“A version of this article appeared in Salon

On Wednesday, one day after our closely contested presidential election, the United States stepped away from its adherence to the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, a decision announced by President Trump back in June, 2017 as the rhetorical centerpiece of his campaign to unleash the ferocity of an even more unstable climate on American communities in the name of “energy dominance.”

Given the decision by a solid popular-vote verdict of American voters — and apparently also the needed majority in the Electoral College — to choose a change in direction on energy policy and other issues by entrusting the helm of the ship of state to Joe Biden, that retreat will constitute one of the most ephemeral episodes in foreign policy history. The U.S. …

“A version of this article appeared in Salon

Last week’s final presidential debate ended with a revealing split between Donald Trump and Joe Biden on climate policy. But most of the media coverage is missing the real story because the media ignores what is already happening in the economics of the energy sector.

Biden was clear that he is not going to ban fracking or shut down the oil industry. He mentioned ending new drilling on public lands and shutting down subsidies for coal, oil, and gas. And he said we would transition away from oil — that it would take decades, but that we need to replace fossil fuels with renewables because of the climate threat. …

“A version of this article appeared in Salon

Donald Trump’s promising on ABC that he would soon achieve “herd immunity” for the coronavirus, and conflating it with herd mentality, must be explained because he is counting on the latter to rescue his second term. It is otherwise impossible to imagine a campaign whose end game is recovering the lost loyalty of voters over 65 selecting as its closing argument to those voters, “Not enough of you have died yet.”

It’s a safe bet that none of his 2016 Republican primary challengers would have openly embraced the idea that the solution to the pandemic was more American casualties than the Civil War and WWII combined, which is what herd immunity would require. But many of Trump’s other Republican comrades in arms have embraced, often eagerly, a default preference for such herd immunity — harkening back to the harsh Social Darwinism that underlies much of modern conservatism. Early on there were Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, Congressman Trey Hollingsworth, and radio host Glenn Beck, all of whom, argued that the loss of more American lives was preferable to scaling back the economy. Then, when the issue became wearing masks, some opponents argued “if I’m going to get Covid and die from it, then so be it…” They really meant, “if you are going to get Covid and die, so be it..” Wearing masks was framed as a deprivation of freedom — although this argument seems never to have been extended by Republicans to the prohibition on public indecency. …

I doubt, the signing of the Paris agreement aside, that there have ever been as big a week for climate progress as this one.

First, the Government of China presented itself as the global successor to the US role abandoned by Trump, accelerating its peak emission date and committing to net zero climate impact by 2060. By placing China solidly ahead of the US in both of those categories — we have neither pledged peak emissions nor net zero — China upped the global expectations game. But because China is so much the current biggest emitter, and because it’s economy has the centrally managed capacity to make economic transitions far faster than Europe, the US or India, China’s pledge, while leaving loopholes and thin on implementation details, is an an enormous step forward. By itself, scientists estimated it could cut global temperature increases by .3 degrees. It also signals strongly that China views its existing commitments to renewable electricity and zero emissions, electrified vehicles as core economic drivers of global leadership. China thereby makes fossil fuels far less attractive to investors even in countries that may not themselves yet embrace climate leadership. …

A version of this article appeared earlier in Salon

The clash between Donald Trump and Jo Biden over the roots of the West’s apocalyptic fire season has missed the crucial point — perhaps because neither candidate is targeting the solidly Democratic Pacific Coast.

Biden justly called Trump a “climate arsonist,” after four years of desperate efforts to accelerate climate change and convince the American people to ignore its threats. Trump is wrong to blame state forest management policies for the fires. …

A version of this article appeared earlier in Salon

As hospital intensive care units overflow again, and delays in COVID-19 testing reports reach record levels in many cities, a conversation I recently had with Sen. Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, reminded me that I had forgotten something utterly critical: Donald Trump’s decision to unilaterally disarm America in the face of the coronavirus invasion was urged upon him by an ostensible defender of American business: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

When the pandemic reached America, we were not ready — any more than we were ready when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. But Trump had the tools to do what the U.S. has often done: make up for lack of preparedness. The crucial gaps to fill in March were supplies for testing to limit the spread of the virus, and medical equipment to treat those who got sick — testing kits, swabs, reagents, masks, gowns and gloves — by the billions. Government health agencies estimated that if the pandemic took hold, the country would need, for example, 3.5 billion N95 medical masks. …

A version of this article appeared earlier in Salon

On Tuesday, Joe Biden embraced a 2035 phase out for fossil fuel power generation, committed his first administration to $2 trillion in climate solutions investments — triple the amount he had previously promised — and framed both with his strongest linkage yet of clean energy and a million new jobs: “When I think about climate change, the word I think of is ‘jobs’.”

Biden’s striking expansion of his climate ambition came at the end of a little remarked but extraordinary six weeks signaling a global shift away from fossil fuels — with, admittedly, a few stubborn outliers, including the presidents of Brazil and the United States. …

A version of this article appeared earlier in Salon

Europe for years aspired to lead climate progress — but also, for years the EU seemed unable to grasp the scale of the actions needed to become, as French President Emmanuel Macron has proposed, “Europe, la Puissance” (that is, “the power”).

France skillfully landed the Paris agreement, but its foundation was a U.S.-China rapprochement. The 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference, commonly known as the Copenhagen Summit, showed the limits of European heft. After the Paris accords there was often an alarming tentativeness in the EU, which was wracked by the endless Brexit debate and hostility towards a decisive clean energy transition in coal-reliant regions. …

The fix is in for politically favored oil, gas and coal companies.

The huge financial aid package enacted by Congress this spring entailed a sprawling array of programs to direct funding, guarantee loans, relieve debt and more to support businesses laid low by a global pandemic. It also opened the door to a money grab. As a result, hundreds of millions of dollars are likely to end up in the pockets of oil and coal investors and executives in what may be the biggest campaign donor payoff in U.S. history.

Failing oil and coal companies quickly moved to exploit the bailout as a financial lifeline. They had help. Seventeen Republican senators sent a letter in April to the Federal Reserve, effectively urging the use of coronavirus rescue funds to bail out bad coal and oil debt.

(to read the rest of this article, please go here. )

A version of this article appeared earlier in Salon

The catastrophic failure of the United States to prepare itself for the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s equally catastrophic failure to mount the kind of “too late but effective” response to a crisis that has often characterized American history — World War II, most spectacularly — has deep roots in recent political and cultural trends.

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post has written the best piece I have read on the pandemic. Milbank connects the dots over the past 21 years, during which time the reckless “we don’t need to prepare for anything except war” brand of Republicanism ignored repeated warnings that a pandemic was coming, savaged budgets for agencies like the NIH and CDC, starved state public health capacities and allowed them to wither in half, drove moderate Republicans who supported health-care investment — such as former Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania — out of the party and presided over a massive shutdown of health care capacity in rural America. Eventually, with the rise of the Tea Party and then the election of Donald Trump, the Republicans surrendered their party to the nihilism of its only remaining principle, articulated by Grover Norquist as “I don’t want to abolish government. …

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