Hey Hot Cakes!
Welp, the West Coast is boiling, the Gulf Coast is dealing with another hurricane, and global leaders have once again failed to come to any sort of agreement on how to act on climate. All that, plus how the right-wing backlash against Critical Race Theory intersects with climate denial, and of course the weekly digest.
Mary & Amy
Going in Circles
By Mary Annaïse Heglar
This weekend, the third named storm of the 2021 hurricane season, Tropical Storm Claudette, made a soggy landfall on the Gulf Coast. After last year’s hurricane season that took us deep into the Greek alphabet (seriously, I didn’t even know there were that many Greek letters!), I imagine every state with a coastline is going to be holding its breath all the way til November.
But even at the height of the hurricanes last year, we barely heard about them in the national media. My best guess as to why? Because they were pummeling the Gulf Coast and not the East Coast, where the mainstream media lives. If that bodes poorly for places like Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, let’s spare a thought for what it means for places even further away. For one thing, the hurricanes that battered the Gulf Coast last year usually wreaked havoc in the Caribbean and Latin America first—places where resilience has already been woefully worn down.
Then, consider India, which has already seen two cyclones this year: Yaas (very severe) and Tauktae (extremely severe). The latter was actually the strongest storm to ever hit western India, which is alarming since that Arabian Sea used to be much calmer than the Bay of Bengal on the eastern coast of India. In fact, Tauktae developed into a severe cyclonic storm in two days. It usually takes at least five days for a storm to reach that threshold. It’s recorded to have killed 174 people and displaced a still unknown number. And this in the middle of a pandemic.
Once upon a time, these events would have been headline-dominating world tragedies. And those headlines would have generated compassion, which would have turned into much-needed donations. But that’s not the world we live in anymore. I fear that we’ve skipped quickly from climate acceptance to climate apathy. That’s not the world I want to live in.
BP <3 Shell
By Mary Annaïse Heglar and Amy Westervelt
So, in our last podcast episode, we had a nice little cackle about Shell getting absolutely owned at the Hague (of all places). They got held to account for all their emissions—rooter to tooter—and had their whole “but the government isn’t making us do it” excuse shot down. It was glorious. But in that episode, we wondered both what Shell was going to actually do in this moment and...what’s going on over there at BP? In a week where all their top competitors were getting their asses kicked, they had to be feeling either smug or vulnerable, right?
Well, this week, we got that answer when Shell’s CEO got super emo over on LinkedIn about how unfair it all is, and then BP’s CEO Bernard Looney came in with a little pat on a back. Earther’s Molly Taft has a way more informed and nuanced take on the whole thing, so we don’t need to do that here. Instead, we’re just gonna do what we do best: be two petty ass work wives. Here’s a loose transcript of our text messages when we saw this screenshot (because neither of us is on LinkedIn).
Mary: You see this shit?
Amy: Holy shit
Mary: I’m legit crying
Amy: I mean….they really?
Mary: just like a lil bitch
Amy: [cackles indistinguishably]
If Biden Wants the World to Act on Climate, He Needs to Start at Home
By Amy Westervelt
President Biden made tackling climate and Covid his two big agenda items as he headed to the G7 Summit earlier this month. Now the summit has closed and G7 leaders have agreed to chip in on vaccines for all, which is great. But there was no agreement on collective climate action. Which is perhaps unsurprising, given that the country most responsible for climate change is utterly failing to tackle it at home. Please save your "well actually" on China and India emissions.The U.S. is by far the largest historical emitter. And besides, when I say "most responsible," I am not just talking about our emissions. America literally started the oil industry, gave rise to the companies that blocked global climate action, and American companies still provide much of the world's oil and gas, while continuing to block climate policy wherever they can. So yeah, we're "most responsible" for the global climate crisis.
No surprise then, that when Uncle Joe comes asking for climate kumbaya, people tell him to clean up his own house first. The G7 Summit coincided with the news that White House climate adviser Gina McCarthy was saying that measures like "a clean electricity standard may not end [up] in the final version" of the infrastructure deal Biden's been trying to secure for months. That's mostly due to GOP blocks in the Senate, but Biden and his administration, as predicted, seem a little too enamored of bipartisanship in the face of a crisis.
Meanwhile, Biden has been stalling on giving the country and the world a clear position on liquefied natural gas. As he dithers, more and more LNG terminals are being built—these are export terminals, intended to supply the world with American LNG. If Biden wants to be taken seriously in any sort of international climate discussion, he can't just send John Kerry around the world to lecture other countries about their fossil fuel use. Maybe I'm just grumpy because I'm melting in the intense West Coast heat wave, but perhaps what we need instead of a globe-trotting "climate czar" is a domestic accountability czar. Someone who doesn't give a shit about what fossil fuel companies will allow, or what's most appealing politically, but will just spend all of their time figuring out how to wind down fossil fuel development, period.
Surprise! Critical Race Theory and Climate Action Have the Same Haters
By Amy Westervelt
The debate over teaching critical race theory in American schools absolutely dovetails with climate change in both obvious and hidden ways. If you need an explainer on what critical race theory is, here's a great piece that ran in The Economist recently. In a nutshell, it's the acknowledgement of structural racism in the U.S., and the study of how it plays out in myriad ways. It's been around since the 1970s, but suddenly Republican governors are enraged that aspects of it might be taught in schools and they're pushing through legislation to ban it—so far that's happened in Texas, Idaho, and Tennessee, with several other states batting around the idea.
None of this should be surprising, especially when you remember that Brown vs. Board of Education is the policy that drew the Kochs into politics in the first place., but the backlash against CRT is a slightly new, libertarian flavor that was crystallized in the 1980s when the civil rights division of Reagan's Department of Justice decided that the most important civil rights battle was really reverse discrimination. Against white people. Folks, I wish I was making this up. It came to a head in the 1990s around efforts to modernize the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
What does all this have to do with climate change, you ask? The same people and foundations that have, for decades, funded opposition to civil rights, affirmative action and, now, Critical Race Theory, are the ones who have funded climate denial. The Koch brothers and the many organizations they fund (including Donors Trust, State Policy Network, the Heritage Foundation, and the Cato Institute); the Bradley Foundation—which manages to be less well-known, despite spending even more than the Kochs on the right-wing agenda; the Searle Freedom Trust; the Scaife Family Foundations. And the legal arm of it all, the Republican Attorney Generals Association. Scratch the surface of any campaign against Critical Race Theory and you'll find one or more of these folks funding it. Scratch the surface of any campaign against climate action? Same folks. The re-open rallies around Covid? Same. The Capitol Riots? Same, girl, same.
This is why I always find it so infuriating when I hear progressives say, as many did when the Green New Deal was first announced, that we can't address systemic racism and climate change at the same time, that it's too much to ask people to walk and chew gum. The right wing does it all the time! The literal same people and foundations are behind the right's push to declare that both systemic racism and climate change don't exist. Why shouldn't the countermovement combine the two?
A weekly round-up of climate coverage.
Rising Temperatures, Rising Tides
What “back to normal” means for climate change after Covid-19, by Rebecca Leber for Vox
Here are some things to know about the extreme drought in the Western U.S., by Celine Tebor for the Los Angeles Times
The amount of heat the Earth traps has doubled since 2005, NASA says, by Tik Root for The Washington Post
Earth is trapping ‘unprecedented’ amount of heat, Nasa says, by Victoria Bekiempis for The Guardian
Record-setting heat blasts the West: ‘Your skin is almost sizzling’, by Sarah Kaplan for The Washington Post
To Understand How Warming is Driving Harmful Algal Blooms, Look to Regional Patterns, Not Global Trends, by Haley Dunleavy for InsideClimate News
‘Potentially the worst drought in 1,200 years’: scientists on the scorching US heatwave, by Maanvi Singh for The Guardian
More than half of Europe’s cities still plagued by dirty air, report finds, by Fiona Harvey for The Guardian
Sweltering Texans urged to reduce cooking and cleaning to ease grid strain, by Katharine Gammon for The Guardian
Climate crisis to hit Europe’s coffee and chocolate supplies, by Damian Carrington for The Guardian
How are our cities going to look in a rapidly heating world? It won’t be long before 50C will be normal, by James Bradley for The Guardian
2021 wildfire forecasts for the western US: heat, drought, uncertainty, by Umair Irfan for Vox
Climate Change Batters the West Before Summer Even Begins by Brad Plumer, Jack Healy, Winston Choi-Schagrin and Henry Fountain for the New York Times
What Is a Megadrought? by Henry Fountain for the New York Times
Texas Power Grid, Strained Last Winter, Now Faces an Early Heat Wave by John Schwartz and Ivan Penn for the New York Times
The Climate Presidency
Democrats to Biden: No climate provisions, no vote for infrastructure deal, by Valerie Volcovici for Reuters
Judge Terry A. Dought of the US District Court issues an injunction to block the Interior Department policy, by Joshua Parlow and Juliet Eilperin for The Washington Post
Biden administration reinstates roadless rule for Alaska's Tongass National Forest, by Juliet Eilperin for The Washington Post
Senators Collins and Blumenthal move to ban toxic PFAS chemicals in cosmetics, which scientists say are 'widespread' and unlabeled, by Tik Root for The Washington Post
Biden Can Still Reduce Drilling on Public Lands, by Nick A. Martin for The New Republic
When Ed Markey Tweets “No Climate, No Deal,” What Does He Mean?, by Kate Aronoff for The New Republic
Will Biden Be Forced to Give Up What Some Say is His Best Shot at Tackling Climate Change?, by Marianne Lavelle for InsideClimate News
Federal Judge Says Biden Cannot Pause New Leases for Drilling on Public Lands by Coral Davenport for the New York Times
G7 Nations Take Aggressive Climate Action but Hold Back on Coal by Michael D. Shear, Lisa Friedman and Catrin Einhorn for the New York Times
Biden's offshore wind bonanza is coming to NY and NJ by Emily Pontecorvo for Grist
Trump Judge Blocks Biden Pause on Oil and Gas Leases by Brian Kahn for Earther
Analysis: With Trump gone, NATO wages war on climate threat, by Sabine Siebold and Robin Emmott for Reuters
SCOTUS takes a pass on Chevron appeal in climate lawsuit, by Sebastien Malo for Reutes
UN Climate Talks Slowed by Covid Woes and Technical Squabbles, by Bob Berwyn for InsideClimate News
Fox News' Bret Baier Has Been Spreading Climate Misinformation Since 2009: Report, by Geoff Dembicki for Vice
Justice Is Justice Is Justice
A New Zealand chapter of Greta Thunberg-linked climate movement disbands itself for being ‘racist’, by Michael E. Miller for The Washington Post
The Unequal Distribution of Covid Vaccines Is a Preview of the Coming Climate Apartheid, by Kate Aronoff for The New Republic
High greenhouse gas emitters should pay for carbon they produce, says IMF, by Fiona Harvey for The Guardian
The Line 3 Pipeline Fight Is the Next Standing Rock, by Samir Ferdowsi for Vice
During wildfires and hurricanes, a language gap can be deadly by Kate Yoder fr Grist
How returning lands to Native tribes is helping protect nature by Jim Robbins for Grist
Glimmers of Hope
Protein-Filled, With a Low Carbon Footprint, Insects Creep Up on the Human Diet, by Emiko Terazono for InsideClimate News
Living shorelines could help California coasts adapt to rising sea levels by Alexandria Herr for Grist
Is the Controlled Shrinking of Economies a Better Bet to Slow Climate Change Than Unproven Technologies?, by Bob Berwyn for InsideClimate News
Salamanders have a secret to survive drought, heat waves, and climate change, by Benji Jones for Vox
Climate in Culture
Vatican to host 'Faith and Science' talks to raise stakes ahead of U.N. climate summit, by Philip Pullella for Reuters
Q&A with 'The Spirit of Green' author William Nordhaus, by Steven Mufson for The Washington Post
We Don’t Need Science Fiction to Avert Climate Catastrophe, by John Hockenos for The Nation
Warming Trends: A Song for the Planet, Secrets of Hempcrete and Butterfly Snapshots, by Katelyn Weisbrod for InsideClimate News
How Women Can Save the Planet by Anne Karpf review – clear and invigorating, by Rebecca Liu for The Guardian
Second Nature by Nathaniel Rich; Under a White Sky by Elizabeth Kolbert review – Earth SOS, by Robin McKie for The Guardian
These bots are clicking on millions of ads — for the climate by Kate Yoder for Grist
Bot Clicking Ads on Climate Articles Shows the News Is Broken by Dharna Noor for Earther
Brad Lander Knows How to Achieve the Big, Bold Structural Changes That Will Transform New York, by John Nichols for The Nation
Should more people eat insects? By Dylan Matthews for Vox
Are white people bad for the environment? by Eve Andrews for Grist
I Made Peace With Flying Less by Brian Kahn for Earther