Trump and the Trillion Trees

President Trump on Capitol Hill on Tuesday evening.

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

President Trump, in his State of the Union address Tuesday night, talked about a new global effort to plant a trillion trees, although he didn’t mention the problem it was created to address: climate change.

“To protect the environment, days ago, I announced the United States will join the One Trillion Trees Initiative, an ambitious effort to bring together government and the private sector to plant new trees in America and around the world,” he said.

Earlier in the speech, though, he lauded American production of oil and gas, both fossil fuels that generate emissions of planet-warming carbon dioxide.

Republican climate advocates said they weren’t surprised that Mr. Trump sidestepped direct mention of global warming. They said the president was trying to thread a needle by both promoting fossil fuels and declaring himself environmentally friendly ahead of the elections.

“No surprise at all,” said Jerry Taylor, president of the Niskanen Center, a conservative think tank that supports a tax on carbon-dioxide emissions. Republicans, he said, are “trying to solve a political problem, the perception that the party just doesn’t care one bit about climate change.”

Ted Halstead, the chief executive of the Climate Leadership Council, a policy group backed by two former Republican secretaries of state, James A. Baker III and George P. Shultz, said he also believed electoral math was driving Mr. Trump’s softening on the environment. He said he was hopeful the rhetorical shift would drive a substantive one.

“There’s a major Republican climate pivot, which is encouraging,” Mr. Halstead said. “The president is talking about a trillion trees, the House is talking about innovation. These are all encouraging steppingstones, but none of them are nearly enough.”

Mr. Taylor said he believed the shift was driven by “cold-eyed Republican realists in Trump’s re-election campaign” and that he wasn’t certain it would translate into progress in the battle against climate change. Solving the problem, he said, “would require a lot more than policies to promote ever greater use of oil, gas and coal — leavened by some trees.” SOURCE

‘We’re Fighting for Our Rights’: The EPA’s First Bill of Rights Decries Trump’s Deregulatory Tactics

Illustration: Chelsea Beck (G/O Media)

For employees who’ve spent decades working for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Trump administration is like nothing they’ve ever seen before. That’s exactly why—for the first time ever—the agency’s union employees have authored a Bill of Rights to set the agency back on track to meet its mission.

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) began organizing EPA staff in the 1970s. Since then, the roughly 8,000 employees protected under the union have never felt the need to issue a Bill of Rights. After all, the EPA’s mission is simple: protect human health and the environment. It shouldn’t need reminding of that, right?

Well, these days it does. Many employees don’t agree with the direction the agency has taken under Trump as leadership pivots the EPA to rolling back regulations that will make pollution worse. They also don’t support the tactics the administration is using to prevent employees from doing the work they’ve been doing for years.

Since 2018, the administration has issued executive orders and directives that undermine workers’ rights by limiting the amount of time they can spend on union responsibilities and making it easier to fire them despite their union protections. A judge deemed these orders illegal in 2018, yet EPA leadership again tried to alter the workplace culture through directives last year. As EPA workers entered renewed union contract negotiations with management in December, they came ready.

EPA employees launched a campaign called Protect EPA in tandem with their Bill of Rights push. In many ways, it highlights how connected the Trump administration’s attacks on public health and the environment and civil servants are.

The bill lists 10 rights union members are demanding, starting with the right to scientific integrity, which has been a serious concern for both people within and outside the agency. The administration has stocked once-impartial outside advisory boards with industry shills and outright dissolved others. Scientific journal editors have spoken out about the Trump administration’s attempts to limit science as have experts with the New York University Brennan Center for Justice.
Workers also want the right to enforce environmental laws without political interference and the right to discuss solutions to climate change. For an agency tasked with protecting public health, these rights seem like a no-brainer.
Then, there are the obvious rights union members (and all workers really!) should be entitled to, such as the right to work-life balance. And they want to enshrine their right to a fair contract that is collectively bargained as opposed to unilateral directives without any input from union members.

These types of protections could help gird the agency’s civil servants from the frequent political attacks. Trump ran his campaign on promises to “get rid of it in almost every form.” Since then, he’s done his best to follow through.

The EPA has been ground zero for many of the environmental rollbacks. Trump most recently proposed dismantling the National Environmental Policy Act. He has also killed coal ash regulations and the EPA’s only plan to reduce emissions from coal. And just this week, the agency wiped out protections for wetlands that favor polluters. During the Trump years, EPA enforcement has fallen all while the administration has tried to slash the agency’s funding and force workers out. And it’s also been ground zero for the administration’s assault on the federal workforce.

For example, the agency has historically allowed its employees to work from home and has been pretty flexible about work schedules, Danita Yocom, the vice president of AFGE Local 1236 in San Francisco and an attorney at the EPA, told Earther. In addition to giving workers flexibility, it also helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions from commuting. Now, the agency allows only one teleworking day a week.

You can imagine how this would impact working parents, in particular, who may work from home to ensure they pick up their kids from daycare or school on time. Or now if someone needs to take only the afternoon off to run an errand or take their kid to the doctor, that employee is forced to take the entire day off because of these new rules. These are the types of scenarios Yocom now faces.

“That’s time I could’ve been getting work done the entire morning, and I’m not able to do that now,” Yocom said. “It’s not really working well for families, and it doesn’t really work well for getting the work done, either.”

Morale is the largest issue with Trump’s changes, Yocom said. The changes the administration is implementing make it “more difficult, if not impossible,” she said, for these workers to do their jobs, whether that’s protecting bodies of water or reducing air pollution. That’s why they’re putting pressure on the EPA to let them do their jobs. The well-being of a nation is on the line.

“We really do want to see the agency focus on climate. We really want to see the agency make its decisions based on science,” Yocom said. “We really want the agency to continue environmental enforcement. This is really the first time we’ve come to this point where we feel we need to speak out in this way.”

Some of the impacts go beyond work-life balance and the science, as the Bill of Rights makes clear. Point nine demands the right to a hate-free and safe workplace. The agency has dealt with at least a handful of racist incidents since Trump entered office. At the Washington headquarters, offensive messages using the n-word were left on a whiteboard in November 2018, and the EPA didn’t take sufficient action to investigate the incident, Gary Morton, president of AFGE Council 238 and recent EPA retiree, told Earther. 

“That’s why we want a hate-free and safe workplace,” he said. “We’re fighting for our rights.” MORE


Trump Moves to Limit Environmental Reviews, Erase Climate Change from NEPA Considerations

Critics say he’s undermining a bedrock environmental protection law that established government’s duty as ‘trustee of the environment for succeeding generations.’

President Donald Trump was flanked by officials from construction and other industries on Jan. 9, 2020, as he announced changes to how the National Environmental Policy Act is implemented. Credit: Andrew Angerer/Getty Images

President Donald Trump was flanked by officials from construction and other industries and his economic advisers on Jan. 9, 2020, as he announced changes to how the National Environmental Policy Act is implemented. Credit: Andrew Angerer/Getty Images

President Donald Trump on Thursday proposed sharply limiting environmental reviews of pipelines and other major federally permitted infrastructure projects, a move that would sweep away a hurdle slowing his agenda for unfettered fossil fuel development.

The new guidance would curb federal agencies from considering climate impacts by specifying that agencies are only required to analyze impacts that are immediate, local and direct. The administration’s proposed rule, which will be open for public comment before being finalized, also would relieve agencies of any duty to consider cumulative environmental impacts.

“Many of America’s most critical infrastructure projects have been tied up and bogged down by an outrageously burdensome federal approval process,” Trump said in an address from the Roosevelt Room of the White House. “From day one, my administration has made fixing this regulatory nightmare a top priority. For the first time in 40 years, we’re going to completely overhaul the dysfunctional bureaucratic system that has created these massive obstructions.”

But critics argue that the president is proposing changes that would undermine the bedrock environmental protection law, which establishes the duty of the federal government to act “as trustee of the environment for succeeding generations.” They vowed to fight the effort.

“While our world is burning, President Trump is adding fuel to the fire by taking away our right to be informed and to protect ourselves from irreparable harm,” said Gina McCarthy, the new president and CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). McCarthy, who served as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in the Obama administration, added: “We will use every tool in our toolbox to stop this dangerous move and safeguard our children’s future.”

Flanked by men in hard hats and orange construction vests, industry officials and members of his economic team, Trump stressed his aim to speed the building of highways, roads and bridges. But the NEPA impact that has proved most nettlesome to the administration has been stalling the oil and gas pipelines and coal leasing Trump’s administration has sought to push.

Trump’s move follows a series of federal court rulings that have stymied his efforts to spur fossil fuel projects—most notably the high-profile Keystone XL pipeline to expand U.S. imports of carbon-intensive Canadian tar sands oil. Trump had signed an executive order within days of taking office to reverse President Barack Obama’s decision to halt the project over climate concerns. But Keystone XL has been tied up in litigation since then, with a federal judge ruling last August that federal agencies “cannot escape their responsibility” to evaluate alternatives under NEPA.

Amid the Trump administration’s all-out effort to ease the regulatory burden on the fossil energy industry, federal courts have repeatedly ruled that agencies were failing to live up to their duties under NEPA. Courts slowed construction of a major natural gas pipeline in the Southeast, and expansion of coal mining in the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming and on Navajo land in Arizona. The federal Bureau of Land Management’s Utah office in September voluntarily suspended 130 oil and gas leases under the threat of NEPA lawsuits.

Trump’s Interior Secretary, David Bernhardt, a former oil industry lobbyist now in charge of agencies that oversee oil, gas and coal leasing on federal lands and coastlines, called the NEPA plan “a really, really big proposal” that “affects virtually every significant decision made by the federal government that affects the environment.”

Turning from the podium to Trump, Bernhardt said, “I believe it will be the most significant deregulatory proposal you ultimately implement.”

Avoiding Consideration of Climate Change

The fossil fuel industry and its allies have long railed against NEPA, especially over the past decade, when courts began ruling that NEPA required that both direct and indirect climate impacts be assessed. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) led an effort to amend NEPA to bar consideration of global warming impacts, but it never garnered sufficient support to advance in Congress.

From the start, Trump took up the cause of NEPA reform with all the enthusiasm of a real estate developer who saw his own projects derailed over environmental concerns.

His administration has issued and proposed five other pieces of guidance to circumscribe NEPA reviews, including a plan floated last summer to limit consideration of greenhouse gas emissions in planning for federal projects. But in the new proposal, the White House said it determined it was “not appropriate” to address a single category of impacts in regulations. Instead, the proposal seeks to limit the scope of all NEPA reviews in a way that appears to rule out consideration of climate change.

The only environmental effects that federal agencies would be required to consider are those that are “reasonably foreseeable and have a reasonably close causal relationship to the proposed action or alternatives.”

“Effects should not be considered significant if they are remote in time, geographically remote, or the product of a lengthy causal chain,” the proposal says. It also specifies that environmental reviews are not required under NEPA for non-discretionary decisions or for those with minimal federal funding or involvement—giving many developers an opportunity to elude the environmental review process altogether. The proposal sets a time limit of two years for detailed environmental reviews.

Vickie Patton, general counsel of the Environmental Defense Fund, said the proposal would “punch loopholes into long-standing protections under the National Environmental Policy Act and would put communities at risk and worsen climate change.”

Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, called it “one of the most egregious actions the Trump administration has taken to limit the federal government’s response to climate change yet.”

Trump’s Red Tape Claims vs. White House Data

The proposal, in essence, would fulfill a wish list delivered to the White House last fall by 33 industry groups, led by the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who complained of “unreasonable costs and long project delays” caused by NEPA.

API President and CEO Mike Sommers praised the proposal in a prepared statement: “Reforming the NEPA process is a critical step toward meeting growing demand for cleaner energy and unlocking job-creating infrastructure projects currently stuck in a maze of red tape.”

Trump’s description of the NEPA process—”It takes 20 years, 30 years, it takes numbers nobody would even believe”—is at odds with reality for the vast majority of projects. The White House Council on Environmental Quality’s own statistics show that 95 percent of the more than 50,000 actions subject to NEPA each year are already exempt from detailed environmental review.

Environmental groups argue that the subset of actions that require a detailed review—like the Keystone XL Pipeline—warrant the scrutiny, pointing to the spill of thousands of gallons of oil from the Keystone system in North Dakota this past October.

Responsibilities as ‘Trustee of the Environment’

NEPA, among the first environmental laws passed by Congress and signed by President Richard Nixon, requires comprehensive studies into the potential environmental impacts of “major” federal actions or projects—with an analysis of alternatives. The sweeping language of the statute asserts the federal government’s duty to “use all practical means. … To fulfill the responsibilities of each generation as trustee of the environment for succeeding generations.”

“As a global multigenerational problem that affects all of humanity and natural resources, climate change would seem to fit precisely within what the statute has in mind,” said Michael Gerrard, founder and director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University.

Gerrard, who spent many years as a litigator, said that if he were representing a project applicant he would want consideration of climate change included in the environmental impact analysis even if Trump succeeds in his NEPA overhaul.

“There’s a good chance the courts will … say it needs to be considered and an [environmental impact statement] could well be struck down for failure to consider it regardless of what this guidance says,” Gerrard said. “Rational planning involves looking at foreseeable conditions, and arguably it’s malpractice for an architect or engineer to ignore foreseeable considerations when designing a project.”

The overhaul of NEPA guidance is just the latest of dozens of actions by the Trump administration to throw open the doors to unfettered fossil energy development and abandon even recognition of the threat of climate change. Just this week, the Trump administration released the federal government’s latest annual National Preparedness Report, which for the first time in the eight-year history of the accounting of threats and hazards failed to mention climate change, drought or sea-level rise.

There will be a 60-day public comment period on the NEPA proposal, with public hearings scheduled in Denver and in Washington, D.C., in February. SOURCE

Trump Admin Ordered ‘Climate Censorship’ in Plans to Lease Texas Public Lands for Fossil Fuel Extraction

‘What will you tell your children?’: Greta Thunberg blasts climate inaction at Davos

Greta Thunberg told a World Economic Forum panel on climate that activists were demanding an end to all investment in fossil fuel exploration and extraction, calling for a drastic reduction of emissions to zero. She dismissed some of the measures mooted by governments and companies, such as planting billions of trees to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Her comments came after Donald Trump announced the US joined the global 1 trillion tree initiative Davos 2020: Greta Thunberg says ‘world is on fire’ and blasts leaders’ climate inaction. SOURCE




Michael Harris: Trump’s Impeachment and the Imperial Presidency

The brutal spectacle of watching Republicans kill their nation’s founding principles.


“Trump is the first president in U.S. history to issue a blanket refusal to Congress, when asked to produce witnesses and documents germane to a formal impeachment inquiry — and then have the chutzpah to claim he has had less due process than the witches of Salem.” Illustration by Greg Perry.

Donald Trump was impeached today.

The news usually doesn’t get much bigger than that. It’s only happened to three presidents in U.S. history.

But that isn’t the big story.

The big story is far graver than the procedural comeuppance of a morally bankrupt individual, though impeachment does come with an eternal smudge on the old CV.

The big story is that Donald Trump is now the moral compass of the Republican Party. They have chosen empowered corruption over the Constitution, party over country.

And make no mistake about it, corrupt Donald Trump most assuredly is. Impeachment is just the latest entry on his political rap sheet.

There is the Access Hollywood tape, the Stormy Daniels payoff, rampant nepotism in the White House, ongoing violations of the emoluments clause of the Constitution, multiple sexual harassment allegations, nasty bromances with vicious dictators from Manila to Moscow, a handful of senior advisors convicted of crimes, and thousands of public lies since assuming the presidency.

And now this.

Out of his own mouth in a documented phone call to the President of Ukraine, out of the mouths of senior officials under oath during the impeachment inquiry, the incontrovertible evidence of a shakedown is there for anyone to see:

The president withheld military funds already approved by Congress for Ukraine, $391 million, until its president publicly announced a corruption investigation into Trump’s potential political rival in America in the 2020 presidential election — Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter. You scratch my back, I’ll grease your palm — Goodfellas stuff.

Trump’s own Ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, testified that there was indeed a quid pro quo, that without the public announcement of the inquiry into the Bidens by Volodymyr Zelensky himself, there would be no White House phone-call, or chummy visit to the Oval Office so necessary to Ukraine’s national security — especially with the Russian bear at the door.

Sondland also testified that Trump ordered the quid pro quo through his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, and that Vice-President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the president’s chief-of-staff, Mick Mulvaney all knew about it. But hey, get over it, right? Quid pro quos happen all the time.

Not according to Fiona Hill. The former U.S. National Security Council foreign affairs specialist testified before Congress that Trump’s National Security Advisor of the day, John Bolton, told her that he was not part of the quid pro quo offer to Ukraine which he described as a “drug deal.”

The new Republican Party cares more about sworn liars than sworn testimony. In the process, it all but disappeared today as the party of Lincoln. Abe freed the slaves; Trump locks up kids in cages.

Yet right there on national television, the GOP embraced the Liar-in-Chief, turned a blind eye to his documented abuse of office, walked away from its constitutional duty, and played to Fox News.

Fox is the network built on one of the three slogans in the dystopian masterpiece 1984: “Ignorance is strength.”

It doesn’t educate its viewers, it pushes their emotional buttons with ugly fictions.

The network doesn’t report the news, it makes it up.

Fox is the preferred destination of the fact-averse and the true-believers, the ones who saw Elvis just yesterday, and believe that Jesus is coming to Ohio.

And oh yes, who think that Trump is the Chosen One to protect them from the dusky hordes invading along the southern border — all those emaciated children and their hollowed-eyed parents.

Fox is the place where two and two is always five.

It is every bit as bad as that and worse. Here’s why:

What the House Republicans did today in overwhelmingly voting against articles of impeachment against Donald Trump, dismissing the factual evidence in front of them in an act of willful blindness, is nothing short of blowing up the Republic as Americans have known it up until now.

They have turned the presidency into a monarchy, and tried to transform their own institution into the rubber stamp of a self-seeking scoundrel. What Americans now have is a system of cheques and imbalances; lobbyists and lickspittles at the service of a tyrant. The country has undergone a sea-change.

Trump is the first president in U.S. history to issue a blanket refusal to Congress, when asked to produce witnesses and documents germane to a formal impeachment inquiry — and then have the chutzpah to claim he has had less due process than the witches of Salem.

Here are the facts.

Trump of his own accord chose not to be involved in the impeachment inquiry, advised witnesses under congressional subpoena not to testify, and turned down the invitation to have his legal representatives take part in the proceedings of the House Judiciary Committee. Does that sound like someone looking for the facts?

By voting against the article of impeachment dealing with Trump’s obstruction of Congress, the Republican Minority has relinquished its powers of oversight, reducing itself to a minion of the Executive Branch.

Bottom line? They voted against separation of powers today, which is the way America has rolled for two and a half centuries. They voted party, not country; self-interest, not national interest. They prostrated themselves in front of an imperial president.

The fix is in

Given that Trump was impeached by the Democratic majority in the House, why is that so terrible?

Because in a few months from now, Trump’s trial in the Senate will take place. It will be presided over by the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, John Roberts, an appointee of Republican president George W. Bush.

The same court, by the way, will decide whether Americans ever get to see Trump’s tax returns. Trump has already appointed two members to the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. As with everything else, the president has done his best to politicize the third branch of government — the judiciary.

Trump’s impeachment jurors will be the Senators themselves, the majority of whom are Republican. It would take two-thirds of the chamber’s 100 members to convict and remove the president.

That will never happen.

How do we know that?

Because the guy MSNBC calls Moscow Mitch, otherwise known as the Senate Republican Majority Leader, has already said so. Mitch McConnell says there is no chance the president will be convicted and removed from office; and he doesn’t want any witnesses called.

You read that right. Before the “trial” has begun, or the Majority has even sorted out matters of procedure with the Minority, Mitch McConnell has already announced the verdict.

In so doing, McConnell has completed the destruction of the Republican party begun today by the Republican minority leader in the House, Kevin McCarthy. These two men are the framers’ worst nightmare, lackeys of a corrupt executive branch. As a result of their handiwork, the U.S. Constitution will be left in partisan tatters, perhaps for good. And nothing will change in the White House.

All because a guy named Trump has every office-holding Republican in the land, and more than a few Democrats, shaking in their boots. They know Trump is vengeful and takes down numbers. They fear his reprisals. And should the president prove as popular with the base as he boasts ad nauseam, they fear losing their districts. If fear can turn a Lindsey Graham into a Trumpian Uriah Heep, what can it do to an entire country?

As with much in America, the movies provide some resonance on that very subject.

Jack Nicholson played George Hanson in the iconic 1969 film Easy Rider. Sitting around a campfire, Hanson had this to say to a biker-character named Billy, just before they were beaten by rednecks for being longhaired, dope-smoking, hippies:

“This used to be a helluva good country. I can’t understand what’s gone wrong with it.”

“Man,” Billy replies, “Everybody got chicken, that’s what happened.”

Why is the president of the United States cyberbullying a 16-year-old girl?

What it says to girls is: no matter what you do, no matter how much you achieve, powerful men will try to cut you down

 ‘Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend!’ Trump tweeted on Thursday. ‘Chill Greta, Chill!’ Photograph: Cristina Quicler/AFP via Getty Images

The morning after election day 2016, I got a call from a girls’ school in New York where I was scheduled to speak. “We have to reschedule,” said a representative from the school. “The girls are too upset.”

Girls across the country were upset when Trump was elected, but not simply on partisan grounds. They were upset because Donald Trump was a bully, a cyberbully, and he bullied girls and young women like them – women like the former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, who revealed that, when she was 19, he called her “Miss Piggy,” a dig at her weight.

In a New York Times poll in the run-up to the election, nearly half of girls aged 14 to 17 said that Trump’s comments about women affected the way they think about their bodies. Only 15% of girls said they would vote for him if they could.

And now Trump has a new target for his bullying: Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old environmental activist. Thunberg seems to be really making Trump upset, without meaning to. She doesn’t fit into any of his ideas of how girls are supposed to act. She isn’t trying to be a contestant in one of his beauty pageants. She’s too busy trying to get world leaders like him to do something about the climate crisis. She’s too occupied by giving speeches at places like the UN – where Trump was laughed at, when he gave a speech in 2018, and Thunberg was met with respect, despite slamming the entire body for “misleading” the public with inadequate emission-reduction pledges.

In the last couple of weeks, while Trump was seemingly mocked by his peers at the Nato summit in London, and impeachment hearings against him began, Thunberg was named Time’s person of the year, an honor Trump reportedly wanted. And so he did what he always seems to do, on Twitter, when he’s upset: he lashed out by accusing the person upsetting him of the very things he’s feeling, or is guilty of.

“Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend!” Trump tweeted on Thursday. “Chill Greta, Chill!”

Poor Trump. This tweet didn’t sound very chill. And Thunberg knew it. Like the majority of girls growing up in the digital age, she has been cyberbullied before – by Trump himself, who, after her celebrated speech before the UN General Assembly, sarcastically tweeted, “She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!”

Both times Trump has tweeted about her, Thunberg’s responses have been jocular, and sarcastic in kind. This week, she changed her Twitter bio to: “A teenager working on her anger management problem. Currently chilling and watching a good old fashioned movie with a friend.”

In her handling of being cyberbullied by the president of the United States, at age 16, Thunberg has become an inspiration for girls two times over – first as a climate activist, then as a social media ninja.

But that doesn’t mean that Trump’s cyberbullying of Thunberg is any less despicable, or dangerous. What it says to girls all over the world is: no matter what you do, no matter how much you achieve, powerful men can and will try to cut you down.

This message is depressing, scary and not without potentially dire consequences. It’s a message that has contributed to a precipitous rise in the suicide rate among girls. It’s a message that has contributed to rising anxiety and depression among girls and young women. It’s a message that Trump’s wife, Melania, is supposed to be combatting, with her campaign against cyberbullying.

But girls don’t need Melania Trump to be their role model in fighting against online harassment. They have each other, and they have Thunberg. SOURCE


Michelle Obama posts in solidarity with Greta Thunberg after Trump tweet
Thunberg trolls Trump after he mocks her in tweet


Trump bizarrely declares war against ‘flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times’

Image result for Trump bizarrely declares war against 'flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times'

President Trump is taking “no obstruction” very seriously.

Trump is apparently sick of flushing toilets, the world unnecessarily learned on Friday. In some unknown place, some unknown people are cursed with “flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times” before everything goes where it needs to go, Trump said in a White House tirade against environmental protections.

“We have a situation where we’re looking very strongly at sinks and showers, and other elements of bathrooms,” Trump said, perhaps hinting at toilet paper or even hand towels. “You turn on the faucet, you don’t get any water,” Trump said of these places where there are “tremendous amounts of water.” “They take a shower, the water comes dripping out. People are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times,” Trump said of this mystery population. “So the EPA is looking at this very strongly,” Trump reassured the nation’s stressed-out flushers.

Kyle Griffin


Here’s the video, via WaPo, of Trump discussing toilet flushing: “We have a situation where we’re looking very strongly at sinks and showers, and other elements of bathrooms … You turn on the faucet and you don’t get any water … People are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times.”

Embedded video

Earlier in the same rant, Trump complained about the energy efficient lightbulbs that are apparently giving him an “orange look,” which he does not want. Kathryn Krawczyk SOURCE

Bill McKibben: The New Climate Math: The Numbers Keep Getting More Frightening

Scientists keep raising ever-louder alarms about the urgency of tackling climate change, but the world’s governments aren’t listening. Yet the latest numbers don’t lie: Nations now plan to keep producing more coal, oil, and gas than the planet can endure.

An oil field near McKittrick, California. DAVID MCNEW/GETTY IMAGES

limate change is many things — a moral issue, a question of intergenerational justice, an economic threat, and now a daily and terrifying reality.

But it’s also a math problem, a point I’ve been trying to make for awhile now. Let’s run some new numbers.

First: 11,000, as in the number of scientists who just signed a manifesto that declares the world’s people face “untold suffering due to the climate crisis” unless there are major transformations to global society. “We declare clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency,” the manifesto, released earlier this month, states. “To secure a sustainable future, we must change how we live. [This] entails major transformations in the ways our global society functions and interacts with natural ecosystems.”

Is that straightforward enough?

These are not scientists warning about something that will happen — these are scientists rushing out of their labs in their white coats and waving their arms and trying to do what they can to bring us to our senses. “The climate crisis has arrived and is accelerating faster than most scientists expected. It is more severe than anticipated, threatening natural ecosystems and the fate of humanity.” Eleven thousand, by the way, is another way of saying essentially all scientists who study this field — the tiny cadre of deniers shrinks annually, and is not being replenished by young climatologists.

Sadly, governments have never made a serious attempt to restrict fossil fuel production – instead, they’ve offered endless subsidies.

Second number: 120 percent, as in the plans by the world’s governments to produce 120 percent more coal and gas and oil by 2030 than the planet can burn and have even half a hope of meeting the Paris climate targets. The new report, which emerged last week from the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), is one of the most important pieces of research in years. What it means is, the world is producing endlessly more coal and oil and gas than safety allows.

Scientists have a fairly exact idea of how much carbon dioxide we can still emit and stay south of the red lines we’ve drawn (red lines, it should be pointed out, that we haven’t crossed yet even though we’ve already lost most of the sea ice in the Arctic, intensified the world’s patterns of drought and flood and fire, and turned the ocean 30 percent more acidic. We’re already in great trouble). That estimate of how much we can still sort of afford to burn represents our “carbon budget,” and it’s not very large (it’s not very large because when scientists issued their first dire warnings 30 years ago we paid no attention). Meeting that budget would require — well, it would require budgeting. That’s kind of what the world’s nations did in Paris, when they set out targets and made pledges. Sadly, the pledges didn’t meet the targets: no nation committed to cutting the use of fossil fuels fast enough to dramatically slow down the warming. If you want to use a dieting metaphor, we were unwilling to rein in our appetites in any significant way.

But of course there’s another way at this problem. Along with reducing demand, you could also work to reduce supply. If we didn’t have more coal and oil and gas than we could burn, we would, ipso facto, be more likely to stay on our diet. Sadly, the world’s governments have never made any serious attempt to restrict the production of coal and oil and gas — instead, they’ve offered endless subsidies to spur the endless overproduction of fossil fuels.

America has done this more effectively than anyone else — for the last few presidential administrations we’ve offered the industry pretty much carte blanche for drilling and fracking and mining. That’s why, during the Obama years, the United States surpassed Russia and Saudi Arabia as the world’s greatest supplier of hydrocarbons. And if you think Obama might be embarrassed about that, you’d be wrong. As the former president told a cheering Texas audience last year, “You wouldn’t always know it ,but it [oil and gas production] went up every year I was president,” he said. “That whole, ‘suddenly America’s like the biggest oil producer and the biggest gas,’ that was me, people.” Precisely the same scenario is playing out in the other big fossil fuel nations. In Australia last month, for instance, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that his government was planning to outlaw protests that seek to persuade banks to stop financing new coal mines. (He did this as one of the worst waves of bush fires in the nation’s history turned the Sydney skies gray — humans returning to the blackened forests reported being traumatized by the agonized howls of burned animals).

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau explained the logic most succinctly a couple of years ago, speaking to another crowd in Texas. “No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and leave them there,” he said, referring to the amount of recoverable crude in Alberta’s tar sands region. “The resource will be developed.” He’s been good to his word, literally using Canadian taxpayer money to buy a pipeline to increase the flow of oil. And his statement provides us a key piece of the math: If Canada pumps that 173 billion barrels of oil, it will use up nearly a third of the world’s remaining carbon budget. By itself. To benefit a country with one half of 1 percent of the planet’s population. That math … doesn’t work.

The SEI report is the most damning documentation of our plight yet, and it powerfully makes the case that we should be working at least as hard to cap supply as to depress demand. We have plenty of tools, from limiting subsidies to just outright banning new exploration and development. As Christiana Figueres, one of the heroes of the Paris climate talks, put it, “countries such as Costa Rica, Spain, and New Zealand are already showing the way forward, with policies to constrain exploration and extraction and ensure a just transition away from fossil fuels. Others must now follow their lead.” Which is true, but Costa Rica, Spain, and New Zealand are not exactly petrostates.

The numbers, and the attitudes of leaders like Trudeau and Trump, are a kind of cryptic suicide note for the planet.

The SEI report was, I think, grounds for real dismay, even despair: the numbers, and the attitudes of leaders like Trudeau, not to mention Trump, not to mention Putin, are a kind of cryptic suicide note for the planet, one written in numerals and not letters. They are an admission that we simply can’t rein ourselves in — an immoral refusal to heed physics and chemistry. They should shame us, and they should govern our activism in the years ahead: We’ve simply got to try and stop the pipelines and LNG ports and coal mines that make this auto-da-fé our default future.

Having slogged through this sad analysis, you deserve one other set of new numbers that offer at least a little light in the hot and smoky tunnel. Ed Mazria, another hero of the climate fight, has devoted himself and his group, Architecture 2030, to solving one of the thorniest problems of the global warming era: how to rein in the emissions from the buildings that house our lives and industries. It can seem a daunting problem, with buildings accounting for about 40 percent of all U.S. energy consumption: Viewed from above, it sometimes seems there are simply too many structures to even begin to deal with in the time we have. Fly into Chicago or LA and just stare down: Man, there are a lot of buildings.

An oil sands mine near Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada. MARK RALSTON/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

But that’s why the third number in this lesson — 2 percent — is so hopeful. It’s the percentage of big buildings in New York, the ones over 50,000 square feet in size. And they produce 45 percent of the city’s emissions from buildings. Which means a manageable number of structures — skyscrapers, convention centers, warehouses, huge apartments — produce roughly half the carbon. Which means, you could fix it: Indeed, New York City has embarked on a remarkable program of retrofits for its big buildings, ordering landlords to get to work. When Mazria’s crew looked at LA and Long Beach and Seattle and Minneapolis they found the same basic ratios held; this part of the problem seems more manageable than we’d thought. At least we could give it a good shot.

As for the other half of the emissions, the ones that come from millions of homes and small buildings, it’s obviously politically difficult to regulate them in the same way. But as Mazria points out, it makes sense to order their repair when they turn over: sell an apartment house and part of the deal must be that the new owner take on the task of reducing energy use (an energy- and hence money-saving job that can be rolled into the new mortgage).

We could do this same exercise around cars or factories or farms — a great many of the solutions are shelf-ready and cost-effective. But we won’t move quickly enough to use them if we’re surrounded by a sea of cheap oil. Those 11,000 scientists? They’re telling us we have to actually do the climate math. It’s not optional. SOURCE

Bill Gates, I Implore You to Connect Some Dots

Bloomberg, Dimon and Gates call liberal tax ideas unfair. But excessive wealth is the real threat.

Credit…CJ Gunther/EPA, via Shutterstock

The billionaire class has begun unloading on Elizabeth Warren. A few days ago, Jamie Dimon of J.P. Morgan Chase — at just $1.6 billion in net worth, a comparative piker — said Senator Warren “vilifies successful people.” Then Bill Gates ($107 billion), in an onstage interview with The Times’s Andrew Ross Sorkin, mused about what his tax bill might be in a Warren presidency and left the door open to voting for Donald Trump should Democrats nominate Ms. Warren. And then Michael Bloomberg ($52 billion), who had previously criticized Ms. Warren as anti-corporate, signaled his intention to jump into the race, obviously out of concern at her rise.

I’m not expert enough to judge the wisdom of Senator Warren’s proposed wealth tax. I know that there are questions about its constitutionality and that several European nations tried a similar approach and found it unworkable (though four countries still have it). I don’t get why the candidates aren’t simply proposing to increase marginal income tax rates on dollars earned above some very high figure. That seems a lot more straightforward to me.

So this column is not a brief for Ms. Warren’s wealth tax or for her candidacy — I don’t have a preferred candidate. Instead, I want to make a simple plea to the country’s billionaires: Multibillion-dollar fortunes are often called excessive and decadent. But here’s something they’re rarely called but ought to be: anti-democratic. These fortunes will destroy our democracy.

Why “anti-democratic”? Why would it matter to our democracy whether Jeff Bezos is worth $113 billion (his current figure) or $13 billion?

This is carnage, plain and simple. No democratic society can let that keep happening and expect to stay a democracy. It will produce a middle and working classes with no sense of security, and when people have no sense that the system is providing them with basic security, they’ll make some odd and desperate choices.

This is obviously not hypothetical. It’s happening. It’s what gave us Mr. Trump (well, that plus the campaign lies). It’s what made Britons vote Leave (well, that plus the campaign lies). It’s what has sparked protests from France to Chile to Lebanon, and it’s what is making the Chinese model — no democracy, but plenty of security — more attractive to a number of developing countries around the world than the American model. Our billionaires ought to ponder this.

I imagine that Mr. Gates is repulsed by Mr. Trump on some level, and at the end of the day probably couldn’t vote for him. But if I could meet Mr. Gates, I’d ask him: Sir, do you not see the link between your vast fortune and the ascendance of Donald Trump? If not, I implore you to connect some dots. Wealth has shifted to the top. It has been taken away from the middle class. That makes people anxious. Anxiety opens the door to demagogues. It’s not complicated.

We need changes in our laws and institutional structures that will alter what economists call pretax distribution. This is a point made by the economist Dean Baker — that income inequality is less a result of tax policy than laws and regulations that have made the rich richer before taxes are even imposed. These changes have to do with

And yes, we do need to tax rich people more. In my lifetime, the top marginal tax rate has gone (roughly speaking) from 91 percent to 77 percent to 50 percent to 35 percent to today’s 37 percent. That’s too low. I’m not with Bernie Sanders, who says there should be no billionaires. That’s too punitive. But I do think Mr. Bezos could get by on $15 billion or so.

Billionaires will protest that they’d rather give it away than trust the government with it. I applaud their generosity. But even someone as rich as Michael Dell, who went on a rather infamous riff along these lines at Davos, could not build a nationwide high-speed rail system, clean the country’s air and water (and keep them clean), create a network of free opioid clinics across the country or give towns that have been hollowed out by the global economy a second chance. Only government can do those things. MORE