Tag Archives: wednesday

Democrats want travel industry to reduce emissions in exchange for coronavirus bailout

As you read this, U.S. lawmakers are rushing to push a third coronavirus aid package through Congress to help alleviate the economic burden the pandemic has placed on people and industry. (The first, passed two weeks ago, was an $8 billion package that boosted funding for COVID-19 testing, and the second round of funding, signed Wednesday night, was aimed at providing paid family and sick leave to affected Americans.) Democrats want the new package to include measures that will reduce emissions from major polluters.

In a letter to the majority and minority leadership of both houses in Congress on Wednesday, eight Democratic senators, including former presidential candidate Cory Booker of New Jersey, asked Congress to include stricter environmental requirements for industries asking for bailouts from the economic fallout of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Specifically, the senators highlighted the aviation and cruise industries, which are major contributors of greenhouse gas emissions — the former account for 2.5 percent of total carbon dioxide emissions globally, and the latter burns heavy fuel oil (“one of the dirtiest fuels,” the letter points out). The aviation industry has asked Congress for $50 billion in aid, more than three times the amount it received in the aftermath of 9/11.

“If we give the airline and cruise industries assistance without requiring them to be better environmental stewards,” the senators wrote, “we would miss a major opportunity to combat climate change and ocean dumping.” In addition to Booker, the letter’s signatories were Senators Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, Tina Smith of Minnesota, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, and Jeff Merkley of Oregon.

On Twitter, Whitehouse made his point more forcefully.

His colleague Markey, co-author of the Green New Deal resolution introduced in the Senate and House last February, agreed.

Unfortunately, it’s unlikely these Democrats have the leverage to compel the Republican-controlled Senate and President Trump to enforce stricter environmental regulations in exchange for coronavirus aid. And it’s not clear that their colleagues in the Senate and House have the bandwidth to tackle both coronavirus and climate change at the moment under such a tight deadline. But with airlines and cruise companies desperate for a bailout, there may never be a better time to make them change their polluting ways.

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Democrats want travel industry to reduce emissions in exchange for coronavirus bailout

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It’s official: Climate change made Australia’s wildfire season more likely

Australia has always had nasty wildfires. In 2005, the Eyre Peninsula bushfire crisped a wide swath of South Australia’s wheat belt on a day now known as Black Tuesday. In 2009, the Black Saturday fires led to 173 fatalities in Victoria. But this season was different in terms of scale, if not lives lost. Extreme fires have charred nearly 55 million acres of land and killed at least 34 people. Climate change, many suspected, was to blame for the ferocity of the fires.

Now we have evidence. On Wednesday, researchers have confirmed that climate change made Australia’s unprecedented wildfire season of 2019 and 2020 more likely. How much more likely? About 30 percent — and that’s a conservative estimate, the scientists say. That’s pretty significant, but the most concerning conclusion of the study, published by World Weather Attribution (a group of international researchers specializing in climate change, disaster preparedness, and atmospheric sciences), is that conditions for future fire seasons will be even worse.

To get their results, which have not been peer-reviewed yet, the researchers compared conditions in 1900 (before greenhouse gas emissions from human activity started heating up the planet) to conditions during the peak burning period in December 2019 and January 2020 according to the Fire Weather Index — a tool that calculates fire risk in a particular area by assessing weather conditions in addition to other climatic factors like humidity and wind. The researchers did not look at non-weather factors like ignition sources. They found that the index values for the most recent fire season in southeastern Australia were super high, and calculated that those high numbers are 30 to 80 percent more likely to pop up now than they were before 1900.

That’s more or less in line with what climate modelers say is possible on a planet that has warmed 1 degree C above pre-industrial levels, as our planet has. “These observed trends over southeast Australia are broadly consistent with the projected impacts of climate change,” the authors write. And things will start getting really dire when the planet warms an additional degree or more, at which point fires like the ones Australia saw this season will be four to eight times more likely. As such, “it is crucial to prioritize adaptation and resilience measures to reduce the potential impacts of rising risks,” they say.

Curiously, the four models used by researchers to assess wildfire risk showed that the dry conditions across Australia that many blamed for the proliferation of wildfires in the 2018-2019 season weren’t caused by climate change. Climate change did, however, double the chances of heatwaves during that period.

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It’s official: Climate change made Australia’s wildfire season more likely

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Bloomberg bombed the debate, but his climate record is pretty good

In between absorbing blows from his fellow presidential contenders at the ninth Democratic debate in Nevada on Wednesday, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to present his vision for what his climate agenda might look like if he were elected the next president of the United States. He didn’t quite succeed.

That’s a testament to how bad his debate performance was — because of all the candidates on stage, the billionaire latecomer probably has the strongest climate bona fides. He’s donated millions to shutter coal plants across the United States with his “Beyond Coal” partnership with the Sierra Club, something he briefly touted Wednesday night. In the absence of federal leadership on climate, he’s worked with cities and states to negotiate emissions reductions goals as part of America’s Pledge, an initiative he helped launch.

Similarly to his answers to questions about his personal wealth and treatment of women, Bloomberg basically bungled his opportunity to respond persuasively to prompts about rising temperatures and international cooperation. Aligning himself with moderate candidates like Amy Klobuchar, Bloomberg came out in support of natural gas as a “transition fuel.” Natural gas production in the U.S. has skyrocketed in recent years due to the fracking boom, but recent research shows the fracking industry is largely responsible for a prolonged spike in methane emissions, a greenhouse gas far more powerful than carbon in the short term. (On Thursday, a spokesperson clarified to Grist that Bloomberg believes that “while gas played a useful role in the early stages of transitioning away from coal, its role as a transition fuel has ended now that renewable energy is cheaper and gas is now a bigger source of carbon pollution than coal.”)

Also on Wednesday night, instead of taking a hard line on China — currently the world’s leading emitter of greenhouse gas — Bloomberg pivoted to India, arguing that the developing country was an ”even bigger problem.” While India’s emissions are on the rise, China still emits four times as much carbon from fossil fuel use.

Pundits’ reviews of Bloomberg’s performance were overwhelmingly negative. For the time being though, it looks like Bloomberg’s stash of cash all but ensures his continued presence in the race. And if he can figure out how to communicate more clearly, the next debate is a chance to establish himself as a serious climate candidate.

So how might he do that? He could start by talking about his record. Bloomberg championed climate policies when few politicians were thinking about rising temperatures. After Superstorm Sandy ravaged parts of New York City in 2012, then-Mayor Bloomberg launched a sustainability agenda that was considered to be the most ambitious urban climate mitigation plan in the world.

He led a campaign to protect the city’s drinking water and waged a city-wide effort to revamp its garbage collection system. He created a sustainability task force and, later, a sustainability office that was tasked with tracking the city’s emissions. He attempted to introduce congestion pricing to limit car use in parts of the city. (Though that idea ultimately failed, it’s been reintroduced with more success recently.) Many of his efforts to green the Big Apple went the way of his failed ban on large sodas, but they laid groundwork for the upwelling of urban sustainability efforts happening now across the nation.

“Now you hear a lot about climate action at the national level,” Antha Williams, senior adviser for climate and environment for the Bloomberg campaign, told Grist. “But Mike was really the person who got a lot of that local work started.” That record, she said, will resonate with voters, many of whom say they consider climate change a top priority.

He can also go the Elizabeth Warren route, and get wonky. His specialty is the private sector. He could make a case for why he’s the best candidate to address corporate climate accountability. “One of the things he’s done over the past several years is lead a task force on climate-related financial disclosures,” Williams said, referencing a transparency initiative established in 2015 and chaired by Bloomberg. “That has put together a set of standards that should be reported for companies to actually show their exposure on climate change.”

Or he could set himself apart from his competitors by plugging the work he’s done on the international stage — an area where he is rivaled by only Joe Biden. The United Nations tapped him to be a climate envoy in 2014; and he also served as the head of C40, an international organization of cities committed to climate action. “When Trump walked away from the Paris climate agreement, Mike was there,” Williams said. “He was there to do the reporting that the U.S. shirked.”

Bloomberg’s climate platform checks many of the same boxes as his opponents’ plans: rejoin the Paris Agreement, halve the United States carbon emissions by 2030, invest in frontline communities to combat environmental injustice, the list goes on. As Pete Buttigieg said of those on the debate stage Wednesday night, “I’ve got a plan to get us carbon neutral by 2050. And I think everybody up here has a plan that more or less does the same. So the real question is, how are we going to actually get it done?”

Bloomberg is one of just a few candidates with an actual record to point to in answering that question. But you wouldn’t have known it from his time on stage in Las Vegas.

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Bloomberg bombed the debate, but his climate record is pretty good

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Sold: Bankrupt Philadelphia oil refinery goes to a real estate company

Last Friday, 35 Philadelphians rose early to board a charter bus bound for New York City at 6:30 a.m. That day, a closed-door auction held in Manhattan would determine the new owner of the 1,300-acre plot that housed Philadelphia Energy Solutions, the largest oil refinery on the East Coast, which filed for bankruptcy after an explosion and fire tore through the complex last summer. Though they wouldn’t be allowed to attend the auction, the Philadelphians on the bus — members of a grassroots environmental justice group called Philly Thrive — were determined to have a say in the fate of the land. Their hope? To prevent it from ever operating as a refinery again.

Alongside New York-based climate activists, Philly Thrive set up shop in the lobby of the building where the auction was taking place on the 50th floor. One by one, the activists walked up to the security guards and asked if they could go upstairs. They said things like “My life is at stake here” and “I have as much of a say as the men in suits upstairs.” Later, the protestors sang, told stories about how the refinery affected their health, and recited poems as office workers stepping out for lunch navigated their way through.

“These polluting industries think they can come into our communities and just set up shop,” Cameron Powell, a Philly Thrive organizer, told Grist. “They’re destroying the environment, and they think that’s okay. We as residents of the city of Philadelphia and New York are simply here to let them know that it’s not.”

Carol Hemingway asking security if she could enter the building where the closed-door auction is being held. Rachel Ramirez / Grist

Though details are still scarce, it looks like Philly Thrive’s members may have gotten their way. According to court documents filed on Wednesday, Philadelphia Energy Solutions has agreed to sell its refinery complex for $240 million to Hilco Redevelopment Partners, a Chicago-based real estate company that has a history of acquiring defunct fossil fuel infrastructure for redevelopment, often turning the sites into logistics centers. Although the company’s plans for the site have not yet been disclosed, a Philadelphia city official who attended the auction told the Philadelphia Inquirer on Wednesday that Hilco does not intend to reopen the refinery.

When rumors emerged on Tuesday that Hilco was the buyer, Alexa Ross, one of the founders of Philly Thrive, said the group was “cautiously pleased” that it wasn’t a fossil fuel company but still had many questions about Hilco’s plans. “We want Hilco to know for a fact that leasing out land to operate the refinery or other polluting industries is not going to fly with us, and we’re going to keep up the same level of opposition to any kind of plans to lease with polluting companies,” Ross told Grist on Tuesday.

Philly Thrive Organizer Alexa Ross speaking at St. Bartholomew’s Church before the rally. Rachel Ramirez / Grist

Recent projects by Hilco offer insight into what that fight might look like. In 2017, the company purchased a retired coal-fired power plant in Little Village, a neighborhood on the west side of Chicago, with plans to turn it into a million-square-foot warehouse and distribution center.

The coal plant closed after it could not afford upgrades to meet federal air quality standards and under mounting pressure from grassroots groups concerned about air pollution. That’s not so different from the situation in Philadelphia. But now, those same groups are worried that Hilco’s Chicago warehouse will bring more diesel trucks to the area, replacing one major polluter with many smaller sources of pollution. Hilco CEO Roberto Perez told Block Club Chicago that the company would build electric vehicle charging stations at the development and encourage prospective tenants to use electric trucks but said Hilco ultimately doesn’t have control over tenant operations.

The Chicago project also illuminates how long it might be before any development on the site in Philadelphia is up and running. Hilco initially expected the development to be ready to lease in early 2020, but now, two years after the sale was approved, they are still in the demolition phase.

Climate activists gather in the streets of New York City to protest the closed-door auction to sell PES land. Rachel Ramirez / Grist

The Philadelphia refinery is laden with more than 150 years of contamination, and a complex web of players are involved in the remediation process.

Sunoco, an earlier owner of the refinery, is responsible for cleaning up hazardous waste accumulated on the site through 2012, and that clean-up process is ongoing. Through its purchase agreement, PES became responsible for any new contamination to the site after 2012, and will now pass that responsibility on to Hilco under the terms of the sale. But the remediation process is further complicated by a potential land use change under Hilco’s ownership. Under Pennsylvania’s Land Recycling and Environmental Remediation Standards Act, Sunoco was responsible for restoring the site to a standard appropriate for an oil refinery. If Hilco decides to redevelop the land for a different use, which seems likely, the company may need to remediate the site to a higher standard.

Despite the complicated nature of the cleanup, there are signs the company intends to turn the site around quickly. Brian Abernathy, the city of Philadelphia’s managing director, who attended the auction on Friday, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that Hilco’s timeline is aggressive, and that the company has already been in talks with Sunoco, the EPA, and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. He said the company planned to redevelop the property in phases.

In a press release issued Wednesday, Philly Thrive stated that its members will continue raising their voices as the sale is finalized. The group provided an initial list of requests for Hilco, including barring any new refining operations on the site, involving the public in plans for redevelopment, and setting aside union jobs for folks in surrounding neighborhoods like Grays Ferry.

“Good jobs for young people in Grays Ferry would change lives,” former refinery worker and Philly Thrive member Rodney Ray said in the statement. “Let’s get some apprenticeship programs started. I know there will be less violence and less crime if people have the option to make a decent paycheck. That’s what I want for my community: the right to breathe clean air and good jobs.”

Climate activists gather in the streets of New York City to protest the closed-door auction to sell PES land. Rachel Ramirez / Grist

As Philly Thrive members wrestle with what the sale will mean for their community and health, former employees of the refinery have also been left hanging. Prior to the explosion and closure, the United Steelworkers Union had more than 600 members employed at the refinery.

“The nail’s probably in the coffin for the refinery,” Ryan O’Callaghan, the president of the USW Local 10-1, told the Inquirer. “We’re waiting to see what Hilco’s plans are.”

While the prospect of a deal with USW seems unlikely, the development is sure to bring new jobs to the area. In 2012, the parent company of Hilco Redevelopment Partners bought the Sparrows Point steel mill near Baltimore, Maryland, and began transforming it into “Tradepoint Atlantic,” a logistics center. The 3,100-acre site now houses operations for companies like Amazon and FedEx, as well as a 100,000-square-foot indoor farm, and a total of 10,000 new jobs are expected to be created on the site by 2025.

The Philadelphia sale is still contingent on approval by PES’s creditors and U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Kevin Gross. A confirmation hearing is scheduled for February 6th. Philly Thrive — in collaboration with Youth Climate Strike leaders — is mobilizing for another rally at the refinery on Saturday to emphasize their demands ahead of the bankruptcy hearing.

Philly Thrive “has been a part of creating this wave against fossil fuels,” said Ross. “We’re going to see it all the way to the end until healthy land use is occurring over there and residents are really at the center of final decisions and negotiations of how that business is going to operate.”

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Sold: Bankrupt Philadelphia oil refinery goes to a real estate company

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Minnesota winters ain’t what they used to be

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A rare Arctic blast is set to freeze a vast 12-state swath of the Midwest, from the Dakotas to Ohio. Wind chills well below -40 degrees F, like those expected this week, are cold enough to cause frostbite in minutes. Chicago is set to have its coldest day in decades; “the coldest air many of us have ever experienced,” according to the National Weather Service. Even schools in hardy Minnesota are closing due to the cold.

As brutal as that weather sounds, it’s a point of pride for locals — and this kind of cold is becoming rarer as the climate warms. In Minnesota, one of the fastest warming states in the country, winters are warming at a rate 13 times faster than summers, according to new research from the University of Minnesota. Extreme cold days are virtually ending in some parts of the state.

Grand Rapids is the heart of the coldest part of Minnesota, and one of the coldest inhabited places in the continental United States. From 1950 to 2000, there were 45 days with actual temperatures below -35 degrees F. This century, there have only been two. Wednesday could be the third.

In Minneapolis, Wednesday’s forecasted low temperature of -28 degrees F doesn’t even rank among the city’s top 10 historical all-time lows. And the bulk of this month was much warmer than normal, so even with these few days of cold weather, January 2019 will likely rank warmer than the long-term average.

And, of course, this isn’t just a Minnesota thing: Hundreds of millions of people will lose access to frozen lakes in the northern hemisphere in the coming decades, according to a new study, impacting everything from the availability of freshwater to core aspects of cultural identities.

In this context, this week’s Midwest cold snap isn’t historic — it’s just a glimpse of past winters. As a Minnesota transplant, I was ready for cold weather when I moved here. What I wasn’t ready for was how deep Minnesota natives’ reverence of the cold goes.

On Sunday night, as the National Weather Service issued a warning for 8 to 10 inches of snow and wind chills approaching -60 degrees F (colder than the top of the Greenland ice sheet), I put out a call to my neighbors for their favorite stories of winters past. The responses were almost poetic.

This winter-worship is acted out in person at The Great Northern, an annual outdoor festival of snow sculptures, pond hockey, and sledding in the Twin Cities. And this weekend, temperatures there are set to soar back into the mid-40s, putting frozen activities in jeopardy.

Young people in Minnesota are growing up with a state that’s vastly different than even their parents’ youth, when it comes to having truly cold winters. Earlier this month, a group of about 100 youth held a meeting with Minnesota Governor Tim Walz to demand a Green New Deal, in part based on their desire to preserve the region’s cultural traditions. The cold snap is a window into what makes Minnesota Minnesota — and what we could lose under unchecked climate change.

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Minnesota winters ain’t what they used to be

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gets biblical on Sarah Huckabee Sanders

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It’s as official as it ever was: The White House doesn’t want to be held responsible for acting on climate change.

In an interview on Fox News Tuesday night, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders dismissed Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s urgent calls to action on climate change: “Look, I don’t think we’re going to listen to her on much of anything, particularly not on matters we’re gonna leave in the hands of a much, much higher authority, and certainly not listen to the freshman congresswoman on when the world may end.”

This came in response to an interview Cortez did on Monday with the writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, during which she emphasized the 12-year deadline to slash carbon emissions enough to avoid the worst ravages of climate change. She told Coates that young people are looking for bold moves on climate change, and condemned the “abdication of responsibility” by those currently in power.

In the third round on Wednesday, Cortez turned to the bible in a Twitter thread.

Others, like climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe, quickly chimed in.

The congresswoman summed it up by saying: “You shouldn’t need a Bible to tell you to protect our planet, but it does anyway.”

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gets biblical on Sarah Huckabee Sanders

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Trump’s new attorney general hates those climate change investigations

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President Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday. Oops, sorry, Attorney General Jeff Sessions resigned at Trump’s request on Wednesday. Session’s resignation letter doesn’t have a date on it, so Trump probably could have dumped this news on us at any time.

Are we surprised that he picked the day after a landmark midterm election to do it? Hell no! Here’s a little-known fact, though. The new acting attorney general, Matthew Whitaker, has a vendetta against those climate investigations into ExxonMobil. State attorneys general have been looking into oil companies and their attempts to cover up and deny climate change. And Whitaker has been looking into those state AGs as a result.

The climate investigations began in earnest in March 2016, when a bunch of state AGs, led by New York, Massachusetts, and the Virgin Islands, started scrutinizing whether Big Oil lied to investors and the public about climate change. Immediately, Exxon and co. hit back with a narrative of their own: The investigations, and then later the slew of climate lawsuits, were part of an “orchestrated campaign” to punish oil companies and cheat them out of their First Amendment rights.

That’s the narrative parroted by Whitaker in a 2016 op-ed. In a Morning Consult piece titled, “The Environmental Left’s Double Standard Game,” he called the investigations “unconstitutional and unethical.” He accused the state AGs of bullying ExxonMobil (yes, he uses the word “bullied”), and labeled the probes an “outright assault on the First Amendment.”

Whitaker promised that the organization he led at the time, the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, would “continue to press its investigation into these 17 attorneys general for more information and answers regarding the true motivation and the real agenda behind this reprehensible campaign.” His organization was funded through a secretive website frequently used by conservatives like Charles Koch to make anonymous donations.

So, is the climate fraud investigation screwed with Whitaker in office? Can the biggest AG in the land crush the smaller state AGs?

“The U.S. Department of Justice does not have jurisdiction to stop state attorneys general from investigating things. They’re separate,” says Sean Hecht, who co-directs the Emmet Climate Change Institute at UCLA’s law school.

But that doesn’t mean the U.S. attorney general doesn’t have any effect on the way state AGs operate. “It’s pretty clear from this and some of [Whitaker’s] other statements on climate that he sees government officials who are trying to address climate change as some kind of enemy,” Hecht says. “Having somebody like Whitaker in that position seems likely to chill federal enforcement efforts on a host of environmental problems,” he adds.

And apart from the potential Whitaker effect on federal enforcement, there’s something else worth knowing about the acting attorney general: He’s a climate skeptic. “You know, I think that I’m not a climate denier,” he said in an interview with a publication called Caffeinated Thoughts in 2014). “It may be warming, I think the evidence is inconclusive.” And then he added: “I don’t believe in big government solutions to a problem that doesn’t appear to be that significant or quite possibly isn’t man made.”


Trump’s new attorney general hates those climate change investigations

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A puzzling promo video earns the UN new criticism over its support of carbon offsets

The international organization coordinating the world’s effort to stop global warming posted a strange video to social media on Wednesday morning.

The 52-second video from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is a bizarre promotion to call attention to the organization’s newly redesigned online platform for purchasing carbon offsets. It’s been deleted from Twitter and Facebook but you can still find it on YouTube and in an official press release.

It’s hard to know what the UNFCCC was thinking in producing this video, which makes fun of well-established ways to cut carbon emissions — like limiting driving, air travel, and meat consumption — in favor of purchasing controversial offset credits. Offsets are an accounting method favored by high-polluting industries as a way of evading real-world change.

The video was swiftly attacked by climate campaigners — a Swiss environmental lawyer called it “shameful” — and no justification has yet been given for its removal. (The UNFCCC did not immediately respond to an inquiry from Grist about the video’s production and its removal from social media.)

The problem with carbon offsets is clear. They’re designed to avoid immediate changes in behavior in favor of less verifiable and less reliable ways of reducing emissions by relying on someone else. You could, say, pay to plant some trees, which then must be tended and kept alive for decades, to atone for a single airline flight.

Sometimes offsetting is worse than doing nothing: It perpetuates high-carbon activities and shifts responsibility from the people and organizations most responsible for climate change. After a brief moment of popularity a decade ago, the credits faded from favor, in part because of these concerns.

This isn’t the first time the UN has come under fire for promoting carbon offsets. During the Paris climate conference in 2015, the UN set up a booth where attendees could supposedly neutralize the impact of their travel to the summit for as little as $1.  Some observers found that difficult to believe. On a much larger scale, in 2016, the UN organization tasked with overseeing the global airline industry was strongly criticized for favoring offsets in an attempt to avoid more radical (and expensive) changes in aircraft design that could reduce emissions.

More recently, at the World Cup in Russia this summer, the UN again promoted its carbon offset scheme; again it came under fire for “greenwashing” and relying on questionable math that meant only a small fraction of the promised offsets were actually reducing emissions.

Admittedly, the video is pretty funny as a piece of satire. But I’m not sure that’s what the UN was going for.

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A puzzling promo video earns the UN new criticism over its support of carbon offsets

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Scott Pruitt’s vision of a ‘lean’ EPA includes spending a lot of money on himself

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced the new “Office of Continuous Improvement” on Monday. The purpose of the office, he says, is “to make sure, as we do our work here, that we set real goals and we track those goals and show real improvement.”

The OCI isn’t about improving air quality, Americans’ health, or EPA transparency, though. Rather, it concerns — hold on to your seats! — improving productivity and cutting waste at the department.

The office expands the agency’s “lean management system” established under the Obama administration.

While “lean” is an apt description of the current state of the EPA, which has cut half a billion dollars from its budget over the past two years and brought staff numbers down to Reagan-era levels, it’s the opposite of Pruitt’s own spending habits. Since his very first day as administrator, bodyguards (who don’t come cheap) have been watching him 24/7. That’s not to mention Pruitt’s pricey private flight habit and $43,000 soundproof phone booth, all on the taxpayer dime.

Some EPA employees aren’t excited about the new office.

“The Office of Continuous Improvement sounds like it’s straight out of 1984,” one staffer told Buzzfeed Science reporter Zahra Hirji.

It’s unlikely that Pruitt’s message about boosting productivity will drown out the numerous scandals coming out about him. He’ll face a tough audience on Wednesday, when he’ll appear in front of the Senate appropriations subcommittee. If it goes anything like his recent hearings in front of the House, we’re in for a treat.


Scott Pruitt’s vision of a ‘lean’ EPA includes spending a lot of money on himself

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In New York City, rising seas could cause Sandy-like floods every five years.

The demonstrations call on households, cities, and institutions to withdraw money from banks financing projects that activists say violate human rights — such as the Dakota Access Pipeline and efforts to extract oil from tar sands in Alberta, Canada.

The divestment campaign Mazaska Talks, which is using the hashtag #DivestTheGlobe, began with protests across the United States on Monday and continues with actions in Africa, Asia, and Europe on Tuesday and Wednesday. Seven people were arrested in Seattle yesterday, where activists briefly shut down a Bank of America, Chase, and Wells Fargo.

The demonstrations coincide with a meeting in São Paulo, Brazil, involving a group of financial institutions that have established a framework for assessing the environmental and social risks of development projects. Organizers allege the banks have failed to uphold indigenous peoples’ right to “free, prior, and informed consent” to projects developed on their land.

“We want the global financial community to realize that investing in projects that harm us is really investing in death, genocide, racism, and does have a direct effect on not only us on the front lines but every person on this planet,” Joye Braun, an Indigenous Environmental Network community organizer, said in a statement.


In New York City, rising seas could cause Sandy-like floods every five years.

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