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Dear climate visionaries: Resist France’s allure

Back in February, when France’s then-presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron thumbed his nose at President Donald Trump and invited jaded U.S. scientists and inventors to come build a sustainable future in France, I applauded and played along.

“[L]et’s face it,” I wrote. “France is a tough sell. The food is irritatingly fresh, the architecture tends to distract people from their cellphones, and the high-speed rail lines get in the way of SUVs.”

But now that Macron is president and has backed up his words with substance, setting up a program to bring American climate visionaries to France, it’s no longer funny. If you’re an entrepreneur, scientist, or engineer disillusioned with Trump’s America and tempted by this offer, please don’t go. It’s a terrible idea. Do you hear me, Katharine Hayhoe?

Mais porquoi? you say, after thumbing through your French phrasebook. Because the United States, the world’s second-biggest polluter, is a much more pernicious driver of climate change than France, the 18th. We need you here. The world needs you here. The future needs you here.

OK, I’ll cop to getting a little carried away. We should give Macron his due. He’s offering a four-year grant to people from anywhere in the world, so they can come work on climate change projects in France. That’s great! Science, technologies, and companies created in France won’t be constrained by French borders. We’ll all benefit. And it’s just for four years, the nominal length of Trump’s (first) term. But c’mon, be real: Nobody goes to France to live for just four years.

This screenshot from Macron’s new website, titled “Make Our Planet Great Again” seems to confirm my concerns that France wants to keep our smarties forever.

I’m worried about a brain drain. We can’t afford to lose the political heft of scientists as communicators and U.S. citizens. The United States needs people who weigh evidence and allow that evidence to change their minds. We need men and women like this of all political stripes living in American towns, talking to their American friends, going to American churches, and helping to make this country sane again. If we all sort ourselves into like-minded factions, and a chunk of the rational faction moves to France, we’re screwed. We really can’t afford to lose Neil DeGrasse Tyson to the Riviera. James Hansen, Pam Ronald … stay!

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Dear climate visionaries: Resist France’s allure

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Der Spiegel Just Published the Minutes From Trump’s Contentious Meeting With G7 Leaders

Mother Jones

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German magazine Der Spiegel has been given access to minutes from a contentious meeting of G7 leaders in Taormina, Sicily, at the end of May, in which they applied last-ditch pressure on President Donald Trump to stay in the Paris climate agreement.

The meeting came toward the end of Trump’s first trip abroad as president—and became an opportunity for world leaders to intensely lobby the American president before Trump’s final decision on whether the United States would leave the historic climate accord.

The leaders told Trump in no uncertain terms that if the United States abandoned the agreement, China would be the direct beneficiary.

“Climate change is real and it affects the poorest countries,” said Emmanuel Macron, the newly elected French president, at the outset of the private conversation.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau then told Trump that the success of repairing the ozone layer proved that industry could be persuaded to act on harmful emissions, according to the account.

Then, German Chancellor Angela Merkel brought up China: “If the world’s largest economic power were to pull out, the field would be left to the Chinese,” she said. According to Der Spiegel, Merkel added that Chinese President Xi Jinping was preparing to take advantage of the vacuum left by America’s exit. Even Saudi Arabia, she added, was preparing for a world without oil.

Trump was unmoved. “For me,” the president reportedly said, “it’s easier to stay in than step out,” adding that green regulations were killing American jobs.

As it became clear Trump would not budge, Macron admitted defeat, according to this account.

“Now China leads,” he said.

The account adds fresh details to the president’s fraught European trip. Following the meeting, the G7 broke with tradition to release a statement where six nations reaffirmed the Paris climate agreement, without the United States. The president also caused a diplomatic scuffle in Italy after accusing Germany of being “very bad” on trade and appeared to literally shove aside a leader of a NATO ally.

In a Rose Garden ceremony last Thursday, Trump announced that the United States would leave the historic Paris climate agreement—promising to “begin negotiations to reenter either the Paris accord or an entirely new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States.”

In response to the president’s announcement, President Macron of France released a video statement, saying, “If we do nothing, our children will know a world of migrations, of wars, of shortage. A dangerous world.”

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Der Spiegel Just Published the Minutes From Trump’s Contentious Meeting With G7 Leaders

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Look at All the Ways Trump’s Staff Is Avoiding Answering This Basic Question

Mother Jones

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Nobody at the White House seems to have asked President Donald Trump about his position on climate change. For years, Trump has been calling global warming a hoax, sometimes alleging that it was invented by China.

So why not just confirm that this is still his opinion? Especially when, after withdrawing the United States from the most important climate deal in history, aides might want to use the opportunity to show that the president understands the basic science.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt and White House press secretary Sean Spicer had several opportunities to share the president’s current thinking on the issue. At Friday’s press briefing, four different reporters asked Pruitt four variations on this basic question from ABC’s Mary Bruce: “Yes or no, does the president believe that climate change is real and a threat to the United States?”

And four different times, Pruitt basically gave this response: “All the discussions we had over the last several weeks was focused on one singular issue: Is Paris good or not for this country?”

But Pruitt isn’t alone. Over the last several days, many of his closest advisers have revealed they spend no time discussing global warming with the president.

At Tuesday’s press briefing, when a reporter asked if Trump believes that human activity contributes to global warming, Spicer replied, “Honestly, I haven’t asked him. I can get back to you.” When he appeared at the podium again on Friday, Spicer still didn’t have an answer.

On Thursday, after the Paris decision was announced, CNN asked Gary Cohn, Trump’s top economic adviser, whether or not the president believes climate change is real. “You are going to have to ask him,” Cohn responded.

During a press briefing following the Paris announcement, a reporter asked about Trump’s beliefs on climate change. “I have not talked to the president about his personal views on climate change,” a White House official said.

Earlier on Friday, Trump’s adviser Kellyanne Conway also refused to answer if Trump thinks global warming is a hoax. When pressed by news anchor George Stephanopolous on Good Morning America, she assured him “The president believes in clean environment, clean air, clean water.”

Many of his advisers may not broach climate change with Trump, but recently, K.T. McFarland, his deputy national security adviser, slipped him two Time cover magazine stories about global warming to get the president riled up.

The only problem? One of the stories turned out to be an internet hoax.

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Look at All the Ways Trump’s Staff Is Avoiding Answering This Basic Question

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Pittsburgher to Trump: You got me all wrong

There are truly too many things to denounce in President Trump’s Thursday speech that pulled the United States out of the Paris Agreement. There’s the utter disregard for future generations, the blatant lack of understanding of the modern economy, the failure to grasp what climate change is — and then, the part where he forgot that Pittsburgh is the Paris of Appalachia! It’s like, where even to begin?

Yes, we’re here to discuss the much-trumpeted “I was elected to represent the people of Pittsburgh, not Paris” line of Trump’s Rose Garden speech. Like many Trump lines, it’s so baffling that it takes a few moments and several hard cigarette drags to process, but it actually touches on the president’s crucial misunderstanding of the rift between rural and urban America. Let’s break it down.

Many, many people — including Pittsburgh’s Mayor Bill Peduto — have rushed to tell Trump that he was not elected to represent the people of Pittsburgh, because the city of Pittsburgh voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton. But the electoral college did elect Donald J. Trump as president of the United States, of which Pittsburgh is a strange, small, but critical member — much like Steve Buscemi pre-Boardwalk Empire. Therefore, Trump was elected to represent the people of Pittsburgh, because that’s how federal elections work. He said a true thing!

Trump’s actions, however, are no representation of what Pittsburghers truly want. According to the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, 70 percent of Allegheny County residents (which includes Pittsburgh) say they want 20 percent of their electricity to be renewably sourced; 80 percent support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant; 74 percent support setting strict limits on emissions from coal-fired power plants.

These policies would be more ambitious than what was called for in the United States’ proposed commitments in the Paris Agreement. In other words, many Pittsburghers think that the climate pact Trump just scrapped was too lax.

After Trump’s talk, Mayor Peduto held a press conference on the subject of his Tweet heard ’round the world, which promised that Pittsburgh would continue to commit to the Paris Agreement. The room — because it was in Pittsburgh — was basically empty. That’s unfortunate, because Peduto addressed an essential misstep in Trump’s alliteration of two cities: That urban centers tend not to share beliefs, values, or even needs with the rural areas that surround them.

“There’s the city of Pittsburgh, which I represent, and then there are the surrounding areas,” Peduto said. “Maybe he should have a speechwriter that understands difference between ‘city’ and ‘region’ … This city doesn’t support his initiatives. For him to then use this city as an example of who he is elected to represent — he’s not representing us at all.”

Peduto then added that he was “offended” by the mischaracterization, an assertion that was quickly broadcast by local conservative media.

Pittsburgh is a deep blue city in a very red state. Those unfamiliar with the city would be surprised by how suddenly upon exiting its limits that one enters into Trump territory. Pittsburgh is surrounded by old coal and steel mill towns, long-dormant and depressed, where support for Trump runs high. Peduto addressed the disparity between the two poignantly:

“The areas that voted for him, the areas in the Rust Belt that see an opportunity in the past as the only opportunity for the future — he is giving them false hope.”

The stereotypical impression of Pittsburgh — and one that I encounter frequently as a proud but expatriated native — is that it’s a filthy, dark, depressed steel town. This impression is so outdated that it describes a place I’ve never seen. Pittsburgh’s primary industries have long been education and healthcare. More recently, and controversially, it’s become a bit of a tech hub. There’s not a speck of coal dust to be found — in fact, anyone with the privilege of visiting Pittsburgh notes that the city is uniquely lush and verdant.

Peduto said that Trump “used us as an example of a stereotype in order to make a point, and it missed completely.”

Pittsburgh’s success, Peduto emphasized, is a result of the city slowly weaning itself off a fossil fuel-based economy. Peduto himself attended COP21 in 2015 as part of an international coalition of mayors, and said he still plans on trying to hit the targets laid out in the Paris Agreement. (Peduto released an executive order this morning to this end.)

And yet the outlying, fading towns threaten to be left even further behind, as even the economic forces behind a fossil fuel-driven economy show signs of faltering.

Who would have thought that a president given to graceless, often indecipherable public statements could capture such a delicate facet of a split America in a single sentence! It’s been a very weird week.

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Pittsburgher to Trump: You got me all wrong

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Trump Railed Against China While Abandoning Paris. His Views Are Wildly Outdated.

Mother Jones

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President Donald Trump announced Wednesday afternoon that the US will abandon the historic Paris climate agreement—promising to “begin negotiations to re-enter either the Paris accord or an entirely new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States.”

In doing so, Trump characteristically railed against China—labeling it an economic foe and arguing it got the best end of the deal. “They can do whatever they want in 13 years, not us,” he said of China’s emissions plans. Casting the deal as an erosion of US sovereignty, Trump added that “the rest of the world applauded when we signed the Paris agreement. They went wild. They were so happy. For the simple reason that it put our country, the United States of America, which we all love, at a very, very big economic disadvantage.”

But here’s the reality: In the Paris agreement, China, for the first time, set a date at which it expects its climate emissions will “peak,” or finally begin to taper downward: around 2030. That goal came about after the US and China finally brokered a landmark bilateral climate deal in 2014 to work together. China has always argued it’s unfair for developed countries—who have already enjoyed the economic growth that comes with spewing carbon into the atmosphere—to curtail the growth of developing countries like China. So getting China to agree to “peaking” emissions was a major diplomatic break-through that turned out to be the secret sauce the world needed to come together in Paris.

The president’s view of China is outdated. Here’s what Trump left out:

China is already ahead of schedule. As we reported in March 2016, Chinese emissions may have actually peaked in 2014, and if those emissions didn’t peak in 2014, researchers say, they definitely will by 2025, years ahead of China’s official 2030 goal. Chinese coal consumption dropped 3.7 percent in 2015, marking two years in a row that coal use in the country declined. That meant 2015 was the first year in 15 years that carbon emissions dropped in China, according to the World Resources Institute.

China is far surpassing the US on investment to create clean energy jobs. In February, China announced that it would spent $361 billion over the next couple of years to create 13 million green jobs, according to the country’s National Energy Administration.

China is winning on clean energy technology. In 2016, a Chinese firm topped a global ranking for wind energy production for the first time, beating America’s General Electric. China leads the world in solar energy production—and has done so for some time. (Go inside one of the world’s biggest solar manufacturing plants with me, here.)

This year China is slated to launch the world’s biggest national carbon trading marketstitching together seven pilot carbon trading markets which have been up and running since 2013.

China overtook the US as the world’s biggest market for electric vehicles in 2015—and has a big plans for expansion. “We are convinced China will become the leading market for electro-mobility,” said Volkswagen brand chief Herbert Diess at a recent Shanghai car show.

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Trump Railed Against China While Abandoning Paris. His Views Are Wildly Outdated.

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