Not All News Is Bad News: Trump v. Planet Earth

Historians may one day look back upon these days of the Trump administration as an unintended stress test for the already eroded institutions of American democracy.  Meanwhile, the fact that American domestic politics have grown so insular and deranged to produce an administration this incompetent and self-destructive can only serve as an endless source of schadenfreude for those who have grown weary and suspicious of Pax Americana.

Had this warming planet not already been sitting on the edge of crisis, it may have been a lot more entertaining to watch the American Empire tripping over its own two feet.  Unfortunately, we are all effected by what the world’s biggest per-capita carbon emitter decides to do about its own environmental laws.  Their problem is, therefore, all of our own.

So, it is encouraging to see some signs of resilience in the US, that offer a hopeful possibility for our own future: though Trump may be a wrecking ball, there’s no one smart enough at the switch to inflict more damage than what walls may be torn down in as many wild swings that could be made in a four-year term.

Here’s a roundup of recent sources of cautious optimism.

From Wired, the suggestion that at least a few Western states are too committed to their own green policies for the President’s recent pro-pollution executive order to change things:

Other Western states already have reduced greenhouse gas emissions from the electric power sector by shifting from coal to renewable energy and natural gas. The three West Coast states vow to keep pushing forward, despite Trump’s revanche.

“Through expanded climate policies, we have grown jobs and expanded our economies while cleaning our air,” the governors of California, Washington and Oregon and mayors of their largest cities said in a statement. “Too much is at stake—from our health and safety to our jobs and livelihoods—for us to move backwards.”

And from Vox, a little background and insight on what the executive order’s effect on the coal industry, and by extension the atmosphere, really is:

DOI placed a moratorium on new coal leases last year because it was launching the first comprehensive review of the federal coal leasing program in three decades.

…The coal leasing program is a big deal because roughly 40 percent of coal produced in the US comes from federal land.

…By selling its coal at bargain-basement prices, the US public is effectively subsidizing coal companies — to the tune of, according to one study, $28.9 billion over the past 30 years.

…DOI was confident that the pause on new leases would have no impact on production, prices, or power reliability. “Based on current production levels,” the agency wrote last year, “coal companies now have approximately 20 years of recoverable coal reserves under lease on federal lands.”

And 20 years of reserves hadn’t proven sufficient, the moratorium also contained provisions allowing for “emergency” exceptions for any mine that ran short.

Production won’t increase after the moratorium because the moratorium wasn’t reallyholding any back.

And while a notorious climate-denying advocate of the fossil fuel industry has been placed in the absurd position of running the Environmental Protection Agency, The Atlantic provides us with some reassurance on why things may not go his way so easily:

Pruitt is a savvy attorney who knows the EPA’s guiding statutes well. His statements and behavior suggest that he doesn’t want to temporarily injure the agency by defunding it. Instead, he wants to permanently hobble it by inscribing weak rules that will outlast his term as administrator and the Trump presidency.

But that will take a lot of employees and a lot of time.

…Every one of these revisions or revocations will set an onerous bureaucratic process in motion that will last for years. Every time an EPA policy changes, agency employees have to draft the text of a new rule, then hire outside consultants to calculate its economic effects and public-health consequences. Other employees process the tens of thousands of public and industry comments that greet the proposal or withdrawal of any rule. Each of these comments must be read, categorized, and replied to.

…That record-building requires staff. It takes people to write policy, it takes people to commission studies, and it takes people to meet with industry. It takes people to coordinate all the other people.

…Trump may be fine with superficially damaging the administrative state until fiscal year 2022. But if Pruitt wants to permanently hinder it, he needs money.

And if that’s not enough, there’s even been rumbles of resistance to climate-denial from within the ranks of the Republican Party.

From Vice:

In the resolution, referred to as the “Republican Climate Resolution,” the congressmen argued protecting the health of our planet is a “conservative principle” and pledged to “study and address the causes and effects of measured changes to our global and regional climates.” It was introduced by Elise Stefanik of New York, Carlos Curbelo of Florida, and Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania, and signed by 14 of their colleagues, according to a press release.

“This is an issue where there really is consensus within the scientific community,” South Carolina representative Mark Sanford, one of the document’s signees, told the Atlantic. “There’s a larger debate on what to do about it, and that’s a much more complex debate. But it’s like with Alcoholics Anonymous, if you don’t even recognize the fact that you have a problem, you’re never going to address the problem.”

Those 17 Republicans can’t get a bill through the House alone, so the resolution pretty much amounts to a symbolic gesture—but it’s still a step toward trying to tackle climate change as a bipartisan issue…

It’s not much, but with optimism in such short supply in these Interesting Times, one occasionally has to adopt the Warm Beer and Cold Pizza Philosophy,  That is: Sometimes You Have To Take What You Can Get.

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