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Our Friend The Carbon Molecule!
2018 was a record year. We can stop it in 2019 with the Green New Deal!
Time for another look back at the state of our species' attempts to save itself from itself, and the news is ... oh, lordy, kids, it's ugly, is what it is. The downer stuff: 2018 set a new record for worldwide emissions of carbon dioxide, and the USA has a president whose excellent brain tells him science isn't real, because he thinks plastic in the oceans somehow has something to do with global warming. But let's not lose hope, either, because polling indicates the vast majority of Americans -- 78 percent -- agree that climate change is real, and that we need to take action to keep the planet livable. Hell, even a large majority of Republicans (64 percent) now agree that climate change is real, as opposed to just 49 percent three years ago. It is almost as if they are believing their lying eyes! Mind you, those are ordinary people, not the ones in Congress. Please refer to the Upton Sinclair line about how hard it is to get someone to understand when their salary depends on not understanding it.
Coal In Everyone's Stockings
Photo: Peabody Coal on Wikimedia
2017 will be remembered as the year Donald Trump pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement and put coal-friendly idiot Scott Pruitt in charge of the EPA. Pruitt's talent for outrageous grifting finally got him shitcanned, but his quests for lotion and a Trump Hotels jizz mattress were sideshows to his real agenda: making it far easier for corporate America to pollute as much as possible, and undoing the modest steps the Obama administration had taken toward reducing carbon output. That mission was taken up with zeal in 2018 by Pruitt's replacement, acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, a LITERAL FUCKING COAL LOBBYIST who couldn't give a straight answer to the question, "What has the Trump administration done to clean up the air?"
But for all Trump's efforts to make us love coal again, that dirty old fossil isn't having much luck bringing back that dirty old fossil fuel.
Lord knows Trump and company have tried: Energy Secretary Rick Perry tried to push through a rule requiring coal be stockpiled at coal plants, only to have it blocked by Trump appointeesto the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, because hey, that's manipulation of the free market! The administration tried to force through a similar measure on "national security" grounds in June, demanding that dirty old coal plants never be shut down because we need coal to beat the Kaiser, but by October, the plan appeared to have died, thanks in part to opposition from the oil and gas industry, which has benefited from selling cheaper and less-polluting natural gas to power plants. Darn ol' free market! Donald Trump remains a believer in coal, because he is a smart man who knows piles of coal can't be sabotaged or destroyed by angry birds. But for all that, US coal production actually declined this year, and is expected to continue to do so. Must be that Obama War on Coal, huh?
Dirty Energy For All!
Make Fuzzy Dice Great Again (also: not a daily driver!)
Trump hasn't been able to do much more than delay the extinction of coal. But it's the dirtiest fuel we have, and stillgenerates just under 30 percent of electricity in the US, so the sooner we eliminate it, the better for the prospects of slowing global warming. Same goes for other fossil fuels, but Team Trump wants more oil and gas consumption, not less. To that end, in October 2017 the Trumpers killed off Obama's Clean Power Plan, which had never actually taken effect due to lawsuits. In August, the EPA, now under Andrew Wheeler, rolled out its exciting "Affordable Clean Energy" rules, which are neither clean nor affordable, and which even the EPA predicts will cause between470 and 1,400 additional deaths per yeardue to dirtier air, not to mention the long-term effects of making carbon emissions worse.
The Obama rules aimed to reduce US CO2 output by 30 percent by 2030, and that was only a start at what's needed. By contrast, the Trump plan hopes that the free market will eventually reduce CO2 between 0.7 percent and 1.5 percent, but doesn't actually require any such reductions. Nonetheless, that piddling hoped-for goal was one of the three things Wheeler later said would "improve" air quality. Funny, he didn't mention the projected jump in deaths from worse air quality.
The crazythink got even stranger when the administration announced it would repeal Obama's fuel economy standards, explaining that if cars get good gas mileage, people would drive more and die in accidents. So hooray for shitty gas mileage, which saves lives! This is, of course, bullshit, but damned if Wheeler didn't once again tout it as something Trump had done to improve air quality: If we get crappy mileage, we'll drive and pollute less, maybe? Hey, if the only cars made were inefficient death traps like my 1973 Chevy, Vlad the Impala, no one would drive hardly at all!
Will No One Rid Trump Of These Turbulent Scientists?
2018 also brought us two major scientific reports on climate, both of which warned we need to stop setting energy policy to please the 20 percent of people who think science is bunk. Unfortunately, those are the people who also are in charge of setting energy policy, GEE WE WONDER HOW THAT HAPPENED.
In October, a report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) laid out the hot hard facts on what the world will be like at the end of the century if we manage to meet or exceed the goals of the Paris climate accord. The ideal Paris goal was keeping global temperatures from rising no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius -- or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, if you don't like commie thermometers. But the fallback goal would be an increase of 2 degrees C, which it turns out would be way, way, worse, like the difference between losing most of our coral reefs and losing all of them. But there's still good news: Limiting the damage from global warming to merely awful (instead of catastrophic ) is still achievable, but we only have about a decade to do it, according to the IPCC projections. The takeaway: Woulda been easier if we'd made bigger changes decades ago, but the sooner we get off the fossil fuel teat, the better for the future, even at this point.
The other big climate report, the National Climate Assessment (NCA), came out in November, and while the Trump administration tried to deep-six it by releasing it the Friday after Thanksgiving, that whole misquided exercise in the Fartenberry Effect actually ended up bringing a lot of attention to the report. Like the IPCC report, the NCA confirmed climate change is already here and will have enormous economic effects if we don't bring it under control, because as people may have noticed, wildfires in the winter are neither normal nor the result of not raking the forests.
While Rick Santorum explained climate scientists are all just in it for the big grant money, Donald Trump intelligently dismissed the science because he doesn't believe it and is the smartest guy, and also two newsmagazines did really shitty reporting about a "New Ice Age" in the 1970s, so there. Which is why the US decided to team up with Russia and Saudi Arabia to sabotage UN climate talks in December, because this is the worst timeline.
Let's Try The Non-Asshole Option!
Amanderson on Flicker, Creative Commons 2.0 license
Oh, but even though the future sometimes looks as dark as the inside of a coal-roller's tailpipe, the 2018 midterms brought us a heapin' helpin' of hope, as people sick of the Republican smash-n-grab crime spree voted Democrats into the House. And with a whole bunch of Republican Senate seats up for reelection in 2020, the prospects for passing the Green New Deal look quite good. That's the proposal to create jobs by investing heavily in green energy -- within the 10 years to make the difference between a planet that's 1.5 degrees hotter or a planet that's 2 degrees hotter. That half-degree, as we note, makes a hell of a difference, and no, there's nothing alarmist about pointing out it's kind of a matter of survival for large mammals like us.
Impossible? Only if we mistakenly think we have to convince that 20 percent of holdouts to accept climate reality (which can be done, of course -- it's just not a prerequisite for action). The climate deniers do have power and influence beyond their numbers, but they don't have to be running things. Sure there will be grumblings from idiots with big trucks. Fuck 'em. It's doable. Not only has California -- the world's sixth-largest economy! -- committed to 100 percent green energy for its power generation by 2045, we're already seeing proof that carbon emissions can be brought down. Even this year, when worldwide C02 emissions reached record levels, one economic bloc, the European Union, managed to reduce CO2 output by a bit under one percent. That's not enough, obviously, but it certainly suggests definite action is possible.
And no, we don't mean mean Trump tweets about Europe.
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