Exclusive: Presidential hopeful Biden looking for ‘middle ground’ climate policy – Valerie Volcovici – Reuters

by  Valerie Volcovici

“WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden is crafting a climate change policy he hopes will appeal to both environmentalists and the blue-collar voters who elected Donald Trump, according to two sources, carving out a middle ground approach that will likely face heavy resistance from green activists.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden holds a campaign stop in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S. May 1, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst /File Photo
The backbone of the policy will likely include the United States re-joining the Paris Climate Agreement and preserving U.S. regulations on emissions and vehicle fuel efficiency that Trump has sought to undo, according to one of the sources, Heather Zichal, who is part of a team advising Biden on climate change. She previously advised President Barack Obama.

The second source, a former energy department official advising Biden’s campaign who asked not to be named, said the policy could also be supportive of nuclear energy and fossil fuel options like natural gas and carbon capture technology, which limit emissions from coal plants and other industrial facilities.

A spokesman for Biden’s campaign, TJ Ducklo, declined to comment on Biden’s emerging climate policy or his advisers, but said Biden takes climate change seriously. “Joe Biden has called climate change an ‘existential threat,’ and as Vice President was instrumental in orchestrating the Paris Climate Accord,” Ducklo said in an emailed statement.

On Twitter, Biden echoed the statement and said he plans to unveil policies that reflect the urgency of climate change.

“I’ll have more specifics on how America can lead on climate in the coming weeks,” he said.

The approach, which has not been previously reported, will set Biden apart from many of his Democratic rivals for the White House who have embraced much tougher climate agendas, like the Green New Deal calling for an end to U.S. fossil fuels use within 10 years. That could make Biden, vice president under Obama, a target of environmental groups and youth activists ahead of next year’s primary elections.”

Source: Exclusive: Presidential hopeful Biden looking for ‘middle ground’ climate policy – Reuters

Start-Ups Hoping to Fight Climate Change Struggle as Other Tech Firms Cash In – By Nathaniel Popper – The New York Times

By Nathaniel Popper
May 7, 2019, 15

“SAN FRANCISCO — With the money he made selling his last start-up to Google, Matt Rogers has been investing in companies that are trying to fight climate change.

Mr. Rogers, one of the founders of the digital thermostat company Nest, has put millions of dollars into start-ups whose goal is to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Carbon-removal technology, as it is known, is something that scientists have said will probably be necessary to avert an extreme increase in global temperatures.

But Mr. Rogers has made a disappointing discovery: Despite all the money sloshing around Silicon Valley, few venture capitalists have been willing to join him in backing companies trying to address climate change.”

Facebook Hires Koch-Funded Climate Deniers for ‘Fact-Checking’ – EcoWatch – Business

By Andy Rowell

It may not come as a surprise that leading climate denier Donald Trump has made more than 10,000 false or misleading claims since he became president, according to fact-checkers at the Washington Post.

As the Post reports, Trump’s “tsunami of untruths just keeps looming larger and larger.”

Much of this tsunami of untruths will get reposted on Facebook as fact. Those hoping that Facebook will accurately check Trump’s statements and clean up the torrent of fake news on its platform will have to think again, especially if you are concerned about climate change.

In what can only be described as verging on the bizarre, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has given the contract to fight fake news to an organization that pushes fake news on climate change.

According to reports in Think Progress and Grist, Facebook has announced that it was teaming up with CheckYourFact.com, which is an offshoot of the anti-science media site, The Daily Caller.

The CheckYourFact website brags that: “Our mission is a non-partisan one. We’re loyal to neither people nor parties — only the truth. And while the fact-checking industry continues to grow, there are still countless assertions that go unchecked. We exist to fill in the gaps.”

In fact, the opposite seems to be true. As Think Progress outlines:

The Daily Caller, which has published misinformation about climate science for years, was co-founded by the science-denying Fox News host Tucker Carlson and is backed by major conservative donors, including Charles and David Koch, the billionaire fossil fuel barons who are the single biggest funders of climate science misinformation.
Think Progress includes a link back to 2015, when a peer-reviewed paper from scientists at Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute was published in the journal Nature Geoscience. The Daily Caller tried to twist the research to argue that “global warming is nothing new.”

It is hardly surprising that leading climate scientists and academics are outspoken about the Facebook fact-check tie up.”

Source: EcoWatch – Business

From Apples to Popcorn- Climate Change Is Altering the Foods America Grows – By Kim Severson – The New York Times

In every region, farmers and scientists are trying to adapt an array of crops to warmer temperatures, invasive pests, erratic weather and earlier growing seasons.

Credit
MSJONESNYC

By Kim Severson
April 30, 2019, 34

“The impact may not yet be obvious in grocery stores and greenmarkets, but behind the organic apples and bags of rice and cans of cherry pie filling are hundreds of thousands of farmers, plant breeders and others in agriculture who are scrambling to keep up with climate change.

Drop a pin anywhere on a map of the United States and you’ll find disruption in the fields. Warmer temperatures are extending growing seasons in some areas and sending a host of new pests into others. Some fields are parched with drought, others so flooded that they swallow tractors.

Decades-long patterns of frost, heat and rain — never entirely predictable but once reliable enough — have broken down. In regions where the term climate change still meets with skepticism, some simply call the weather extreme or erratic. But most agree that something unusual is happening.

[Tell us how climate change is affecting your area.]

“Farming is no different than gambling,” said Sarah Frey, whose collection of farms throughout the South and the Midwest grows much of the nation’s crop of watermelons and pumpkins. “You’re putting thousands if not millions of dollars into the earth and hoping nothing catastrophic happens, but it’s so much more of a gamble now. You have all of these consequences that farmers weren’t expecting.””

Can Humans Help Trees Outrun Climate Change? – By Moises Velasquez-Manoff – The New York Times

By Moises Velasquez-Manoff Illustrations by Andrew Khosravani
April 25, 2019
“SCITUATE, R. I. — Foresters began noticing the patches of dying pines and denuded oaks, and grew concerned. Warmer winters and drier summers had sent invasive insects and diseases marching northward, killing the trees.

If the dieback continued, some woodlands could become shrub land.

Most trees can migrate only as fast as their seeds disperse — and if current warming trends hold, the climate this century will change 10 times faster than many tree species can move, according to one estimate. Rhode Island is already seeing more heat and drought, shifting precipitation and the intensification of plagues such as the red pine scale, a nearly invisible insect carried by wind that can kill a tree in just a few years.

The dark synergy of extreme weather and emboldened pests could imperil vast stretches of woodland.

So foresters in Rhode Island and elsewhere have launched ambitious experiments to test how people can help forests adapt, something that might take decades to occur naturally. One controversial idea, known as assisted migration, involves deliberately moving trees northward. But trees can live centuries, and environments are changing so fast in some places that species planted today may be ill-suited to conditions in 50 years, let alone 100. No one knows the best way to make forests more resilient to climatic upheaval.

These great uncertainties can prompt “analysis paralysis,” said Maria Janowiak, deputy director of the Forest Service’s Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science, or N.I.A.C.S. But, she added, “We can’t keep waiting until we know everything.” “

Opinion | A Case for a Market-Driven Green New Deal – The New York Times

By Amory B. Lovins and Rushad R. Nanavatty
Mr. Lovins and Mr. Nanavatty work at Rocky Mountain Institute, which is focused on creating a clean, low-carbon energy future.

April 18, 2019

A wind farm in Pomeroy, Iowa.
Credit
Jim Watson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“The best thing to come from the Senate’s floor debate on the Green New Deal late last month may have been these eminently sane remarks, calling on lawmakers of both parties to “move together” in order “to lower emissions, to address the reality of climate change, recognizing that we’ve got an economy we need to keep strong, that we have vulnerable people we need to protect, that we have an environment that we all care about — Republicans and Democrats.”

Who said it? A Republican, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who leads the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “My hope is we get beyond the high-fired rhetoric to practical, pragmatic, bipartisan solutions,” she said on the chamber floor.

The path is there, if our leaders will only choose to take it. In 2011, Reinventing Fire, an energy study by Rocky Mountain Institute, where we work, showed how a business-led transition could triple energy efficiency, quintuple renewables and sustain an American economy 2.6 times larger in 2050 than it was in 2010 with no oil, coal or nuclear energy, and one-third less natural gas. The net cost was $5 trillion less than business-as-usual — or even more valuable if a price was put on carbon emissions.

Any serious energy transformation effort — whether the Green New Deal or “pragmatic, bipartisan solutions” called for by Senator Murkowski — will need to harness America’s immensely powerful and creative economic engine, not dismantle it. This means unleashing the market in sectors where we already know how to profitably reduce emissions (electricity, transportation, buildings), creating markets for solutions in areas where there aren’t yet enough answers (heavy industry, agriculture) and fixing market failures (unpriced carbon, for instance, or rewarding utilities for selling more electricity rather than cutting your bill).

Here’s how:

First, we should let competition and flexibility rule our electricity system. Abundant market data show that a renewably powered future would cost less than our current system. Electricity providers have gotten the memo, even if Washington hasn’t. To save their customers money, utilities in Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Colorado and Utah are phasing out old coal and nuclear plants and replacing them with wind and solar. Clean energy portfolios — including affordable battery storage and other flexible resources — are starting to displace natural gas in California and New York.

Concerns about round-the-clock availability of electricity from a highly renewable grid, a common fear, are mostly misplaced. The Department of Energy has assessed that renewables “that are commercially available today,” combined with a more flexible electric grid, can reliably supply up to 80 percent of our electricity in 2050 (and these technologies are advancing every year). Four European countries with modest or no hydropower get from 46 percent to 71 percent of their electricity from renewables, with grids more reliable than those in the United States.

In America, Iowa and Texas are leading the way on wind. Over 35 percent of Iowa’s electricity is wind-generated. This has provided a second source of income to farmers whose lands host turbines and given Iowans among the lowest power prices in the nation. Over all, the estimated $476 billion needed to build a flexible grid that integrates renewables would yield $2 trillion in saved energy and reliability benefits.

Second, correcting our biggest market failure by putting a price on carbon by taxing it and then rebating the revenues equally to all citizens would be “the most cost-effective lever to reduce carbon emissions at the necessary scale and speed,” according to a recent statement signed by more than 3,500 economists, including 27 Nobel laureates. Combining carbon pricing with border tax adjustments and rebates for citizens would ensure we didn’t export our emissions or hurt working-class Americans. Clearer price signals could drive cheaper and cleaner practices if we eliminated market barriers that are obstacles to efficiency and clean energy.

For sectors with fewer market-ready substitutes and less sensitivity to fuel prices, like industry and agriculture, we need other approaches. Hence our third point:

We need to take advantage of the world’s most successful research and development organization — the federal government — to solve our remaining technology challenges. Government R&D helped develop the internet, the Global Positioning System, fracking, many vital drugs and, more recently, breakthrough battery technologies. The government now needs to apply its early-stage investment muscle, in concert with private enterprise, to cutting greenhouse gas emissions in these harder-to-abate sectors.

Failures should outnumber successes, as in any sound early-stage investment portfolio. But just a handful of big wins can deliver potentially incalculable value to our economy and planet. Which brings us to our final point.

We should base investment decisions on net value, not cost alone.

Green New Deal critics often look at only one side of the accounting ledger. A columnist for The Wall Street Journal, for example, recently pointed to the $400 billion estimated cost of retrofitting American buildings without mentioning the $1.4 trillion net value (retrofit costs minus saved energy costs) of doing so.

Much of this value can accrue to working Americans who need it most. Nationally, the average energy burden for low-income families is three times greater than for the rest of the country. Low-income families tend to rely more on expensive heating fuels, and have older, less efficient furnaces, appliances and homes. They are likelier to get sick from living near fossil fuel production. Consequently, they can benefit the most from lower-cost renewable energy, phasing out fossil fuels and improved buildings.”

We Asked the 2020 Democrats About Climate Change (Yes All of Them). Here Are Their Ideas. – The New York Times

By Lisa Friedman and Maggie Astor
April 18, 2019
16
“For Democrats vying to unseat President Trump, acknowledging climate change is easy. Deciding what to do about it is the hard part.

Among the 18 declared candidates, there is no broad consensus on taxing polluters on their carbon emissions — a measure most experts say is needed to slow global warming. And when it comes to building new nuclear power plants or adding federal regulations, there is even less agreement.

Those divisions were apparent in the candidates’ responses to a new climate policy questionnaire from The New York Times. They unanimously supported remaining in the Paris Agreement and restoring Obama-era policies that Mr. Trump has abandoned. But scientists are clear that preventing catastrophic climate change will require going well beyond those policies.

While the candidates agreed with that assessment, few offered detailed strategies for getting it done. Some have supported the Green New Deal in principle, but that congressional resolution was more a statement of ideals than a plan of action.”

David Lindsay:  Huh, Corey Booker scored higher in my book than Pete Buttigieg, because he is for nuclear energy, which is probably a requirement of short term, transitional success.

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT

@David Lindsay Jr. I might have to amend my comment based on the following piece in the NYT today A Market-Driven Green New Deal? We’d Be Unstoppable By AMORY B. LOVINS and RUSHAD R. NANAVATTY April 18, 2019 Any serious energy transformation will need to harness America’s powerful and creative economic engine. The New York Times These writers report that for the Tax and Dividend idea, 3500 economists have signed a declaration that the dividend should just go to all Americans, to stop opposition to the bill. Also, several States in the US are decommissioning older nuclear plants, and replacing them with cheaper Wind and solar. I will need to see more data support, but that is their report. Does wind always keep the lights on at night? In Scotland, they are keeping the light on with under water tidal turbines.

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Here is a comment I liked:

Theresa Quain
Naperville, IL

Thanks for giving some honest and rational voices a hearing. My own experience confirms that everyone is very happy to support “clean energy” but very few politicians or business leaders are willing to do the exact thing we must do, which is to restrict fossil fuel use. Your subheading, “Some economic pain is inevitable” is questionable, however, and risks feeding the policy skepticism that seems to be universal among NYT journalists. In my opinion, this policy skepticism is even more damaging than the missteps of the press in covering the 2016 campaign. Economists have studied revenue-neutral carbon taxes and found very minimal impacts on GDP. With some designs, the impact is positive (though small). Yes, coal miners and coal barons will need to find other jobs, just like the farriers and buggy makers of yore, but resisting this policy will be vastly more expensive (in terms of life as well as money) than adopting it. The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R.763) is a very smart policy that threads the needle, providing a strong price signal to incentivize decarbonizaiton and innovation while also providing a monthly dividend that more than compensates low- and moderate- income families from rising prices. Maggie Astor and Lisa Friedman, please consider learning more about this bill and featuring it in future pieces.

Reply17 Recommended

Opinion | To Nurture Nature- Neglect Your Lawn – By Margaret Renkl – The New York Times

By Margaret Renkl
Contributing Opinion Writer

April 15, 2019

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Wildflowers and weeds in lawns attract pollinators.
Credit
Getty Images

Image
Wildflowers and weeds in lawns attract pollinators.CreditCreditGetty Images
NASHVILLE — “Nothing is so beautiful as Spring,” the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote, “When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush.” I say that poem to myself every day now because I can’t think of any place more beautiful than the American South in springtime. The flowering trees — dogwoods and redbuds and serviceberries, the crab apples and peaches and cherries — are in full glory, and the woody shrubs, cascading with blossoms, are like something out of a fairy tale: forsythia and quince and lilac and bridal veil spirea. Every time it rains here, the streets are paved with petals.

But the flowers I love best are the tiny ones, so tiny they’re mostly invisible from a car window. Exquisite little flowers, most of them smaller than my pinkie fingernail, are blooming all around my house right now, and they have wonderful names: woodland violet, spring beauty, daisy fleabane, pitcher’s stitchwort, bird’s eye speedwell, yellow wood sorrel, purple dead nettle, creeping Charlie, stickywilly, dandelion and a host of others I can’t name.

Most people call them weeds. Unlike Hopkins, most people don’t love them.

A few of these flowers aren’t native to Tennessee, and some of the non-natives can be invasive. Those I pull up or mow under, but the others are beneficial, early-blooming wildflowers that pollinators love. Long before my actual pollinator garden is lush with cultivated flowers, the flowers I didn’t plant are blooming, an ankle-high meadow growing in the place where most Americans grow grass — or try to grow grass. Wildflower seeds are carried on the wind, on the coats of wild animals and in the digestive tracts of birds. Anybody who’s paying attention would see them for the gifts they are: flowers that arrive, through no effort at all, to feed the bees and the butterflies.

But Americans generally aren’t paying attention. Too enraptured with the idea of a lawn that unrolls from the street to their very door, a carpet of green that remains green even when grass is supposed to be dormant, they see these homely little wildflowers as intruders, something to be eradicated.”

Opinion | Trump Mocks Climate Change. That’s a Key to Defeating Him. – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

By Thomas L. Friedman
Opinion Columnist

April 9, 2019, 902
Image
A wind farm near Glenrock, Wyo.CreditCreditDamon Winter/The New York Times

“Here’s some news you may have missed. Southeastern Africa got hit in March with a cyclone that United Nations officials say was one of the worst weather disasters to ever strike the Southern Hemisphere. “Ever” is a long time.

The storm swept through Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, killing hundreds. My friend Greg Carr, who runs the Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique, told me that the lions, elephants and zebras sensed the storm coming and moved to higher ground to avoid the flooding. Among the people and birds that survived, many of the former lost their homes and the latter their nests and eggs.

Image  Beira, the fourth-largest city in Mozambique, was devastated last month by Cyclone Idai.CreditMike Hutchings/Reuters
While this historic weather disaster was unfolding, President Trump was urging Republicans not to kill the Democrats’ Green New Deal proposal — not because Trump wants to work with it, but because he wants to run against it in 2020.”

The Problem With Putting a Price on the End of the World – by David Leonhardt – The New York Times

“But the downsides of performance standards are often exaggerated. Most Americans are surely happy to pay a small amount more for their homes, for instance, if their children no longer have to ingest lead paint. And the initial skepticism about California’s plan appears to have been misplaced. Critics predicted that the state wouldn’t be able to meet its goal without hurting its economy. They were wrong: The state met its goal four years early, by 2016. The costs to consumers were modest and hard to notice. John Podesta told me he considered California’s approach a model for future federal action.

The key political advantage is that performance standards focus voters on the end goal, rather than on the technocratic mechanism for achieving it. Carbon pricing puts attention on the mechanism, be it a dreaded tax or a byzantine cap-and-trade system. Mechanisms don’t inspire people. Mechanisms are easy to caricature as big-government bureaucracy. Think about the debate over Obamacare: When the focus was on mechanisms — insurance mandates, insurance exchanges and the like — the law was not popular. When the focus shifted to basic principles — Do sick people deserve health insurance? — the law became much more so.”