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The Good Wall?

courtesy The Jitney, Miami Fla.

Walls fell into disrepute under the administration of the former guy. But walls can have justifiably commendable purposes.

 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has just proposed building a six-mile, six-billon dollar, up-to-twenty-foot-high seawall around and through Miami. The proposal is the result of a federal government study in the wake of the destructive storm surge damage caused by Hurricane Irma in 2017. A one-mile stretch of the seawall would be built right on Biscayne Bay, surrounding a neighborhood studded with gleaming high-rise towers. Imagine the sound barriers along an interstate highway and you'll get an idea of the new ambiance.

 

Predictably, politicians and residents are up in arms. They like other parts of the proposal, such as government subsidies for elevating thousands of private homes. But ruin the view and hurt property values, no way. Not much different than the residents of Cape Cod objecting to renewable-energy windmills in Nantucket Sound.

 

Viva shortsightedness and selfishness!

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Welcome to Global Warming

Courtesy New York Times

No, that's not sarcasm or a typo. As Al Gore might say, it's an inconvenient truth. The same rising temperatures that are decimating the Arctic ice floe are responsible for unleashing the polar vortex that now has eighty percent of the nation in its grip.

 

The Arctic is warming at twice the speed as the planet as a whole. Less sea ice reduces the temperature difference with the mid-latitudes, which has consequences for circulation patterns in the atmosphere, like prolonged heat waves in the summer, or frigid conditions in winter. If you want to know all the details, read this. It's as complicated as it's counter-intuitive, but no less ominous.

 

It ought to be required reading for the three million Texans who are currently without any power or subject to rolling blackouts, and especially for their governor, Trump dead-ender Greg Abbott. He went on Fox News's Hannity Show last night to proclaim, "Our wind and our solar got shot down and they were collectively more than 10 percent of our power grid. And that thrust Texas into this situation…This shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America."

 

His blame game is particularly egregious, considering that a spokesman for the company that operates the electric grid in Texas had said hours earlier that frozen wind turbines were "the least significant factor in the blackouts," and noted that the main culprits were "frozen instruments at natural gas, coal and even nuclear facilities."

 

If facing up to the truth of global climate change is too much for the Governor, perhaps he should instruct the grid to purchase more electricity at an unconscionable mark-up from one of the many middlemen who exploit the system. Jake Krimmer, for example, the protagonist of my novel, The Eleventh Grieve, who before he redeems himself is making a fortune trading electricity futures off the miseries of climate change, a.k.a. weird weather. Alas, he's fictional, and I'm still waiting for a publisher to discover him, so the governor best consult the experts cited above, and stop fraternizing with the clowns on Fox News.

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The Fight Against Climate Change Goes Mass Market

The biggest news in the fight against climate change is not President Biden's decision on his first day in office to rejoin the Paris climate accords, or his appointment of John Kerry as climate czar. It's General Motors' decision to sell only zero-emission cars and trucks by 2035. That's huge.

 

Cars and trucks account for nearly twenty percent of all US greenhouse gas emissions. A typical vehicle emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. Electric vehicles led by Tesla are growing in popularity, but their sales are limited by their substantial purchase price.

 

General Motors is the epitome of a mass-market automotive manufacturer. To survive, much less prosper, they will have to sell their cars and trucks at a mass-market price. GM's decision was helped along by its experience with the 2022 Hummer EV Edition pick-up truck. The limited run of the first model year sold out in ten minutes.

 

Almost as huge is Apple's reported intentions to team up with Kia Motors and market electric vehicles by 2024. Apple is sure to bring its renowned design sense to automobiles and give Tesla stiff completion at the luxury end of the market. And competition inevitably drives prices down, and sales up.

 

Electric vehicles don't emit greenhouse gases but the production of the electricity that powers them still does contribute to climate change. Nonetheless, the reduction is significant. Use the EPAs nifty tailpipe emissions calculator to find out how much you personally could help save the planet by switching.

 

For example, on average, a Tesla Model 3 reduces total emissions by 70%, and in in my zip code, by an astonishing 95%. I've owned nothing but standard shift vehicles since I got my driver's license, but with reductions in greenhouse gases like these, I'm ready to put up with one-foot driving the next time I'm in the market. How about you?

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Snow Day Thoughts

As I watch the snow pile up this morning—the biggest storm in three years, more than a foot here in the exurbs of NYC and three feet in the Catskills—I'm waiting for some science-denying Trumpkopf to say that we could use a little global warming right now. Of course, they would be missing the point that it's not higher temperatures alone that are going to be our problem as the climate changes. Rooftop-high snowmageddons are as much a sign of the disruptive weather patterns we can expect as sweltering heat waves or monster hurricanes.

 

I am becoming increasingly optimistic that the incoming Biden administration will make combatting climate change a top priority. Appointing John Kerry as a special presidential envoy for the climate, and making it a cabinet level position, is both a statement about the importance of the issue to Biden and a thumb in the eye to his predecessor. I fully expect the new president will keep his promise to rejoin the Paris climate accord on day one of his administration.

 

Another hopeful sign is Biden's apparent intention to make climate policy an economic issue, not just an environmental problem. It's been two years since the 2018 National Climate Assessment, produced by thirteen federal agencies, predicted that climate change would reduce the size of the American economy by ten percent by century's end. Considering the record-breaking shrinking ice pack in the Arctic, it's a safe bet that the economic damage will be bigger and come sooner.

 

The appointments of Janet Yellen as Treasury secretary and Brian Deese as National Economic Council director reinforce the strategy of making climate change an economic issue.  If Yellen can take a break from pumping more "stimulus" into the stock market bubble, she has promised to promote "investments that will create jobs and address the tremendous challenge of climate change." And even if he has done time on Wall Street, Deese headed up President Obama's rescue of the auto industry back in 2009, and played a key role in negotiating the Paris climate accord.

 

But I think the most exciting appointment is that of Pete Buttigieg to be Secretary of Transportation. A big contributor to keeping our promise to reduce emissions will be making electric (and maybe even hydrogen-powered) vehicles mass market, not just Tesla toys for the rich. Someone as intelligent and articulate as Buttigieg has the ability to get that initiative moving.

 

And imagine Mayor Pete in cabinet meetings, keeping everyone awake with his smart insights and stream of new ideas. Please call him Secretary Pete now, and maybe even someday Mr. President!

 

So Merry Xmas to all, and here's to a better year in 2021, and an even better four years ahead. Skål!

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To the Planet: You're Fired!

Is there any doubt that the president is intent on imposing maximum damage on the country while he's still clinging to office? Aside from undermining the faith of the citizenry in free and fair elections, he's channeling his Apprentice persona and unleashing his inner-Nixon on his "enemies list."

 

If you've been following the news, you know that the president fired four top D.O.D. officials this week, including Mark Esper, the Defense Secretary, terminated by tweet. Four loyal and seemingly underqualified replacements now are in control of important offices in the Pentagon. At the same time, Trump named another loyalist as general counsel at the National Security Agency.

 

There are numerous rumbles about what the president is up to, and why anyone would accept a position in an administration that has a shelf life of only two months. Most of the speculation has centered on an end game of withdrawing troops from Afghanistan or initiating hostilities against Iran, wag-the-dog style.

 

Personally, I think there is a better chance—a long-shot but definitely non-trivial— that the president wants to have the option to request intervention by the military to some end that will help delay or overturn the election results. Esper was the man who pushed back the last time Trump wanted to call in the troops, using the Insurrection Act to justify action against "Antifa" rioters.

 

As reprehensible and un-American as any of those possible motives are, they would at least be the rational actions of an irrational man, desperate not to be a "loser." Less so, and less noticed, is the firing of other administration officials who have been charged with shaping the country's climate change policies.

 

Dr. Michael Kuperberg was removed as the chief scientist responsible for the National Climate Assessment, a report produced every four years based on input from thirteen federal agencies as well as outside scientists. In 2018, the report concluded that climate changed posed an "imminent and dire threat" to the United States and its economy. His likely replacement is a professor of geography at the University of Delaware who believes carbon dioxide "is plant food and not a pollutant."

 

Another casualty is Neil Chatterjee, the man in charge of the agency that regulates the nation's utilities. He was not terminated but only demoted. His offense was less offensive: publicly supporting the use of renewable power.

 

Presumably, President Biden will be able to reverse or rectify the climate change purges. And he'll put in his own team at the D.O.D. But if there was any doubt that Trump is a petty and vengeful man, without the temperament to occupy the highest office in the land, it's been erased in this weird, lame duck, interregnum period. And it begs the question, who is next?

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Truth or Consequences

The moment in last week's presidential debate when Joe Biden vowed to transition to renewable energy over time "because the oil industry pollutes significantly," Trump's face lit up with surprise and delight.

 

"Oh," Trump said mockingly, "there's a big statement."

 

"It is a big statement," Biden shot back.

 

As Democrats held their heads in their hands, Trump and his fellow traveler Republicans pounced on another Biden "gaffe." This was even better ammo than the outright lie they'd been peddling that Biden would end fracking.

 

"Basically, what he's saying is that he is going to destroy the oil industry," Trump said. "Will you remember that, Texas? Will you remember that, Pennsylvania? Will you remember that, Oklahoma?"

 

Biden's handlers lost no time hustling him into the spin room so that he could explain that he was talking about ending federal subsidies to the oil industry and that fossil fuels would not be eliminated until 2050.

 

But were Biden's word a gaffe or a hard truth that needed telling? Despite the politically prudent need to walk back his statements, and unlike about-to-be Supremo Amy Coney Barrett, Joe Biden was willing to declare in another follow-up interview that climate change is "the number one issue facing humanity" and that "unchecked, it is actually going to bake this planet."

 

My fingers are crossed that this incident will allow Biden to pick up more votes from the younger, climate-concerned generations than he'll lose from shortsighted voters in oil-producing states. But even if Trump hammers him for the rest of the week before the election, I hope Biden will stand up and defend his statements. Because if we don't hear this hard truth louder and more often, and from more politicians, we're going to have to face the consequences.

 

If that were to happen, the not-quite-saving grace is our divisiveness will have come to a natural end. We'll all be in the same place—in the oven.

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In case you missed it...In Her Own Words

The following is an unedited excerpt from yesterday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing questioning Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump's Supreme Court nominee. The subject is whether Judge Barrett believes in climate change.

 

Kamala Harris: Do you accept that COVID-19 is infectious?

 

Amy Coney Barrett: Uhh, I think, yes, I do accept that COVID-19 is infectious, that is something of which I feel we could say we take judicial notice of, it's an obvious fact, yes.

 

Kamala Harris: Do you accept that smoking causes cancer?

 

Amy Coney Barrett: I'm not sure exactly where you're going with this, but you know, the notice…(garbled)

 

Kamala Harris: Just a question of whether you can answer if you believe…you know…

 

Amy Coney Barrett: Senator Harris, yes, every package of cigarettes warns that smoking causes cancer.

 

Kamala Harris: And do you believe that climate change is happening and it's threatening the air we breathe and the water we drink.

 

Amy Coney Barrett: Uhh, Senator, again I was wondering where you were going with that. You have asked me a series of questions like that are completely uncontroversial, like whether COVID-19 is infectious, whether smoking causes cancer, and then trying to analogize that, soliciting an opinion on me that is a very contentious matter, an opinion from me that is on a very contentious matter of public debate. And I will not do that, I will not express a view on a matter of public policy especially one that is politically controversial because that's inconsistent with the judicial role, as I have explained.

 

Kamala Harris: Thank you, Judge Barrett. You've made your point that you believe this is a debatable point.

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In case you missed it...In His Own Words - Part II

The following is Part II of an unedited excerpt from Wedesday night's vice-presidential debate between Sen. Kamala Harris and V.P. Mike Pence, with USA Today's Susan Page as moderator. It is forwarded as a public service to provide you with a clear understanding of the Trump administration's thinking (sic) about climate change. It is particularly enlightening because it provides a definitive answer to the question of whether the Trump administration believes climate change is an existential threat to our planet. It also is a further demonstration of Trump Lite's debate strategy of ignoring the rules and hogging the microphone to give the opponent less air-time.

 

Susan Page: 

 

Senator Harris just said that climate change is an existential threat. Vice President Pence, do you believe that climate change poses an existential threat?


Mike Pence: (02:09)
As I said, Susan, the climate is changing. We'll follow the science. But once again, Senator Harris is denying the fact that they're going to raise taxes on every American. Joe Biden said twice in the debate last week, that on day one, he was going to repeal the Trump tax cuts. Those tax cuts delivered $2,000 in tax relief to the average family of four across America. And with regard to banning fracking, I just recommend that people look at the record. You yourself said repeatedly that you would ban fracking. You were the first Senate co-sponsor of the Green New Deal. And while Joe Biden denied the green new deal, Susan, thank you for pointing out. The Green New Deal is on their campaign website.

 

Mike Pence: (02:54)
And as USA TODAY said, it's essentially the same plan as you co-sponsored with AOC when she submitted it in the Senate. And you just heard the Senator say that she's going to resubmit America to the Paris climate accord. Look, the American people have always cherished our environment and will continue to cherish it. We've made great progress reducing CO2 emissions through American innovation and the development of natural gas through fracking. We don't need a massive $2 trillion Green New Deal that would impose all new mandates on American businesses and American families.

 

Susan Page: (03:30)
Thank you.

 

Mike Pence: (03:30)
Joe Biden wants us to retrofit-

 

Susan Page: (03:32)
Thank you Vice President Pence.

 

Mike Pence: (03:32)
Four million business-

 

Susan Page: (03:34)
Thank you Vice President Pence.

 

Mike Pence: (03:35)
Buildings. It makes no sense. It will cost jobs. President Trump-

 

Susan Page: (03:39)
Thank you Vice President Pence.

 

Mike Pence: (03:40)
He's going to put America first. He's going to put jobs first and we're going to take care of our environment and follow the science.

 

Susan Page: (03:45)
Thank you Vice President-

 

Elapsed time: One minute, thirty-one seconds of more malarkey

 

The full transcript is available here.

 

 

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Three Things You Might Have Missed But Shouldn’t Have

As the nation lurches towards Election Day, Week, or Months, it's difficult to concentrate on anything other than recent developments that might affect the outcome, but won't—like the president's zero-tax returns—because for both sides, extreme antipathy is now baked in.  So here are three things about the fight to save our planet that you might have missed.

 

Last week was Climate Week in New York City. This annual event "brings together business and government leaders to showcase amazing climate action and find ways to do more." Both China and the EU increased their pledges to reduce greenhouse gasses, with China promising to be carbon neutral by 2060. The "climate arsonist" in the White House, as Joe Biden recently characterized our president, continues to insist, "I don't think science knows."

 

The New York Times had a front page, above the fold, hellish picture of the wildfire in the Angeles National Forest in California. Every American should internalize the headline—A Climate Crossroads with 2 Paths: Merely Bad or Truly Horrific.

 

Finally, the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll reveals that climate change is the #1 issue for likely Democrat voters, followed by COVID and health care. For Republicans, the #1 issue is the economy, followed by abortion and crime. Climate change doesn't even make the top six.

 

Does that make you want to join me and throw a bucket of cold water on the climate arsonist?

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What Else Is He Deliberately Downplaying?

Courtesy nymag.com

You know who he is. He's the leader of a nation who believes the nation is better off not knowing the truth. He can tell Bob Woodward that COVID-19 is "more deadly than even your strenuous flus," while reassuring the nation that it will disappear "like a miracle." Many people believed what he knew to be true was a lie, a hoax. Many died for believing it. Many more will live with serious and lingering aftereffects, not only to their lungs and other organs, but neurological problems including a viral attack on the brain.

 

Jump to the fires ravaging California and Oregon and Washington. He falsely claimed that climate change was a hoax invented by China, and suggested that if only we "raked our forests" like Finland we wouldn't have this problem. Sound familiar?

Many people will die for believing him. Many more will die as our way of life becomes unrecognizable, on a planet where tragedy brought on by a changing climate—by fire, water, wind, and ice—will become an everyday occurrence.

 

Are his attempts to bolster his political fortunes by downplaying the truth worth this "American carnage?"

 

I put this blog on pause when the virus began to sweep the nation, believing that few of us had the mental bandwidth to deal with more than one overwhelming problem at a time. But it seems to me to be the right time now, to begin to speak out again. We are already in the midst of an election that will not only decide how we handle the ongoing pandemic and it's economic fallout, but also the long term prospects for our way of life, and perhaps even life itself on this planet.

 

Despite his stated concerns to Woodward about our emotional well-being, I for one believe it's time to panic.

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