Wednesday, January 18, 2017

We're never going to fix this

Bren Hasae is head of Louisiana's Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. Today, in Baton Rouge, he presented the latest version of the state's coastal master plan to an oversight board. The talk, in recent years, tends to emphasize the "Protection" aspect of the agency's mission rather than "Restoration." As Haase told the committee as much once again.
“We’re never going to get back to the coastline we had in 1930s," Haase said in an interview after presenting the draft plan for the first time to the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority board.

That’s provided $50 billion can be found, which it has not. About $15 billion to $18 billion is “plausibly” available from a variety of sources, including the federal government, settlements from the BP Deepwater Horizon incident and the state, Haase said. Probably $150 billion is needed, but that’s not as realistic as finding $50 billion, he added.
We're never going to restore the coastline. And even given what we think we can do, we still aren't committed to paying for it.

Marking another milestone for a changing planet, scientists reported on Wednesday that the Earth reached its highest temperature on record in 2016 — trouncing a record set only a year earlier, which beat one set in 2014. It is the first time in the modern era of global warming data that temperatures have blown past the previous record three years in a row.

The findings come two days before the inauguration of an American president who has called global warming a Chinese plot and vowed to roll back his predecessor’s efforts to cut emissions of heat-trapping gases.
Is it a Chinese plot?  We know industrialization in China has contributed to global warming just as it has in the West. On the other hand, China's move this week to cancel over 100 coal plants is the latest indicator of its effort to slow that trend. Although, much like the CPRA, China's climate policy isn't anywhere near what we would call the "Restoration" phase.
That said, there are a whole bunch of important asterisks here. First, Beijing has only ordered the provinces to cancel the plants. The provincial governments still have to actually comply. (And we’ve seen some provinces defy Beijing on overcapacity cuts before.)

Second, even under the new cap, Chinese coal capacity still has some room to expand going forward — which is why environmental groups like Greenpeace are calling on the government to go even further and cancel the rest of the dozens of new coal projects still in various stages of planning. 

Third, while any slowdown in Chinese coal demand is good news for climate change, it’s not great news for climate change. If the world wants to avoid drastic global warming — typically defined as 2°C or more — then it’s not enough for China’s CO2 emissions to simply plateau. They have to fall, very drastically. Doing that will require more than simply canceling any future coal plants. It will mean either retiring existing coal plants and replacing them with cleaner sources (as the United States is currently doing) or retrofitting the plants with carbon capture technology and burying their emissions underground.
 And that brings us back to the point.  Nothing anyone is doing right now has anything to do with "fixing" climate change.  Politics doesn't work that way.  The disaster is coming... actually is already here. All politics can do for us is determine who among us will bear the greatest costs of the disaster (and who might even benefit.)  As usual, the world's poorer classes are losing that fight to its ruling elite.

Don't expect that to change under a Trump Administration empowered by Trump's absurd (and inconsistent) proclamations to sound almost rational by comparison even while maintaining a policy of denialism.
Scott Pruitt, for his part, said that climate change is "subject to continuing debate and dialogue" (a meaningless truism that’s often used to stonewall any discussion of actual action). The most he would say about what he would do was: “I believe the EPA has a very important role to perform in regulating CO2." This is an accurate summary of what the law says, although given that Pruitt has sued to block every concrete step Obama’s EPA actually took to regulate CO2, it’s wildly unclear what he means by “regulating.” His track record thus far suggests he’ll do as little as humanly possible about climate change.

As my colleague David Roberts noted the other day, the term of art for this stance — which Tillerson, Zinke, and Pruitt all share — is “lukewarmism.” A lukewarmer is someone who won’t be so crass as to argue that climate change is a hoax, and doesn’t really want to fight over whether climate change is actually happening, but certainly has no intention of supporting serious emissions reductions anytime soon and will usually quibble endlessly about the extent and severity of global warming.
 At Pruitt's confirmation hearing today, Senatore Jim Inhoffe was playing his role in the farce.

Clearing the way for everyone else to "teach the controversy" so to speak. But the temperature keeps rising and the ocean is coming to get us. As long as the friends and backers of Trump, Pruitt, Tillerson et al can continue to maximize profits in the meantime, then those men will have done their job. 

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