Climate change, the GOP and Trump

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Joel Dyer | Boulder Weekly

The Republican Party is “the most dangerous organization in world history,” argues Noam Chomsky.

The GOP controls the entire national government — executive, legislative and judicial branches — of the most powerful country while being the only governing political party on the planet which denies the existence of climate change. Chomsky says the Republicans are “dedicated to the destruction of organized human life on Earth,” because they want to “maximize the use of fossil fuels.” This sounds hyperbolic but he is being quite reasonable.

Time is running out. There are literally millions of lives at stake. Extreme weather events are getting fiercer and more common. Polar regions are melting as global warming accelerates. The wildfire season is longer every year.

In an ominous development, Donald Trump announced last year that the United States would withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement.

Recently, a new report found that during Trump’s first year in office, major banks increased their investment in the dirtiest fossil fuel projects such as tar sands, coal, Arctic and deepwater oil, and liquefied natural gas. The report, entitled Banking on Climate Change, was released by Rainforest Action Network, BankTrack, Indigenous Environmental Network, Oil Change International, Sierra Club and Honor The Earth.

The report also documented how these projects are destructive of human rights, Indigenous rights, and community health and well-being. U.S. and Canadian banks were the worst offenders.

Rainforest Action Network Spokeswoman Alison Kirsch, accused banks such as JPMorgan Chase of “moving backwards in lockstep with their wrongheaded political leaders.” Stephen Kretzmann of Oil Change International said, “Every single dollar that these banks provide for the expansion of the fossil fuel industry is a dollar going to increase the climate crisis.”

This alliance of environmental groups has issued reports annually for nine years. This new report noted, “The first year after the adoption of the Paris Climate Agreement, was a year of progress. 2017 was a year of backsliding.” Financing for the dirtiest fossil fuel projects by the big banks increased 11 percent, from $104 billion in 2016 to $115 billion in 2017.

If Trump has his way, this backsliding will speed up. Trump is deploying a strategy of “maximal extraction” of fossil fuels to ensure U.S. global dominance, according to Michael T. Klare, a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College. Klare says, “Donald Trump has made it clear that cheap and abundant domestic energy derived from fossil fuels was going to be the crucial factor in his total-mobilization approach to global engagement. In his view and that of his advisers, it’s the essential element in ensuring national economic vitality, military strength and geopolitical clout, whatever damage it might cause to American life, the global environment or even the future of human life on this planet. The exploitation and wielding of fossil fuels now sits at the very heart of the Trumpian definition of national security, as the recently released NSS [National Security Strategy] makes all too clear.”

Trump proposes to “unleash” America’s energy resources by wiping out environmental regulations and constructing a massive infrastructure (such as pipelines) to market the resources to the world. “After all, “ Klare points out, “America possesses some of the largest reservoirs of oil, coal and natural gas on the planet.”

Trump promised vast changes in U.S. environmental policies. Unlike his many other promises, he is keeping his word. It is horrifying. National Geographic is tracking those changes at tinyurl.com/y7qj6qlu.

We have marched, called members of Congress, written letters to the editor, and protested at town halls and community meetings. Since Republicans control all of the federal government, there are limits to what we can do. To get any progress, we have to vote them out of office in 2018 and 2020.

There are also important battles being waged within the Democratic Party over enacting truly progressive environmental policies.

But significant change starts at the grassroots among the people. The anti-fracking movement has grown by leaps and bounds. Cities and counties have struggled to regulate and/or ban fracking but this can only be done on a statewide or national level.

New York State has shown that it can be done. Governor Andrew Cuomo is a centrist Democrat like John Hickenlooper, but he has banned fracking. He ignored and ridiculed the fracktivists for quite awhile but ultimately he did the right thing. Local groups in New York fought fracking in their communities. Some 180 municipal bans and moratoria were passed across the state. There was a statewide grassroots coalition formed of 250 organizations, which created networks of fracking opponents among health professionals, businesses, local elected officials, chefs and faith leaders.

Everywhere Cuomo went, he was birddogged by fracktivists who peppered him with questions and chants. Then when he ran for re-election, he was challenged in the Democratic primary by law professor Zephyr Teachout, who ran on a strong anti-fracking platform. She received more than a third of the votes.

The coalition wouldn’t accept any fracking regulations. “Not one well!” was their chant. They demanded a ban.

Unfortunately, the political climate is much less hospitable in Colorado than it is in New York. It will be a tougher fight but we can win. Si se puede!.

This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.