A June study found that most registered voters had not heard of the Inflation Reduction Act with its hundreds of billions of dollars being used to leverage an acceleration of the transition to clean energy so we can zero out the emission of greenhouse gases that are literally killing us.
A month ago, The Washington Post and University of Maryland conducted a poll showing that a majority of Americans disapprove of President Biden’s climate policy and that they know next to nothing about it. Read a brief description of the IRA, they approved of it, This ignorance on the part of the public is a media problem as much or more than it is a Democratic messaging problem, although that too could use some honing.
That’s why it was encouraging this past week to finally see some widespread positive national attention accorded to the first anniversary of the IRA. And it was good to see President Biden in a celebratory mood because there is much to celebrate. To celebrate and to slam Republicans for voting against the act while praising IRA-funded projects in their districts. Even though its effects are as yet far from fully evident, the IRA is working pretty much as expected.
Ultimately, the headlines tell the story. Here’s a taste:
The climate news is often nightmarish these days, but there’s a ton of encouraging news happening on the green transition front. For instance, the Clean Energy Investing in America report of the American Clean Power Association shows that federal support as a result of the IRA has generated private investment announcements of a total of $271 billion in domestic clean energy projects and manufacturing facilities since last August. That’s more in one year than was privately invested for such projects in the previous eight years combined.
The announced projects include 184.85 gigawatts of utility-scale clean electricity capacity (about 15% of total current U.S. capacity from all sources). In addition, the researchers counted 83 new or enlarged clean energy manufacturing facilities that will employ 30,000 workers. Things are happening so fast that those statistics will be outdated in a month.
Meanwhile, of 210 major clean energy manufacturing projects announced since the IRA passed, Republican congressional districts have received 72% of the 74,181 new jobs and 86% of the $86.3 billion in private investment, according to tracking by E2.
The Solar Energy Industries Association reports in an analysis that in the last year, spurred by the IRA, U.S. solar and energy storage companies have announced more than $100 billion in private sector investments. The association projects that by 2026, the U.S. will have more 17 times its current manufacturing capacity across the supply chain. That would be enough to supply most solar projects expected to be built in the U.S.
This technocratic transformation that so much of the IRA focuses on is only one element of dealing with the climate and biodiversity crises. And many activists who are supportive of the law are nevertheless unhappy with its omissions. So if you happen to think that there are flaws in the Inflation Reduction Act, if you think it doesn’t go far enough or spend enough, if you wish Biden had included as many sticks as carrots in it, please join the queue. (Under “Ecopinion” below are excerpts from several takes on the IRA.)
But while the act isn’t everything it could be, it’s a result of what was (barely) possible under the circumstances, and despite its flaws, getting it passed was very much a BFD. Thus, those of us who have pushed for an energy-focused federal industrial policy since President Jimmy Carter was in office, and were hopeful President Barack Obama would adopt one, are finally witness to the U.S. actually getting one, just like every other rich, developed country on Earth.
Wrecking the IRA is the Republican mission.
Strengthening it should be every Democrat’s goal.
As has been widely noted, it’s ironic that Republican-dominated states are getting a big chunk of the benefits. In an analysis of IRA tax breaks, for instance, the environmental think tank RMI (formerly known as the Rocky Mountain Institute), showed that the top 10 states for potential clean energy federal investment on a per capita basis are red states.
Yet we have one of the sad sacks of the Republican Party presidential parade, the former rising GOP star Nikki Haley, treating the IRA as if it’s a five-year plan that Mao Zedong wrote from his catafalque. She said, "The IRA is a communist manifesto filled with tax hikes and green subsidies that benefit China and make America more dependent on Beijing.” Other prominent Republicans like Tim Scott have taken a similar tack.
As Scott Waldman at ClimateWire writes:
The message comes straight from the fossil-fuel industry. A coalition of energy groups released a report this week, “Where Green Meets Red: How the Environment Agenda is Making America Dependent on China.”
“There is no question China will stand to receive billions from the largest green giveaway in American history,” the report states, referring to the Inflation Reduction Act.
Nobody disputes that China is the dominant supplier of critical minerals that are essential to clean energy projects and other technologies. A primary aim of the Inflation Reduction Act is to break that stranglehold.
Exactly. The reality is that the IRA is specifically designed, over time, to reduce U.S. and worldwide dependence on China-dominated supply chains, especially for the batteries and battery materials that underpin global electrification.
But, on the climate crisis, reality is something with which Haley and most congressional Republicans have a tenuous connection. Do not forget that 149 GOP members of Congress have a history of climate science denial. Every day since the IRA passed a year ago without a single vote from Republicans, they have sought to sabotage it. They are determined to continue on that path. Hannah Northey and Timothy Cama explain How a Republican president could hobble the climate law.
The Republican attacks are one reason it’s good to see Biden adopting the approach several advocates suggested early on: focus on specific projects and call out Republicans who voted against the IRA but now laud projects funded by it. The president has done this several times with a twinkle in his eye, in a sort of “gotcha-but-I-still-love-ya” Bidenesque way, but there’s still a sting in that honey.
Videos of local events celebrating IRA-funded projects should come not just from Biden but from Democratic incumbents and Democratic challengers for the next 14 months. There will be hundreds of such projects to celebrate, thousands of jobs created, and new infrastructure built that reduces demand for carbon emitting products and processes. Democrats made this happen, Republicans tried to stop it, and they are still trying. There’s nothing wonky or wimpy about Democrats drawing on this contrast, a campaign message that can be localized as needed to touch voters directly where they live.
But so far there’s been a missing part. Democrats should not only talk about specific IRA benefits already being used or in the pipeline and about how Republicans have tried to deep-six the law. They should also tout what Democrats will do to improve the IRA and pass other climate-related legislation if they are elected in large enough numbers. Given what didn’t make it into the IRA, there is plenty to choose from. And, as every climate scientist and activist says, time is short if we expect to make a difference.
You may remember there was an attempt at something significantly broader and more amply funded than the IRA called the Build Back Better Act. In its earliest, informal days, under other names, $10 trillion was talked about. That swiftly became $6 trillion, then $3.5 trillion, then $1.5 trillion. Ultimately, Sen. Joe Manchin sandbagged the last attempt to negotiate a final BBBA, but he returned months later to put his blessing and imprint on the IRA with its $370 billion. Now he’s blasting Biden for supposedly turning it into a climate bill instead of an all-of-the-above energy bill the senator claims was his intent. Plus, of course, he’s teasing about running for the presidency as an independent fronted by the phony No Labels spoilers. Surreal times these be.
Wrecking the IRA is the Republican mission. Strengthening it should be every Democrat’s goal. Happily, the campaign advertisements and speeches using the IRA’s progress as a springboard practically write themselves. All the voters uninformed about the law like those in the above-mentioned poll should be exposed to that message many, many times before they cast their ballots next year.
For years, the giant oil companies and their pals have maneuvered to keep climate liability suits from being tried in state courts, arguing that the proper jurisdiction are federal courts. By the end of 2022, 27 states and municipalities had filed suits against oil companies for compensation in what could be the biggest fraud of the past 100 years. That says a lot given the deadly fraud Big Tobacco pulled off for decades before the courts gave the industry a $206 billion comeuppance a decade and a half ago. Of the climate suits, Richard Wiley of the Center for Climate Integrity wrote last year:
Plaintiffs are seeking to make those companies and other polluters pay their fair share of the astronomical bills communities now face from rising seas, extreme heat, and other fossil-fueled climate damages.
Big Oil defendants are terrified that these cases will reach trial in state courts, where juries would be shown the long trail of evidence of their climate deception, and the companies would face — in their own words from US Supreme Court petitions—“massive monetary liability.”
The trouble for Big Oil? They could find no district or appeals court judge that agreed with them about changing from state to federal jurisdiction. And in April, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to take up five requests from the industry calling for such a venue change in a dozen cases brought by municipalities. Six appeals courts had previously ruled against moving from state courts to federal.
While industry spokespersons and the PR machines of conservative think-tanks cranked out the predictable whine calling the whole notion of climate liability being bogus, Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha, a Democrat whose state filed a climate damage and deception suit in 2018, said of the ruling, “After decades of climate change deception by the fossil fuel defendants, and now nearly half a decade of delay tactics in our lawsuit to hold them accountable for it, our residents, workers, businesses and taxpayers are ready for their day in court. Now that the Supreme Court has affirmed the decisions of dozens of federal judges across the country, it is time to prepare for trial.”
But just as it told lies for decades about the climate crisis for profits’ sake, the industry isn’t surrendering now when big hunks of future profits could be paid out in liability compensation. The companies and pro-industry groups are attacking the alleged bias of state judges assigned to climate liability cases, as reported at ClimateWire by Lesley Clark.
In Hawai’i, for example, the conservative Energy Policy Advocates is campaigning in the media to challenge the impartiality of Republican-appointed state Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald. He’s hearing the climate liability lawsuit brought against oil and gas companies by the city and county of Honolulu. Their complaint arises over his involvement with the Environmental Law Institute, a Washington-based nonprofit that runs seminars for lawyers and judges. Energy Policy Advocates claims the institute spotlights attorneys and groups that support climate liability lawsuits, while “dissenting voices skeptical of the plaintiffs/claims never feature at such events.”
The right-wing Daily Caller labeled the institute a “D.C-based environmental group that has close ties to the plaintiff’s attorneys.” Other right-wing media outlets, including Fox News, have asserted that the institute “boasts numerous connections” to Sher Edling LLP, the California-based law firm representing Honolulu in the climate case. These media also point to links between the institute and Michael Burger, executive director of Columbia University Law School’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, and Ann Carlson. Her nomination to head the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was withdrawn by the Biden administration after Republicans and industry groups accused her, among other things, of helping recruit municipalities to file climate liability lawsuits.
But as Clark points out:
The oil and gas industry is also represented in the Environmental Law Institute’s leadership ranks. The institute’s board of directors includes executives from BP PLC and Shell PLC, which have been named in several of the climate liability lawsuits, along with attorneys from law firms that represent oil and gas companies. Board members include Raymond Ludwiszewski, a partner with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, a firm that represents Chevron, a defendant in most of the climate liability lawsuits.
Scott Janoe, a partner with the law firm Baker Botts LLP — which represents Sunoco LP and its subsidiary, Aloha Petroleum Ltd., in the Honolulu case — is a member of the Environmental Law Institute’s Leadership Council, which backs the group financially. Another Baker Botts partner, Alexandra Dunn, is also a member of the leadership council. Dunn led EPA’s chemicals office during the Trump administration.
According to DeSmog, Climate Liability News,.an outlet that has ceased posting, reported in 2018 that the website of Energy Policy Advocates, “while claiming to be a neutral clearinghouse for documents, records and information on climate change lawsuits, is run by an attorney with a long history of ties to the coal industry, and strikes an antagonistic tone in describing these lawsuits as a ‘perversion of the justice system’ and the modern equivalent to burning witches.”
Chris Thorogood is an evolutionary botanist who serves as head of science and public engagement for Oxford Botanic Garden and Arboretum in the United Kingdom. Much of his time is spent researching the genetics or taxonomy of plants all around the world. But he also draws them. His work has and been published in numerous scientific journals, magazines, and books like Weird Plants and The Botany of Gin (the latter coauthored with Simon Hiscock). John R. Plant interviewed Thorogood two years ago for The Revelator. Here’s a couple of Q&As from their talk:
Has being an artist improved your science?
Oh, I like that question… Yes, it has, because you’re always looking and being inquisitive and examining. I mean, if you think about art in terms of illustration or drawing or capturing something, and if you strip it back to basics, you have to look very closely at what it is. And you’re questioning it. Maybe not cognizantly, but you’re permanently asking questions and then you capture it on paper. And I think having that artistic side to sort of examine, scrutinize, make sense of, and seek to understand — that’s what a scientist does, asks questions and tries to find the answers to them.
Right. And you’ve also got another unique role in that you’re a science communicator. So these things must all bleed together.
They do seem to do that, but I didn’t necessarily plan it in that way.
I’m very passionate about the importance of plants. I think they’re sometimes neglected, particularly when it comes to messages about conservation and the importance of biodiversity. People are excited by animals. They’re engaged and intrigued by animals, and often not so much with plants. You talk to people and that know, plants are beautiful or they’re great in my garden. But they see them as a backdrop for animals to exist against.
I like to find ways to gently challenge that notion and to help people to see plants in a different way so that we might get better at valuing them, understanding them, and then hopefully protecting them and conserving them. So I think that communication isn’t necessarily something that I ever planned to do, but I think like all things should come first from your sort of your compass and your passion. And I suppose that’s where it does for me.
RESOURCES & ACTION
Global Climate Strike on Sept. 15-17 to End the Era of Fossil Fuels. Local groups across the U.S. will hold actions on September 15. Some local groups along the East Coast will be striking in New York City together with a mass mobilization on September 17. Wherever you live, you can Join one of the numerous mobilizations, demonstrations, rallies, marches, and more happening across the planet. Find your local group. Or start one.
Urban Gardening 101: Everything You Need to Know. Since urban gardens come in so many forms for all sizes and types of spaces, you can turn practically any urban setting into a garden oasis. Your urban garden can offer benefits for your health and grocery bill while improving soil and water quality. It can have a positive impact on the climate by helping to draw down and store carbon while providing habitat for pollinators and other wildlife. It can improve local biodiversity and help you connect with neighbors and the wider community. After all, what better gift is there than a ripe, juicy strawberry or a fresh, hand-picked salad?
10 Must-Read Environmental Books. This list put together for Treehugger by Gabriella Sotelo explores conservation and the climate crisis from scientific, social, political, and personal perspectives. Many of the books on the list—like “Merchants of Doubt”—were published years ago, but still resonate.
Books for our new, climate-changed summers. In by Michael Svoboda’s review at Yale Climate Connections of new, environmentally oriented books, he asks whether our traditional notions of “summer reading” can survive the radical revision of the season and offers a “yes and no” answer. Yes, there are still books that thrill, books that offer quirky takes on history, books that take us to new places, and books that connect us with nature and the soil. In short, there are still “enticing and eminently readable selections of fiction and nonfiction. But, no, the carefree vibe of summers past is gone.”
See inside the Grand Canyon region’s new monument. The newly designated Baaj Nwaavjo I'tah Kukveni-Grand Canyon National Monument encompasses a swath of incredible landscapes, nearly 1 million acres of Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service lands. In many respects, though, its natural beauty hides in the shadow of the more famous Grand Canyon. Lee Necefer, along with fellow Diné photographer Mylo Fowler and writer Jonnah Perkins, spent nearly a week in the area, heading south from Kanab, Utah, to the new monument’s northwestern region, and taking gorgeous photos of these lands newly protected by President Biden’s decision.
“Present needs and present gains was the rule of action—which seems to be a sort of transmitted quality which we in our now enlightened time have not wholly outgrown, for even now a few men can be found who seem willing to destroy the last tree, the last fish and the last game bird and animal, and leave nothing for posterity, if thereby some money can be made.” Report on conservation by the North Dakota Fish and Game Commissioner in 1894.
The Inflation Reduction Act finally gave the U.S. a real climate change policy by Josh Bivens at the Economic Policy Institute. Put simply, the IRA puts the U.S. on a path where meeting its global climate change commitments is within reach—commitments which would provide a genuine chance at securing a livable planet for future generations if they are kept. At the beginning of August 2022, there was no such path to secure this livable future, but there is now—and that is a mammoth victory. The IRA was essentially a climate change bill that included extraordinarily important health and tax changes as ride-alongs. If the bill had only included these health and tax policy changes, it would have been eminently worthy of applause. The fact that these changes were essentially side-shows to the IRA’s climate impacts is one clue about how transformative it might turn out to be [...] Of course, the IRA is far from perfect, and it does not solve all problems in the U.S. economy. For one, it’s an industrial policy bill, and many of the key challenges the U.S. economy faces are not well-suited to industrial policy solutions. And even some opportunities it had to ameliorate some of these more fundamental problems in the U.S. economy were lost along the way. For example, recent decades have seen ferocious employer opposition to unionization and collective bargaining, and public policy has not maintained a level playing field that protects workers’ organizing ri ghts against this opposition. This means that whenever any kind of economic churn moves jobs out of legacy unionized sectors in the U.S. and into new sectors, the new jobs are far less likely to be unionized.
Happy Birthday, Inflation Reduction Act by Osha Gray Davidson at Sierra Magazine. The landmark climate legislation is a marathon, not a sprint, but it’s already accomplishing its goal. Maren Mahoney directs Arizona’s Office of Resiliency, which was created, in part, to apply for the state incentives made possible by the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2022. So far, Mahoney said, Arizona has secured over $1 billion for clean energy development, creating 12,000 jobs. She believes the state ranks number one in creating those new jobs in communities of color, especially among the state’s large Latino population. “There’s so much we need to get done,” she said, “but there’s now so much opportunity as well.” Although the Inflation Reduction Act didn’t garner a single Republican vote in either the US House or Senate, the new clean energy infrastructure is being built in both red and blue states. While that may sound unfair to the Democrats who passed the bill, it’s good news for the long-term prospects of a zero-carbon economy, according to Jackson Ewing, director of energy and climate policy at the Nicholas Institute of Energy, Environment and Sustainability at Duke University. “We’re seeing amplification of clean energy business opportunities created by the IRA all across the country, regardless of politics,” Ewing said.
Biden’s Climate Bill Was Too Tame. Here Are Four Fixes by Mark Gongloff at Bloomberg Green. In a perfect world, America’s major political parties would argue not about whether to fight the climate change fueling devastating heat waves across the country, but how to fight it. In our imperfect world, one party has vowed to do more on climate. The other party has vowed to do … the opposite of that. A year ago this week, President Joe Biden and fellow Democrats in Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act, the biggest US climate bill in history. But it was far from perfect. It left the US with no realistic path toward meeting its stated goal of zeroing carbon emissions by 2050. At the rate we’re still pumping planet-heating carbon into the atmosphere, today’s heat waves could come to seem downright pleasant. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer vowed recently to enact more climate legislation should Democrats gain filibuster-proof control of lawmaking in the 2024 election. Republicans, meanwhile, have detailed plans to dismantle the IRA and Biden’s other climate actions if they retake the White House and Senate
Q&A: Former Schumer aide on IRA behind the scenes by Emma Dumain at E&E News. Congressional staffers are trained to be aggressively uninterested in making themselves the story. Their bosses, the lawmakers, are the ones meant to be the focus of the news. Gerry Petrella subscribed to that philosophy, too, for the 15 years he spent as a senior aide to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), eight as his policy director. But now Petrella is off Capitol Hill — he decamped this spring to be general manager for public policy at Microsoft — and he’s ready to talk.
As Biden Touts Clean Energy Perks of Inflation Reduction Act, He Moves in Opposite Direction With New Fossil Fuel Projects, Faulty Carbon Capture Schemes by Wenonah Hauter at Food & Water Watch. “President Biden can talk until he’s blue in the face about investments in clean energy, but as long as he continues to approve massive new fossil fuel projects throughout the country, we keep moving backwards on the path to a livable climate future. No amount of investment in wind turbines, solar panels or faulty carbon capture schemes will protect our environment or stabilize our climate if we simultaneously extract and burn more and more oil and gas.The Alaska Willow drilling project, the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a plethora of new LNG export terminals - these are among the features of Biden’s energy legacy that will doom us to climate catastrophe if he doesn’t change course now. Meanwhile, President Biden’s massive investments in unproven, impossibly expensive carbon capture schemes serve only to allow the fossil fuel industry to keep doing what it does best - drill, frack, pump and pollute - under the premise that a mysterious, magical technology will somehow clean it all up. These faulty initiatives are sucking away precious time and money that could otherwise be spent on legitimate clean energy projects like wind, solar and building efficiency.”
The Deadly Intersection of Labor Exploitation and Climate Change by Sonali Kolhatkar at Resilience. What we are witnessing with such increasingly common instances is capitalism-induced climate change intersecting with capitalism-induced labor exploitation. It’s a deadly combination and one that is being discussed in ways that obscure its causes and solutions. Take the corporate media, whose coverage has focused on the pro-business buzzword of “productivity.” CBS worried in an August 1, 2023 story, “How Hot Weather Affects Worker Productivity—and What That Means for the Economy.” The New York Times similarly lamented in a July 31, 2023 headline, that “Heat Is Costing the U.S. Economy Billions in Lost Productivity.” The cost to the economy (a euphemism for stock values and profit margins) is the bottom line—not the safety and health of human beings. Therefore, it matters a great deal that, as per the Times, “more than 2.5 billion hours of labor in the U.S. agriculture, construction, manufacturing, and service sectors were lost to heat exposure.”
Climate and colonialism in coverage of Hawai‘i’s wildfires by Jon Allsop at the Columbia Journalism Review. As with the 2018 fires around Paradise, California, and myriad other extreme weather events since, the recent coverage of Hawai‘i has contained familiar flaws. The fires have been a huge national story, but they haven’t penetrated to the same extent everywhere, with political media particularly culpable. Over the weekend, Politico’s influential Playbook newsletter offered more in-depth coverage of a different state—Iowa—as Republican presidential candidates grilled meat at the State Fair ahead of caucuses that are still five months away; yesterday, several agenda-setting Sunday shows gave more airtime to the special-counsel investigation into Hunter Biden, the president’s son. (Meet the Press featured twenty-two mentions of “Hunter” and two of “Hawai‘i.”) And even when the fires have been the top story, coverage has not consistently situated them in the context of climate change. Evlondo Cooper, a researcher at Media Matters for America, assessed two hundred and nine segments about the fires on six major networks across two days last week. Just 4 percent of them mentioned climate change. Coverage of the fires also pointed to dynamics that are specific to Hawai‘i, and which call to mind an article that Alexandria Neason—my former CJR colleague, who used to live in the state—wrote for our Climate Issue in 2020. “I have come to view the American presence on the island as a pyramid of destruction,” Neason wrote, with the US military at the base and capitalism—not least of the tourist variety—as the central block.
HALF A DOZEN MORE THINGS TO READ (OR LISTEN TO)
35 Climate, Clean Energy and Labor Organizations Launch “Made By US” Clean Energy Storytelling Campaign from Earthjustice. Climate Power and over 30 partners today launched the Made by US campaign aimed at educating Americans on the successes of President Biden’s clean energy plan. The Made by US campaign will lift up stories and showcase the workers and communities benefiting from the clean energy plan through earned and paid media, digital campaigns, and a series of events throughout August and into fall. To kick off the campaign, Made by US is launching a six figure television and digital ad campaign. “Dana,” airing nationally, features a new mom who has a well-paying job with good benefits in clean energy that is emblematic of the 170k+ new jobs already created by President Biden’s historic clean energy plan in the past year. It will be complemented by full paid print and digital ads in key markets across the country. “The Made in America clean energy boom is happening here, and it’s happening right now,” said Climate Power Executive Director Lori Lodes. “Investments made possible by President Biden’s clean energy plan are revitalizing communities and bringing back good-paying jobs. It’s imperative that we tell the stories of the workers across the country who have benefitted from the Inflation Reduction Act and make sure Americans understand that our clean energy boom is just getting started.” The Made by US campaign includes 35 critical organizations across the climate and clean energy space.
Schoolyards as Civics Labs by Lisa W. Foderaro at Trust for Public Land. At Stonewall Tell Elementary School outside Atlanta, a new schoolyard is being designed with a suite of cool features: a shade pavilion, benches, climbing equipment, a path marked with sprinting distances that connects to the school building, and outdoor musical instruments like drums and chimes. An equally impressive feature, though perhaps less visible, was the way the project involved students. A bimonthly after-school club was created to help guide the process, and students from all grades joined. They met with Trust for Public Land staff, who are leading the project, to survey the site. They studied the slant of sunlight and shadows, as well as the flow of rainwater. They pored over maps and charts. They considered amenities that both the student body and wider community would enjoy, since the schoolyard will be open to the public after school and on weekends. Finally, they chose a conceptual plan that a designer will now bring to life. Over 28 million kids in America don’t have a park within a 10-minute walk of home. A solution is hiding in plain sight: schoolyards.mAcross the country, Trust for Public Land is helping schools rip out asphalt or otherwise drab schoolyards and replace them with green, welcoming spaces that double as neighborhood parks. From Georgia to New York to Washington State, we’ve transformed nearly 300 schoolyards through our Community SchoolyardsTM initiative to date. In each project, students engage in what is known as “participatory design,” surveying fellow students and neighbors and working alongside professional landscape architects.
They’re Not Like Regular Dads. They’re Climate Dads by Olivia Rudgard at Bloomberg Green. Move over, sports dads and car dads. Climate dads are a little bit nerdy, a little bit obsessive and 100% focused on saving the planet. In some ways, the climate dad is nothing new — a few decades ago, he’d be reminding everyone to keep the air conditioning on low and turn the lights off when leaving a room. But consumer research has found that women tend to be more engaged in recycling and reducing water and energy use at home. Most household goods are marketed to women, too. That creates a risk that “greening the family” becomes another task for overburdened moms, says Elizabeth Cripps, a philosopher and senior lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, whose most recent book, Parenting on Earth, explores the moral quandary of parenting in a climate crisis. “I don’t think we can make sense of what it means to be a good parent today without thinking about what responsibilities we have to our own kids in the face of climate change,” Cripps says. To that end, the more recent cohort of climate dads are part of a generation that approaches fatherhood differently.
Wildfires Aren’t Just a Threat to People—They’re Killing Off Earth’s Biodiversity by Reynard Loki at Wiki Observatory. Cataclysmic wildfires—the intensity and frequency of which have been increased by human-caused climate change—negatively impact far more than human life, trees, and the built environment. “[A]s many as 1.25 billion animals—including iconic Australian species such as koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, and gliders—have been killed or displaced by the fires,” Earth/Food/Life (EFL) reporter Robin Scher wrote on Truthout about Australia’s “Black Summer,” the colloquial name of the 2019-20 Australian bushfire season, which was unusually intense. “In some instances, certain species may have even gone extinct,” Scher reported. Writing about the Amazon wildfires for Truthout, EFL reporter Daniel Ross noted the “illegal logging, encroachment from agribusinesses and profit-driven government policies” that underpin Brazil’s wildfires, which have impacted wildlife, threatened Indigenous communities and created an air pollution-related health crisis in the nation’s urban areas. Adding to the worry is the fact that fires that raged in Brazil’s Amazon in 2020 even spread into virgin forests. Make no mistake: a rapidly and unnaturally changing climate is a direct threat to the planet’s biodiversity.
Cheap wind and solar could revolutionize the African grid by John Timmer at Ars Technica. One of the big challenges we face regarding climate change is that we have to lower our emissions at a time when energy consumption is likely to grow. Many countries in the Global South will seek some combination of expanding access to the electric grid, increasing grid reliability, and expanding grid capacity to meet rising demand. Demand in Africa is estimated to increase by roughly 5 percent a year for some time. Handling that increase while reducing emissions will be a challenge. As things currently stand, African nations are primarily served by a mix of large hydroelectric plants—several smaller nations already have nearly emissions-free grids—and fossil fuels. Most plans for limiting carbon emissions going forward have involved expanding hydropower, and there are plans for adding about 100 gigawatts of new capacity in the coming decades. But the rapid drop in the cost of wind and solar power raises questions about whether those plans still make sense.
Minnesota tribe sets enforceable rules to safeguard wild rice and water supply by Keith Schneider at Circle of Blue via Investigate Midwest. Centuries ago, the White Earth Band migrated west across North America, following an ancestral prophecy to go where “food grows on water.” One of seven Ojibwe bands in Minnesota, White Earth found that prophecy fulfilled along the many shallow clear lakes that lie in the state’s northern forests, where luminous green stalks of wild rice grow in abundance. The lakes and the magnificent bounty of wild rice still form the spiritual foundation of a culture, economy, and way of life for the tribe, which inhabits the White Earth Reservation. “Everything that revolves around that rice, revolves around all of us,” explained Michael Fairbanks, the tribe’s chairman. That way of life is under threat, however, as industrial-sized dairies, hog facilities, and big crop farms are beginning to surround the reservation. These agricultural operations bring ruinous nutrient pollution that has been documented in all of Minnesota’s farming counties, and massive groundwater withdrawals for irrigation and livestock. “When you look at the magnitude of these factory farms, the level of waste they produce, it’s horrible,” Fairbanks said. In response, White Earth Band is implementing a series of mandatory and enforceable pollution prevention and water conservation measures that challenge the orthodoxy of voluntary practices that states and the federal government have embraced for the last half century.
Biden’s climate bill drives demand for key minerals • ER visits for heart problems plummeted after Pittsburgh coal processor shut down • NPS board gets Native American member for first time in 88 years • Illinois wants to keep old solar panels from piling up in landfills • Dead flies could be used to make biodegradable plastic, scientists say • Driving out the rainforest invaders: crackdown on illegal mining brings hope after Bolsonaro era • Comparing the Risks of Climate Change and Geoengineering • World’s largest private rhino herd doesn’t have a buyer—or much of a future