Australian news, and some related international items

A second Trump term would mean severe and irreversible changes in the climate

A second Trump term would mean severe and irreversible changes in the climate No joke: It would be disastrous on the scale of millennia. VOX, By David  Aug 27, 2020,  I f Donald Trump is reelected president, the likely result will be irreversible changes to the climate that will degrade the quality of life of every subsequent generation of human beings, with millions of lives harmed or foreshortened. That’s in addition to the hundreds of thousands of lives at present that will be hurt or prematurely end.

This sounds like exaggeration, some of the “alarmism” green types are always accused of. But it is not particularly controversial among those who have followed Trump’s record on energy and climate change……..

………..a Trump victory would make any reasonable definition of “success” on climate change impossible….

More Trump will ensure the continued escalation of global temperatures

We know from the latest IPCC report that the climate target agreed to by nations — no more than a 2° Celsius rise in global average temperatures — is not a “safe” threshold at all. Going from 1.5° to 2° means many more heat waves, wildfires, crop failures, migrations, and premature deaths. We know that every fraction of a degree beyond 2° means more still, along with the increasing risk of tipping points that make further warming unstoppable.

Hitting the 1.5° target would require the world to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 50 percent by 2030 and to net zero by 2050. Doing so would require industrial mobilization beginning immediately. Even hitting 2° would be desperately difficult at this point. There is no longer any time for delay; this is the last decade in which it is still possible.

We know that the US doing its part to reach net zero by 2050 would not be enough, in itself, to limit global temperature rise. By the same token, we know it is wildly unlikely that the rest of the world will be able to organize to meet that goal without US leadership. And in the face of active US undermining and opposition, it will be all but impossible.

Climate policy is complicated, but in the end, it comes down to replacing everything powered by fossil fuels with zero-carbon alternatives, and we know beyond any doubt that the Trump administration is devoted to the interests of its allies in the fossil fuel industry. Everything the administration has done since taking office reflects a single-minded zeal to release fossil fuel industries from regulatory restraints and to subsidize them through public policy.

US carbon emissions have been declining, down roughly 12 percent since 2004. That’s almost entirely due to the market-driven decline of coal in the electricity sector, a trend that analysts expect to continue. The Trump administration disingenuously takes credit for it. But it won’t be enough, on its own, to reduce emissions fast enough to stay on track for net zero by 2050. Not even close…..

Trump has steadily rolled back regulations on fossil fuel companies

“When I think about the horrors of a Trump term two, I think about lock-in of domestic policies,” says Sam Ricketts of Evergreen Action, “buttressed — and in places even made permanent — by his continuing to stack the courts.”

In his first term, Trump has blocked, weakened, or rolled back 100 environmental, public health, and worker safety regulations. Among them are virtually all the steps Obama took to address climate change, from the Clean Power Plan for the electricity sector to tighter fuel economy standards for transportation, emissions standards on methane for oil and gas operations, efforts to integrate a “social cost of carbon” for agency decision-making, reform of fossil fuel leasing on public land, and energy efficiency standards on light bulbs. (Trump also wants to go after toilets and showerheads.)

Every one of those decisions would have the effect of increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

Environmentalists have sued over all of them, and thus far, Trump has lost more cases than he has won. Many of the rule changes pushed through by his agencies are being rejected by courts for being rushed and shoddy.

Given another term, Trump’s agencies will have more time to fill out those arguments and resubmit those rules; almost any rule can be justified eventually. Meanwhile, the federal bench will be packed with more sympathetic Trump appointees ready to rubber-stamp those rules.

And if federal judges object, the administration can appeal the cases to the Supreme Court, where Trump will almost certainly have had the opportunity to replace a justice or two. With a solid 6-3 or 7-2 majority on the Court, virtually anything the administration wants will end up being approved……….

The Trump administration is stacking the deck to advantage fossil fuels

Aside from all the rules the administration has eviscerated, is eviscerating, and plans to eviscerate, it is also pushing several changes to agency procedures that will make it more difficult to regulate in the future.

Under administrator Andrew Wheeler, the EPA has proposed to alter the way it does cost-benefit analysis to exclude consideration of a rule’s “co-benefits” — reductions in other pollutants that come as a side effect of reducing targeted pollutants. (A coalition of environmental groups has opposed the change, which violates EPA precedent, statutory intent, and common sense.) If the change goes into effect — as it surely will given another term and friendlier courts — all future air quality rules will be weakened.

The EPA has also promulgated a “secret science rule” that would exclude from consideration a wide swath of studies demonstrating the danger of air pollution (including its danger in helping spread Covid-19). Without those studies to rely on, justifying public health regulations would be more difficult going forward. The EPA’s own independent board of science advisers said the change would “reduce scientific integrity” at the agency.

Speaking of independent science advisers, starting under Pruitt, the EPA began pushing out science advisers who had received grants from the agency (which includes most of them) and replacing them with fossil fuel cronies. Amusingly, even a science board packed with Trump appointees has said that three of the agency’s major recent rule changes flew in the face of established science. Still, given another term to finish the job, Wheeler could effectively eliminate independent scientific review at the agency.

The administration has also gutted the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), which requires the federal government to rigorously assess the effects of its actions on the environment and local communities, and is one of the principal avenues through which communities of color and other vulnerable communities communicate their interests to the federal government.

In July, the White House Council on Environmental Quality released a proposed rule that would dramatically limit the range of federal agency actions to which NEPA applies, limit consideration of cumulative and indirect impacts (like climate change and environmental justice), and curtail public involvement in the decision-making process and judicial review. Given another term to see the change through, the White House could shape every major federal agency decision going forward.

The administration is also trying to revoke California’s waiver under the Clean Air Act, which allows the state to set its own (typically more ambitious) emissions standards. If it succeeds, it would sabotage not only California’s standards but those of the 13 states (and Washington, DC) that have adopted them……….

Land, water, and wildlife are also getting the shaft

I’ve mostly been focusing on the EPA and energy, but Trump’s damage is omnidirectional.

Earlier this year, the administration gutted Obama’s Waters of the US (WOTUS) rule, removing pollution protections from a wide swathe of wetlands and streams……..

Trump’s foreign policy is entirely devoted to fossil fuels

Promoting fossil fuels has been one of the few consistent themes of Trump’s foreign policy.

He announced early on, amid a flurry of misinformation, that the US would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. (That decision will go into effect on November 5.) Though some State Department staffers are still attending international climate meetings and participating in lower-level dialogues, top US leadership has spurned the entire process and shows no sign of reengaging.

Instead, Trump is trying to manage oil prices by making deals with cartels, bullying other countries to buy US oil, seeking to export liquid natural gas to India, and jostling with Russia and China over trade routes through the melting Arctic.

In a second term, Trump is unlikely to rejoin Paris; he’s much more likely to remove the US from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change entirely. It is an open question whether the Paris framework could survive that at all.

Four more years of Trump would leave democracy, and hope for a safe climate, in tatters

The above constitutes a highly selective list, a small portion of the damage Trump has done to climate and energy progress across federal agencies and international agreements. There are plenty of other examples to cite, including his beloved trade wars, which he will undoubtedly expand in a second term. A recent analysis found that his solar tariffs to date have cost 62,000 jobs in the solar industry and blocked 10.5 gigawatts of new solar from coming online. (If you can stomach a more comprehensive list, check out this piece from the Global Current.)

The main bulwark against Trump’s changes so far has been the courts, but that bulwark will not hold against an administration with four more years to bolster its legal cases and appoint sympathetic judges………

There’s no sugarcoating it: If Trump wins the election and Republicans keep the Senate, democracy in America might not survive. At the very least, any hope of public policy to rapidly decarbonize the US is off the table. The US will push actively in the opposite direction. …….

It is a cliché by now to call this the most important election of our lifetimes, but even that dramatic phrasing doesn’t capture the stakes. From the perspective of the human species as a whole, the arc of its life on this planet, it may be the most important election ever.

August 29, 2020 - Posted by | General News

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