Home » Earth Matters: VP Harris on $1 trillion in climate spending; Michael Mann gets his day in court

Earth Matters: VP Harris on $1 trillion in climate spending; Michael Mann gets his day in court

Except for during World War II, the United States has never had anything that could fairly be called an industrial policy. And unlike all the other developed nations and a few of the developing ones, it still doesn’t. However, the Biden administration has gone about as far in that direction as can be accomplished unless and until a bunch of congressional Republicans are replaced with Democrats.

As many of us have urged ever since the Inflation Reduction Act was signed 17 months ago, the White House and numerous congressional Democrats have been wisely bragging about this accomplishment, showing up at groundbreakings of projects funded by the IRA to praise their positive effects on jobs and the climate crisis and reminding everyone who made it happen. And two or three times a week, there’s news of another example to crow about, such as this headline on Friday: Biden administration awards nearly half a billion dollars for Northern California offshore wind project.

This isn’t just campaign blather. Although the anticipated impacts of IRA funding have just gotten underway, they are already appreciable. According to ongoing tracking by the nonpartisan trade group Environmental Entrepreneurs, since the IRA’s passage, 274 major clean energy projects have been announced in 41 states, bringing in $110 billion in private investment announcements and the creation of nearly 96,000 jobs. 

Since last February and more frequently of late, Vice President Kamala Harris has lauded the administration’s environmental and climate accomplishments, noting that this will mean a government investment of $1 trillion over 10 years.

For instance, at the COP28 climate summit in Dubai last month, she mentioned that number twice in speeches: “Two years ago, President Joe Biden stood onstage at COP26 and made a declaration of ambition: The United States of America will once again be a global leader in the fight against the climate crisis. Since then, the United States has turned ambition into action. President Biden and I made the largest climate investment in the history of our country and, some have said, the world: roughly $1 trillion over the next 10 years.”

Timothy Cama at E&E News reports that this figure “doesn’t align” with the $369 billion that the Congressional Budget Office estimated would be the cost of the energy and climate provisions of the IRA over a decade. The administration provided the rationale:

“When the VP references the roughly $1T historic climate investment, she is referencing all of the clean energy, resilience, environmental justice, and innovation funding that is part of our historic effort to address the climate crisis, increase resilience, advance environmental justice, and build a clean energy economy,” a White House spokesperson told E&E News.

Specifically, in addition to the IRA, the number includes: $54 billion from the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 that went toward manufacturing, research and development; more than $530 billion of new spending in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act; and funding increases the administration secured at EPA and the departments of Energy, Transportation and Commerce.

That’s not fudging. The quasi-industrial policy provided by this amalgamation is overall a Democratic effort. Although no Republicans voted for the IRA, a few said “aye” for the IIJA, CHIPS, and spending increases in those departments. But most Republicans, like the oligarchs at Goldman-Sachs, et al., bellyache about the IRA being too expensive, and even worse in their view is the whole array of green funding lauded by Harris.

A trillion dollars is a whole lot of money. But over a decade, it averages out to $100 billion a year. What the Pentagon will get in 2024 added to what the Veterans Administration will get totals $1.2 trillion. For one year. So defense against the climate emergency gets 8% of traditional national defense and critics call it too expensive.

On the presidential campaign trail in 2019, Kamala Harris proposed a $10 trillion, 10-year blueprint to address the climate crisis. She wasn’t alone. Former Housing Secretary Julián Castro also proposed a $10 trillion clean energy plan, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee proposed a 10-year, $9 trillion green investment plan, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker called for a $3 trillion plan. Sen. Elizabeth Warren called for a $2 trillion plan. And Sen. Bernie Sanders proposed a $16.3 trillion plan. All more in keeping with what is truly needed to speed the green transformation along in time for it to make a difference. 

League of Conservation vice president in charge of federal policy Matthew Davis told Cama, “The Biden-Harris administration has delivered so much more than $1 trillion in investments. It’s hard to capture what all of those add up to, and it’s hard to encapsulate the entirety of the work that they have done to help communities around the country.”

A good point. Money isn’t everything. But that doesn’t obviate the need for more climate- and environment-related funding. And getting from the $1 trillion Harris lauds to those additional trillions will require—as with so many other issues—a solid November turnout not just for Biden-Harris but also for congressional races and all those state legislatures where much important energy (and other) policy is being made.

The vice president’s taking repeated note of the impact of that trillion dollars is both smart and good politics. Will it be enough to lure votes from youth (and other Americans) who are tempted to vote for a third party or nobody at all because they are disappointed about some of Biden’s environmental actions and angry about his actions on Israel’s war on Gaza?

It’s hard to determine how much talking about the administration’s positive accomplishments on climate will affect the voting decisions of people who are appalled by how Israel has prosecuted the war and by how the U.S. has supported it. As for how those environmental disappointments, Cama writes:

“The Biden administration has definitely pushed the ball forward on climate in ways that previous presidents haven’t done. However, they need to finish the job,” said Stevie O’Hanlon, spokesperson for the Sunrise Movement, a youth activist group.

“While they have made big strides forward with the IRA, with the American Climate Corps, we still are on track as a country to produce more fossil fuels than ever before by 2030,” they said, pointing to Biden’s approval of the Willow Project in Alaska and uncertainty over its ongoing consideration of CP2, a proposed liquefied natural gas export terminal in Louisiana.

“And if they want to be taken seriously by young people, the administration can’t be half in and half out on climate,” O’Hanlon said.

Getting out of that half-and-half mode means ensuring the reelection of the leaders who—however reluctant many of them can sometimes be—have delivered on that first half in the face of considerable opposition. Add to those already in office a lot of less-reluctant leaders and maybe the nation will finally get the full-blown green industrial policy it truly needs. 



“It’s been clear for months that this primary has been little more than a sideshow. Now, as voters turn their attention to the main event, the stakes could not be higher. As we barrel towards critical 2030 climate targets, the American people are faced with a choice between a dangerous climate denier who wants to take us backward and the most successful climate president in American history. But Trump’s climate denial isn’t an isolated issue. Soon-to-be also-ran Nikki Haley led the effort to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement and has vowed to repeal Biden’s signature climate law, calling it a ’communist manifesto’. Republican climate denial is completely out of touch with voters across the political spectrum who support President Biden’s climate goals.

“Both of these men have served one term in the White House. We know exactly how they’ve governed, and Trump’s rhetoric on climate has only gotten more extreme since leaving office. Meanwhile, President Biden is proving that bold climate action can create hundreds of thousands of jobs, uplift local economies in urban and rural America, and lower energy costs all while slashing climate pollution. We can’t afford to go back to President Trump.”

See Evergreen’s Republicans Are Trying to Burn It Down, Literally: Defending Climate Progress in 2024


In Defamation case, Climatologist Michael Mann Confronts Climate Deniers Who compared him to a child molester 

Insurance companies in a panic at last year’s reports. Pay-outs at about one hundred billion USD a year now, going higher fast, as in hockey stick graph. Insurance companies insured by re-insurance. These now holding short end of stick (tall end of stick?).—Kim Stanley Robinson, The Ministry for the Future: A Novel

Twelve years after being compared to a prominent pedophile for his work, climatologist Michael E. Mann is finally getting his day in court challenging what he says is defamation by two right-wing detractors known, among other things, for asserting that human-caused climate change isn’t happening. The trial began Jan. 18 and is expected to run through the first week of February. Ironically, the case is being heard at a time of stepped-up disinformation about climate change and a rise of attacks on climatologists online.

In 1998 Mann and two of his colleagues, Raymond S. Bradley and Malcolm K. Hughes, published data and a chart that came to be known as the “hockey stick graph” reconstructing Earth’s temperature changes over the past 1,000 years. This showed a flat trend through 1900—the “shaft” of the hockey stick—after which it took a sharp upward turn—the blade. They had no inkling of the firestorm this would ignite after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change featured their reconstructions in its Third Climate Assessment published in 2001.

The ‘Hockey stick’ graph from the IPCC’s Third report (2001): Variations of the Earth’s surface temperature over the last 1000 years. Taken from Figure 2.20: Millennial Northern Hemisphere (NH) temperature reconstruction (blue) and instrumental data (red) from AD 1000 to 1999, adapted from Mann, Bradley and Hughes (1999). Smoother version of NH series (black), linear trend from AD 1000 to 1850 (purple-dashed) and two standard error limits (grey shaded) are shown. (IPCC AR3 Working Group I: The Scientific Basis p. 134) A more readable chart can be found here.

Climate science “skeptics”—the misleading label mainstream media deployed at the time to sanitize critics who challenged the whole concept of global warming—claimed climate change was a hoax and the hockey stick graph a deceitful manipulation. They insinuated climatologists were grifters eager for the grant money they could gain as long as they stuck to the assertion the planet was warming dangerously.

A few serious critics challenged aspects of the temperature reconstructions. A key objection had to do with uncertainly about pre-1400 temperatures. But methodologies and mistakes on the part of critics were themselves challenged by other scientists. Most notably, the U.S. National Research Council in 2006 issued its North Report in the matter. Here’s Nature’s take on that:

The academy essentially upholds Mann’s findings, although the panel concluded that systematic uncertainties in climate records before 1600 were not communicated as clearly as they could have been. The NAS also confirmed problems with some of the statistics. But the mistakes had a relatively minor impact on the overall findings, says Peter Bloomfield, a statistician at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, who was involved in the latest report. “This study was the first of its kind, and they had to make choices at various stages about how the data were processed,” he says, adding that he “would not be embarrassed” to have been involved in the work.

Panel members were less sanguine, however, about whether the original work should have loomed so large in the executive summary of the IPPC’s 2001 report. “The IPCC used it as a visual prominently in the report,” says Kurt Cuffey, a panel member and geographer at the University of California, Berkeley. “I think that sent a very misleading message about how resolved this part of the scientific research was.”

Climatologist Michael Mann
Michael E. Mann

Since then, with more readily available data and using various statistical methods, dozens of reconstructions have supported the general take of the original hockey stick graph.

This didn’t stop the deniers from continuing their assault, including the hacking in 2009 of hundreds of climate scientists’ emails at the University of East Anglia University’s Climate Research Unit that came to be known as Climategate. Deniers spread the word those stolen emails showed scientists at the CRU were intentionally fiddling with data to push global warming warnings. This brought Big Media into the picture.

Fiona Fox, head of the U.K.’s Science Media Centre said, “British climate science was subjected to huge scrutiny by the world’s best journalists and it stood up to the test.” And in his 2010 book on the subject, “The Climate Files,” The Guardian writer Fred Pearce noted, “Have the Climategate revelations undermined the case that we are experiencing man-made climate change? Absolutely not. Nothing uncovered in the emails destroys the argument that humans are warming the planet.”

But still the denying detractors continued their assault. The Competitive Enterprise Institute, funded over the years by ExxonMobil, Texaco, and the Koch brothers, has a long history of casting doubt on the climate consensus and has paid for advertising and spokespeople who misrepresent scientific research. 

In July 2012 CEI blogger Rand Simberg accused Mann of “deception” and “engaging in data manipulation.” He labeled as a “cover-up and whitewash” the investigation into the matter by Pennsylvania State University—where Mann was employed until the end of 2022 as a distinguished professor of meteorology at the university’s College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. This, Simberg claimed, was comparable to Penn State’s Jerry Sandusky sex scandal “except that instead of molesting children, he has molested and tortured data.” A blog post by National Review blogger Mark Steyn, who was a frequent substitute for climate science-rejectors Tucker Carlson and Rush Limbaugh on their shows, cited Simberg’s accusation and also claimed that Mann’s graph was “fraudulent.”

To a Washington, D.C., jury Wednesday, as reported by Marianne Lavelle at Inside Climate News, Mann testified: “They crossed a line. They compared me to a convicted child molester and made false allegations of scientific misconduct against me.” He was at the time the father of a daughter who was not much younger than Sandusky’s victims, Mann said, “For me to be compared to Jerry Sandusky was maybe the worst thing that I had ever experienced.”

The accusations, Mann testified, harmed his reputation. His lawyer told jurors that in 2012, Mann had received $3.3 million in funding, and now that figure is $500,000, which he said is a direct consequence of Simberg and Steyn’s attacks. He also said he has been excluded from some research projects as a result of the damage from the false allegations. Mann now is a professor of atmospheric science at University of Pennsylvania.

Mann originally sued both CEI and the National Review, but a court ruled they could not be held responsible for the attacks. Since Mann is a public figure as a result of his prominence, proving defamation will be tough since he must demonstrate that the defendants knew their accusations were false and constituted a reckless disregard for the truth.

DeSmog reported:

Throughout the opening statements, Steyn, who chose to defend himself, and Simberg’s lawyer, Weatherford, argued they were protected by the First Amendment to state opinions. However, they both also continued to repeatedly make connections between Mann — an upstanding climate scientist — and Sandusky, a convicted sex predator. Steyn spent a good portion of his statement going into great detail about Sandusky’s crimes and claiming the two men shared an institution, they both “drew from the same pension plan,” and benefited from Penn State’s so-called “corrupt culture.”​​​​​​

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“Consider these facts. Ninety-six percent of the mass of mammals on the planet today are us and the livestock we’ve domesticated. Only 4 percent is everything else, from elephants to badgers, tigers to bats, Seventy percent of all birds are now domesticated poultry, mostly chickens. Nature once determined how we survive. Now we determine how nature survives.”David Attenborough


No, The US Is Not Going To Cover 22 Million Acres With Solar Panels by Steve Hanley at CleanTechnica. The Biden administration announced it is making 22 million acres of public land available for solar development. “The Interior Department’s work to responsibly and quickly develop renewable energy projects is crucial to achieving the Biden-Harris administration’s goal of a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035 — and this updated solar road map will help us get there in more states and on more lands across the West,” said Acting Deputy Secretary Laura Daniel-Davis.  Immediately, those who listen to Faux News jumped into the fray and started wailing about how Biden’s plan would desecrate huge swaths of land. (Those same people would cheer if the announcement was about drilling oil and gas wells on those 22 million acres, however.) Even the normally reliable Guardian bought into the hysteria with this headline: “The US needs 22m acres for the solar energy transition.” In reality, the U.S. needs solar panels on about 700,000 acres of land in order to meet the administration’s goal of transitioning the nation to 100% renewable energy by 2035. That 700,000 acres translates into 1,100 square miles. That seems like a lot but in total, the United States covers 3,532,316 square miles, which means only 0.00031115 percent of it is needed in order for every person and business in America to get electricity from a source that does not threaten to make the climate emergency worse. The numbers don’t seem so scary when you look at the big picture.

Related StoryU.S. government identifies 22 million acres for solar in western states 

 Nabil Wakim
Nabil Wakim

Q&A: Le Monde climate journalist Nabil Wakim envisions an ‘all-climate newsroom’ by Andrew McCormick at Covering Climate Now. Given the enormity of the climate crisis, how would it look for an entire newsroom to respond at scale? France’s largest newspaper, Le Monde, might have one idea. Over the past year, Nabil Wakim, a climate and energy journalist at Le Monde, has helped oversee training initiatives aimed at bringing hundreds across the company up to speed. Wakim—who, before he became a climate journalist, held numerous leadership positions at the paper, including director of editorial innovation, digital editor in chief, and head of the politics section—says Le Monde isn’t quite an “all-climate newsroom” yet, but he hopes he and his colleagues are on their way. Wakim discussed the details and results of Le Monde’s climate training program, beats for which a culture shift might come more slowly than others, and the climate questions weighing heaviest on the newspaper’s audience. Check out Wakim’s climate podcast and newsletter, Chaleur Humaine (“Human Heat,” roughly translated), here, and follow all of Le Monde’s climate coverage here.

‘He had a machete in his cheek’: how Guatemala’s hydropower dream turned deadly by Paloma de Dinechin at The Guardian. Every morning, Juan Alonzo, a 35-year-old Indigenous farmer, accompanies his eldest son to work in the cardamom and corn fields along the Pojom River. Until 2017, Alonzo’s father also made the journey. But on 17 January that year, Sebastián Alonzo, 68, was killed in a demonstration against a hydroelectric project in the Ixquisis valley, an oasis of rivers and plantations in north-west Guatemala. Since the tragedy, Juan has developed a stammer. Two of his four daughters sit on his lap as he visits his father’s grave, remembering his prominence in the Maya-Chuj Indigenous community: “My dad was very involved in the struggle for natural resources.” Juan believes it is the reason Sebastián was killed. Yet this region is very rich in one resource: water. Three rivers – Río Pojom, Río Negro and Río Yolhuitz – are the lifeblood of these Indigenous Maya communities. The area can only be reached via pickup trucks that navigate the winding and hazardous mountain roads. This wealth of resources caught the eye of one Guatemalan company. Previously known as Promoción y Desarrollos Hídricos, Sociedad Anónima (PDH, SA) and since renamed Energía y Renovación, the company’s arrival in 2010 marked the beginning of a long conflict over natural resources in the valley that continues to this day.

Carbon Farming

Carbon Farming: A Sustainable Agriculture Technique That Keeps Soil Healthy and Combats Climate Change by John Berger at Wiki Observatory. Carbon farming doesn’t pull land out of production or abuse natural ecosystems. It’s a “down-to-earth” solution to global warming that employs nature’s omnipresent carbon cycle, which constantly shuttles carbon molecules into and out of the atmosphere, soil, fresh water, and ocean. Yet carbon farming is still neither widely known nor widely practiced.  To understand what Gabe Brown is up to, one has to understand how soil ecosystems operate: they run on carbon, the same way fuel powers an engine. Carbon-rich organic matter gives rich, fertile soils their dark color and clumpy texture and nourishes soil organisms and plants. Carbon-poor soil is less able to support life, producing lower crop yields, less forage, and less biodiversity. Soil health is like a magic elixir for climate health. Brown’s new approach to farming was not initially aimed at mitigating climate change. He simply noticed that the cover crops he grew, when his fields otherwise would have been fallow, significantly raised the soil’s water-holding ability and put more live roots into it year-round, as on the native prairie; when those cover crops died, their roots decomposed and increased the soil’s organic matter content, nourishing other plants and soil organisms. So, the organic matter Brown added to nourish his crops and livestock also had the unsought benefit of boosting the soil’s carbon concentration. (Organic matter is more than 50 percent carbon.) Even in harsh, dry North Dakota—where it’s sometimes -40 degrees Fahrenheit in winter—Brown’s agricultural techniques have captured vast amounts of valuable carbon. And that carbon, removed from the air and packed away in the soil, provides climate benefits.

Rethinking Monarchs: Does the Beloved Butterfly Need Our Help? by Janet Marinelli at Yale Environment 360. Convinced that the Eastern monarch butterfly is teetering on the brink of extinction, tens of thousands of monarch lovers have taken the species’ fate into their own hands. Every year as summer wanes, monarchs east of the Rocky Mountains undertake a grueling, 3,000-mile migration, fluttering from their breeding grounds in the U.S. and Canada to their winter home on the rugged peaks of central Mexico’s Transvolcanic Belt. Since the 1990s, when the overwintering colonies began a steep decline that lasted 20 years, people have been rearing eggs and caterpillars in mesh enclosures on their porches and kitchen tables and releasing the adult butterflies. But a handful of recent studies have rocked the small and disputatious world of monarch science, suggesting, in the words of University of Georgia ecologist Andy Davis, “that everything we thought we knew about the monarch population is wrong” and that the butterfly does not need our help. In fact, scientists say that home rearing and commercial breeding of monarchs—and the release of them at weddings, funerals, and other events—is one of biggest threats the butterfly now faces.

A monarch caterpillar on a common milkweed leaf at a solar farm in Minnesota.
A monarch caterpillar on a common milkweed leaf at a solar farm in Minnesota.  

Marine Animals Are Feeling the Heat From Ocean Warming by Tara Lohan at The Revelator. Billions of missing crabs in the waters off Alaska are a grim harbinger, according to a study conducted by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Snow crabs were once plentiful in the frigid waters, but researchers calculated that more than 10 billion had vanished from the eastern Bering Sea since 2018. They posited that the crabs had either moved or died. Research confirmed the latter. The culprit, the study explained, was a marine heatwave in 2018 and 2019 that pushed water temperatures up—not high enough to kill the crabs outright, but enough to increase the amount of calories they needed to consume. Many crabs couldn’t find enough to eat and starved. Others were eaten by Pacific cod, who were able to extend their range into suddenly warmer waters.We should take heed. “The Bering Sea is on the frontlines of climate-driven ecosystem change, and the problems currently faced in the Bering Sea foreshadow the problems that will need to be confronted globally,” the researchers wrote.




Urban agriculture isn’t as climate-friendly as it seems—but these best practices can transform gardens and city farms by Jason Hawes, Benjamin Goldstein, and Joshua Newell at The Conversation. Urban agriculture is expected to be an important feature of 21st century sustainability and can have many benefits for communities and cities, including providing fresh produce in neighborhoods with few other options. Among those benefits, growing food in backyards, community gardens or urban farms can shrink the distance fruits and vegetables have to travel between producers and consumers – what’s known as the “food mile” problem. With transportation’s greenhouse gas emissions eliminated, it’s a small leap to assume that urban agriculture is a simple climate solution.But is urban agriculture really as climate-friendly as many people think? Our team of researchers partnered with individual gardeners, community garden volunteers and urban farm managers at 73 sites across five countries in North America and Europe to test this assumption. We found that urban agriculture, while it has many community benefits, isn’t always better for the climate than conventional agriculture over the life cycle, even with transportation factored in. In fact, on average, the urban agriculture sites we studied were six times more carbon intensive per serving of fruit or vegetables than conventional farming. However, we also found several practices that stood out for how effectively they can make fruits and vegetables grown in cities more climate-friendly. 

Community gardens like Baltimore’s Plantation Park Heights Urban Farm provide a wide range of benefits to the community, including providing fresh produce in areas with few places to buy fresh fruits and vegetables and having a positive impact on young people’s lives.
Community gardens like Baltimore’s Plantation Park Heights Urban Farm provide a wide range of benefits to the community, including providing fresh produce in areas with few places to buy fresh fruits and vegetables and having a positive impact on young people’s lives.

Urban agriculture beats conventional agriculture on climate — if it’s done right by Saul Elbein at The Hill. For gardeners looking to do their part to slow the heating of the planet, all vegetables aren’t created equal.   Every serving of homegrown or urban-farmed fruits and vegetables contributes nearly a pound of Earth-warming carbon dioxide to the global climate, according to findings published on Monday in Nature Cities. That’s roughly six times the levels of carbon pollution released by the same amount of produce if it’s grown in sprawling large-scale conventional farms — with their heavy use of pesticides, fossil-fuel-powered tractors and energy-dense artificial fertilizers.   But while most urban farms and home gardens used more carbon per serving than conventional farms — 57 percent and 75 percent, respectively — a minority of those city-based operations were more efficient than agro-industrial operations.   And those more efficient farms help show the path of how to green the rest, coauthor Benjamin Goldstein of the University of Michigan told The Hill.   “Urban farming can be climate beneficial for cities if you grow the right things in the right ways,” he said.  

The One Climate Policy All 2024 Candidates Support Is Actually Terrible by Tom Philpott at The New Republic. No topic brought Iowa’s Republican caucus-goers into more violent consensus than the sanctity of federal support for corn-based ethanol. The heart of the nation’s corn belt, Iowa is the Saudi Arabia of that industry, and Donald Trump and his long-shot rivals all vowed to maintain the federal policies that prop it up. On this point, they’ll find no argument from the presumptive Democratic nominee. President Joe Biden staunchly supports the practice of turning corn into car fuel, as does his agriculture secretary, Tom Vilsack, who once served as governor of Iowa. Whether they know it or not, all of these politicians are calling for the government to prop up what is a particularly byzantine and wasteful form of … solar energy. You can’t grow corn without photosynthesis, which converts energy from sunlight into plant tissue. But to liberate this embedded sun power, ethanol-bound corn must be pulverized, inundated with water, fermented, and distilled into alcohol, which can then be mixed with gasoline and burned to power engines. And that’s after the corn is planted, doused with fossil fuel–derived fertilizers, shielded from weeds and insects with toxic chemicals, and harvested. There’s a more straightforward way to leverage the sun, one that could generate much more energy with a fraction of the fuss: the photovoltaic solar panel, which directly converts sunshine into electricity that can be fed into power grids that, in turn, charge up electric vehicles, which use energy far more efficiently than do internal combustion engines.

ROCKTON, IL - OCTOBER 9:  John Shedd, 85, loads a container with Bt-corn harvested from his son's farm October 9, 2003 near Rockton, Illinois. Shedd and his son farm 800 acres of the corn on farms in Illinois and Wisconsin. Bt-corn is a GMO (genetically modified organism) crop that offers growers an alternative to spraying an insecticide for control of European and southwestern corn borer. The Shedds sell the corn for use in ethanol.  (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
About a third of all corn grown in the United States goes into ethanol. According to the 2023 Iowa Climate Statement, signed by more than 200 science faculty at 31 colleges and universities across the state, a “one-acre solar farm produces as much energy as 100 acres of corn-based ethanol” over the course of a year.

Trump and Haley say they would drill more oil. Is that possible? by Shelby Webb at Energy Wire. Whether it’s fewer leases in the Gulf of Mexico, blocking exploration in the National Petroleum Reserve, subsidies for electric vehicles, or conserving and protecting 30 percent of U.S. land, Donald Trump and Nikki Haley have blasted the Biden administration’s energy and environmental policies, saying they’ll back deregulation that pinches oil and gas development.  But many analysts and industry officials say the executive branch’s role in affecting day-to-day production in the near term is minimal, although impacts of policies can be felt years after a president leaves office. About 11 percent of all oil and 9 percent of all natural gas produced onshore in the United States is produced on federal land, according to the Bureau of Land Management, putting it under a presidential administration’s control. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission—an independent agency comprised of up to five commissioners appointed by the president—is in charge of approving pipelines that cross state borders, but not those that stay within one state. Environmental regulations passed under Biden, like EPA’s new methane fee tied to emissions, could influence “some things on the margins” to change producers’ decisions, but likely won’t have a huge impact, said Ryan Kellogg, a professor at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy. “It’s very little,” he said of the president’s effect on oil and gas production in the near term. “It’s not zero, but it’s pretty close.”b He and other analysts say two main factors drive U.S. oil and gas production more than White House direction—global oil price changes and innovation in the oil patch.

Is geoengineering a climate fix, or a dangerous form of monkey wrenching?

It is time to draw down carbon dioxide but shut down moves to play God with the climate by Tim Flannery at The Conversation. Geo-engineering proposals to arrest climate change range from the seemingly sensible—painting our roofs and roads white—to the highly speculative: solar radiation modification, or putting mirrors in space to reflect some of the Sun’s heat away from Earth. Probably the most commonly proposed form of geo-engineering involves putting sulfur into the stratosphere to dim the power of the sun. The natural 1991 eruption of the Pinatubo volcano in the Philippines showed the effects of sulfur in action. The eruption measurably cooled the Earth’s surface for almost two years. But we don’t have to wait for an erupting volcano: all we need do is add some sulphur to the emissions of the world’s airline fleet, and release it once planes are in the stratosphere. The sulphur layer, which would also reflect some of the Sun’s heat back to space, would be a relatively inexpensive global cooling mechanism, instantaneous in its effect and implementable right now. Yet this approach does nothing to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, or to reduce the rising acidity of the oceans. It’s like a Band-Aid over a festering sore. And, beyond its cooling effect, its impact on the climate system as a whole is unknown: no one to my knowledge has modelled the effects of using the jet fleet in this way.

Writers of Color Are Redefining Nature Writing by Amanda Machado at Yes! magazine. When Audre Lorde published her first book of poems, her publisher, Dudley Randall, was quick to clarify, “Audre Lorde is not a nature poet.” I could relate to this impulse to separate her from the genre. Nature writing seemed to be unconcerned with the realities of oppression; it was writing that waxed poetic about the solace of the American landscape without any consideration of the historical context of that land, unbothered by the many communities displaced from it. Now, however, what counts as nature writing—and who identifies as a nature writer—is beginning to change. In recent years, as the environmental movement has started to grapple with its historical connections to racism and xenophobia, a new generation of poets, essayists, memoirists, and novelists of color is taking up space in a genre that historically has excluded our perspectives. They include Ross Gay, Natalie Diaz, Kim TallBear, Camille Dungy, and Aimee Nezhukumatathil, among many others. They have raised their voices in anthologies like The Language of Trees, edited by Katie Holten, and A Darker Wilderness, edited by Erin Sharkey. Books like Sabrina Imbler’s How Far the Light Reaches embody a nature writing that centers the most marginalized and names the violent histories inherent in shaping our relationship to nature. More importantly, they remind us that oppressed people have always partnered with nature when seeking our liberation.


Technology Driving EV Batteries for a Second Life: A Cost-Effective Sustainable Solution • Federal Court Limits State Authority to Deny Interstate Transmission Projects • End of an era: Who comes after Kerry?  Is this the year for bipartisan action on advanced nuclear? • The Rise and Rollout of AOC’s Green New Deal. • They Abducted a River in California. And Nobody Stopped Them • Concerns over $77 billion in DOE funds for mostly “blue” hydrogen • Sea otters helped prevent widespread California kelp forest declines over the past century  Indonesia is clearing vast peatlands to grow food. Climate costs are dire • Report: Transportation is Still the Leading Source of U.S. Emissions — And Not Just From Tailpipes 


January 2024