This week, we discuss two significant sleeper issues that will influence climate policy for a long time to come, and a few local initiatives for Massachusetts residents. Charlie Pierce highlighted the first understated, but very important, issue in a report for Esquire. A right-wing movement is pushing state legislatures to approve the idea of holding a new constitutional convention to rewrite the constitution. The convention would be open and would focus on the balanced budget amendment. Twenty-eight states have signed on to this campaign; thirty-four are needed to pass an amendment to the constitution. There is a possibility that if the movement can gain those last six states, it could create stringent regulations that limit the government’s ability to act on climate change.
Another issue of concern is that Mitch McConnell is intent on loading the federal bench with right-wing conservatives who are light on experience but heavy on ideology. These are very young lawyers who will be in these lifetime appointments for decades. Having a federal bench replete with judges that are subservient to right-wing philosophies will make it very difficult for environmental laws to succeed.
Massachusetts listeners, please be on high alert and make calls to your state representative about the following critical local issues. There is a bill before the MA legislature that would eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ability to assist cities and towns in making regulations to protect air and water quality. Additionally, the Baker Administration released a statement indicating that he feels no political risk by opposing a carbon tax. MA climate hawks can help the movement away from fossil fuels by reminding him that natural and fracked gas should not be part of our energy portfolio.

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There is a lot going on in Bonn this week, at the annual climate conference. In addition to working out the details of the Paris Accords, there were protests of the US gummint shilling for coal, and protests against Jerry Brown for not being pure enough. Listen in as we discuss.

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Tax reform is the big buzz in Washington, D.C. this week, but notable for climate hawks is the fact that the program is attacking renewable energy. This reform is more of a “tax cut” program, and it slashes many of the direct credits on the taxes paid by the renewable energy industry. That credit is critical for making renewable energy proposals financially viable. Notably, these credits were part of a major bipartisan deal reached in December 2015.

In a turn of strange, but good news, however, the federal government released the most recent National Climate Assessment (NCA). The NCA says that climate change is driven almost entirely by the burning of fossil fuels and details climate damage across the United States that is already unfolding. This report provides robust support for the endangerment finding, which is the root statement that carbon dioxide is a polluting gas and must be regulated by the Supreme Court. It is a crucial piece of documentation that can be used in the efforts to keep fossil fuels in the ground.

Globally, an interesting but unclear situation is happening in Saudi Arabia that will have consequences for climate issues over the coming decades. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is consolidating power and making radical changes in Saudi Arabia. The young prince wants to go public with Saudi Aramco and reinvest it into things like green energy. He recognizes that there is a post-oil future and he wants to be on the top of it. While this could be good news for renewable energy, there is a dark side to his major foreign policy moves. History has shown that these types of initiatives often collapse into destabilizing international quagmires. It is certainly something to watch. Tune in for more details.

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Tuesday’s election has good news for Climate Hawks, with the prospects for state level climate action improving. That, coupled with efforts like America’s Pledge at the Bonn climate conference make us feel better. Listen in.

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About 13% of Massachusetts citizens get their electric power through local “Municipal” utilities. These are a good opportunity to make our state’s energy usage cleaner. Listen in to Carol Oldham, MCAN’s Executive Director, as she describes ways to help these Muni’s reduce carbon emissions. After that, use this map of electric utilities to check your supplier and then send an email to: Info@massclimateaction.net for information on how you can help your town’s utility go green.

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Last week’s storm gave Boston a little taste of the bitter circumstances in Puerto Rico. We ask how the island can be rebuilt in a sustainable model, especially with the departure of Whitefish Energy Holdings. On a different island, New Zealand considers offering a home to climate refugees. Back in Boston, we consider the implications of a hurricane in Boston proper. Listen in.

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Hard to believe that Hurricane Sandy was five years ago this week. On today’s podcast, we discuss how the devastation from that storm broke the media silence on climate change—and the media seesaw we have been on since then. We celebrate the technical advances in solar and wind power, which have marched forward despite the political obstacles. Ever vigilant toward the continued tragedy in Puerto Rico, we examine the renewable energy access provided to the American protectorate by Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla; and dissect the sketchy deal happening with Whitefish Energy Holdings out of Montana. On an optimistic note, we turn toward the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) in Massachusetts and its recent discussions to reduce transportation emissions. Governor Charlie Baker will be holding listening sessions—an excellent opportunity for climate hawks to have their ideas heard!

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How should we react to the present and future devastation of climate change, and our President’s abject failure to act? What should we do to maintain our spirit and drive? While we mangle a few quotes on the way, it seems Alice Walker sums it up saying “Activism is the rent I pay to live on the planet.” There are no easy answers, but we discuss. What do you think?

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What is the “necessity defense,” why does it matter, and how is under threat? On the flip side, how concerned should we be about the rising popularity of companies using federal racketeering laws to silence opponents? This week we answered these questions in detail. Here is a sneak peek – the necessity defense, alongside the public trust doctrine, are legal constructs that climate hawks should know. Concerned citizens and groups may be able to use these overarching legal principles as mechanisms for making progress on climate issues in the court systems. The necessity defense hinges on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Endangerment Finding, which defines carbon dioxide as a toxic air pollutant. This finding is under threat, with high-powered climate deniers claiming it overreaches and is curtailing economic growth. The Endangerment finding is the backbone for protecting public health from carbon dioxide. The power of the vote is on the horizon. Get involved and add to the blizzard of response that we need to keep the legal system protecting the people.

 

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Eversource is reported to have manipulated natural gas markets, restricting the use of existing pipelines even as they have argued that we need to build more pipelines. What gives? At the same time, Boston is vying for the prize of Amazon’s new headquarters. What would the arrival of another corporate behemoth mean for the clean and sustainable development of our city? Listen in as we contemplate the implications!

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