The War Over Climate Change Erupts in the United States

January 16, 2017 – By the end of this week a climate change denier will have replaced an action on climate change person as President of the United States. The world will have turned upside down from an administration creating policy based on scientific evidence, to one driven by an agenda, that frankly, appears confusing and misdirected. And because of this the crazies are out in force attempting to turn back time on progressive, sustainable policies for a warming world.

A good example can be found in the latest action by Wyoming state legislators who have proposed a bill that mandates the government to get its electricity from non-renewable energy projects. Nine sponsors, two state senators and seven representatives, all from coal-mining districts within the state, proposed the bill last week at the opening of the 2017 legislative session. The bill mandates steep fines for utilities drawing their energy from wind and solar projects.

Wyoming isn’t the only state suffering from delusional climate change behaviour. Wisconsin‘s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) deleted references to climate on its home web page in December. New web content talks about change happening in the Earth’s long history and mentions ongoing debate and research on the subject. But for DNR change is only something related to managing the state’s natural resources. Previous wording acknowledged human activities producing greenhouse gases (GHGs) and global warming. But not anymore. So much for scientific evidence driving statecraft.

And then there’s Ohio whose representatives tried to pass a bill gutting existing renewable energy policies. When the Republican governor vetoed the bill in the lame duck session, the state representatives vowed to bring it back in the new session. Now they have a veto-proof majority to ensure passage.

Not all states are in climate change denial. California continues to lead with its cap and trade market that now includes Quebec and Ontario. In addition the state is working with its immediate neighbours to integrate the electrical grid and bring on more renewable energy capacity. The latest California initiative, introduced last week, requires new building construction to incorporate solar power generation as a mandatory, an extension of previous law requiring residential and commercial buildings to be roof-ready for solar. Joining California, and its western neighbours, are the New England states who have recently announced joint plans to increase clean energy capacity.

But 27 states currently have law suits launched against the Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Power Plan, an initiative that is a cornerstone of U.S. policy to help the country meet 30% target reductions of GHGs by 2030 from 2005 levels. If the courts rule in their favour, the national American commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement will lie in ruins.

In the dying days of Barack Obama’s presidency, there is resistance. For example, the Energy Department (DOE) announced a scientific integrity policy, allowing scientists to do their work without political interference. This is in light of Donald Trump’s many climate denial statements, his appointments to Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior, and to Secretary of State, all individuals who have demonstrated opposition to climate change initiatives. When the Trump transition team requested Energy Department staff fill in a questionnaire that asked if they attended meetings where climate change was discussed, Energy Secretary, Ernest Moniz, saw this as an infringement against scientific free speech. His enactment of scientific integrity included these statements: “All scientists, engineers, or others supported by DOE are free and encouraged to share their scientific findings and views…..under no circumstance may anyone, including a public affairs officer, ask or direct any researcher to alter the record of scientific findings or conclusions.”

In confirmation hearings, the best of the worst, the new nominated Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, a former CEO of ExxonMobil, told the U.S. Senate that he recognized the science of the anthropogenic global warming and the need for the world to address it. He just didn’t believe the United States should take the lead role in tackling the problem even though the country is the world’s second largest GHG emitter. It is hard to take his opinion at face value since this is the same man who buried research done by his company confirming that human activity was the primary agent for changes to global climate.

A weakened Democratic Party at the national and state level seems to be adrift in developing a strategy to counter the climate change skepticism of the new administration. But online in public forums environmental activists are organizing. The environmental movement thought that President Obama wasn’t doing enough to combat global warming. Now they face an executive, Congress and the majority of state legislatures all in the anti-climate change movement. Back in October I wrote about an escalating war by environmental activists against fossil fuel companies. I described these environmental groups as forerunners of an all out war to save the planet. Well now the enemy for these activists is no longer coal, oil and gas companies. It is government in a state of climate-change denial. I predict that through social media, the environmental movement will grow to an army of young and old alike who will move the conversation from the Internet to the streets in opposition to blind leadership.

 

 


Len Rosen lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He is a researcher and writer who has a fascination with science and technology. He is married with a daughter who works in radio, and a miniature red poodle who is his daily companion on walks of discovery.
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