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Climate Hustle

On climate change, angels and demons are battling over Trump’s soul

Posted on 12 December 2016 by dana1981

There are signs that a war may be brewing over President-elect Donald Trump’s climate legacy, and the bad guys are winning.

In one corner: Team Ivanka

His daughter Ivanka appears to be establishing a role as the one person who might prevent the Trump administration from undoing all of the progress made by the Obama administration in cutting US carbon pollution, and instead establishing policies that will maximize the country’s burning of fossil fuels. According to Politico, Ivanka Trump wants to make climate change one of her signature issues. She recently coordinated meetings between the president-elect and Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio.

DiCaprio in particular wisely focused his presentation on the fact that a shift to clean renewable energy would create millions of jobs. The best way to help a businessman like Donald Trump appreciate the importance and benefits of cutting carbon pollution is to focus on the economic opportunities presented by the coming green technology revolution. It’s an opportunity that China is poised to seize upon, as UCLA Law School’s Alex Wang noted:

Climate change regulation is seen as an economic tool aimed at moving China’s economy toward the low-carbon, high-tech, and clean energy industries of the future. China would like nothing more than to have the U.S. retreat from clean energy innovation and allow it to step into the breach.

The New York Times also reports that Trump plans to turn over operational control of the family business to his two sons, while Ivanka would take a leave of absence and is considering moving to Washington DC. By distancing herself from the business to avoid conflicts of interest, Ivanka may be positioning herself to become the most powerful first daughter in US history; potentially the first to serve as an influential presidential policy advisor.

However, even if her desire to spur action on climate change is sincere, Ivanka Trump faces a veritable army of opposition among those already nominated and appointed to work in the Trump administration.

In the other corner: Team Big Oil

For those concerned about the tremendous threats posed by climate change, Trump’s nominations and appointments to date have been a nightmare. Trump selected long-time climate denier and oil industry spokesman Myron Ebell to head his EPA transition team, and as a result, predictably nominated oil industry puppet Scott Pruitt as EPA administrator. Pruitt is among the Republican attorneys general who, after receiving substantial political donations to meet with fossil fuel companies, sued the EPA to stop its Clean Power Plan. Pruitt quite literally does the fossil fuel industry’s bidding:

A 2014 investigation by The Times found that energy lobbyists drafted letters for Mr. Pruitt to send, on state stationery, to the E.P.A., the Interior Department, the Office of Management and Budget and even President Obama, outlining the economic hardship of the environmental rules.

If confirmed (which Senate Democrats are poised to fight), Pruitt will do everything in his power to eliminate the EPA’s efforts to cut carbon pollution. He’s joined by the leader of Trump’s Energy Department transition team, Thomas Pyle. Pyle is a former lobbyist for Koch Industries and other fossil fuel companies. He recently released a memo outlining “The Trump Administration’s Energy Plan” that’s been described as reading like a fossil fuel industry wish list, including these policy proposals:

  • Withdrawing from the Paris Climate agreement;
  • Increasing federal oil and natural gas leasing and lifting the coal lease moratorium;
  • Eliminating the Clean Power Plan;
  • Moving forward with pipeline projects including the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipeline;
  • Rolling back federal fuel economy standards;
  • Ending the use of the social cost of carbon in agency rulemaking; and
  • Reconsidering the “endangerment finding” that found greenhouse gases to be a threat to public health and welfare.

For example, Pyle claims that the EPA finding that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare, which was based on the best available science and mandates that the EPA regulate carbon pollution, “will be reconsidered and possibly revoked, marking a major blow to underpinning for many climate regulations.” The memo also states that the increased fuel efficiency standards passed by the Obama administration “will either be completely withdrawn or revised and phased out to be closer to the current levels of fuel economy.” 

In short, the Trump Administration’s energy plan focuses on undermining every effort the USA has made to cut its carbon pollution from cars and power plants. The Energy Department transition team is also asking for lists of government employees who have worked on climate issues, which would lay the foundation for efforts to eliminating all government efforts to cut carbon pollution, and potentially launching witch hunts against scientists.

Pruitt and Pyle represent the tip of the fossil fuel industry’s total control over Trump’s incoming administration. George Monbiot listed a number of his staffers who come from fossil fuel industry lobbying or think tanks. Trump’s space policy advisor wants to kneecap Nasa’s critical climate research. His nomination for Secretary of Interior Cathy McMorris has voted against 96% of the environmental legislation that’s come before her in the House of Representatives, including voting to bar the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases and voting against enforcing limits on carbon pollution. She’s a big proponent of increased drilling for oil and gas.

His EPA landing team is full of science deniers and EPA critics who have harassed climate scientists. His chief strategist Steven Bannon used to run Breitbart, which publishes some of the worst climate denial imaginable (sometimes combined with blatant misogyny for good measure). And to top it all off, Trump’s choice for Secretary of State is the CEO of the world’s largest oil company, which also is historically the biggest funder of climate misinformation and denial and continues to fund climate denial groups.

Daughter vs. foxes guarding the climate henhouse

On the issue of climate change, Trump resembles a character with an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. Except in this case, the devil also has a horde of demons beside him. Trump has filled every position of power with fossil fuel industry allies who have years of experience in undermining government efforts to slow human-caused global warming.

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Comments 1 to 16:

  1. Supplementing the information contained in Dana's article...

    The heads of Donald Trump’s transition teams for Nasa, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior and the Department of Energy, as well as his nominees to lead the EPA and the Department of the Interior, all question the science of human-caused climate change, in a signal of the president-elect’s determination to embark upon an aggressively pro-fossil fuels agenda.

    Trump has assembled a transition team in which at least nine senior members deny basic scientific understanding that the planet is warming due to the burning of carbon and other human activity. These include the transition heads of all the key agencies responsible for either monitoring or dealing with climate change. None of these transition heads have any background in climate science.

    Trump's transition: sceptics guide every agency dealing with climate change by Oliver Milman, Guardian, Dec 12, 2016

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  2. Don't get played by Trump. He is the current (!) producer of a reality TV show and he has been running his transition like The Apprentice. The NY Times editorial staff made a big deal out of his 'I have an open mind' comments, but read the actual transcript of the Times interview. He would make a ridiculous climate denier comment, then finish with 'but I have an open mind'. He used Al Gore to distract attention from his cabinet picks, and probably DiCaprio, except DiCaprio did manage to emphasize the jobs potential of clean energy. Trump's cabinet nominations and the DOE questionnaire trying uncover 'climate moles' in the DOE say everything. We grasp at Trump's gratuitous comments in hopes that it isn't as bad as it seems, but it is. Elections have consequences and far too many Americans did not bother to vote.  Trump lost the popular vote and was elected by about a quarter of the eligible voters. Over the next 4-8 years we will be conducting a grand climate experiment, 'the will of the people'. 'Belief in climate change is optional, but participation is mandatory' (Jim Beever, SWF Regional Planning Council).

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  3. I really think our side doesn't appreciate the importance of 'paradigm' in human understanding.

    What appears ignorance, often is just the polite reaction of someone who doesn't get the big picture and you're telling him/her the details without explaining the big picture first. The big picture is simple - 7 billion people now with most of them using 35 times the natural resources unsustainably.

    IE Evil people are not the cause. That turns heads among "trumpistas"

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  4. We're all doomed. In more ways than one.

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  5. Tell Trump to forget climate change.  Instead, point out how much money he is sending overseas to buy oil which could be better used for his infrastructure programs.  No need for government handouts.  Simply sort out the government settings so that the America people and her industries find it worth while to install wind and solar generation.  Every 5 kWh generated, especially if the settings also favor construction of a truly affordable electric car, is a dollar that doesn't go out of America: a dollar that can be used internally.  Also point out to him how many jobs are create installing wind and solar and building electric cars compared to the few provided by the largely mechanized coal mining.  No need to bash coal.  Economics will take care of that.  Simply stop wasting money subsidizen coal.  This money can also be diverted into Trump's works programs.

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  6. So much for the efficacy of the universal right to vote.  Hillary only had a miniscule more votes than Donald.  Had the electorate been "informed" about the universal perils of anthropogenic climate change they might have picked the Green candidate instead...she was the only candidate that knows the problem well enough to do something meaningful about it.  Since the electorate remains ignorant 187 years after they voted for Andrew (trump) Jackson, why would any of us believe that a few more votes might have canned Trump?  (Hillary wasn't qualified either).  So let's forget the whining over whose going to manipulate the levers of power and work to educate the public about the facts of climate change.  We could do a better job educating ourselves by acknowledging that Animal Agriculture is directly and indirectly responsible for about 51% of global emissions, along with desertification, deforestation, water shortages, ocean dead zones and famine, but I never hear any of you talking about that.  Why? 

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  7. Swampfoxh: Jackson had some shortcomings but he expanded the nation and did a prety good job, that's how he got his gig on the $20 Bill. My sense is that Trump is more like Grant, with a supremely corrupt administration resultnig from political incompetance and alcohol. Let's hope Trump can listen to his daughter and see the huge loss the US will take if we force advantage in the green revolution to China. Personally, I am willing to work with China to develop my technology, it's for the good of my kid's and grand kid's world, not for my national pride. I think a lot of people feel the same way, especially if they are not Americans.

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  8. Swampfoxh @6

    I'm not sure where you get the figure that animal agriculture is responsible for 51% of emissions or exactly what that includes. However I agree it is certainly an issue.

    Basically animals and humans exhale CO2 but this is part of a cycle and isnt responsible for increases in atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Its easy enough to google this issue.

    Livestock exhale methane and increasing livestock has led to increasing methane. This is more of a problem. This methane breaks down to CO2 in the atmosphere eventually but causes a high level of warming in the short term. However there are no easy solutions, although research is being conducted on feedstocks that reduce methane emissions and does show some promise, but no actual solution yet.

    The other approach is vegetarianism, which does have some appeal, but we simply cannot force this on people by law.

    So the priority and something we can change right now is fossil fuels.

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  9. Ivanka Trump appears to be the brains of the Trump family. I have to take her at face value that she is sincere in her concerns about the climate.

    However Trump has already appoined several hard line climate denialist people. Trump has shown flexibility of views on some things, but his actions indicate he is serious about his denialist views on climate change.

    Of course he may soften his position, or listen to Ivanka, but he will then be at war with the very people he has appointed. They will be unlikely to simply soften their views if Trump softens his. He is unlikely to fire them.

    The whole thing looks like a gigantic mess in the making to me.

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  10. nigelj,

    As I have pointed out many times, the agricultural component to rising methane has nothing to do with methane emissions from livestock anymore than breathing out CO2 counts towards greenhouse gas emissions. 

    There is an agricultural component, but that component is not the livestocks' fault and veganism will not fix it. I have spelled it out with good references here

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  11. The following article is worth a read and is quite chilling:

    www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=11766755

    Its by Eric Holthaus writing in the Washington Post, reprinted in my local newspaper. He is a meteorologist and journalist concerned that the Trump administration may delete public / government data bases of climate data. He has taken extaordinary steps to archive this material and so have others. He cites examples where other governments have removed data.

    His concern is Trump may want to make as difficult as possible to access information so as to stop further understanding of the climate, and to reinforce the interests of the fossil fuels industry.

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  12. Red Baron @11, thanks and I had a read of your link. Basically you do acknowledge livestock emit methane, but appear to claim different farming techniques can solve the methane problem by less indoor livestock farming, etc, and better soils management.

    Well I respect your view and maybe you are right, but changing farming techniques exactly like you suggest will be challenging thing in so many ways in terms of persuading farmers, legislating, etc. It would take forever. The general maistream view is changing feedstock has the most practical promise.

    I was suggesting to the other poster its futile to blame animals or expect that much change will happen there, and we should concentrate on reducing fossil fuels as the first priority. Im not saying give up on the animal methane issue, but its a particularly tough one obviously.

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  13. nigelj,

    Again, not the animals at fault. It is the degradation of the soils and their capability to biotically oxidize that methane. That's why eliminating to extinction every single cow on the planet still won't work. Because the soil methantrophic oxidation would even get worse! Net is still not negative. But change the agricultural model and the cows change from a problem to a solution.

    “The number one public enemy is the cow. But the number one tool that can save mankind is the cow. We need every cow we can get back out on the range. It is almost criminal to have them in feedlots which are inhumane, antisocial, and environmentally and economically unsound.” Allan Savory

    Remember, this is a stocks and flow problem like any other in climate science. It is never the gross that matters, but rather the net fluxes that matter. You are making the same fail in the same way as this denialist argument: Breathing contributes to CO2 emissions

    Whether it is Methane emissions or Carbon dioxide emissions from living animals, never counts unless you tie it to the opposite side of the active biological cycle and can measure net positive flux. The whole methane emissions argument from farting and burping cows is just as ridiculous as the breathing argument, except instead of plants being on the opposite side of the biological cycle, it is methanotrophs on the opposite side of the biological cycle.

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  14. BILLHURLEY@3

    It would be helpful if in the future you refined your comments about Population related to climate change to be clearer that the real problem is the portion of the population that acts in ways that make the largest contribution to the growth of the climate change problem (as investors and consumers).

    A very small percentage of the current global population is irresponsibly creating the vast majority of the problem (they actually have no excuse for their behaviour - they undeniably have access to the information and the mental capability to 'know better' - and if they choose not to be well informed and better understand then they should be considered to be legally mentally incompetent for a leadership position). So a minor reduction of the human population (removing that group) would be a major improvement. However, a more responsible way to advance humanity would be for all of those higher impacting people to lead by changing their minds and dramatically reducing the unacceptable impacts of their desires and actions.

    As for the Evil label, it applies to the chosen actions of people. The ones among that group of the biggest trouble-makers who choose to unjustifiably (but temporarily successfully) Trump-up popular opinion to the discredit of climate science, try to reduce efforts to expand awareness of the best understanding of climate science (reduce funding for research and edit the reporting or redirect what gets researched to try to create more doubt), impede the development of better understanding of climate science and the required changes of human activity to advance humanity to a lasting better future for all (essentially Trump and his Cabinet) are objectively Truly Evil-acting People (an objective based label if advancing humanity to a lasting better future for all is a Good objective and actions impeding that advancement are Evil). And fans of such people would be followers and supporters of Evil action.

    Those despicable trouble-makers could also be referred to as adolescent Bullies, with their fans being the gangs that bullies always need to have around them to intimidate and punish those who would point out the unacceptability of their desired ways of believing and behaving. However, "Evil" is a more appropriate label for the types of actions and their impact that the powerful and wealthy trouble-makers choose to pursue in the current case of climate science.

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  15. I am cynical about "Team Ivanka". if she serious, or just marketing her personal brand and branded products? She is effectively running interference to keep up a pretence about Trump's "open mind". 

    Judge the "open mind" by actions, not words.

    Let's not get fooled again, people.

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  16. DeCaprio has the right approach.  Don't talk to Donald Trump about climate change.  Talk to him about all the job creation from installing and maintaining renewable energy.  Talk to him also about all that wealth flowing to the oil proucing countries that he could use for his works programs.  Point out that this money comes back into the USA to buy up American businesses who then have to pay dividends to the oil barrons.  More money flowing out of America.  Some goes into buying off terrorists who then use the funds to attack America.  Read the man and present the arguments he will understand and appriciate.

    http://mtkass.blogspot.co.nz/2010/10/forget-climate-change.html

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