Our esteemed guest on today's BradCast argues "Donald Trump is literally a threat to the planet and to all living things on the planet." He is right and has the evidence to prove it. So do we all. [Audio link to today's show is posted below.]
Statewide stay-at-home orders are still in place in Michigan, even as the state was forced to order more than 10,000 residents to evacuate their homes amid record rain and flooding and two "catastrophic dam failures" in the central part of the state on Tuesday and Wednesday. That disaster comes on top of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, presenting an impossible challenge for Michiganders and their Governor, Gretchen Whitmer. And, all of it could be made far worse thanks to the Dow Chemical company headquarters in swamped Midland, MI and some 50 miles of toxic SuperFund cleanup sites along the banks of the swollen Tittabawassee and Saginaw Rivers where the company dumped poisonous, cancer-causing waste for years.
Amid all of that then, our President of the United States felt today would be the perfect moment to attack the state on Twitter with completely false claims about absentee voting fraud (which he knows a thing or two about, having committed absentee voter fraud himself in the state of Florida this year), while threatening to cut off federal funding to Michigan in the bargain if their Sec. of State dares to lawfully send absentee ballot applications to all registered voters this year.
Interestingly enough, Donald Trump has made no similar threats to states with Republican Secretaries of States doing the very same thing this year to help keep voters safe during a global pandemic.
Meanwhile, speaking of absentee voting, Oregon's primary election was Tuesday, in a state with a Republican Secretary of State that mails actual, postage-paid ballots out to every single registered voter in the state in every election, including the primary Trump won there (without any competition) on Tuesday. We cover that and the other noteworthy, if less than surprising reported results today, including a doozy of a U.S. Senate nominee that Republicans have decided to put up against popular incumbent Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley.
There has been one, let's call it, "bright" spot amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis, and that has been the unprecedented plunge in global carbon emissions and other dangerous pollutants as restrictions implemented to fight the virus resulted in abrupt reductions in driving, flying and industrial output across the globe. The effect on the climate, according to a new study by the Global Carbon Project, published in the Nature Climate Change journal this week, has been a record breaking daily drop in emissions of some 17% at the peak of global shutdowns in April. That stunning reduction of more than 1 billion tons of carbon dioxide output, according to the researchers, is likely to result in as much as a 7% reduction in dangerous greenhouse gas emissions in 2020, depending on the pace at which ordinary life resumes across the planet. The annual reduction would be about the amount that climate scientists have long urged we must cut every year --- for many years in a row --- in order to avoid the worst effects of man-made global warming.
We're joined today by climate science expert and author DR. MICHAEL E. MANN, Distinguished Professor and Director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, to discuss the new study; the climate crisis-fueled disaster in Michigan ("As we warm up the planet, as we warm up the surface of the oceans, we put more moisture into the atmosphere. ... So you get more of these extreme rainfall events. This isn't rocket science. It is a basic prediction that we made decades ago. And, unfortunately, we're seeing that prediction has come true."); the climate crisis-fueled SuperCyclone currently pummeling the poorest regions on Earth in India and Bangladesh ("It drives home another pernicious aspect of climate change --- that many of the worst impacts are being felt by those with the least resources in the Third World...That's one of the inequities of climate change that we're literally watching play out right now."); and whether it is actually possible for society to cut enough emissions to mitigate the many future climate crisis-fueled disasters that await as greenhouse gas production continues to threaten the future of human civilization.
As the new study warns, even with the startling --- if temporary --- decline in emissions over the past two months, we have only reverted to 2006 levels at the moment. If this virus-driven decline were to stay in place --- which it won't --- it seems impossible that society would be able to do the same thing, year after year, to meet the targets even of the conservative 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.
"It's impossible through individual behavioral change alone. That's what this really drives home," Mann warns. "In fact, it's a bit more of a challenge because we probably need to decrease our carbon emissions by more like 10% a year, year after year for the next decade, to have any degree of confidence in avoiding dangerous warming of the planet."
But, he says, it is not impossible. "Last year, there was actually some really good news. Global carbon emissions didn't go up at all, even though economic activity did continue to increase. The International Energy Agency looked at the reason for this, and for the first time, they were able to say that the reason for that wasn't an economic downturn --- we've seen that in the past, where there's an economic downturn and carbon emissions stop going up. No, this time they were able to attribute it to the increased deployment of renewable energy --- wind, solar, geothermal --- around the world. So we know that the structural changes that are underway are starting to flatten the curve, but flattening it isn't enough. We got to come down the other side of that curve, and we've got to do it dramatically to avert dangerous warming."
"There's rigorous academic research that provides a roadmap," Mann tells me. "It's a matter of political will. It's not a matter of physics. The laws of physics don't say that we can't do this right now. It's only our policies that are preventing us from doing this."
"But it's not going to happen if we don't have the leadership," he explains. "And that's why it's so important for people to turn out and vote in this next election. And to vote on the issue of climate and environmental sustainability. Only if people come out and indicate decisively that this is the direction they want to see us go, will it happen."
The biggest roadblock to that, right now? The man who sits in the Oval Office who is actually making things worse, instead of better. Though "this shouldn't be partisan," he says, "Donald Trump is literally a threat to the planet and to all living things on the planet. It appears we may survive a single term of Trump. But, in the sense of a continued thriving planetary environment, I don't think we can survive two terms of Donald Trump."
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