency’ and urges action

The Guardian reports:

Pope Francis has declared a global “climate emergency”, warning of the dangers of global heating and that a failure to act urgently to reduce greenhouse gases would be “a brutal act of injustice toward the poor and future generations”.

He also endorsed the 1.5C limit on temperature rises that some countries are now aiming for, referring to warnings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of “catastrophic” effects if we crossed such a threshold. He said a “radical energy transition” would be needed to stay within that limit, and urged young people and businesses to take a leading role.

“Future generations stand to inherit a greatly spoiled world. Our children and grandchildren should not have to pay the cost of our generation’s irresponsibility,” he said, in his strongest and most direct intervention yet on the climate crisis. “Indeed, as is becoming increasingly clear, young people are calling for a change.” [Continue reading…]

Climate change poses major risks to financial markets, regulator warns

The New York Times reports:

A top financial regulator is opening a public effort to highlight the risk that climate change poses to the nation’s financial markets, setting up a clash with a president who has mocked global warming and whose administration has sought to suppress climate science.

Rostin Behnam, who sits on the federal government’s five-member Commodity Futures Trading Commission, a powerful agency overseeing major financial markets including grain futures, oil trading and complex derivatives, said in an interview on Monday that the financial risks from climate change were comparable to those posed by the mortgage meltdown that triggered the 2008 financial crisis.

“If climate change causes more volatile frequent and extreme weather events, you’re going to have a scenario where these large providers of financial products — mortgages, home insurance, pensions — cannot shift risk away from their portfolios,” he said. “It’s abundantly clear that climate change poses financial risk to the stability of the financial system.”

Mr. Behnam was appointed by President Trump to a seat on the commission that, by law, must be filled by a Democrat. He said that unusual status gave him a measure of political protection that other appointees within the administration might not benefit from. [Continue reading…]

Carbon emissions from energy industry rise at fastest rate since 2011

The Guardian reports:

Carbon emissions from the global energy industry last year rose at the fastest rate in almost a decade after extreme weather and surprise swings in global temperatures stoked extra demand for fossil fuels.

BP’s annual global energy report, an influential review of the market, revealed for the first time that temperature fluctuations are increasing the world’s use of fossil fuels, in spite of efforts to tackle the climate crisis.

The recorded temperature swings – days which are much hotter or colder than normal – helped drive the world’s biggest jump in gas consumption for more than 30 years.

They also resulted in a second consecutive annual increase for coal use, reversing three years of decline earlier this decade. [Continue reading…]

Planet is entering ‘new climate regime’ with ‘extraordinary’ heat waves intensified by global warming, study says

The Washington Post reports:

Simultaneous heat waves scorched land areas all over the Northern Hemisphere last summer, killing hundreds and hospitalizing thousands while intensifying destructive and deadly wildfires.

A study published this week in the journal Earth’s Future concludes that this heat wave epidemic “would not have occurred without human-induced climate change.”

The alarming part? There are signs record-setting heat waves are beginning anew this summer — signaling, perhaps, that these exceptional and widespread heat spells are now the norm.

In the past few days, blistering, abnormal heat has afflicted several parts of the Northern Hemisphere, including major population centers.

New Delhi, India’s capital, soared to 118.4 degrees (48 Celsius) Monday, its highest temperature ever recorded in June. Some parts of India have seen the mercury eclipse 122 degrees (50 Celsius) in recent days, not far off the country’s all-time high.

On the other side of the hemisphere, the temperature in San Francisco shot up to 100 degrees (37.8 Celsius) Monday, its highest temperatures ever recorded in the months of June, July or August, or this early in the calendar year. [Continue reading…]

‘Hell on Earth’ scenario predicted if climate crisis doesn’t trigger immediate drastic action

Al Jazeera reports:

A climate change paper grabbed headlines this week with its terrifying prediction of what the world will be in 30 years’ time – absent drastic and immediate change to human societies.

“World of outright chaos,” “Climate apocalypse,” “We’re all gonna die,” the media banners blared.

The sobering headlines and equally disconcerting stories beneath described a “scenario analysis” by an Australian think-tank, Breakthrough National Center for Climate Restoration.

The paper portrayed what the year 2050 will look like if urgent action to build carbon-neutral energy systems around the world fails to come to fruition in the next 10 years.

It’s worse than any of the apocalyptic Hollywood horror films making the rounds.

One billion people displaced and fighting desperately for survival, with half the world’s population subjected to “lethal heat” conditions for more than 20 days a year – “beyond the threshold of human survivability”.

Drought, wildfires, and floods collapse entire ecosystems as two billion people struggle for potable water. Mega-cities such as Mumbai, Hong Kong, Lagos, and Manila are largely abandoned because of massive floods. [Continue reading…]

White House blocked intelligence agency’s written testimony warning about ‘catastrophic’ climate change

The Washington Post reports:

White House officials barred a State Department intelligence agency from submitting written testimony this week to the House Intelligence Committee warning that human-caused climate change could be “possibly catastrophic.” The move came after State officials refused to excise the document’s references to federal scientific findings on climate change.

The effort to edit, and ultimately suppress, the prepared testimony by the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research comes as the Trump administration is debating how best to challenge the fact that burning fossil fuels is warming the planet and could pose serious risks unless the world makes deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade. Senior military and intelligence officials have continued to warn climate change could undermine America’s national security — a position President Trump rejects.

Officials from the White House’s Office of Legislative Affairs, Office of Management and Budget, and National Security Council all raised objections to parts of the testimony that Rod Schoonover, who works in the Office of the Geographer and Global Issues, prepared to present on the bureau’s behalf for a hearing Wednesday.

The document lays out in stark detail the implications of what the administration faces in light of rising carbon emissions that the world has not curbed.

“Absent extensive mitigating factors or events, we see few plausible future scenarios where significant — possibly catastrophic — harm does not arise from the compounded effects of climate change,” the document said.

White House officials took aim at the document’s scientific citations, which refer to work conducted by federal agencies including NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. [Continue reading…]

Trump is giving Americans dirty water, dirty air, and a very dirty climate

Michael E. Mann writes:

To say that Donald Trump’s jaw-dropping display of environmental ignorance while in the United Kingdom is an embarrassment to all Americans would be an understatement. But the worst part of his ramblings about how we have “among the cleanest climates there are based on all statistics” isn’t that it sounds like the ramblings of a Fox News addict. It’s that his administration is doing everything it can to work towards the opposite: dirty water, dirty air, and, well, a very dirty climate.

Despite the US being responsible for the greatest buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of any nation on the planet, Trump engages in his all-too-familiar and predictable m.o. of projection and deflection, pointing the finger at other countries (“they don’t do [sic] the responsibility”.) While Trump insists it is other countries who have “not very good air, not very good water, and the sense of pollution,” his administration is giving his billionaire buddies and fossil fuel companies carte blanche to pollute.

Reuters reported that in one month in 2018, a coal company owned by Trump’s pal Bob Murray released over 200 times the allowable limit of aluminum into the rivers surrounding his coal mine. So much for Trump’s support for “crystal clean clear” water.

And throughout his administration, Trump’s political appointees (many of whom have come so recently from the swamp they’re still draped in algae and muck) are trying their hardest to expand malicious Trumpian environmental policies across the federal government. [Continue reading…]