Opinion | Why Republicans Turned Against the Environment – The New York Times

,    Opinion Columnist

“In 1990 Congress passed an amendment to the Clean Air Act of 1970, among other things taking action against acid rain, urban smog and ozone.

The legislation was highly successful, greatly reducing pollution at far lower cost than business interest groups had predicted. I sometimes see people trying to use acid rain as an example of environmental alarmism — hey, it was a big issue in the 1980s, but now hardly anyone talks about it. But the reason we don’t talk about it is that policy largely solved the problem.

What’s really striking from today’s perspective, however, is the fact that the 1990 legislation passed Congress with overwhelming, bipartisan majorities. Among those voting Yea was a first-term senator from Kentucky named Mitch McConnell.

That was then. This is now: The Inflation Reduction Act — which, despite its name, is mainly a climate bill with a side helping of health reform — didn’t receive a single Republican vote. Now, the I.R.A. isn’t a leftist plan to insert Big Government into everyone’s lives: It doesn’t coerce Americans into going green; it relies on subsidies to promote low-emission technologies, probably creating many new jobs. So why the scorched-earth G.O.P. opposition?

The immediate answer is that the Republican Party has turned strongly anti-environmental over time. But why?”

“. . . . .  What has happened, I’d argue, is that environmental policy has been caught up in the culture war — which is, in turn, largely driven by issues of race and ethnicity. This, I suspect, is why the partisan divide on the environment widened so much after America elected its first Black president.

One especially notable aspect of The Times’s investigative report on state treasurers’ punishing corporations seeking to limit greenhouse gas emissions is the way these officials condemn such corporations as “woke.”

Wokeness normally means talking about racial and social justice. On the right — which is increasingly defined by attempts to limit the rights of Americans who aren’t straight white Christians — it has become a term of abuse. Teaching students about the role of racism in American history is bad because it’s woke. But so, apparently, are many other things, like Cracker Barrel offering meatless sausage and being concerned about climate change.”

David Lindsay: As one commenter pointed out, 2008, the year Krugman picks, is also the year Barak Obama became the first black president of the United States. The backlash continues.

“Barack Obama’s tenure as the 44th president of the United States began with his first inauguration on January 20, 2009, and ended on January 20, 2017. A Democrat from Illinois, Obama took office following a decisive victory over Republican nominee John McCain in the 2008 presidential election.” Wikipedia

David Leonhardt – A Functional   Congress? Yes. – The New York Times

“Describing Congress as dysfunctional seems unobjectionable, even clichéd. I’ve done it myself this summer. Yet as the current session enters its final months, the description feels off. The 117th Congress has been strikingly functional.

On a bipartisan basis, it has passed bills to build roads and other infrastructure; tighten gun safety; expand health care for veterans; protect victims of sexual misconduct; overhaul the Postal Service; support Ukraine’s war effort; and respond to China’s growing aggressiveness.

Just as important, the majority party (the Democrats) didn’t give a complete veto to the minority party. On a few major issues, Democrats decided that taking action was too important. They passed the most significant response to climate change in the country’s history. They also increased access to medical care for middle- and lower-income Americans and enacted programs that softened the blow from the pandemic.

Congress still has plenty of problems. It remains polarized on many issues. It has not figured out how to respond to the growing threats to American democracy. The House suffers from gerrymandering, and the Senate has a growing bias against residents of large states, who are disproportionately Black, Latino, Asian and young. The Senate can also struggle at the basic function of approving presidential nominees.

The current Congress has also passed at least one law that seems clearly flawed in retrospect: It appears to have spent too much money on pandemic stimulus last year, exacerbating inflation.

As regular readers know, though, this newsletter tries to avoid bad-news bias and cover both accomplishments and failures. Today, I want to focus on how Congress — a reliably unpopular institution — has managed to be more productive than almost anybody expected.

I’ll focus on four groups: Democratic congressional leaders; Republican lawmakers; progressive Democrats; and President Biden and his aides.”

Opinion | Subsidies in the Climate Bill Keep Oil and Gas Alive – The New York Times

Charles Harvey and 

Dr. Harvey is a professor of environmental engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. House is the chief executive officer of KoBold Metals, a metals exploration company.

“. . . . These C.C.S. projects are subsidized by Section 45Q of the federal tax code, which now offers companies a tax credit for each metric ton of carbon dioxide injected into the ground. Those enhanced oil recovery subsidies would rise under the new law, from $35 to $60 per ton. The legislation also significantly broadens the number of facilities eligible for tax credits. And those facilities will be able to claim the tax credit through a tax refund. The 45Q program is nominally a program to fight climate change. But since nearly all carbon dioxide injections subsidized by 45Q are for enhanced oil recovery, the 45Q program is actually an oil production subsidy.

The Internal Revenue Service does not provide information about who gets the credits. But we do know that it issued more than $1 billion of these credits as of 2020.

These subsidies create a perverse incentive, because for companies to qualify for the subsidies, carbon dioxide must be produced, then captured and buried. This incentive handicaps technologies that reduce carbon dioxide production in the first place, tilting the playing field against promising innovations that avoid fossil fuels in the steel, fertilizer and cement industries while locking in long-term oil and gas use.

Industry campaigns for C.C.S. also have shifted their decades-long disinformation fight: Instead of spreading doubt about climate science, the industry now spreads false confidence about how we can continue to burn fossil fuels while efficiently cutting emissions. For example, Exxon Mobil advertises that it has “cumulatively captured more carbon dioxide than any other company — 120 million metric tons.”

What Exxon Mobil doesn’t say is that this carbon dioxide was already sequestered underground before it “captured” it while producing natural gas and then injected it back into the ground to produce more oil. These advertising campaigns lend support to government programs to directly subsidize C.C.S.

Solving climate change requires resources; misappropriating these resources makes solving the problem harder. We have no time to waste. We need to stop subsidizing oil extraction and carbon dioxide production in the name of fighting climate change and stop burning billions in taxpayer money on white elephant projects. Clean power from carbon capture and sequestration died with the success of renewable energy; it’s time to bury this technology deep underground.”  -30-

David Lindsay:  Sad, even tragic.

Here is an important comment:

Erik Frederiksen
Asheville, NC  8h ago 

Very few people understand how big the coming changes will be. In the 32 years since the first report by the IPCC emissions of CO2 have gone up by 60 percent. During a time when we could not plead ignorance we made more change to the climate than during the entire prior history of humanity. The carbon cycle for the last 2 million years was doing 180-280ppm atmospheric CO2 over 10,000 years and we’ve done more change than that in 100 years. The last time CO2 went from 180-280ppm global temperature increased by around 4 degrees C and sea level rose 130 meters. That’s over 30 meters per degree rise in temperature and we’re at about 1.2 degrees now. It just takes time for temperature and sea level to equilibrate with elevated atmospheric CO2. Here’s a graph of the last 400,000 years of global temperature, CO2 and sea level http://www.ces.fau.edu/nasa/images/impacts/slr-co2-temp-400000yrs.jpg

Opinion | Kill Your Lawn, Before It Kills You – The New York Times

David Lindsay: I wonder how nitrogen fertilizer on a lawn becomes a green house gas.

Here is what came up on Google:

Synthetic FertilizersFurthermore, the lawn does not need, or can hold, the amount of nitrogen in the fertilizer. Soil microbes will then turn this additional nitrogen into nitrous oxide gas, a greenhouse gas that has 300 times the heat-trapping ability of CO2.

May 11, 2020

Lawn Maintenance and Climate Change – PSCI Princeton

Is Seltzer Water Just as Healthy as Flat Water? – The New York Times

“…. “If you are using fluoridated water for brushing your teeth, cooking and some of your hydration, you can also include sparkling water in your diet,” Ms. Linge said. And if you use tap water to make your own carbonated water at home, then your bubbly water already has fluoride in it.

But keep in mind that carbonated water is more acidic in our mouths than flat water.

Bubbly water contains carbon dioxide, which is converted to carbonic acid when it mingles with saliva, lowering the pH level of your mouth. The pH scale indicates whether a solution is more acidic (lower pH) or alkaline (higher pH). Drinks with a lower pH can be erosive to teeth, making them more susceptible to cavities; however, unsweetened carbonated water is not nearly as erosive as soda or fruit juice, according to a 2016 study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association.

Some carbonated water brands include ingredients like citric acid for taste, which can raise the acidity level. Adding your own slices of lemon or lime would have a similar effect. And because the ingredient list will often say “natural flavor,” it is hard to know exactly what was added.”

Long a Climate Straggler, Australia Advances a Major Bill to Cut Emissions – The New York Times

“CANBERRA, Australia — After years of being denounced as a laggard on climate change, Australia shifted course on Thursday, with the Lower House of Parliament passing a bill that commits the government to reducing carbon emissions by at least 43 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, and reaching net zero by 2050.

With critical support from the Australian Greens now in place, the new Labor government is expected to push the legislation through the Senate in a few weeks.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said it would put the country “on the right side of history.” The 43 percent pledge brings Australia closer to Canada, South Korea and Japan, while still falling short of commitments from the United States, the European Union and Britain.”

How Republicans Are ‘Weaponizing’ Public Office Against Climate Action – The New York Times

Gelles reviewed more than 10,000 pages of documents and emails while reporting for this article.

“Nearly two dozen Republican state treasurers around the country are working to thwart climate action on state and federal levels, fighting regulations that would make clear the economic risks posed by a warming world, lobbying against climate-minded nominees to key federal posts and using the tax dollars they control to punish companies that want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Over the past year, treasurers in nearly half the United States have been coordinating tactics and talking points, meeting in private and cheering each other in public as part of a well-funded campaign to protect the fossil fuel companies that bolster their local economies.

Last week, Riley Moore, the treasurer of West Virginia, announced that several major banks — including Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Wells Fargo — would be barred from government contracts with his state because they are reducing their investments in coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
My partner Kathleen Schomaker and I think that the insurance companies should be all over this. What exactly should they do? We have no idea. What could the insurance industry do to protect itself from anti-science, climate crisis deniers? It is time for all the corporations of America to divest themselves from Republicans who deny science and the climate crisis. It has not escaped our notice that the oil gas and coal companies, which say they are into the green transition in their annual reports, are playing hard ball under the table.
David blogs at InconvenientNews.net

Irish Farmers Help Save a Bird Whose Calls Used to Herald Summer – Ed O’Loughlin – The New York Times

BELMULLET, Ireland — The call of the corncrake — a small, shy bird related to the coot — is harsh and monotonous, yet for older generations it was a beloved sound of summer in Ireland, evoking wistful memories of warm weather, hay making and romantic nights.

These days, though, its call is seldom heard outside a few scattered enclaves along the western coast, like Belmullet, a remote peninsula of County Mayo. Once numerous, the birds became threatened in much of their Western European range in the late 20th century, mainly because of changes in agricultural practices that deprived them of places to breed.

“Older people still talk about coming home from dances in summer nights and hearing the corncrakes calling from the fields all around them,” said Anita Donaghy, assistant head of conservation at Birdwatch Ireland. “You hear about them making special trips to places in the west where they are going to hear the corncrake again. It’s sad that many young people have never heard it.”

But there is hope for the return of the corncrake’s call. In recent years, conservationists, government agencies and farmers have come together to try to reverse the decline in numbers of the corncrakes — and preserve the corncrake’s “kek kek” for new generations.”.

Daniel Rothberg | The Coming Crisis Along the Colorado River – The New York Times

Mr. Rothberg is a reporter for The Nevada Independent, where he covers the environment, water and energy. He is writing a book about water scarcity in Nevada.

“It’s past time to get real about the Southwest’s hardest-working river.

About 40 million people rely on the Colorado River as it flows from Colorado to Mexico. But overuse and climate change have contributed to its reservoirs drying up at such a rapid rate that the probability of disastrous disruptions to the deliveries of water and hydroelectric power across the Southwest have become increasingly likely. Now the seven states that depend on the river must negotiate major cuts in water use by mid-August or have them imposed by the federal government.

Those cuts are merely the beginning as the region struggles to adapt to an increasingly arid West. The rules for operating the river’s shrinking reservoirs expire in 2026, and those seven states must forge a new agreement on water use for farmers, businesses and cities.”

Katherine Miller | This Is Why Peter Meijer Lost? – The New York Times

Ms. Miller is a staff writer and editor in Opinion.

“Last year Peter Meijer, the Michigan representative who voted to impeach Donald Trump and just lost his re-election primary over it, shared a nightmare hypothetical that illustrates a central tension in American politics.

“China invades Taiwan,” he said in a podcast interview. “We send the Seventh Fleet to intimidate them, and it’s the summertime, and all of a sudden, the power goes out in Phoenix and people are baking to death in their house, and the Chinese say we can turn the power back on if you turn that fleet around.” This would suddenly make cybersecurity the most resonant issue in America. But putting this scenario in perspective, he said, “if you were to poll the public, cybersecurity wouldn’t even register in the top 50 issues.”

The same is true, he argued, about the politics of political violence: It is a vital concern that you can’t run a winning campaign on. “I think Jan. 6 should have been a warning sign,” Mr. Meijer said. “It should have been, ‘This is a taste of what could come if we keep going down this path.’ Instead, it becomes something that you can justify, that you can reconcile.” But, he pointed out, voters did not see Jan. 6 and political violence as a top concern for their everyday lives.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
This is an excellent story, thank you Katherine Miller. But I have to confess, it disgusts me. I have extremely strong, negative feelings towards Democrats who would pump up a Trumpist, with fascist positions, over a thoughtful and brave patriot who is a Republican. In my view, the Democrats doing this are nuts. They ignore the plea of writers like Thomas Friedman, who has written several times, that we desperately need two healthy parties at least, to make this democracy work. David Brooks has made similar arguments. How can I make contributions now to Democratic supporting Pacs, when I think they might have been involved in this ugly madness? It is about the economy stupid, is now replaced by, its about the existential threat of global warming, stupid. This is not a good time for the extremists of the Democratic party to be tying the rest of us up in knots of discomfort.
David blogs at InconvenientNews.net