Environmental groups dropped a record-breaking $80 million-plus in the midterms earlier this month, and that has produced a new breed of progressive Democrats itching to pass a Green New Deal, a bold, even radical, plan to get the nation completely off fossil fuels within a decade. But the Democrats’ huge gains in the House have knocked off many of the Republicans who were moderates on the issue, leaving Congress even more divided on climate than before.
The informal Climate Solutions Caucus was comprised of an even mix of 90 members of both parties this year, but close to half of its GOP members were just ousted, including its co-founder, Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a Florida Republican.
So while Democratic Congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, of New York, and Bernie Sanders will be hosting a town hall on climate change on Monday, most Republicans at the Capitol are digging in for a fight. That’s in spite of the Trump administration’s own grim climate assessment released last week, which predicts dire consequences and a $500 billion-a-year tax on the economy by the end of the century if emissions are left unchecked.
“If you read it closely, what it says is that by the end of the century, the economic impact is tiny,” Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) told VICE News as he hopped on a tram that runs under the Capitol. “We’ve got to weigh the cost of mitigation against the lost economic output there may be, and the people who are very worried about this don’t think it’s very much.”
Defenders of ocean habitats and marine life are up in arms on Friday as the Trump administration is set to approve new abilities for the fossil fuel industry to conduct widescale and “deafening” underwater seismic in federal waters off the U.S. Atlantic coast. The decision is expected to come from the National Marine Fisheries Service, a division of the Commerce Department, but conservation groups say it is a smack in the face to ocean ecosystems and a political nonstarter they vow to fight tooth and nail.
“This action flies in the face of massive opposition to offshore drilling and exploration from over 90 percent of coastal municipalities in the proposed blast zone,” said Diane Hoskins, campaign director at Oceana. “These permits were already denied because of the known harm that seismic airgun blasting causes. President Trump is essentially giving these companies permission to harass, harm and possibly even kill marine life, including the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale – all in the pursuit of dirty and dangerous offshore oil. This is the first step toward offshore drilling in the Atlantic and we’re going to make sure coastal communities know what’s happening and fight this.”
Michael Jasny, director of the Marine Mammal Protection Project at NRDC, said the president’s action is totally detached from the reality of the threats the world’s ecosytems now face. “Just one week after issuing dire warnings on the catastrophic fallout of climate change to come, the Trump Administration is opening our coastlines to for-profit companies to prospect for oil and gas—and is willing to sacrifice marine life, our coastal communities and fisheries in the process,” fumed Jasny. “This is the first step towards drilling and scientists warn that seismic activity alone could drive the endangered North American right whale to extinction.
Three years after sealing a landmark global climate deal in Paris, world leaders are gathering again to agree on the fine print. The euphoria of 2015 has given way to sober realization that getting an agreement among almost 200 countries, each with their own political and economic demands, will be challenging — as evidenced by President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the Paris accord, citing his “America First” mantra.
“Looking from the outside perspective, it’s an impossible task,” Poland’s deputy environment minister, Michal Kurtyka, said of the talks he will preside over in Katowice from Dec. 2-14. … The conference will have “quite significant consequences for humanity and for the way in which we take care of our planet,” Kurtyka told the Associated Press ahead of the talks. …
Experts agree that the Paris goals can only be met by cutting emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to net zero by 2050. But the Paris agreement let countries set their own emissions targets. Some are on track, others aren’t. Overall, the world is heading the wrong way. … “Everyone recognized that the national plans, when you add everything up, will take us way beyond 3, potentially 4 degrees Celsius warming,” said Johan Rockstrom, the incoming director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “We know that we’re moving in the wrong direction,” said Rockstrom. “We need to bend the global carbon emissions no later than 2020 — in two years’ time — to stand a chance to stay under 2 degrees Celsius.”