“. . . If history is any indication, rebounding from an economic disruption this large requires an equally large spike in demand and production. Outside of war, climate change is the only issue large enough to provide such a spike. Now is the time to create policies that provide immediate relief to communities, such as federal assistance to transition homes and businesses to renewable energy; give “green” fiscal aid to states; and fuel economic recovery with the creation of federally funded green jobs. But none of this can happen so long as our leaders keep convincing themselves that the greatest country in the world cannot walk and chew gum at the same time.A climate-focused economic recovery — much less a coronavirus response that acknowledges the climate crisis — could require a new Congress and a new president, a tall order in an America this divided. But maybe it is time to stop acting as though politics is a force of nature when we are facing actual and deadly forces of nature. It’s past time to elect leaders who are fit to handle the crises we face, instead of hoping for problems small enough to fit the leaders we have.”
“DAVOS, Switzerland — Greta Thunberg, the 17-year-old Swedish climate activist, spent this week inside the halls of power at the World Economic Forum, addressing the titans of global business and politics, huddling with a few of them for closed-door sessions and being publicly belittled by officials from the United States government.
On Friday, as the five-day conclave came to a close, she returned to her original domain: a protest outdoors. Shoulder to shoulder with her youth activist peers, Ms. Thunberg marched along the narrow road that winds through this village in the Swiss Alps, holding her signature handmade black-and-white sign that read, in her native Swedish, “school strike for the climate.”
Speaking to reporters just before the march set off, Ms. Thunberg and four youth activists from Europe and Africa rebuked business and government leaders at the World Economic Forum for not taking climate action and warned that they would continue to press them to stop investing in fossil fuels. Those demands, Ms. Thunberg noted, “have been completely ignored.”
Asked about a suggestion by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that she learn economics in college before calling for divestment, Ms. Thunberg brushed off such criticisms as irrelevant. “If we care about that, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do,” she said.
In her addresses at Davos, Ms. Thunberg has repeatedly cited scientific consensus that the world as a whole is burning through what scientists call the carbon budget, which is the cumulative amount of carbon dioxide that can amass in the atmosphere over a period of time to keep temperatures within certain thresholds. Earlier this week, as the annual conference opened, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere hit a record.”
By Lennox Yearwood Jr. and
“WASHINGTON — If you asked us why a dozen people sat on the floor next to the A.T.M. in a Chase Bank branch on Friday, waiting for the police to arrest us for this small act of civil disobedience, we would come up with the same answer as the famous robber Willie Sutton: “Because that’s where the money is.”
We don’t want to empty the vaults. Instead, we want people to understand that the money inside the vaults of banks like Chase is driving the climate crisis. Cutting off that flow of cash may be the single quickest step we can take to rein in the fossil fuel industry and slow the rapid warming of the earth.
JPMorgan Chase isn’t the only offender, but it is among the worst. In the last three years, according to data compiled in a recently released “fossil fuel finance report card” by a group of environmental organizations, JPMorgan Chase lent over $195 billion to gas and oil companies.
For comparison, Wells Fargo lent over $151 billion, Citibank lent over $129 billion and Bank of America lent over $106 billion. Since the Paris climate accord, which 195 countries agreed to in 2015, JPMorgan Chase has been the world’s largest investor in fossil fuels by a 29 percent margin.”
“I’ve never been a fan of Davos, that annual gathering of the rich and fatuous. One virtue of the pageant of preening and self-importance, however, is that it brings out the worst in some people, leading them to say things that reveal their vileness for all to see.
And so it was for Steven Mnuchin, Donald Trump’s Treasury secretary. First, Mnuchin doubled down on his claim that the 2017 tax cut will pay for itself — just days after his own department confirmed that the budget deficit in 2019 was more than $1 trillion, 75 percent higher than it was in 2016.
Then he sneered at Greta Thunberg, the young climate activist, suggesting that she go study economics before calling for an end to investment in fossil fuels.
Well, unearned arrogance is a Trump administration hallmark — witness Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, claiming that a respected national security reporter couldn’t find Ukraine on a map. So it may not surprise you to learn that Mnuchin was talking nonsense and that Thunberg almost certainly has it right.
One can only surmise that Mnuchin slept through his undergraduate economics classes. Otherwise he would know that every, and I mean every, major Econ 101 textbook argues for government regulation or taxation of activities that pollute the environment, because otherwise neither producers nor consumers have an incentive to take the damage inflicted by this pollution into account.”
David Lindsay: Thank you Paul Krugman. Here are two of the most popular comments which I endorsed:
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez points out that if you don’t have an economics degree, like Greta, they’ll mock you for not having one. If you do have one, like AOC, they’ll claim it’s illegitimate. They will happily deny logic, science, and environmental consensus in order to protect oligarchy. Not surprisingly, economics fares no better.
The human depravity required to be a right-wing science and manmade global warming denier is astounding. The only reasons to indulge in such a stance are a sadomasochistic death wish for oneself, humanity, and the entire animal and plant kingdom…and psychopathic greed.
Or as Greta Thunberg said so eloquently at the UN Climate Action Summit:
“People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”
“For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you’re doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight.”
“How dare you pretend that this can be solved with just ‘business as usual’ and some technical solutions?” “There will not be any (realistic) solutions or plans presented…here today, because these (C02) numbers are too uncomfortable. And you are still not mature enough to tell it like it is.”
“You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say: We will never forgive you.” “We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line. The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not.”
— Just say NO to the Gas Oil Petroleum party.
PITTSBURGH — Though they are both Democrats, John Fetterman, Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor, and Bill Peduto, this city’s mayor, have their differences on the environment.
Mr. Fetterman, who toppled an incumbent Democrat in 2018 from the left, nevertheless calls Pennsylvania “the Saudi Arabia of natural gas” and sees extracting and taxing gas as critical to the state’s economy and the “union way of life.” Mr. Peduto lobbied unsuccessfully against a local petrochemical plant and is steering his once-struggling steel town to be independent of fossil fuels within 15 years.
But they agree on one thing: a pledge to ban all hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking, could jeopardize any presidential candidate’s chances of winning this most critical of battleground states — and thus the presidency itself. So as Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren woo young environmental voters with a national fracking ban, these two Democrats are uneasy.
“In Pennsylvania, you’re talking hundreds of thousands of related jobs that would be — they would be unemployed overnight,” said Mr. Fetterman, who endorsed Mr. Sanders in 2016 before Donald J. Trump won his state, pop. 12.8 million, by just over 44,000 votes. “Pennsylvania is a margin play,” he added. “And an outright ban on fracking isn’t a margin play.”
“A small number of people at a few federal agencies have vast power over the protection of American air and water.
Under the Trump administration, the people appointed to those positions overwhelmingly used to work in the fossil fuel, chemical and agriculture industries. During their time in government they have been responsible for loosening or undoing nearly 100 environmental protections from pollution and pesticides, as well as weakening preservations of natural resources and efforts to curb planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.
Of 20 key officials across several agencies, 15 came from careers in the oil, gas, coal, chemical or agriculture industries, while another three hail from state governments that have spent years resisting environmental regulations. At least four have direct ties to organizations led by the Koch brothers, who have spent millions of dollars to defeat climate change and clean energy measures.
Gretchen Goldman, research director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, noted that many Republican administrations had brought in people from regulated industries. “There’s nothing inherently wrong with hiring people from the private sector. But we need to make sure they are making decisions in the public interest,” she said.”
“In a rational world, the burning of Australia would be a historical turning point. After all, it’s exactly the kind of catastrophe climate scientists long warned us to expect if we didn’t take action to limit greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, a 2008 report commissioned by the Australian government predicted that global warming would cause the nation’s fire seasons to begin earlier, end later, and be more intense — starting around 2020.
Furthermore, though it may seem callous to say it, this disaster is unusually photogenic. You don’t need to pore over charts and statistical tables; this is a horror story told by walls of fire and terrified refugees huddled on beaches.
So this should be the moment when governments finally began urgent efforts to stave off climate catastrophe.
But the world isn’t rational. In fact, Australia’s anti-environmentalist government seems utterly unmoved as the nightmares of environmentalists become reality. And the anti-environmentalist media, the Murdoch empire in particular, has gone all-out on disinformation, trying to place the blame on arsonists and “greenies” who won’t let fire services get rid of enough trees.
These political reactions are more terrifying than the fires themselves.”
“. . . . . The answer, pretty clearly, is that scientific persuasion is running into sharply diminishing returns. Very few of the people still denying the reality of climate change or at least opposing doing anything about it will be moved by further accumulation of evidence, or even by a proliferation of new disasters. Any action that does take place will have to do so in the face of intractable right-wing opposition.
This means, in turn, that climate action will have to offer immediate benefits to large numbers of voters, because policies that seem to require widespread sacrifice — such as policies that rely mainly on carbon taxes — would be viable only with the kind of political consensus we clearly aren’t going to get.
What might an effective political strategy look like? I’ve been rereading a 2014 speech by the eminent political scientist Robert Keohane, who suggested that one way to get past the political impasse on climate might be via “an emphasis on huge infrastructural projects that created jobs” — in other words, a Green New Deal. Such a strategy could give birth to a “large climate-industrial complex,” which would actually be a good thing in terms of political sustainability.”
“I can’t quite remember the moment when I became radicalized about protecting the environment and the planet, but it happened last year. That’s late in life, I know. At 49 years old, it is very possible and even likely that I have more years behind me than in front of me, but that is when it happened.
Before that, I didn’t do more than was required by law.
I have lived in New York City since 1994. Mandatory recycling was phased in citywide by 1997. So, I recycled what was required.
Five years ago, when my last two children went away to college, I got rid of my car, but not for environmental reasons. I just didn’t need it anymore, and it was expensive to maintain.
But something happened to me last year.
Maybe it was Greta Thunberg’s advocacy, and hearing her impassioned United Nations speech in which she blasted world leaders, saying:
“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying; entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!” “
David Lindsay: I read this piece with delight. I wrote a comment that started: Welcome Charles Blow, welcome.
Here are the two most liked comments I approved:
I’m very glad to see that Charles Blow, someone I respect a great deal, has discovered the environment. But the environmentalism he describes is in no way radical. It is not radical in the popular sense of embracing major change and it is not radical in the classical sense of going to the roots of a problem. (On both of those counts, a good example of radical environmentalism would be the Green New Deal, which is notably absent here.) We are not going to be saved by changing individual consumption or by proselytizing–this has been the mantra for decades and it has failed miserably–but only by organized and massive political activism that changes the way our society as a whole governs itself. The problem is systemic and social, and the solution must occur at that level also. This is certainly Greta Thunberg’s message, and also the message of virtually every expert you can find on social change and social movements. So I hope Charles will keep us posted (and soon!) on how his environmentalism evolves in a truly radical dimension.
7 Replies380 Recommended
“I think that the only way to prevent the radical alteration of our planet is to commit to a radical alteration of our own behavior.” Yup, that’s what the Green New Deal is about. As an old man who learned the basic physics of global warming i 1970, and who watched economic inequality grow obscenely over the second half of his life, I say it is about time.
“HAMBURG, Germany — Are the Germans irrational? Steven Pinker seems to think so. Professor Pinker, a Harvard psychologist, told the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel recently that if mankind wanted to stop climate change without stopping economic growth too, the world needed more nuclear energy, not less. Germany’s decision to step out of nuclear, he agreed, was “paranoid.”
My country has embarked on a unique experiment indeed. The Merkel government has decided to phase out both nuclear power and coal plants. The last German reactor is scheduled to shut down by the end of 2022, the last coal-fired plant by 2038. At the same time, the government has encouraged the purchase of climate-friendly electric cars — increasing the demand for electrical power. And despite efforts to save energy in the past decades, Germany’s power consumption has grown by 10 percent since 1990.
Skeptics fear that the country is on a risky path. Sufficient renewable energy sources might not be available in time to compensate for the loss of fossil and nuclear power. Though renewables account for around 40 percent of Germany’s electricity supply, there are limits to further expansion, for reasons that are political rather than technological.
In some rural parts of Germany, people are fed up with ever growing “wind parks”; more citizens are protesting new — and often taller — wind turbines in their neighborhoods. And there is growing resistance to the new paths needed to transport electricity from coasts to industrial centers. According to official calculations, close to 3,700 miles of new power lines are required to make Germany’s “Energiewende,” or energy revolution, work. By the end of 2018, only 93 miles had been built.”