BREAKING: Tar Sands Pipeline Shut Down


activists-tar-sands

By Afrin Sopariwala, Tim DeChristopher’s Website – 12 October 16

Source: Reader Supported News

This morning, by 7:30 PST, 5 activists have successfully shut down 5 pipelines across the United States deliverying tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada in support of the call for International Days of Prayer and Action for Standing Rock. Activists employed manual safety valves, calling on President Obama to use emergency powers to keep the pipelines closed and mobilize for the extraordinary shift away from fossil fuels now required to avert catastrophe.

192 nations have agreed that average global temperature should not increase 1.5C° above baseline in order to avert climate change cataclysm. This objective cannot be met, and any hope of keeping temperature below even 2.0°C depends on a total ban on new fossil fuel extractions and an immediate end to oil sands and coal use. In the absence of any political leadership or legal mechanisms for accomplishing this, these individuals feel duty bound to halt the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels by personal direct action.

Ken Ward, 59, of Corbette OR said, “There is no plan of action, policy or strategy being advanced now by any political leader or environmental organization playing by the rules that does anything but acquiesce to ruin. Our only hope is to step outside polite conversation and put our bodies in the way. We must shut it down, starting with the most immediate threats — oil sands fuels and coal.”

Emily Johnston, 50, of Seattle WA said, “For years we’ve tried the legal, incremental, reasonable methods, and they haven’t been enough; without a radical shift in our relationship to Earth, all that we love will disappear. My fear of that possibility is far greater than my fear of jail. My love for the beauties of this world is far greater than my love of an easy life.”

Annette Klapstein, 64, of Bainbridge Island, WA said “Like mothers everywhere, I act from a deep love that extends to all children and young people, and all living beings on this planet. I have signed hundreds of petitions, testified at dozens of hearings, met with most of my political representatives at every level, to very little avail. I have come to believe that our current economic and political system is a death sentence to life on earth, and that I must do everything in my power to replace these systems with cooperative, just, equitable and love-centered ways of living together. This is my act of love.”

Michael Foster, 52 of Seattle WA said, “I am here to generate action that wakes people up to the reality of what we are doing to life as we know it. All of our climate victories are meaningless if we don’t stop extracting oil, coal and gas now.”

Leonard Higgins, 64, of Eugene, OR said, “Because of the climate change emergency, because governments and corporations have for decades increased fossil fuel extraction and carbon emissions when instead we must dramatically reduce carbon emissions; I am committed to the moral necessity of participating in nonviolent direct action to protect life.”

WHERE. Enbridge line 4 and 67, Leonard, MN; TransCanada’s Keystone pipeline, Walhalla, ND; Spectra Energy’s Express pipeline, Coal Banks Landing, MT; Kinder-Morgan’s Trans-Mountain pipeline, Anacortes, WA.

WHO. Climate Direct Action is Emily Johnson, 50 and Michael Foster, 52, of Seattle, WA, Annette Klapstein, 64, of Bainbridge Island, WA, Ken Ward, 59, of Corbett, OR, and Leonard Higgins, 64, of Eugene, Oregon, with the support of Climate Disobedience Action Fund.

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More States Are Investigating Whether Exxon Misled the Public About Climate Change


coal-fired_power_station_at_dusk

By Reuters and Fortune – 31 March 16
Source: Reader Supported News

 

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman launched an inquiry in November.

 

The top attorneys from Massachusetts and the U.S. Virgin Islands said on Tuesday they will investigate whether Exxon Mobil Corp misled investors and the public about the risks of climate change.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude Earl Walker announced their probes at a news conference in New York, flanked by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and top attorneys from other states.

They said their probes into Exxon will be similar to ones launched by New York and California.

Healey said fossil fuel companies that have deceived investors about the risks climate change poses to the planet and to their bottom lines “must be held accountable.”

Walker said he wants to ensure there is transparency so consumers can make informed choices about what they purchase.

“If Exxon Mobil has tried to cloud their judgment, we are determined to hold the company accountable,” he said.

Exxon believes the probes by state attorneys general are “politically motivated,” said Suzanne McCarron, the company’s vice president for public and government affairs.

“We are actively assessing all legal options,” she said.

A total of 17 U.S. attorneys general are cooperating on probes into whether fossil fuel companies have misled investors on climate change risks. The officials will also collaborate on other climate-related initiatives.

In November, Schneiderman subpoenaed Exxon to demand extensive financial records and emails in connection with its climate change disclosures. California Attorney General Kamala Harris followed suit in January.

A coalition of more than 20 states has filed an amicus brief in support of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, a rule to crack down on carbon emissions that has been challenged by industry and 25 states in a federal appeals court.

The probes of Exxon were triggered by investigative reports last year by Inside Climate News and the Los Angeles Times that showed the company’s in-house scientists had flagged concerns about climate change decades ago, which the company ignored or contradicted.

Investors also have started to target Exxon over the climate issue. Last week, the Securities and Exchange Commission ruled that Exxon must include a climate change resolution on its annual shareholder proxy.

The Rockefeller Family Fund said last week it will divest from fossil fuels as quickly as possible and “eliminate holdings” of Exxon.

Shares of Exxon closed up 31 cents, or 0.37 percent, at $84.53 on Tuesday.

Gore, an active climate policy advocate, joined the attorneys general at the announcement, calling it a “turning point” in a broader effort to hold fossil fuel companies accountable. He said efforts by fossil fuel companies to downplay climate change were akin to the way the tobacco industry promoted smoking for years in spite of health warnings.

The Massachusetts and Virgin Islands attorneys general did not elaborate on what legal tools will guide their investigations. Legal experts have said options include consumer protection laws and “blue sky” securities laws.

The New York probe hinges on the state’s Martin Act, an anti-fraud law, as well as consumer protection statutes.

Some experts have said the issues involved could potentially trigger federal racketeering and organized crime (RICO) laws the Justice Department used in its landmark case against Big Tobacco.

But there’s skepticism as to whether Exxon’s actions and statements can be construed as criminal and beyond the protections of the First Amendment. Schneiderman said Tuesday, “The First Amendment, ladies and gentlemen, does not give you the right to commit fraud.”

Exxon‘s unusually long and pointed statement criticizing the probes said the company recognized the risks posed by climate change. It said any assumption it withheld information on the topic is “preposterous” and based on a “false premise that Exxon Mobil reached definitive conclusions about anthropogenic climate change before the world’s experts and before the science itself had matured, and then withheld it from the broader scientific community.”

In her emailed statement to Reuters, McCarron noted that Exxon scientists had participated with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

She also said the probes by the state attorneys general would “have a chilling effect on private sector research.”

Carbon Emissions Highest They Have Been in 66 Million Years


Environmentalists burn a symbol of carbon dioxide during a 2008 demonstration in front of the Klingenberg power plant in Berlin. (photo: Theo Heimann/AFP/Getty Images) (And they create more CO2....)

Environmentalists burn a symbol of carbon dioxide during a 2008 demonstration in front of the Klingenberg power plant in Berlin. (photo: Theo Heimann/AFP/Getty Images)
(And they create more CO2….)

By Alister Doyle, Scientific American – 27 March 16
Source: Reader Supported News

 

Outpouring of CO2 is 10 times higher than it was when the dinosaurs lived

 

The rate of carbon emissions is higher than at any time in fossil records stretching back 66 million years to the age of the dinosaurs, according to a study on Monday that sounds an alarm about risks to nature from man-made global warming.

Scientists wrote that the pace of emissions even eclipses the onset of the biggest-known natural surge in fossil records, 56 million years ago, that was perhaps driven by a release of frozen stores of greenhouse gases beneath the seabed.

That ancient release, which drove temperatures up by an estimated 5 degrees Celsius (9 Fahrenheit) and damaged marine life by making the oceans acidic, is often seen as a parallel to the risks from the current build-up of carbon in the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels.

“Given currently available records, the present anthropogenic carbon release rate is unprecedented during the past 66 million years,” the scientists wrote in the journal Nature Geoscience.

The dinosaurs went extinct about 66 million years ago, perhaps after a giant asteroid struck the Earth.

Lead author Richard Zeebe of the University of Hawaii said geological records were vague and “it’s not well known if/how much carbon was released” in that cataclysm.

Current carbon emissions, mainly from burning fossil fuels, are about 10 billion tonnes a year, against 1.1 billion a year spread over 4,000 years at the onset of the fast warming 56 million years ago, the study found.

The scientists examined the chemical makeup of fossils of tiny marine organisms in the seabed off the New Jersey in the United States to gauge that ancient warming, known as the Paleoeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM).

U.N. studies project that temperatures could rise by up to 4.8C this century, causing floods, droughts and more powerful storms, if emissions rise unchecked. Carbon dioxide forms a weak acid in seawater, threatening the ability of creatures such as lobsters or oysters to build protective shells.

“Our results suggest that future ocean acidification and possible effects on marine calcifying organisms will be more severe than during the PETM,” Zeebe said.

“Future ecosystem disruptions are likely to exceed the relatively limited extinctions observed at the PETM,” he said. During the PETM, fish and other creatures may have had longer time to adapt to warming waters through evolution.

Peter Stassen, of the University of Leuven who was not involved in the study, said the study was a step to unravel what happened in the PETM.

The PETM “is a crucial part of our understanding of how the climate system can react to carbon dioxide increases,” he told Reuters.

Does Methane Threaten Life?


Source: CounterPunch

The question of whether methane (CH4) in the atmosphere is a threat to life is extraordinarily complex and generally not well understood. But, yes it is a serious threat, very serious and horribly real.

Okay, but don’t scientists understand this, and why aren’t they speaking out?

They are speaking out but only a very few.

Here’s the “speaking out” problem: Leading climate scientists are not willing to honestly expose their greatest fears, as discovered by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! whilst at CO21 in Paris this past December, interviewing one of the world’s leading climate scientists, Kevin Anderson (University of Manchester) of Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research who said: “So far we simply have not been prepared to accept the revolutionary implications of our own findings, and even when we do we are reluctant to voice such thoughts openly… many are ultimately choosing to censor their own research.”

Straightaway, we know from one of the world’s leading authorities on climate change that climate scientists are censoring their own research. But why?

“What we are afraid of doing is putting forward analysis that questions the paradigm, the economic way that we run society today… We fine-tune our analysis so that it fits into the economic reality of our society, the current economic framing. Actually our science now asks fundamental questions about this idea of economic growth in the short term, but we’re very reluctant to say that. In fact, the funding bodies are reluctant to fund research that raises those questions,” Democracy Now! Top Climate Expert: Crisis is Worse Than We Think & Scientists Are Self-Censoring to Downplay Risk, Dec. 8, 2015.

Accordingly, since the current economic framing throughout the world is all about neoliberalism, then it appears this framing does not frame well with climate scientists. One has to wonder why? Maybe it’s only about fossil fuels, but then again, neoliberalism does not leave much room for science. Neoliberalism’s all about “privatizing everything for profits,” removing regulations and let free enterprise (Milton Friedman) determine what’s good for the atmosphere, not science. Alas, climate science is not (underlined twice) profitable. Who needs it?

The scientists that do talk, sans concerns about the current economic paradigm, are openly alarmed by growing evidence of the risk of CH4’s sudden release from the icy protection of the Arctic, knowing humanity is not ready for it.

Those scientists that do speak out, do so in a video, Abrupt Climate Change, The Hard Truth: (The following quotes come from scientists in the video below.)

A major concern amongst scientists is the ongoing meltdown of the Arctic which in turn could release massive quantities of CH4 which in turn feeds into an irreversible feedback loop leading to uncontrollable self-perpetuating rapid planetary temperature rise, the dreaded doomsday scenario, a fireball planet.

“If global average temperature rises to 2 degrees Celsius above baseline, what that means is that the interior of large continents heats up at least twice that much, so to 4C, or higher. And that’s where all of the grain is grown, and grain is the basis for civilization… That would be sufficient to have civilization collapse… we’re talking about the type of suffering that goes beyond anything we’ve ever seen before… well beyond what goes on in war… well beyond the plagues of the past.”

“We have already lit the fuse on a giant methane subsea permafrost bomb in the Arctic which can go off at any moment.”

A methane monster idly sets in waiting in the shallow waters of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf where 100s to 1000s of gigatons could release from very shallow water. Scientists who have studied the area for over a decade say it only takes destabilization of 1-2% to create irreversible havoc for the planet.

According to a 2013 NASA satellite observation, methane plumes in the Arctic Ocean 150 kilometers (93 miles) wide were observed bubbling up to surface. That explains the upward sloping chart of CH4 into the atmosphere, a steeper slope than CO2.

“We’ve found continuous, powerful and impressive seeping structures more than 1,000 metres in diameter. In a very small area, less than 10,000 square miles, we have counted more than 100 fountains, or torch-like structures, bubbling through the water column and injected directly into the atmosphere from the seabed,” Dr. Semiletov said, “We carried out checks at about 115 stationary points and discovered methane fields of a fantastic scale. I think on a scale not seen before. Some of the plumes were a kilometre or more wide and the emissions went directly into the atmosphere. The concentration was a hundred times higher than normal.” (Igor Semiletov PhD, Pacific Oceanological Institute, Far Eastern Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences, visiting scientist, International Arctic Research Center, University of Alaska- not in the video).

How does this vicious cycle end?

First, how did it start? It started by humans burning too much fossil fuel like gasoline for cars and coal for electricity which in turn spews noxious CO2 into the atmosphere which in turn hangs around for centuries acting like a big blanket retaining more and more heat until Mother Earth develops a horrible cough, disrupting her Jet Streams, which brings tropical storms to Boulder, Colorado for the first time ever and loosens up gigatons of CH4 from below the icy cover of the Arctic Ocean, now iceless blue water, into the upper atmosphere to join CO2 as a much larger down-filled blanket which turns up the heat even more.

This cycle likely does not end, assuming noxious emissions do not stop almost cold turkey, rather it expands via vast, continent-wide swaths of climate disruption to the extent that people are forced into pathways of migration, fleeing flooded zones, like Bangladesh (where cities are already sinking), or in search of food sources as desertification overrides local food production, like vast areas of India with 25% already turned to desert, or the drought-stricken eastern Mediterranean (worst drought ever) pushing out more migrants, or entire communities and cities migrating to find sources of water, like Andean communities and cities, e.g., Lima (pop.8.5M) dependent upon glacial water (the World Bank has already warned about this), or a population of 50,000 picking up stakes to move inland, North Carolina’s Outer Banks where portions of the 200-mile island are already at 25% of original width, or crazed upper atmospheric Jet Streams, under the wavering influence of an overheated Arctic, driving endless torrential tropical storms out of the tropics to America’s heartland, like Colorado (2013 Colorado Tropical Storm), as county after county experiences massive flooding, destroying valuable farmland, or when the high tides in Miami are suddenly relabeled “historic flooding.”

Then, a maddening political scramble will ensue to find some way, shape, or form to come to grips with the planet’s rapidly collapsing ecosystem, as angry mobs roam the countryside to hunt down climate change liars to tar and feather. Still, by the time these overwhelmingly large massive bodies of enraged mobs do their dirty work, most of the planet will mirror the dystopian image projected by Mad Max: Fury Road (Warner Bros. 2015). They’ll fit right into the script.

Dr. Peter Gleick (member of the National Academy of Sciences) director of the Pacific Institute of California recently warned, “What is happening in the Arctic now is unprecedented and possibly catastrophic,” Ian Johnston, Arctic Warming: Rapidly Increasing Temperatures are Possibly Catastrophic for Planet, Climate Scientist Warns, Independent, February 25, 2016.

The Solution

Get off fossil fuels as soon as humanly possible and do not elect a president to the White House who denies anthropogenic climate change because that will be tantamount to voluntarily entering a gas chamber, slamming shut the big thick heavy door, and giving thumbs up to the warden!

Robert Hunziker lives in Los Angeles and can be reached at roberthunziker@icloud.com

More Than 100 Scientists Ask Leading Science Association to Cut Ties With Exxon


Exxon Valdez

Exxon Valdez

By Natasha Geiling, ThinkProgress
Source: Reader Supported News

More than a hundred scientists have sent a letter to the American Geophysical Union (AGU), the largest association of earth and space scientists in the world, asking it to cut financial ties with Exxon in light of allegations that the fossil fuel company willfully misled the public about climate change for decades.

The letter was initially crafted by three early career scientists from MIT and Harvard, but has since garnered signatures from over 100 prominent scientists, including names like James Hansen, Naomi Oreskes, and Michael Mann.

“Our intention is to help rebut the climate misinformation that has been put out, especially by ExxonMobil, by asking the AGU to reject sponsorship from Exxon for its conferences,” Ben Scandella, a PhD candidate at MIT and one of the letter’s original authors, told ThinkProgress. “We’re concerned that by accepting sponsorship from Exxon, AGU is engaging in a serious conflict of interest because it is lending its institutional license to a company that is working publicly to undermine the consensus about anthropogenic climate change that a number of AGU members have worked hard to establish.”

The AGU, which was created to promote the geophysical sciences, claims among its members a number of climate scientists. Of the roughly 104 scientists that have signed the letter, 70 are AGU members.

Posted Monday morning on the science website The Natural History Museum, the letter specifically asks that the AGU reconsider Exxon’s sponsorship of the society’s fall meetings. Exxon has been a primary sponsor of the meeting for years, but has come under increased scrutiny in recent months due to a series of investigations into Exxon’s climate policies published by both InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times earlier this year.

The investigations found that Exxon’s own scientists knew about the dangers associated with climate change as early as 1977, and yet continued to fund misinformation campaigns that questioned the scientific consensus around climate change. In light of the investigations, lawmakers have called for the Department of Justice to launch a formal investigation into Exxon, and several state attorneys general have already initiated criminal investigations. Last week, three lawmakers also asked the Department of Justice to begin investigating Shell, citing a growing body of evidence that suggests there could be “a conspiracy between Shell, ExxonMobil and potentially other companies in the fossil fuel industry.”

The AGU, in its own Organizational Support Policy, states that it will “not accept funding from organizational partners that promote and/or disseminate misinformation of science, or that fund organizations that publicly promote misinformation of science.” That policy was established in the summer of 2015, just months before the allegations against Exxon became public.

“Exxon’s track record, with respect to climate science, is long and troubling and entirely inconsistent with [the AGU’s] policy and the society’s climate statement, which is clear and unequivocal about supporting deep reductions in emissions,” Peter Frumhoff, director of science and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, who also signed the letter, told ThinkProgress. “We set up a policy. We need to implement in a clear way, and we need to have a conversation about Exxon and other companies that misinform in order to avoid regulation with regard to climate.”

Margaret Leinen, AGU president, responded to the questions about the society’s relationship with Exxon in a blog post published on the AGU website, saying that “ExxonMobil’s current public statements and activities were not inconsistent with AGU’s positions and the scientific consensus.” In light of the recent letter, however, Leinen updated the post to add that the AGU Board of Directors will look closely into the matter during an upcoming April meeting.

To be truly reflective of Exxon’s policies, however, many argue that the AGU would need to go beyond public statements and consider the private actions the company has taken to fuel public misinformation.

“If you’re looking at public statements, it’s hard to find because they are funneling their misinformation campaigns through dark money organizations,” Scandella said.

In a study published last November, Yale University sociologist Justin Farrell found a strong connection between the private funding actions of companies like Exxon and the overall polarization of climate change as a topic in the United States. According to Farrell’s research, groups that accepted money from Exxon were more likely to produce texts stressing things like the idea that climate change is a long-term cycle or that carbon dioxide is in fact good for the planet, key tenets of a climate misinformation campaign.

According to both Scandella and Frumhoff, it’s that misinformation — not the fact that Exxon is a fossil fuel company — that has led scientists to voice concerns with the company’s role in funding the AGU’s meetings. Fossil fuels have had a long relationship with earth and geosciences, Frumhoff explained, pointing to petroleum geology as an example. The concern, he added, is that by allowing Exxon to support the AGU’s meetings, the AGU is lending an air of credibility to the company. It’s a public relations tactic known as “greenwashing,” where organizations publicly fund campaigns or events that run counter to their private actions or interests.

“The letter isn’t about saying that Exxon scientists or Exxon-funded scientists have no place in society. The letter is about saying we shouldn’t be advertising Exxon as a good corporate citizen by accepting their funding when their behavior is so unequivocally inconsistent with scientific integrity and our commitment to address climate change,” Frumhoff said.

The Supreme Court Case that Could Cripple the Federal Government & Create Hell on Earth


 In 2010 the Gulf Stream slowed and deep water formation faltered in response to a build up of glacial melt water in the North Atlantic. Then the cool current flowing off the New England coast faltered, allowing hot water to build up off of the east coast. In 2012 hurricane Sandy exploded over unseasonably warm water around the Bahamas and turned into a massive hybrid storm over the strangely warm mid-Atlantic waters, devastating New York and New Jersey. Greenhouse gas emissions brought on the ocean heating, and changed currents, that fueled Sandy's extreme intensity.


In 2010 the Gulf Stream slowed and deep water formation faltered in response to a build up of glacial melt water in the North Atlantic. Then the cool current flowing off the New England coast faltered, allowing hot water to build up off of the east coast. In 2012 hurricane Sandy exploded over unseasonably warm water around the Bahamas and turned into a massive hybrid storm over the strangely warm mid-Atlantic waters, devastating New York and New Jersey. Greenhouse gas emissions brought on the ocean heating, and changed currents, that fueled Sandy’s extreme intensity.

Source: Daily Kos

The Supreme Court’s unexpected suspension of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, on February 9, by a 5 to 4 party line vote has far deeper potential impacts than the delay of implementation of an EPA regulation. The unprecedented act of suspending an administrative rule before it was heard by any court may indicate that the court was considering a precedent shattering decision, of the magnitude of the Citizens United decision, on the scope of federal regulatory authority. The ideology expressed in the lawsuit by the 29 red states suing to stop the EPA’s plan, supported by the Republicans on the Supreme Court, is so extreme that it could cripple the federal government’s ability to regulate anything at all.  This extreme ideology, however, is congruent with ideas about the limits of federal regulatory authority expressed by Justice Scalia in 2014.

The death of Justice Scalia will not affect the hold on implementing the Clean Power Plan but it puts the federal government’s ability to implement and enforce regulations at the center of the 2016 elections. Scalia’s death gives Democrats a chance to end longstanding Republican plans to use the Supreme court to strip the federal government of the power to enforce environmental regulations needed to stop catastrophic changes in the atmosphere and the ocean.
The election of a Republican president would not only run out the clock on any chance to avoid severe impacts from climate change but would also lead to a Republican dominated court that would likely strip, in the name of states’ rights, the federal government’s ability to enforce many environmental and health and safety regulations. The election of a Republican president would likely lead to irreparable harm to life on earth and minority communities like Flint, Michigan would be the first affected. With federal regulatory authority stripped, extremist Republican governors, like Governor Snyder of Michigan, could act with impunity on behalf of their corporate clients.

The scope of the suit against the Clean Power Plan is breathtaking in its extremism. Ian Millhiser of Think Progress Justice wrote about the consequences of the Republicans winning in his must-read, in-depth legal analysis:

If we do not prove able to this task, the consequences will be catastrophic. In the relatively short term, the Environmental Protection Agency predicts that the Clean Power Plan will “avoid thousands of premature deaths and mean thousands fewer asthma attacks and hospitalizations in 2030 and every year beyond.”
In the longer term, major cities could be swallowed by the ocean. Displaced residents will trigger a worldwide refugee crisis. Entire regions of the United States could be converted into a permanent Dust Bowl. The sheer magnitude of the catastrophe will rival any tragedy that has faced humanity since the Book of Genesis.

 However, the suit has no mention what-so-ever of the catastrophic global costs of climate change. That’s just the beginning. It gets worse. The suit promotes an extreme ideology of state’s rights that has historic ties to the Confederacy, which could render the federal government impotent. In mandating the suspension of the Clean Power Plan the court ignored the thousands of lives that would be saved from the directly toxic effects of burning fossil fuels, in addition to the catastrophic indirect costs of climate change, in deference to the 29 states’ claims of irreparable harm. If the Court can ignore the direct deaths of thousands from pollution and the potential destruction of civilization as we know it from climate change, what federal regulation will be allowed to stand?

The final section of Millhiser’s analysis should shock anyone who says they won’t vote for Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, for whatever reason, back to their senses. Before Scalia died the Court may very well have been preparing to make the worst Supreme Court decision since Dred Scott.

Returning America to the Dark Ages

Yet, despite the aggressiveness of the challengers’ arguments against executive power, these arguments aren’t even the most ambitious portion of their case against the Clean Power Plan. To the contrary, the states challenging the EPA offer a theory of states’ rights that, while difficult to parse, appears to press for limits on federal power that would call into question why we should even bother having a federal government in the first place.

The Clean Power Plan offers states a choice. States may either elect to devise their own plan to meet emissions reduction standards set by the EPA, or they can do nothing and the federal government will implement such a plan on its own.
The states challenging the Clean Power Plan raise several states’ rights based objections to this arrangement, most of which are unlikely to garner much support on the Court. As the Justice Department notes in its brief, the Constitution “permit[s] congressional regulation of activities causing air or water pollution . . . that may have effects in more than one State.”
Since the federal government could simply choose to regulate greenhouse emissions without any input from the states whatsoever, it is difficult to understand how the Clean Power Plan becomes more offensive to states’ rights because it gives states the option to participate in the process.

The challengers’ most aggressive argument, however, challenges the federal government’s power to enforce regulations that may impose some cost on the states down the road:

If EPA effectively mandates through a Federal Plan the retirement of coal-fired and fossil fuel-fired plants or reductions in their utilization (including by mandating the purchase of exorbitantly expensive emissions allowances), state utility and electricity regulators will have to respond in the same way as if the State itself had ordered the retirements.
Likewise, if EPA orders through a Federal Plan that power-plant owners construct new capacity, state utility and electricity regulators will have to plan for and oversee its construction and integration into the electric system as if the State itself had issued the order.

If federal regulations cause someone to built a new power plant, state regulators will want to regulate that plant. And that, somehow, makes the federal regulation an incursion on states’ rights.

Under the challengers’ theory, military bases are unconstitutional.

The problem with this argument is that, if taken seriously, it would invalidate nearly any federal program. Suppose, for example, that the federal government decided to implement a health insurance program for the elderly (we’ll call it “Medicare”). Such a program would inject new money into the health care system, which would cause new hospitals and other health care facilities to be built.
These new facilities, moreover, would undoubtedly be regulated by existing state rules and state agencies — they may, for example, need to apply for permits and licenses from state-paid employees. But it’s ludicrous to suggest that, because Medicare sets in motion a chain of events that eventually imposes costs on a state, Medicare is unconstitutional.

Similarly, suppose that the federal government decided to construct a army base within a state. The base would house soldiers, who would patronize state-regulated businesses, drive on state-maintained roads and send their children to state-run schools.
Over time, those roads would deteriorate faster and the state may even need to build new roads to accommodate the increased traffic. Meanwhile, the new students would increase the cost of public education. Thus, under the challengers’ theory, military bases are unconstitutional.

The challenge to the Clean Power Plan, in other words, is more than just a threat to the Obama administration’s efforts to ward off a global catastrophe. It is also one of the most ambitious attempts to rethink the role of government to reach the Supreme Court in years. And five justices thought this challenge had enough merit that they halted the Clean Power Plan before any lower court had even considered those rules.

That, in and of itself, may be the most remarkable thing about this case. As the Justice Department explains in its brief, “the danger of premature intervention in lower-court proceedings is particularly acute here, where no court has yet analyzed the merits of applicants’ claims. Applicants identify no case, and we are aware of none, in which the Court has granted a stay of an administrative rule before that rule has been reviewed by any court.”

The Arctic Is Melting and Big Business is Chomping at the Bit to Dig In


arctic drilling

By Alejandro Davila Fragoso, Think Progress – 27 January 16
Source: Readers Supported News

Standing at a podium before the World Economic Forum, Leonardo DiCaprio briefly smiled as he received an award for his leadership in tackling climate change. Once settled under the spotlight, he quickly moved away from his grateful statements, and began railing on corporate avarice.

“We simply cannot allow the corporate greed of the coal, oil, and gas industries to determine the future of humanity,” said DiCaprio last week while at Davos, Switzerland, where some 2,500 top global business leaders, politicians, and intellectuals gathered to discuss politics, economics, and social issues.

Fossil fuels must be kept in the ground to avoid catastrophic climate change, he continued. “Enough is enough. You know better. The world knows better.”

But while DiCaprio was cheered Wednesday as he stepped off the stage with his Crystal award, the international business community appears interested in venturing into new areas despite potential ecological costs. In fact, a day after recognizing environmental leadership, a World Economic Forum advisory group launched the Arctic Investment Protocol, and with that came a tacit push for extracting resources from one of the least-developed areas of the world.

The Arctic Investment Protocol is a voluntary set of guidelines for nations looking to do business where diminished ice coverage from man-made climate change is allowing access to once-unreachable sea routes as well as vast mineral and fossil fuel reservoirs.

The protocol calls for building resilient societies through economic development, pursuing measures to protect the Arctic environment, and respecting and including local communities, to name a few. The Guggenheim Partners, a major global investment and financial services firm, quickly endorsed the protocol, saying the Arctic represents one of the last great economic frontiers.

With more than $240 billion in assets, Guggenheim Partners was the first major firm to endorse these guidelines. In doing so, it also gave a strong indication of where global business is headed as South America, Asia, and Africa receive increasing investment. “The Arctic Investment Protocol is an important step forward and a solid foundation upon which to build for the future,” said Scott Minerd, global chief investment officer of Guggenheim Partners, in a statement.

On the one hand, such a business trend would bring economic prosperity and infrastructure that experts say is lacking in many Arctic communities. On the other, human history shows that economic development is very often intertwined with ecological costs.

Exponential Arctic development thus raises serious environmental questions involving a region known for its fragile endemic species, where maritime environmental protection codes are in infancy, and so remote that pollution cleanup operations are difficult and costly. Not to mention the major role the Arctic plays in global climate since its already receding ice reflects a large amount of solar radiation, all while holding onto CO2 that if released would accelerate global warming.

And yet the northernmost region of the world has seen its share of development for many years. Researchers reached said the Arctic became part of the global economy at least two centuries ago with the emergence of the whaling industry, followed by oil and gas exploration. Researchers noted, however, that a new boom is taking place because the area is more accessible, and that Guggenheim could be a watershed for even more investment.

This comes as studies have found that Arctic ice is receding and thinning at an accelerated pace. Annual mean ice thickness has decreased from nearly 12 feet in 1975 to some four feet in 2012, a 65 percent reduction, according to a 2015 study. Moreover, the Arctic warms twice as fast (or more) than the Earth as a whole does.

“You can say that it is the era of [the] Arctic,” said Mohamed A. Essallamy, an expert in Arctic maritime issues and a professor at the Arab Academy for Science, Technology & Maritime Transport, via email to ThinkProgress.

In 2009, only five cargo ships went through the Russian Northern Sea Route, according to a recent study by the Council on Foreign Relations. By 2013, that figured climbed to 71. Meanwhile, investment in the Arctic could potentially exceed $100 billion within the next six years, according to a 2012 Arctic Opening report by Lloyd’s of London Ltd, the world’s oldest insurance market.

Profiting from the Arctic is costly, however. In a statement, Guggenheim Partners said the Arctic needs about $1 trillion in infrastructure. The firm said it’s working with international partners to establish the Arctic infrastructure inventory to identify and prioritize such needs across the region.

“There is a great need for infrastructure,” said Jessica M. Shadian, a researcher and professor at Iceland’s University of Akureyri, in a phone interview with ThinkProgress. Telecommunications, affordable energy, but also more basic infrastructure like sewage and potable water is lacking in many areas, she said.

“People want economic development in the Arctic, in the north, just as much as anyone does anywhere else,” said Shadian, who like many noted that local support for economic development is abundant, even if that development means unearthing fossil fuels.

The Arctic Slope Regional Corporation and the Aboriginal Pipeline Group, she said, are just two large examples of organizations owned by Arctic communities that back resource extraction. Environmentalists in the Arctic and elsewhere have questioned development for years as well, saying extraction will industrialize land, pollute water, and generate greenhouse gas pollution.

Just last week, Greenpeace Norway director Truls Gulowsen told Climate Home that the group aims to challenge oil development in Norwegian courts. “We have already discovered more fossil fuels than it is safe to burn in a 1.5°C or 2°C scenario,” he said.

Last year governments agreed on a framework that puts the world on track to limit global warming to no more than 2°C, a threshold many in the scientific community say will prevent the most catastrophic effects of climate change. By some estimates, this threshold requires keeping as much as two-thirds of fossil fuel reserves in the ground.

For the Arctic, moreover, development may come at time of serious local environmental frailty. In recent research, Essallamy explained that many Arctic species live long and produce only a few offspring, making them particularly sensitive to any change that could affect mortality. He further noted that slow biological processes lead to slow revegetation, so for instance, impacts on tundra from heavy vehicles may be observed for decades. And then there are invasive species that ships could bring and the unavoidable leakages of lubricant and fuel oils.

All these effects would come as maritime environmental protection codes are barely developing, and when laws in the high seas are difficult to enforce to begin with. In fact, a code for ships operating in polar waters is yet to be applied. The International Maritime Organization has adopted regulations in the last couple of years and more are expected, Essallamy said, but the earliest polar code will come into force in 2017.

Still, the notion that the Arctic is lawless is deceptive, experts said. For more than two decades the Arctic Council, a high level intergovernmental forum including arctic governments and indigenous communities, has been meeting to promote coordination. It has eight member countries: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States.

“The fortunate aspect about a lot of parts of the Arctic is that they are in highly developed countries,” said Shadian, “and so you are not going to really see just extracting resources at any cost because there are a lot of environmental standards.”

Drue Pearce, a former Alaska State senator, said in an email to ThinkProgress that in Alaska the National Environmental Policy Act of 1970 that regulates development, “and the rest of every permitting process, is more rigorous than anywhere else in the world.”

The Arctic region has nonetheless suffered ecological damages for years. Russia has struggled to enforce its environmental standards, although it holds stringent environmental laws, experts said. According to published reports, environmentalist and experts agreed that at least 1 percent of Russia’s annual oil production, or 5 million tons, is spilled every year. Much of the spillage reportedly happens in the oil-rich Russian Arctic.

Alaska too, has had its share of issues with oil, most notably during the Exxon Valdez oil spill in the 1980s. Responding to environmentalist catastrophes — and other emergencies — is quite difficult and costly, experts said, and many resources need to be concentrated in developing safety systems.

Two Russian oil workers use a boat and shovels to gather oil and mud from the waters of a small river, a tributary of the Kolva River, some 37 miles north of Usinsk, an Arctic town six miles from the Arctic Circle in Russia, Friday, Oct. 28, 1994. (photo: AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Two Russian oil workers use a boat and shovels to gather oil and mud from the waters
of a small river, a tributary of the Kolva River, some 37 miles north of Usinsk,
an Arctic town six miles from the Arctic Circle in Russia, Friday, Oct. 28, 1994.
(photo: AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Yet Shadian said local communities that have inhabited the Arctic for thousands of years still don’t necessarily agree that their development should be discounted, particularly over climate change. The brunt of climate change, she said, didn’t originate in the Arctic. “What happens in the south doesn’t stay in the south, it goes straight to the Arctic.”

And with that, Shadian touched on how the world may be unfairly weighing on development and the environmental costs associated with climate change, an issue that has received increased attention in recent times. During the Paris climate talks for instance, the issue of how rich nations have benefited from fossil fuels while passing many of the costs to developing countries was front and center. This in turn emboldened the argument that resource demand in some areas drives resource extraction elsewhere, which when ill-managed exacerbates climate change and increases the risk for ecological disasters.

For the Arctic, this argument and the ecological paradox it carries is no different, and in part places the responsibility of what happens in the Arctic on the global consumer. That’s because economic theory says demand largely drives supply, and if that’s the case, then global demand will establish the rate of Arctic development, not the other way around.

Indeed, as commodity prices continue declining in value, costly Arctic development may very well be following the same trend, at least in the short term. “Right now mineral and oil and gas prices are so low that a little bit of a hype in the Arctic is dying down,” said Shadian, who like many others who’ve lived in the region, welcomed Arctic development, so long it’s environmentally responsible and sensible to local control.

“The Arctic is not any different when it comes to development or the right to do so,” said Inuuteq Holm Olsen, a Greenland diplomat, in an email to ThinkProgress. “For us, it is not a choice between development or the environment. The right to development is a universally recognized principle and that applies to the Arctic as well.”