David Lindsay on Joe Biden’s Inaugural Address

InconvenientNews.Net  1/22/21   That was quite an exciting day on January 20th.  I’m absolutely joyous, to be living now in the Biden era. I hope you all saw his inauguration, and the evening concert. They were inspiring.

The day was not without controversy. Two women of color on MSNBC and another network thought that the young poet upstaged Joe Biden. I thought Joe gave the best speech of his career, and the speech will be famous.

My sister Marney Morrison replied, “Re Joe Bidon and Amanda Gorman. Both are true – excellent speech and she was the best performer of the day – didn’t diminish him though – all the talent he attracted just raised his event up and amplified him and his administration.”

David Brooks wrote in the NYT today, that his favorite passage was this: “ “Here is the thing about life: There is no accounting for what fate will deal you. Some days you need a hand; there are other days when we are called to lend a hand.” The Biden values are there: humility, vulnerability, compassion, resilience, interdependence, solidarity. Donald Trump’s patriotism was bloated and fear-based. Biden’s is the self-confident patriotism he absorbed by growing up in a certain sort of country during the American century.”

I hear in that historic speech, a dozen or so beautiful sentences or paragraphs. Hear are my favorite parts.   “We have learned again that democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile. And at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.

So now, on this hallowed ground where just days ago violence sought to shake this Capitol’s very foundation, we come together as one nation, under God, indivisible, to carry out the peaceful transfer of power as we have for more than two centuries.

We look ahead in our uniquely American way — restless, bold, optimistic — and set our sights on the nation we know we can be and we must be. I thank my predecessors of both parties for their presence here.  I thank them from the bottom of my heart.”

“. . . I have just taken the sacred oath each of these patriots took — an oath first sworn by George Washington. But the American story depends not on any one of us, not on some of us, but on all of us.  On “We the People” who seek a more perfect Union.”

“. . . Few periods in our nation’s history have been more challenging or difficult than the one we’re in now. A once-in-a-century virus silently stalks the country. It’s taken as many lives in one year as America lost in all of World War II. Millions of jobs have been lost. Hundreds of thousands of businesses closed. A cry for racial justice some 400 years in the making moves us. The dream of justice for all will be deferred no longer.

A cry for survival comes from the planet itself. A cry that can’t be any more desperate or any more clear. And now, a rise in political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism that we must confront and we will defeat.

To overcome these challenges – to restore the soul and to secure the future of America – requires more than words. It requires that most elusive of things in a democracy: Unity.

In another January in Washington, on New Year’s Day 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.  When he put pen to paper, the President said, “If my name ever goes down into history it will be for this act and my whole soul is in it.”     My whole soul is in it.”

“. . . And so today, at this time and in this place, let us start afresh. All of us. Let us listen to one another. Hear one another. See one another. Show respect to one another. Politics need not be a raging fire destroying everything in its path. Every disagreement doesn’t have to be a cause for total war. And, we must reject a culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured. My fellow Americans, we have to be different than this. America has to be better than this. And, I believe America is better than this.”

“. . . Many centuries ago, Saint Augustine, a saint of my church, wrote that a people was a multitude defined by the common objects of their love. What are the common objects we love that define us as Americans? I think I know. Opportunity. Security. Liberty. Dignity. Respect. Honor. And, yes, the truth.

Recent weeks and months have taught us a painful lesson. There is truth and there are lies. Lies told for power and for profit. And each of us has a duty and responsibility, as citizens, as Americans, and especially as leaders – leaders who have pledged to honor our Constitution and protect our nation — to defend the truth and to defeat the lies.”

“. . . So here is my message to those beyond our borders: America has been tested and we have come out stronger for it. We will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again. Not to meet yesterday’s challenges, but today’s and tomorrow’s. We will lead not merely by the example of our power but by the power of our example. We will be a strong and trusted partner for peace, progress, and security. We have been through so much in this nation.

And, in my first act as President, I would like to ask you to join me in a moment of silent prayer to remember all those we lost this past year to the pandemic. To those 400,000 fellow Americans – mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. We will honor them by becoming the people and nation we know we can and should be. Let us say a silent prayer for those who lost their lives, for those they left behind, and for our country. Amen.

This is a time of testing. We face an attack on democracy and on truth. A raging virus. Growing inequity. The sting of systemic racism. A climate in crisis.

America’s role in the world. (Oops, right here the speech writer chickened out or ducked. Everyone gets to finish this opaque bullet point they way they like. Did they mean, America’s role in the world –diminished, or co-0pted by Vladimir Putin? I think they are probably saying, damaged by Donald Trump, without saying it.)

Any one of these would be enough to challenge us in profound ways. But the fact is we face them all at once, presenting this nation with the gravest of responsibilities. Now we must step up. All of us. It is a time for boldness, for there is so much to do.

And, this is certain. We will be judged, you and I, for how we resolve the cascading crises of our era. Will we rise to the occasion? Will we master this rare and difficult hour? Will we meet our obligations and pass along a new and better world for our children? I believe we must and I believe we will.”

David Lindsay:    I think that last paragraph above is my favorite. I love “cascading crises,” which echos the most ominous term in climate science, “cascading events.”  Cascading events are what will probably end life as we know and love it on this planet, if we continue to party and overpopulate and pollute. The most famous example that comes to mind, is that the melting of the frozen tundras of the world, causes the release of millions of tons of carbon dioxide and methane, which will lead to more global warming, leading to more melting  . . . . .  et cetera.  Scientist have warned for years that we are starting what might someday soon (?) be an unstoppable, cascading chain of events. Joe Biden gets it. He is begging our anti-science fellow citizens to listen to the scientists.

Politico:  “Today, on this January day, my whole soul is in this: Bringing America together. Uniting our people. And uniting our nation,” President Joe Biden said.

Chief Justice Roberts, Vice President Harris, Speaker Pelosi, Leader Schumer, Leader McConnell, Vice President Pence, distinguished guests, and my fellow Americans. This is America’s day. . . .

Source: Full text: Joe Biden inauguration speech transcript – POLITICO

Editorial | Joe Biden Takes Climate Change Seriously – The New York Times

“. . . .  All in all, a handsome batch of résumés, but résumés won’t match the urgent challenge ahead. How urgent? Just over two years ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s pre-eminent authority on global warming, warned that the world must transform its energy systems by midcentury in order to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, or risk widespread ecological and social disruptions — including but not limited to die-offs of coral reefs, sea level rise, drought, famine, wildfires and potential migrations of whole populations searching for food and fresh water. More pointedly, it stressed that the next decade was crucial, that emissions would have to be on a sharp downward path by 2030 for any hope of success, that there was no gentle glide path and that the world’s political leaders would have to take a firm grip on the emissions curve and wrench it downward in a hurry.

With that in mind, Mr. Biden pledged to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 and, along the way, eliminate fossil fuel emissions from the power sector by 2035. What this in turn is likely to require is set forth in a detailed Princeton study, summarized by The Times’s Brad Plumer on Dec. 15: a doubling, annually, in the pace of new wind and solar power; a huge increase in the number of new battery-powered cars sold every year, from 2 percent now to 50 percent of new sales by 2030, with charging stations to serve them; a big jump in the number of homes heated by electric heat pumps instead of oil and gas; and, necessarily, a vast increase in the capacity of the electric grid to handle all this clean power.

This transformation of the energy delivery system will not be achieved by regulation, although that will surely help, or, as some groups seem to believe, by simply ending hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas. What the Princeton study envisions is great amounts of new public and private investment, bigger by far than the modest energy-related tax breaks in the year-end spending and coronavirus relief package (which also, happily, included a provision that would curtail the use of planet-warming refrigerants called HFCs, thus bringing the United States in alignment with the rest of the world).

Extracting the necessary trillions from a potentially divided Congress is the tallest of tall orders. The betting now is on two possible legislative paths, maybe both: a stimulus bill with all sorts of green investments tucked into it, along the lines of the 2009 Obama stimulus but much bigger; and, after that, a big infrastructure bill targeted at projects that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Mr. Biden’s strategy is still in the making. But whatever path he chooses, progress in this still-fractured country will require all the energy and smart ideas his team can muster and all the negotiating skills Mr. Biden himself has acquired in a half-century of public service.” -30-

David Lindsay: Good editorial and comments.  Here is my favorite comment, of many good ones:

Woof

Let’s get to the bottom of climate change Americans , per capita, contribute to climate change more than any other Nation Country CO2 emissions per capita , tons

      US 16.56

       UK 5.62

France 5.19 I

    Italy 5.56

The French and Brits and Italians do not live worse than the US but pollute 1/3 as much as Americans To reduce climate change, the US , as a first step, need to tax gasoline on the EU level to discourage Americans from driving ever larger SUVs and Pick Ups It is that simple Joe Biden’s Climate Team Actually Cares About Climate it will start there

10 Replies155 Recommended

Opinion | Not Just Another Pipeline – By Louise Erdrich – The New York Times

Ms. Erdrich, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, is a novelist and poet based in Minnesota. Her most recent book is “The Night Watchman.”

Credit…Alex Kormann/Star Tribune, via Associated Press

“PALISADE, Minn. — My daughter and I are walking along the fast-flowing stream of pure darkness that is the young Mississippi River. We are two hours north of Minneapolis, in Palisade, Minn., where people are gathering to oppose the Line 3 pipeline. Patches of snow crunch on pads of russet leaves as we near the zhaabondawaan, a sacred lodge along the river’s banks. It is here that Enbridge is due to horizontally drill a new pipeline crossing beneath the river. We enter the lodge. The peace, the sweetness, the clarity of the water is hard to bear. The brush and trees hardly muffle the roar of earth-moving and tree-felling equipment across the road. The pipeline is almost at the river.

Last month, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz’s administration signed off on final water permits for Enbridge to complete an expansion of its Line 3 pipeline. After the final section is built in Minnesota, the pipeline will pump oil sands and other forms of crude oil from Hardisty, Alberta, to Superior, Wis., cutting through Indigenous treaty lands along the way. Lawsuits — including one by the White Earth and Red Lake nations and several environmental organizations, and another by the Mille Lacs Nation — are pending. But construction has already started.

This has been a brutal year for Indigenous people, who have suffered nearly double the Covid-19 mortality rate of white Americans. We have lost many of our elders, our language keepers. Covid has also struck an inordinate number of our vibrant young. Nevertheless, tribal people worked hard on the elections. The Native vote became a force that helped carry several key areas of the country and our state. On the heels of those victories, the granting of final permits to construct Enbridge’s Line 3, which will cross Anishinaabe treaty lands, was a breathtaking betrayal. The Land of 10,000 Lakes is already suffering from climate change. Yet Minnesota’s pollution control and public utility agencies refused to take the future of our lakes into account, or to consider treaty rights, in granting permits.

This is not just another pipeline. It is a tar sands climate bomb; if completed, it will facilitate the production of crude oil for decades to come. Tar sands are among the most carbon-intensive fuels on the planet. The state’s environmental impact assessment of the project found the pipeline’s carbon output could be 193 million tons per year. That’s the equivalent of 50 coal-fired power plants or 38 million vehicles on our roads, according to Jim Doyle, a physicist at Macalester College who helped write a report from the climate action organization MN350 about the pipeline. He observed that the pipeline’s greenhouse gas emissions are greater than the yearly output of the entire state. If the pipeline is built, Minnesotans could turn off everything in the state, stop traveling and still not come close to meeting the state’s emission reduction goals. The impact assessment also states that the potential social cost of this pipeline is $287 billion over 30 years.

Opinion | Al Gore: I Have Hope on the Climate Crisis. America Must Lead. – By Al Gore – The New York Times

Mr. Gore was the 45th vice president of the United States.

Credit…Francois Mori/Associated Press

­­­­­

“This weekend marks two anniversaries that, for me, point a way forward through the accumulated wreckage of the past year.

The first is personal. Twenty years ago, I ended my presidential campaign after the Supreme Court abruptly decided the 2000 election. As the incumbent vice president, my duty then turned to presiding over the tallying of Electoral College votes in Congress to elect my opponent. This process will unfold again on Monday as the college’s electors ratify America’s choice of Joe Biden as the next president, ending a long and fraught campaign and reaffirming the continuity of our democracy.

The second anniversary is universal and hopeful. This weekend also marks the fifth anniversary of the adoption of the Paris Agreement. One of President Trump’s first orders of business nearly four years ago was to pull the United States out of the accord, signed by 194 other nations to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases threatening the planet. With Mr. Trump heading for the exit, President-elect Biden plans to rejoin the agreement on his Inauguration Day, Jan. 20.

Now, with Mr. Biden about to take up residence in the White House, the United States has the chance to reclaim America’s leadership position in the world after four years in the back seat.

Mr. Biden’s challenges will be monumental. Most immediately, he assumes office in the midst of the chaos from the colossal failure to respond effectively to the coronavirus pandemic and the economic devastation that has resulted.

And though the pandemic fills our field of vision at the moment, it is only the most urgent of the multiple crises facing the country and planet, including 40 years of economic stagnation for middle-income families; hyper-inequality of incomes and wealth, with high levels of poverty; horrific structural racism; toxic partisanship; the impending collapse of nuclear arms control agreements; an epistemological crisis undermining the authority of knowledge; recklessly unprincipled behavior by social media companies; and, most dangerous of all, the climate crisis.

What lies before us is the opportunity to build a more just and equitable way of life for all humankind. This potential new beginning comes at a rare moment when it may be possible to break the stranglehold of the past over the future, when the trajectory of history might be altered by what we choose to do with a new vision.

With the coronavirus death toll rising rapidly, the battle against the pandemic is desperate, but it will be won. Yet we will still be in the midst of an even more life-threatening battle — to protect the Earth’s climate balance — with consequences measured not only in months and years, but also in centuries and millenniums. Winning will require us to re-establish our compact with nature and our place within the planet’s ecological systems, for the sake not only of civilization’s survival but also of the preservation of the rich web of biodiversity on which human life depends.

The daunting prospect of successfully confronting such large challenges at a time after bitter divisions were exposed and weaponized in the presidential campaign has caused many people to despair. Yet these problems, however profound, are all solvable.

Look at the pandemic. Despite the policy failures and human tragedies, at least one success now burns bright: Scientists have harnessed incredible breakthroughs in biotechnology to produce several vaccines in record time. With medical trials demonstrating their safety and efficacy, these new vaccines prefigure an end to the pandemic in the new year. This triumph alone should put an end to the concerted challenges to facts and science that have threatened to undermine reason as the basis for decision-making.

Similarly, even as the climate crisis rapidly worsens, scientists, engineers and business leaders are making use of stunning advances in technology to end the world’s dependence on fossil fuels far sooner than was hoped possible.

Mr. Biden will take office at a time when humankind faces the choice of life over death. Two years ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned of severe consequences — coastal inundations and worsening droughts, among other catastrophes — if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced by 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050.

Slowing the rapid warming of the planet will require a unified global effort. Mr. Biden can lead by strengthening the country’s commitment to reduce emissions under the Paris Agreement — something the country is poised to do thanks to the work of cities, states, businesses and investors, which have continued to make progress despite resistance from the Trump administration.

Solar energy is one example. The cost of solar panels has fallen 89 percent in the past decade, and the cost of wind turbines has dropped 59 percent. The International Energy Agency projects that 90 percent of all new electricity capacity worldwide in 2020 will be from clean energy — up from 80 percent in 2019, when total global investment in wind and solar was already more than three times as large as investments in gas and coal.

Over the next five years, the I.E.A. projects that clean energy will constitute 95 percent of all new power generation globally. The agency recently called solar power “the new king” in global energy markets and “the cheapest source of electricity in history.”

As renewable energy costs continue to drop, many utilities are speeding up the retirement of existing fossil fuel plants well before their projected lifetimes expire and replacing them with solar and wind, plus batteries. In a study this summer, the Rocky Mountain Institute, the Carbon Tracker Initiative and the Sierra Club reported that clean energy is now cheaper than 79 percent of U.S. coal plants and 39 percent of coal plants in the rest of the world — a number projected to increase rapidly. Other analyses show that clean energy combined with batteries is already cheaper than most new natural gas plants.

As a former oil minister in Saudi Arabia put it 20 years ago, “the Stone Age came to an end, not because we had a lack of stones, and the oil age will come to an end not because we have a lack of oil.” Many global investors have reached the same conclusion and are beginning to shift capital away from climate-destroying businesses to sustainable solutions. The pressure is no longer coming from only a small group of pioneers, endowments, family foundations and church-based pension funds; some of the world’s largest investment firms are now joining this movement, too, having belatedly recognized that fossil fuels have been extremely poor investments for a long while. Thirty asset managers overseeing $9 trillion announced on Friday an agreement to align their portfolios with net-zero emissions by 2050.

Exxon Mobil, long a major source of funding for grossly unethical climate denial propaganda, just wrote down the value of its fossil fuel reserves by as much as $20 billion, adding to the unbelievable $170 billion in oil and gas assets written down by the industry in just the first half of this year. Last year, a BP executive said that some of the company’s reserves “won’t see the light of day,” and this summer it committed to a 10-fold increase in low-carbon investments this decade as part of its commitment to net-zero emissions.

The world has finally begun to cross a political tipping point, too. Grass-roots climate activists, often led by young people of Greta Thunberg’s generation, are marching every week now (even virtually during the pandemic). In the United States, this movement crosses party lines. More than 50 college conservative and Republican organizations have petitioned the Republican National Committee to change its position on climate, lest the party lose younger voters.

Significantly, in just the past three months, several of the world’s most important political leaders have introduced important initiatives. Thanks to the leadership of Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, the E.U. just announced that it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55 percent in the next nine years. President Xi Jinping has pledged that China will achieve net-zero carbon emissions in 2060. Leaders in Japan and South Korea said a few weeks ago said that their countries will reach net-zero emissions in 2050.

Denmark, the E.U.’s largest producer of gas and oil, has announced a ban on further exploration for fossil fuels. Britain has pledged a 68 percent reduction by 2030, along with a ban on sales of vehicles equipped with only gasoline-powered internal-combustion engines.

The cost of batteries for electric vehicles has dropped by 89 percent over the past decade, and according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, these vehicles will reach price parity with internal-combustion vehicles within two years in key segments of vehicle markets in the United States, Europe and Australia, followed quickly by China and much of the rest of the world. Sales of internal-combustion passenger vehicles worldwide peaked in 2017.

It is in this new global context that President-elect Biden has made the decarbonization of the U.S. electricity grid by 2035 a centerpiece of his economic plan. Coupled with an accelerated conversion to electric vehicles and an end to government subsidies for fossil fuels, among other initiatives, these efforts can help put the nation on a path toward net-zero emissions by 2050.

As the United States moves forward, it must put frontline communities — often poor, Black, brown or Indigenous — at the center of the climate agenda. They have suffered disproportionate harm from climate pollution. This is reinforced by recent evidence that air pollution from the burning of fossil fuels — to which these communities bear outsize exposure — makes them more vulnerable to Covid-19.

With millions of new jobs needed to recover from the economic ravages of the pandemic, sustainable businesses are among the best bets. A recent study in the Oxford Review of Economic Policy noted that investments in those enterprises result in three times as many new jobs as investments in fossil fuels. Between 2014 and 2019, solar jobs grew five times as fast in the United States as average job growth.

Still, all of these positive developments fall far short of the emissions reductions required. The climate crisis is getting worse faster than we are deploying solutions.

In November of next year, all of the signatories to the Paris Agreement will meet in Glasgow with a mandate to reduce greenhouse gas emissions much faster than they pledged to do in 2015. What will be new in Glasgow is transparency: By the time the delegates arrive, a new monitoring effort made possible by an array of advanced technologies will have precisely measured the emissions from every major source of greenhouse gases in the world, with most of that data updated every six hours.

With this radical transparency, a result of efforts of a broad coalition of corporations and nonprofits I helped to start called Climate Trace (for tracking real-time atmospheric carbon emissions), countries will have no place to hide when failing to meet their emissions commitments. This precision tracking will replace the erratic, self-reported and often inaccurate data on which past climate agreements were based.

Even then, a speedy phaseout of carbon pollution will require functional democracies. With the casting of a majority of the Electoral College votes on Monday for Mr. Biden, and then his inauguration, we will make a start in restoring America as the country best positioned to lead the world’s struggle to solve the climate crisis.

To do that, we need to deal forthrightly with our shortcomings instead of touting our strengths. That, and that alone, can position the United States to recover the respect of other nations and restore their confidence in America as a reliable partner in the great challenges humankind faces. As in the pandemic, knowledge will be our salvation, but to succeed, we must learn to work together, lest we perish together.

Al Gore shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for his work to slow global warming.”  -30-

Opinion | New York State’s Divestment Threat Is a Victory for Climate Activists – By Bill McKibben – The New York Times

Mr. McKibben is a founder of the climate advocacy group 350.org and a leader of fossil fuel divestment efforts.

Credit…Brandon Thibodeaux for The New York Times

“New York State’s comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli, announced on Wednesday that the state would begin divesting its $226 billion employee pension fund from gas and oil companies if they can’t come up with a legitimate business plan within four years that is aligned with the goals of the Paris climate accord. Those investments have historically added up to roughly $12 billion.

The entire portfolio will be decarbonized over the next two decades. “Achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2040 will put the fund in a strong position for the future mapped out in the Paris Agreement,” he said in a statement.” . . .

Thank you Bill McKibbon.

Here is denier comment, followed by my response to it:

Jonathan Katz
St. Louis56m ago

It may be a victory for climate activists, but it’s a defeat for humanity. Fossil fuels are the reason we aren’t living like medieval peasants in cold smoky (burning biofuels) huts. Climate change is real, and anthropogenic, but it isn’t hurting us. Net, it is probably beneficial, extending growing seasons, making it easier and cheaper to keep warm in the winter, enriching the atmosphere with CO_2 that plants need, and increasing rainfall in arid regions. I am a professor of Physics, and understand much more about greenhouse gases than Mr. McKibben. I am interested in the welfare of humanity, not in McKibben’s mystical pre-industrial Eden.

3 Replies7 Recommend

 
David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | Pending Approval
@Jonathan Katz You start off so well, I didn’t expect you to argue that we are not being hurt. Have you spoken to anyone from the Gilbert Islands in the South Pacific. One Virginia think tank that does work for the Pentagon reported in the last year or two, that Iran will probably run out of water in the next 50 years. About 3 years ago, Johannesburg, South Africa almost ran out of water completely. The UN High Commission on Refugees estimates that we have 30 million climate change refugees now, and several hundred million in a a the next 30 years. (We do need to refresh or check these numbers, but they are staggering.) God bless you Sir, but beware of Dante’s inferno. 7.7 billion people now on the planet, Scientists are saying we are the meteor causing the 6th extinction of species, going on now.
David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion” and blogs at InconvenientNews.net.

GM to Curb Economic Ties With Trump: Live Business Updates – GM Quits Trump lawsuit against CA

“Over the past four years, General Motors has emerged as one of President Trump’s favorite corporate targets. He attacked the company repeatedly for closing a plant in Ohio and lashed out at it even when the automaker offered to make ventilators this spring in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

And Mr. Trump ridiculed the company’s chief executive, Mary T. Barra, one of the few women to lead a large U.S. corporation. “Always a mess with Mary B,” he wrote on Twitter in March.

The company and Ms. Barra have not responded to the presidential wrath, but on Monday G.M. broke ranks with the White House on the one major issue where they were aligned. The automaker said it would no longer back the Trump administration in a fight with California over clean-air standards.

California has sought tougher standards on tailpipe emissions to battle climate change. The Trump administration loosened Obama-era standards and revoked the authority of California and other states to set their own rules, which led to a lawsuit from several states. G.M., Toyota Motor and Fiat Chrysler intervened in the lawsuit on behalf of the administration. A few other automakers, including Ford Motor, BMW and Volkswagen, sided with California.

G.M.’s support for the Trump administration surprised many auto experts given the president’s repeated attacks on the company and Ms. Barra. It also seemed to be an odd position for G.M. to take because the automaker has outlined ambitious plans to add nearly two dozen electric models to its lineup.

In a letter to the leaders of some of the nation’s largest environmental groups on Monday, Ms. Barra indicated G.M. was now backing President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. in his plan to cut emissions and support the use of electric vehicles.”

John Kerry Launches Star-Studded Climate Coalition called World War Zero – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — John Kerry, the former senator and secretary of state, has formed a new bipartisan coalition of world leaders, military brass and Hollywood celebrities to push for public action to combat climate change.

The name, World War Zero, is supposed to evoke both the national security threat posed by the earth’s warming and the type of wartime mobilization that Mr. Kerry argued would be needed to stop the rise in carbon emissions before 2050. The star-studded group is supposed to win over those skeptical of the policies that would be needed to accomplish that.

Former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter are part of the effort. Moderate Republican lawmakers like Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former governor of California, and John Kasich, the former governor of Ohio, are on the list. Stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, Sting and Ashton Kutcher round out the roster of more than 60 founding members. Their goal is to hold more than 10 million “climate conversations” in the coming year with Americans across the political spectrum.

With a starting budget of $500,000, Mr. Kerry said, he and other coalition members intend to hold town meetings across the country starting in January. Members will head to battleground states key to the 2020 election, but also to military bases where climate discussions are rare and to economically depressed areas that members say could benefit from clean energy jobs.

Opinion | Why the 2020 Election Makes It Hard to Be Optimistic About the Future – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

“The 2020 election is over. And the big winners were the coronavirus and, quite possibly, catastrophic climate change.

OK, democracy also won, at least for now. By defeating Donald Trump, Joe Biden pulled us back from the brink of authoritarian rule.

But Trump paid less of a penalty than expected for his deadly failure to deal with Covid-19, and few down-ballot Republicans seem to have paid any penalty at all. As a headline in The Washington Post put it, “With pandemic raging, Republicans say election results validate their approach.”

And their approach, in case you missed it, has been denial and a refusal to take even the most basic, low-cost precautions — like requiring that people wear masks in public.

The epidemiological consequences of this cynical irresponsibility will be ghastly. I’m not sure how many people realize just how terrible this winter is going to be.

Deaths from Covid-19 tend to run around three weeks behind new cases; given the exponential growth in cases since the early fall, which hasn’t slowed at all, this means that we may be looking at a daily death toll in the thousands by the end of the year. And remember, many of those who survive Covid-19 nonetheless suffer permanent health damage.

To be fair, the vaccine news has been very good, and it looks likely that we’ll finally bring the pandemic under control sometime next year. But we could suffer hundreds of thousands of American deaths, many of them avoidable, before the vaccine is widely distributed.

Awful as the pandemic outlook is, however, what worries me more is what our failed response says about prospects for dealing with a much bigger issue, one that poses an existential threat to civilization: climate change.

As many people have noted, climate change is an inherently difficult problem to tackle — not economically, but politically.

Right-wingers always claim that taking climate seriously would doom the economy, but the truth is that at this point the economics of climate action look remarkably benign. Spectacular progress in renewable energy technology makes it fairly easy to see how the economy can wean itself from fossil fuels. A recent analysis by the International Monetary Fund suggests that a “green infrastructure push” would, if anything, lead to faster economic growth over the next few decades.

But climate action remains very difficult politically given (a) the power of special interests and (b) the indirect link between costs and benefits.

Consider, for example, the problem posed by methane leaks from fracking wells. Better enforcement to limit these leaks would have huge benefits — but the benefits would be widely distributed across time and space. How do you get people in Texas to accept even a small rise in costs now when the payoff includes, say, a reduced probability of destructive storms a decade from now and half the world away?

This indirectness made many of us pessimistic about the prospects for climate action. But Covid-19 suggests that we weren’t pessimistic enough.

Continue reading

Opinion | What Biden Can Do About Climate Change – By David Leonhardt – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Leonhardt is a senior writer at The Times.

Credit…Marly Gallardo

“During the months that Joe Biden and President Trump were campaigning against each other, vast sections of the American West caught on fire. More than five million acres burned, and the air in California, Oregon and Washington was sometimes more harmful to breathe than in the pollution-clogged cities of India.

In the Atlantic Ocean this year, there have been more big storms recorded than in any previous year — 29 thus far, so many that the group that names storms exhausted the English alphabet and had to switch to Greek. Nine of those storms became much more intense in the span of a single day, an event that was rare before the planet was as warm as it now is.

Worldwide, the month of September was the hottest ever measured, and 2020 may end up being the hottest year. The Arctic is warming even faster than the rest of the planet, and glaciers are losing more ice each year than can be found in all of the European Alps. Sea levels now seem to be rising at an accelerating pace. In Siberia, melting ice appears to be releasing gases that cause gigantic explosions, leaving craters that are up 100 feet deep.

Climate change is a fantastically complex phenomenon. It does not proceed at a steady pace, and scientists are often unsure precisely what its effects are and which weather patterns are random. But the sum total of the evidence is clear — and terrifying. The earth is continuing to warm, breaking new records as it does, and the destructive effects of climate change are picking up speed. Future damage will almost certainly be worse, maybe much worse.

Yet there is also a major way in which 2020 has the potential to be a turning point in the other direction. A president who has called climate change a hoax — whose administration has tried to discredit government scientists and has overhauled federal policy to allow more pollution — has lost re-election. He has lost to a candidate who made climate policy a bigger part of his campaign than any previous winning president.

The last two Democratic presidents, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, put a higher priority on expanding health insurance than fighting climate change. Mr. Biden, by contrast, has said he will accomplish his unavoidable short-term priorities — controlling the coronavirus and restarting the economy — in significant part by fighting climate change.

He has proposed spending $2 trillion on clean energy over the next four years to put people back to work, a sum that’s almost 20 times larger than the clean-energy spending in Mr. Obama’s 2009 economic-recovery package. Embedding clean-energy measures into other policy areas is likely to be a theme of the Biden presidency. His advisers have told me that during almost every policy discussion, they ask themselves how to incorporate climate.

The issue is simply more salient today than it was in 2008, as Gina McCarthy, who ran the Environmental Protection Agency under Mr. Obama and has advised Mr. Biden, points out. “The difference between then and now is that the issue of climate change is so much more relevant and personal now,” said Ms. McCarthy, who runs the Natural Resources Defense Council. “There is a real opportunity here that I think Biden is capturing.”

What he can accomplish, of course, will depend on Congress — and specifically on whether Democrats manage to win both Senate runoffs in Georgia in January. That won’t be easy. If Democrats don’t win both, Republicans will keep Senate control, and one of the world’s few major political parties that rejects climate science will be able to block large parts of Mr. Biden’s agenda.

But even in that scenario, he is likely to shift federal policy in a profound way. His advisers have spent months thinking about how to reduce carbon emissions through regulation rather than legislation. And Mr. Biden may also be able to win over a few Republican senators — which is all he would need — for an economic recovery bill that included billions of dollars of clean-energy spending.

The fact that Mr. Biden seems inclined to make the climate a top priority does not stem from a longtime personal obsession. He is not Al Gore. But he has spent his career trying to understand where the center of the Democratic Party is moving and then moving with it. And both the Democratic Party and the country have moved on climate.

For many young progressives and political activists, who will have to live most of their lives on a planet suffering from climate-related damage, climate is the defining issue. “There’s so much pressure from the outside, from young activists — it’s very impactful,” said Kathy Castor, a Democrat from the Tampa area who heads the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. Consider that Bernie Sanders made Medicare for All his signature issue; Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has made the Green New Deal hers.

If anything, the attention on racial injustice since George Floyd’s killing in May has put more momentum behind climate policy. When Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts released the Green New Deal — a statement of principles, rather than a detailed piece of legislation — last year, some moderate Democrats and climate experts criticized its breadth. It called not only for stopping global warming but also for addressing economic inequality and racism.

Now, though, that broad approach means that climate policy feels like a crucial part of another progressive priority: combating racial inequities, by reducing the disproportionate health damage that pollution causes in Black and Latino neighborhoods. Rhiana Gunn-Wright, who helped write the Green New Deal and now runs the climate program at the Roosevelt Institute, said that she used to spend a lot of time answering questions about how climate change and racial justice were connected. “I don’t get asked those questions anymore,” she added.

In addition to the activist energy, broader public opinion seems to be shifting, as climate change has gone from being a hypothetical future problem in many people’s minds to an everyday problem. In a Pew Research Center poll this year, 52 percent of Americans said that dealing with global climate change should be a top priority for the president and Congress. In 2009, only 30 percent did. In a New York Times/Siena College poll during the campaign, 66 percent of likely voters said they favored Biden’s $2 trillion climate plan, with only 26 percent opposed.

As Ms. Gunn-Wright said, “It’s getting harder and harder to act like climate change is a long-term issue that’s coming down the pike.”

Regardless of what happens in the Georgia elections, Mr. Biden’s approach to climate change will differ from Mr. Obama’s. Like most of the Biden agenda, this change reflects a larger shift in the party. In the case of climate, Democrats have become more hardheaded about the tricky politics of the issue. The change has been subtle, and no politician has ever announced it. But it has also been fundamental.

Democrats used to focus their efforts to pass a climate bill on the idea of raising the cost of carbon emissions, through either a tax or a system of permits, known as cap-and-trade. For all of the complicated details, the basic idea was simple: If dirty energy became more expensive, people would use less of it.

Many economists favor this approach, because it harnesses the power of market incentives to shift millions of people’s behavior. Mr. Obama also hoped that the market-oriented approach might win enough Republican votes to get it through the Senate. It did not.

Without bipartisan support, a price on carbon has a huge political weakness. Because higher costs are the central part of the plan, opponents are able to brand it as a tax increase for hard-working families. That criticism helped defeat the Obama plan in the Senate and has also led to the downfall (or weakening) of climate policies in other countries. If a carbon price can’t pass, its technocratic elegance and economic efficiency are irrelevant.

Having learned this lesson, many progressives changed their strategy. They have moved away from a carbon price and now focus on the two other major ways that a government can address climate change. The first is to subsidize clean energy so it becomes cheaper and, in turn, more widely used. The second is put in place rules — often called standards — that simply mandate less pollution, leaving utilities and other companies to work out the details of how they will emit less carbon.

These two approaches are the core of the Biden agenda. And the creation of standards will be the most important one if Democrats fail to win both Senate races in Georgia.

Crucially, a president already has the legal authority to enact standards in the sectors that emit the most carbon, like utilities and transportation. Mr. Biden will not need new legislation to do so. In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that the Clean Air Act applied to carbon emissions, allowing the Environmental Protection Agency to restrict them. Mr. Obama used this power, and Mr. Biden will probably be even more aggressive.

Standards can have a big effect. The Obama policies, combined with technological advances in solar and wind power, have helped reduce coal’s share of the power sector to 20 percent, from almost 50 percent in 2010. Thirty states have created their own energy standards, including California, New York, Arizona and Colorado, which has also helped. In some cases, the state-based policies are the result of a referendum.

That’s a sign that these standards tend to be more popular than energy taxes: Most Americans support pollution reductions. Opponents still portray them as tax increases, as they no doubt will during the Biden administration. “The oil industry is always going to be arguing that no matter what you do, it’s a price on carbon,” as Mr. Markey told me. But it’s easier for climate advocates to win that argument.

In some cases, Mr. Biden may use the threat of regulation to negotiate with industry. Automakers seem open to making a deal. When Mr. Trump tried to free them from Obama-era restrictions, some balked. Many auto executives understand that clean-energy cars are the future. They would rather get working on the transition, rather than having to maintain two different product lines — gas-guzzling vehicles in some places (like red states) and more fuel-efficient cars elsewhere (like California and Europe).

With a Republican Senate, the Biden climate agenda will consist of dozens of smaller pieces, rather than one sweeping piece of legislation. The Agriculture Department will create incentives for farms to emit less carbon, and the Energy Department will do the same for buildings. On Capitol Hill, the administration will try to add some clean-energy subsidies to legislation on virus relief and infrastructure.

Foreign policy will also be geared toward persuading other countries to emit less. China, in particular, has shown more willingness to listen to American requests on climate change than on other big subjects, like human rights and intellectual property.

Will this be enough to avoid the worst consequences? It is impossible to know. Our chances would certainly be better if Congress were able to pass major legislation.

“We have to use every tool in the toolbox on climate action, before it is too late,” Ms. Castor said. Ms. McCarthy added: “We are way past the time when we should be looking incrementally instead of very aggressively.”

That aggressive approach depends on Democrats winning both Georgia races, which would give them 50 Senate seats and allow Vice President Kamala Harris to break ties. In that case, Democrats could pass much of Mr. Biden’s proposed clean-energy spending. This money would increase spending on research and development, as well as give consumers and businesses incentives to make immediate changes. Many more families would probably buy an electric car, for example, if the government subsidized the purchase and also paid to build many more charging stations.

A Democratic Senate could also try to protect Mr. Biden’s regulatory authority from court challenges, especially given the newly conservative makeup of the Supreme Court. Some climate advocates even hope the Senate would be willing to revisit targeted carbon taxes, perhaps only for the power sector.

The biggest reason to believe that Mr. Biden’s presidency may mark a new era in climate policy is also the biggest reason for pessimism about the future. The effects of climate change seem to be accelerating. The coming years will bring more fires, more unbreathable air, more extreme storms and more flooding, as well as damage that we cannot yet predict. At some point, voters may demand aggressive action and punish politicians who put a higher priority on the profits of the energy industry than on the condition of the planet.

We’re not there yet. But Mr. Biden seems to grasp that his success in fighting climate change will go a long way toward defining his success as president.”

9 Things the Biden Administration Could Do Quickly on the Environment – By Lisa Friedman – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. campaigned on the most ambitious climate platform of any presidential candidate in history, promising to spend $2 trillion over four years to draw down planet-warming fossil fuel emissions and convert much of the nation to clean energy.

The possibility that the Senate could remain under the control of Republicans, who have generally opposed climate legislation, puts a damper on some of his biggest-ticket plans. But with or without Democratic control of the Senate, the first 100 days of the Biden administration are likely to see a flurry of executive actions addressing climate change, as well as a major push to insert clean energy provisions into legislation that could pass with a bipartisan coalition.

Here are nine things Mr. Biden may do early on to put the United States back on a path to addressing climate change.