Guests: Matthew Lee and Rev. Dr. Jessica Moerman of the Evangelical Environmental Network; Also: U.S. climate report details nationwide threats; U.S., China deal to displace fossil fuels with renewables...
By Brad Friedman
on 11/15/2023 6:54pm PT
A whole lot of climate related political news converges on today's BradCast. [Audio link to full show follows below this summary.]
You'll not be shocked to learn that Donald Trump is still lying to his followers about climate change, clean renewable energy and electrification. No, as he lied during a recent rally in Texas, California didn't experience "blackouts all over the place this summer". We had zero, in fact, thanks to renewable energy and battery storage, and haven't had one since 2020.
Sadly, however, Trump is hardly the only Republican politician willing to hoax his own supporters on behalf of the deadly fossil fuel industry which funds so much of the party. At last week's GOP Presidential Primary Debate in Miami --- of all places --- none of the candidates even mentioned climate and, shamefully, neither did the NBC News moderators, who failed to ask a single question about the most existential crisis facing our planet. In Miami!
But the facts about the climate crisis, caused largely by the burning of coal, oil and natural gas, continue to flood in, along with our rising and warming seas, whether any particularly party remains in denial or not. On Tuesday, the U.S. Government released its Fifth National Climate Assessment, a 37-chapter, 2,200-page report which includes an interactive atlas that allows users to zoom down to the county level across a nation where warming is far outpacing the global average.
Climate related disasters are touching every corner of the country, and --- in addition to lives lost --- it's costing an extraordinary amount of money. Last year alone cost U.S. tax payers $178 billion in damage from climate-fueled storms, wildfires and droughts, etc. The new report, as terrifying as it may be, is also hopeful, as it details how it is still not too late to implement already existing tools to mitigate at least the worst of the dangers still to come.
And, on Tuesday, the world may have received a big boost toward that goal, with an announcement by the U.S. and China, in advance of President Biden's meeting today with President Xi Jinping, that the two nations have agreed to jointly ramp up the use of wind, solar and other renewable energy in hopes of displacing fossil fuels in the near future. That's a big deal, as both countries agreed to "pursue efforts to triple renewable energy capacity globally by 2030."
But how do we overcome GOP fossil-fuel funded intransigence (and lies) which have made China very wary that any agreement struck now with the U.S. may not be honored if Democrats are displaced from the White House in the future?
That remains a challenge. But there may be a glimmer of hope for the GOP, as a recent op-ed at The Hill details "The global climate solution Republicans have been looking for". What is that solution? A bill recently introduced by three Senate Republicans --- Bill Cassidy (LA), Lindsey Graham (SC), and Roger Wicker (MS) --- called the Foreign Pollution Fee Act of 2023.
What would it do? It would impose a fee on imports of certain carbon-intensive products manufactured in nations without the same kind of environmental regulations that make similar products more expensive to produce in the U.S. Several weeks ago, the European Union announced a similar tax that puts a fair price on carbon emitted during production of goods that are imported into the EU. They call theirs a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism.
Its sounds kind of geeky, but only because it is. It would, however, according to my guests today, both help to lower emissions around the world and bring overseas jobs back to the U.S.
We're joined today by MATTHEW LEE, author of the aforementioned opinion piece at The Hill and a Federal Policy Specialist at the non-profit Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN). We're also happy to be joined by REV. DR. JESSICA MOERMAN, President and CEO of EEN, which has long carried out the mission of educating and mobilizing evangelical Christians to reclaim the Biblical mandate of caring for creation and working toward a healthy, stable climate.
Lee explains the Republicans' policy proposal, how it would work, and what it hopes to accomplish. Moerman, who, as it turns out, is also (helpfully) a Ph.D. in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, also offers her insights into this week's alarming Climate Assessment Report. She was at the White House on Tuesday when the report was released, and when Biden announced $6 billion in new investments to help mitigate the worst of the climate challenges we are all facing.
"For many decades, our country has had higher environmental standards than other countries," Lee tells me today. "American products are among the cleanest in the world. The problem is that because our companies are held to higher standards, there's an incentive for companies to offshore their factories and take advantage of looser regulations abroad in order to increase profits. This is a problem that a carbon border adjustment or foreign pollution fee, or whatever you want to call it, addresses. If companies have an incentive to offshore their factories to take advantage of looser regulations abroad, let's just charge them a fee when they want to import their products back to the U.S."
"Fossil fuel pollution killed 8 million people around the world --- that accounts for 1 in 5 deaths --- in 2018," Lee says. "If there's any way that we can use our policies to incentivize foreign governments to do better in protecting the health and lives of their citizens and children everywhere, that's something that we should get behind. That's something that Republicans would totally get behind, evangelicals, and anyone who really cares for the health and lives of people around the world."
For her part, Moerman assures me this Republican proposal has no poison pills we might otherwise expect from a "Republican climate bill". "I understand your skepticism," she says. "As we are looking at policy options, we always look at, first, does it defend life? Does it make sure that it's defending the health and livelihoods of all people? Does it protect the environment or, as we see it, God's Creation? And, also, does it support those family-sustaining careers in the clean economy? This one checks all of those boxes."
In speaking about evangelical community's move to the political right in recent decades, Moerman contends "we are seeing a real shift in our community. As evangelicals, we are people who take the Bible seriously. That means we also have to take seriously our biblical mandate to care for God's Creation." She explains that progress is being made in her community "whenever we talk about it in this framing. Take climate out of the partisan political space, the culture war space, and really root it in scripture, in our faith of following through on our values of honoring God, by taking that stewardship mandate seriously. And also loving our neighbor by ensuring that they have that healthy environment and safe climate to thrive in."
Will it work? Will Republicans in Congress take hold of that mandate when, as Moerman notes, "20% of deaths [across the world] can be attributed to fossil fuel pollution"? She says the U.S. steel, aluminum and even oil and gas industry is supporting the bill, "so that should make Republicans pay attention."
We'll see. I remain skeptical, but hopeful. Lee says that Wicker has taken his name off the measure, so we'll see if that is a bad omen. But, we've got to do something, at this point, and we need to do it fast. At least if "God's Creation" might have a chance of surviving our ever-worsening climate nightmares...
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