Friday, January 13, 2017

Point of No Return? Republican's Environmental Agenda

EPA nominee Scott Pruitt addresses the 2014
Annual Meeting of ALEC (Yes, that ALEC)
Being somewhat superstitious by nature, it comes as something of a relief to have Friday the 13th off - even if it does mean I have to work on a chilly Saturday when we're expecting snow.

Tonight it's supposed to dip back down into the upper 20's here in central New Jersey, a far cry from yesterday when it got up into the lower 60's.

Last night I stepped out for a few beers at my local, as I stood outside in a short sleeve shirt admiring the exceptional brightness of January's full moon (also known as the Wolf Moon), I couldn't help but reflect on the fact that this is the last full moon under a rational president with actual experience as an elected leader.

It was, to say the least, a rather sobering thought that sent a chill down my spine.

Experiencing mild spring-like weather in the middle of January reminded me that Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, Trump's new pick to head up the Environmental Protection Agency, is on record as denying the scientific consensus that human activity affects global warming.

Pruitt, a former college baseball player whose professional resume includes stints as a lawyer, general managing partner of a AAA baseball team, state politician and attorney general, is not a scientist - so maybe he should read Jeff Goodell's interview with James Hansen, the former head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, in the latest issue of Rolling Stone.

As Goodell notes in his RS article, Hansen, one of the world's leading experts on climate change and the first scientist to present hard data that human activity related to the burning of fossil fuels is heating up the Earth's atmosphere, warns that mankind is dangerously close to a 'point of no return' unless massive systematic changes to how we govern ourselves, consume energy and appropriate resources can be enacted.

As Hansen observes, "We're close to that point of no return, Whether we've passed it or not, I don't know...We've passed it in the sense that some climate impacts are going to occur, but we have not necessarily hit the disastrous level, which would knock down global economies and leave us with an ungovernable planet. But we are close."

Seriously, what part of "ungovernable planet" do Republicans who deny climate change not get?

Chart tracking temperature changes as recorded by four
international science agencies including NASA & NOAA
According to studies of climate change research conducted by NASA (folks who actually ARE rocket scientists), "Multiple studies conducted in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97% or more of actively publishing scientists agree: Climate warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities." 

But Scott Pruitt disagrees with stuff like scientific research based on facts.

Pruitt was one of a group of Republican attorneys general from other states with Republican governors and majority-Republican legislatures that formed secretive alliances with some of the nation's biggest energy companies to challenge federal regulations that protect water, soil and air from pollution caused by fossil fuel extraction and production.

As Coral Davenport and Eric Lipton reported in a New York Times article back in December, Pruitt is on record as saying, "Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connections to the actions of mankind. That debate should be encouraged - in classrooms, public forums and the halls of Congress."

Actually, it's not a debate, but that's the mindset that this lackey of the fossil fuel industry and member of the American Legislative Exchange Council will bring to the EPA - nominated by a man who thinks climate change is a "hoax."
Clinton email Obsession? GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz
But it's not just the federal regulatory agencies that will be impacted by radical conservative ideology.

You can be certain that the Republican-majority 115th Congress is already at work chipping away at laws that protect environmental safety, or making it more difficult to hold those who commit environmental crimes accountable.

Increases in subsidies to oil and natural gas companies are almost a given.

Remember the crusading Republican Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz who chairs the powerful House Oversight Committee?

Same guy who did everything he could to theatrically draw out a Congressional investigation of Hillary Clinton's use of a personal server to store emails during the presidential campaign season?

Despite multiple Congressional investigations of the same issue for over a year, in addition to a lengthy and highly public FBI investigation that concluded that nothing illegal had taken place, Chaffetz recently announced that he will continue his dogged pursuit to further investigate Clinton's emails.

As CNN reported, Chaffetz said, "Just because there was a political election doesn't mean it goes away." 

But what's interesting about Chaffetz's apparently unquenchable thirst for the truth is that it magically (and for conservatives) conveniently seems to coincide with the broader partisan political needs of the Republican Party.

Republicans stopped investigating this?
Oh and speaking of thirst...

Just one day after the Trump transition team cancelled a planned December 15th press conference where the new PEOTUS would lay out a plan to sever his ties from his hundreds of businesses amid public outrage and media frenzy over his potential unprecedented conflicts of interest, Chaffetz quietly and quickly decided to end a Congressional investigation into the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.

Which of course was caused by Republican Governor Rick Snyder and other state Republican politicians and officials who stripped Flint citizens of the right to govern themselves by appointing an "emergency manager" for the city who ordered Flint's fresh water supply to be switched to the polluted Flint River.


As part of an effort to slash state spending on government in order to fund tax cuts for the wealthy; fiscally irresponsible efforts which have proved disastrous in Kansas and were designed by none other than the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Remember, the Flint water crisis resulted in people dying, and exposed thousands of Flint residents to toxic levels of lead poisoning - and it's still going on.

Republicans on Capitol Hill famously fought efforts to provide $600 million in federal funding to fix Flint's toxic water supply system before eventually approving $170 million in relief.

Flint residents still get drinking water like this
So Jason Chaffetz ended a House Oversight investigation into an environmental crime of monumental proportions that affected 100,000 people and is still happening now as you read these words.

But he's continuing a bogus partisan witch hunt over how Hillary Clinton stored her private email correspondence when she was Secretary of State over three years ago?

That, and the nomination of Scott Pruitt to head the EPA pretty much sums up the Republican stance on the environment in a nutshell and as hard as it is to imagine, James Hansen could be right.

The inauguration of Trump a week from today along with the clown car of kleptocrat cabinet picks he's bringing with him, coupled with Republican majorities in the House and Senate, plus a conservative-leaning Supreme Court doesn't bode well for our environment.

Should Trump follow through on his campaign pledge to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement and causes other large-scale fossil fuel burners like China and India to pull out, it could very well mark the beginning of the 'Point of no return' for our environment and the climate.

All in the name of narrow-minded political ideology and short-term financial profits for a small fraction of the Earth's population.

"Making America Great Again?" Not so much.

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