The world as I thought I knew it – liberal ideas being promoted by governments and societies progressively evolving towards a better place. Goodness me, ten years ago seems like a bygone era.
We have Brexit, where the latest situation is that the US is supposed to be our saviour, paving our path out of the EU with gold. We’ll do a great deal with them! We are barely out when our Chancellor makes an announcement that the UK government will (rightfully) tax tech giants to regain some of the tax that they work so hard to avoid. The US reacts by starting a trade war on their behalf. Our car industry is slapped with tariff threats and we are left in some kind of Mexican trade war standoff. So much for that special relationship! So much for the UK boldly conquering the world on our own!
Meanwhile, the rest of Europe drifts inexorably towards right-wing populism, from France to Italy, Hungary to Poland. (There are a few glints of hope in Greece electing a female environmentalist as President, Portugal remaining liberal…)
Bolsonaro, in Brazil, does his level best to completely eradicate liberal ideals, the environment, the indigenous population, progressivism…
Scott Morrison, in Australia, peddles climate conspiracy theories whilst totally mishandling the bushfire disaster, whilst his government were accused of “cheating” and thwarting the UN climate deal.
Nothing has been done with respect to Saudi Arabia murdering a Washington Post journalist, and the Crown Prince has now hacked Jeff Bezos’ phone. All the while, in the Yemen…
Deforestation and environmental destruction is happening all over the world to newly worrying levels. Even if you are one of those head-in-the-sanders who deny climate change, we are, empirically speaking, undergoing the 6th mass extinction event:
If we use the same approach to estimate today’s extinctions per million species-years, we come up with a rate that is between ten and 10,000 times higher than the background rate.
Even considering a conservative background rate of two extinctions per million species-years, the number of species that have gone extinct in the last century would have otherwise taken between 800 and 10,000 years to disappear if they were merely succumbing to the expected extinctions that happen at random. This alone supports the notion that the Earth is at least experiencing many more extinctions than expected from the background rate.
It would likely take several millions of years of normal evolutionary diversification to “restore” the Earth’s species to what they were prior to human beings rapidly changing the planet. Among land vertebrates (species with an internal skeleton), 322 species have been recorded going extinct since the year 1500, or about 1.2 species going extinction every two years.
If this doesn’t sound like much, it’s important to remember extinction is always preceded by a loss in population abundance and shrinking distributions.
Based on the number of decreasing vertebrate species listed in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species, 32 percent of all known species across all ecosystems and groups are decreasing in abundance and range. In fact, the Earth has lost about 60 percent of all vertebrate individuals since 1970.
And then there’s Trump.
Trump, Trump, Trump. I want to just apply a label that is becoming of someone so deeply, deeply unpresidential and lacking in worthiness of any type of respect. The man is an utter douchebag. I can’t begin to tell you how much I now hate him.
Taking it upon himself to trash talk a 16-year-old, he recently used his hugely visible and influential Davos platform to attack environmentalists. At the same time, he spoke like more of a child than Thunberg to say:
KERNEN: Tesla’s now worth more than GM and Ford. Do you have comments on Elon Musk?
TRUMP: Well — you have to give him credit. I spoke to him very recently, and he’s also doing the rockets. He likes rockets. And — he does good at rockets too, by the way. I never saw where the engines come down with no wings, no anything, and they’re landing. I said I’ve never seen that before. And I was worried about him, because he’s one of our great geniuses, and we have to protect our genius. You know, we have to protect Thomas Edison and we have to protect all of these people that — came up with originally the light bulb and — the wheel and all of these things. And he’s one of our very smart people and we want to– we want to cherish those people.
Q Do you still think climate change is hoax?
THE PRESIDENT: No, not at all. I think what is — I think aspects of it are. I think that some people are — they put it at a level that is, you know, unrealistic, to a point you can’t live your lives.
We want to have the cleanest water on Earth. We want to have the cleanest air on Earth. Our numbers, as you saw — we had record numbers come out very recently. Our numbers are very, very good — our environmental numbers. Our water numbers, our — our numbers on air are tremendous.
We have to do something about other continents. We have to do something about other countries. When we’re clean and beautiful and everything is good, but you have another continent where the fumes are rising at levels that you can’t believe — I mean, I think Greta ought to focus on those places.
But we are doing better right now than we’ve ever done, in terms of cleanliness, in terms of numbers. We have a beautiful ocean called the Pacific Ocean, where thousands and thousands of tons of garbage flows toward us, and that’s put there by other countries. So I think Greta has to start working on those other countries.
The Trump administration has completed its rollback of environmental protections for streams, wetland and other bodies of water, a process that has stripped pollution safeguards from drinking water sources used by around a third of all Americans.
Clean water protections strengthened under the Obama administration have long been targeted by Donald Trump, who has called it a “very destructive and horrible rule”.
Trump has been backed by ranchers, farming groups and golf course operators, who claim the so-called “Water of the United States” (Wotus) rule impinged upon landowners’ rights.
The Obama-era water rule was repealed last year and on Thursday the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a weakened replacement that removes millions of miles of streams and around half of America’s wetlands from federal oversight, potentially allowing pesticides and other pollutants to be dumped into them without penalty.
The move has dismayed former EPA staff who worked on the expansion of protections to ephemeral streams that supply drinking water to an estimated 117 million people in the US.
The Trump administration had promised the demise of the water rule to industry groups that lobbied against what they saw as costly federal overreach. “This new rule will provide much-needed clarity and regulatory certainty for companies that site and build infrastructure that delivers essential energy to America’s communities,” said Karen Harbert, chief executive of the American Gas Association.
We know the weakening of these laws has come after intense pressure from the fossil fuel industry, as can be seen in the lobbying by BP.
In “Air Pollution Increases Under Trump, Despite His Claim of World’s ‘Cleanest Air’”, Matt Stieb states:
BP has successfully lobbied US policymakers to weaken a landmark environmental law, clearing the way for major infrastructure projects to bypass checks.
US government documents show BP America lobbied in favour of Donald Trump’s decision to dilute legislation, which could make it easier for new projects, such as oil pipelines and power plants, to move forward with far less federal review of their impact on the environment.
Many green groups fear the changes to the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act (Nepa) will increase greenhouse gas emissions and accelerate the climate crisis.
The changes, unveiled by Trump this month, would narrow the list of projects that require an environmental impact assessment and in some cases eliminate the need for federal agencies to consider the cumulative effects of projects, including the impact on the climate crisis.
Of the many reasons to be terrified for American public health in the era of climate change, one breath of relief has been the long-term increase in air quality in the United States. Since the founding of the EPA under the Nixon administration, total emissions of six of the most common air pollutants have dropped 73 percent, while cuts to air-particulate pollution enforced by the Clean Air Act have added 18 months to the average American’s life expectancy since 1970.
In the Trump era, it’s probably healthier to hold that breath of relief. Despite a 25 percent decline in fine-particulate pollution over the seven years prior to Trump’s election, that form of pollution grew by 5.5 percent from 2016 to 2018, according to an analysis of EPA data by researchers at Carnegie Mellon. As the New York Times notes, fine-particulate pollution, defined as particles with a diameter of about one-thirtieth of a human hair, “has been linked to a range of health problems including asthma and respiratory inflammation, lung cancer, heart attack and stroke. A recent study found a significant link between air pollution and the risk of miscarriage.” The 5 percent uptick was also associated with almost 10,000 premature deaths in the two-year period — in addition to the 50,000 to 120,000 Americans that the EPA estimates die prematurely every year due to air pollution.
It’s like there is a total moral vacuum in the leadership of the most powerful. And even the EU, which often fights for rights and regulation, is being overrun with populists of the same vein.
The more these months pass by, the less respect and time I have for people who vote for these essentially individualistic, self-centred populists. History will not be on their side, but so what? They’ll be dead.
And then there is the joke that is the impeachment. Republican senators are literally going to sleep during the speeches, and the Republicans won’t even allow witnesses to be brought forward:
I can’t believe Trump is pulling the national security card. The Republicans, in their partisan obsession, are being pathetic; it’s a disgrace.
Lindsey Graham’s utter hypocrisy is played back, but he isn’t even in his seat:
And you’ve got to see the Jay Sekulow embarrassment of taking to task the Democrats for a “lawyer lawsuit”, when he misheard the term “FOIA” (Freedom of Information Act) – see 6:30 onwards.
And Trump admits he is withholding evidence – “we have all the material; they don’t have the material”…:
There is so much I could mention regarding the impeachment – I think Adam Schiff and the Democrat managers have been doing a really good job. The thing’s a farce, though, because it has been rigged by the majority-Republican Senate, devoid of any desire to arrive at truth. Trump must maintain, at all costs.
The upshot is that we can’t actually say with much confidence whether impeachment is hurting (or helping) Trump’s reelection chances. Nor is it even clear it’s having any affect at all.
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