DOJ slams Jim Justice’s coal empire with 128-page civil lawsuit

On April 27, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced that he is seeking the GOP nomination for his state's 2024 U.S. Senate race. Justice, if he becomes the nominee, is hoping to unseat incumbent Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin.

Although Manchin's centrist voting record has been a frequent source of frustration to the liberal/progressive wing of his party, his defenders have been stressing that he is a rare example of a Democrat who can win statewide in deep red West Virginia. Before Manchin was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010, he was the state's governor. Justice's allies, however, believe he has a good chance of unseating Manchin if he becomes the GOP nominee.

Justice and Manchin are both strong supporters of fossil fuels and the coal industry, and Justice's coal operation is now facing a 128-page civil lawsuit from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for — according to Politico's Kyle Cheney — "failing to pay more than $5 million in civil penalties assessed by the Department of the Interior."

READ MORE: 'It is absolutely done': West Virginia governor signs 'strict and 'near-total abortion ban' into law

The lawsuit was filed on Tuesday, May 30 and includes 13 of the Justice family's businesses as well as the governor's son, Jay Justice.

Cheney reports, "The suit alleges that the businesses failed to pay fines for more than 100 violations of federal mining regulations that created 'health and safety risks' or threatened 'environmental harm.' Justice Department attorneys are seeking a court order to force the Justice companies to repay the fines with interest. The bulk of the lawsuit spells out the individual violations of federal mining regulations, overseen by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement."

Republicans, according to Cheney, are claiming that the DOJ's lawsuit is politically motivated.

GOP strategists feel encouraged by Justice's performance in polls. An East Carolina University Center for Survey Research poll released in late May found that in a hypothetical Justice/Manchin matchup, Justice would win by 22 percent.

READ MORE: These Republicans are hoping to 'flip Joe Manchin’s seat' in 2024: report

This legal heavyweight is fighting tirelessly for Biden’s environmental agenda

If Donald Trump wins the 2024 GOP presidential nomination and defeats incumbent President Joe Biden in the general election, the United States will no doubt see a major rollback of Biden-era environmental policies. Trump was an aggressive promoter of fossil fuels, including coal, and a climate change denier; Biden, in contrast, realizes that climate change poses a major threat and that the U.S. needs to transition to a greener economy.

In an article published by The New York Times on May 30, environmental reporter Coral Davenport describes the role that attorney and Buenos Aires native Richard Revesz plays in the Biden Administration's environmental agenda. Since January, the 65-year-old Revesz (who has lived in the U.S. since 1975) has headed the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

"Each time a major regulatory proposal has landed on his desk," Davenport explains, "Mr. Revesz has used his authority to strengthen its legal analysis and make it more stringent. What's more, he has proposed a new method of calculating the cost of potential regulation that would bolster the legal and economic justifications for those rules."

READ MORE: 'What a weirdo': Twitter shreds 'cartoon character' Republican for declaring 'there is no climate change'

Davenport notes that Revesz has his admirers and his detractors. The admirers include Democrats like U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan and Biden climate adviser John Podesta. But Louisiana Solicitor General Elizabeth Murrill attacks Revesz as a "professor of gobbledygook" who is intent on "destroying the fossil fuel industry."

"The climate regulations proposed by the Biden Administration, together with $370 billion in clean energy funds from the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, would catapult the United States to the forefront of the fight to constrain global warming," Davenport reports. "While federal agencies write regulations, it's the role of the White House regulatory chief to ensure that they are legally and economically sound…. In April, Mr. Revesz proposed to change the way federal agencies tally and weigh the costs and benefits of proposed regulations relating to everything from climate change to consumer protections in ways to make them much more likely to see the light of day."

Conservative law professor Jonathan Adler views Revesz as a legal bulldog.

Adler told the Times, "If you want to go to court and file lawsuits against the Biden Administration's regulations, you don't want Ricky Revesz mounting their defense."

READ MORE: 'Is he really that stupid?' Twitter aghast after Ron Johnson says climate change will 'benefit' US

Find the New York Times' entire report at this link (subscription required).

Climate groups blast debt ceiling deal provisions that cripple environmental protections

"This agreement is far from a compromise," said one campaigner. "It's a surrender to Big Oil and Republican hostage-takers in Congress."In exchange for an increase of the United States government's arbitrary debt limit, the Biden administration "betrayed the American people," one climate campaigner said Monday, by accepting a deal that requires the approval of all remaining permits for the planet-heating Mountain Valley Pipeline and weakens the government's ability to stop further pollution-causing projects.

Environmental protection groups warned that the text of the so-called Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023—which, if approved by Congress in the coming days would hold federal nonmilitary spending at its current level in the coming year and increase it by 1% in 2025—includes a "colossal error" by the Biden administration.

"Singling out the Mountain Valley Pipeline for approval in a vote about our nation's credit limit is an egregious act," said Peter Anderson, Virginia policy director with Appalachian Voices. "By attempting to suspend the rules for a pipeline company that has repeatedly polluted communities' water and flouted the conditions in its permits, the president and Congress would deny basic legal protections, procedural fairness, and environmental justice to communities along the pipeline's path."

The Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) has previously been denied multiple permits by courts due to concerns about its effects on water quality and environmental justice for the communities it would run through from West Virginia to southern Virginia, but under the bill, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would be required to issue all remaining permits within 21 days. The bill also attempts to prohibit judicial review of the permits by any government agency.

According to one analysis by Oil Change International, the MVP—a pet project of right-wing Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)—would emit the equivalent of more than 89 million metric tons of carbon, equal to the emissions of 26 coal plants.

"Changes to environmental laws and favors to fossil fuel companies have no place in a bill to raise the debt ceiling."

Although President Joe Biden previously said he would not negotiate with Republicans about raising the debt ceiling—which Congress has voted to do 78 times since 1960, mostly under Republican presidents—he is now supporting a deal which includes a dramatic rollback of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in addition to the MVP approval.

The bill limits the environmental reviews that can take place under NEPA for projects that are under the "substantial" control of the federal government, making it easier for future projects to move forward even if frontline communities raise concerns about oil spills, pollution, and other public health and safety risks, as many have regarding the MVP."Changes to environmental laws and favors to fossil fuel companies have no place in a bill to raise the debt ceiling," said Chelsea Barnes, director of government affairs and strategy at Appalachian Voices.

Ariel Moger, government and political affairs director at Friends of the Earth, noted that Manchin "has done as much as Republicans to sabotage the Democratic agenda" by refusing to back Biden's signature domestic agenda, the Build Back Better Act, in 2021.

Despite this, Moger said, Manchin has "been rewarded" while "MAGA extremists" have been given legislation "filled with polluter giveaways and devastating spending limitations."

"This agreement is far from a compromise," she added. "It's a surrender to Big Oil and Republican hostage-takers in Congress. Democrats should vote NO on this disgraceful deal and force a vote on a clean debt limit increase."

Biden and Manchin have claimed the MVP is essential for energy security, and the bill text includes claims that the project "will reduce carbon emissions and facilitate the energy transition," despite Oil Change International's finding that methane gas leakage, pipeline operations, and the burning of the gas delivered by the pipeline would add "tens of millions of tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution to the atmosphere every year for decades to come."

The legislation includes "too many lies to even begin correcting" about the pipeline, said Grace Tuttle, advocacy director for the Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights (POWHR) Coalition.

"The debt deal insists that building Manchin's pet MVP pipeline is 'in the national interest' and will cut global warming emissions," said350.org co-founder and author Bill McKibben. "These things simply aren't true."

Jamie Henn, co-founder of 350.org and director of Fossil Free Media, noted that Biden's approval of the MVP comes months after his administration allowed the construction of the massive Willow project, a ConocoPhillips oil drilling operation in Alaska which could send roughly 280 million metric tons of carbon emissions into the atmosphere by 2050—even as scientists and energy experts warn that keeping planetary heating below 2°C by then will be impossible if fossil fuel projects continue.

"Support for Biden's climate record plummeted among young people after his approval of the Willow project," said Henn. "Greenlighting the Mountain Valley Pipeline will drive it down even further."

With the Fiscal Responsibility Act, said Jean Su, energy justice program director at the Center for Biological Diversity, "Biden has allowed Sen. Manchin and Republicans to hold the government hostage to ram through the climate-killing Mountain Valley Pipeline, dramatically roll back bedrock environmental laws that give voice to frontline communities, and sabotage agencies whose job is to protect the environment and working families."

"Congress should reject these poison pills," she said, "and pass a clean debt ceiling bill."

'Manchin is a snake': Progressives urged to keep pushing for both bills

'Manchin is a snake': Progressives urged to keep pushing for both billsSen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) // CBS News

State Farm axes new California home insurance policies citing 'escalating risk' of climate change: report

Florida homeowners have been facing considerable difficulty from an insurance standpoint. In early April, Tampa-based National Public Radio (NPR) affiliate WUSF-FM reported that homeowners in that state will see their property insurance rates increase by 40 percent in 2023 — despite the fact that they are already paying almost three times the national average.

But Florida is not the only state where climate change is making insurance a headache for homeowners. Axios reports that in California, State Farm will no longer accept new applications for homeowner's insurance, effective Saturday, May 27.

State Farm cited "rapidly growing catastrophe exposure" and "historic increases in construction costs outpacing inflation" as among the main reasons for its decision. The company, however, said it will continue to honor existing homeowner's insurance policies in California.

READ MORE: How Ron DeSantis is 'trying to out-Trump Trump' on climate: report

Axios' Rebecca Falconer, in a report published on May 29, explains, "Multiple studies show climate change is influencing the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, increasing the risk of wildfires and also, the proportion of storms that reach major hurricane status of Category 3 or above. With more severe and frequent severe weather events and extreme weather swings, the resilience of homeowners and communities is on the line. And how lenders, insurance companies and others incorporate escalating risks is a key issue, per Axios' Andrew Freedman."

Falconer notes that before State Farm "ceased operations" in California, it was "the top home insurance firm in the state." The reporter adds that in 2022, another insurer, the American International Group, pulled out of California.

Climate change is affecting California and Florida in different ways. Humid Florida is facing more hurricanes and rising sea levels — whereas California, with its dry, arid climate and low humidity, is looking at more droughts.

Climate change deniers often point out that Florida has always been prone to hurricanes just as California has always suffered droughts and wildfires and Kansas and Oklahoma have always been battered by tornados. But climate change, according to scientists, is making extreme weather events more severe and more common.

READ MORE: Lauren Boebert says liberals want Earth Day to be about climate change 'to divide us'

Falconer observes, "Some insurers pulled out of Louisiana and Florida last year after forecasters warned of 'another active Atlantic hurricane season,' per Bloomberg. Florida is facing an insurance crisis ahead of the official start of the hurricane season on June 1…. Some companies (in Florida) have gone insolvent, and rates have skyrocketed."

READ MORE: 'Is he really that stupid?' Twitter aghast after Ron Johnson says climate change will 'benefit' US

Axios' entire report is available at this link.

Will the people wilfully destroying life on Earth ever be prosecuted?

Fossil fuel executives have funded a massive, 50-year-long campaign to lie to the American people, cloud the science, and buy off Republican politicians. Untold millions will die and suffer as a result, but will their ever be one iota of accountability?

If somebody had set your house on fire, killing your child and pets, and then your city demanded that you give that somebody hundreds of dollars a year for the next decade, how would you feel?

That’s pretty much the situation of families across America who’ve lost their homes, family members, and livelihoods to wildfires, floods, extreme heat and cold, mile-wide tornadoes, bomb cyclones, heat domes, hurricanes, and drought caused by today’s climate emergency, but nonetheless have to pay taxes that subsidize the fossil fuel industry executives who helped caused it all.

For over 50 years, the top executives of that industry have known their products would produce this exact result: a crisis that is killing an average of around 7,500 Americans a year (and over a million worldwide) and promises to kill hundreds of millions within a decade or two.

But instead of doing anything of consequence to mitigate the damage of their operations, they instead funded a massive, 50-year-long campaign to lie to the American people, cloud the science, and buy off Republican politicians.

President Biden, as part of his negotiations with Kevin McCarthy, has proposed reducing the budget deficit by $31 billion through cutting about five percent of the subsidies you and I give to the fossil fuel industry every year through our tax dollars. McCarthy, in the pocket of Big Oil, has said he won’t even consider the proposal.

Famed climate scientist James Hansen is working on a paper outlining the dimensions of the disaster facing humanity at the hands of the fossil fuel industry, and it’s shocking. My friend and colleague Thomas Neuburger did a deep dive into it this week in his excellent God’s Spies Substack newsletter that’s well worth the read.

In essence, Hansen is proposing that the world will soon see both a collapse of the Gulf Stream that keeps Europe’s climate capable of growing crops and a worldwide 60-meter rise in sea levels. Possibly in our children’s or grandchildren’s lifetimes. As Thomas dryly notes in God’s Spies: “For Americans, 60 meters is about 200 feet.”

Deaths worldwide both directly from such an outcome — and from the wars that will result in the destruction of entire civilizations — will be measured in billions; here in America it’ll certainly be in the millions, and probably the tens of millions. Not to mention it speeding up the ongoing species collapse often referred as the Sixth Mass Extinction.

This is what the fossil fuel industry has brought to us, and to this day is aggressively trying to continue to sell to us. Fully aware of what they are doing.

Last week, the World Meteorological Organization published an in-depth report with the top-line conclusion summarizing the damage these fossil fuel executives have already inflicted on our planet and our lives, all while funding climate denial and paying off politicians worldwide:

“Between 1970 and 2021, there were 11,778 reported disasters [worldwide] attributed to weather, climate, and water extremes. They caused 2,087,229 deaths and US$ 4.3 trillion in economic losses.”

The week before that, One Earthpublished a peer-reviewed analysis of the cost of all this damage, quantifying it by the 21 largest fossil fuel companies around the world. They concluded that those decision-making executives of the fossil fuel industry have inflicted over $5.4 trillion in identifiable economic damages on the rest of us which, instead of paying for, they have greedily converted to their own profit.

The report notes:

The “costs of anthropogenic climate change are chiefly borne by states that compensate their own citizens harmed by climate impacts or contribute to international adaptation finance, by insurance companies with regard to their insureds, and by uncompensated victims of climate change.”

In other words, the fossil fuel companies produced the global warming and cancer-causing emissions, but when people are damaged by them or the weather they are changing, government and insurance companies pay the cost.

The fossil fuel companies and their executives pay nothing, and never have. If they can keep the GOP in their pocket, they hope they never will.

Therefore, Earth One is calling for specific reparations, paid for by those companies:

“We argue that other agents bear substantial responsibility for the cost of redressing climate harm: the companies that engage in the exploration, production, refining, and distribution of oil, gas, and coal.
“The recent progress in climate attribution science makes it evident that these companies have played a major role in the accumulation and escalation of such costs by providing gigatonnes of carbon fuels to the global economy while willfully ignoring foreseeable climate harm.
“All the while they successfully shaped the public narrative on climate change through disinformation, misleading ‘advertorials,’ lobbying, and political donations to delay action directly or through trade associations and other surrogates.” (emphasis mine)

So, what can we do?

I see two possibilities, the first involving the law, and the second using the marketplace and, if that doesn’t work fast enough, the Fifth Amendment’s eminent domain provision.

First, the law:

Article 16 of the 1992 Rio Declaration explicitly calls for fossil fuel producers to pay for the damage their products and extraction processes produce. Thus, Earth One argues, Saudi Aramco (as the largest example) has cost the world so much that they should pay $43 billion a year in reparations for the next 25 years. While that seems like a lot of money, Saudi Aramco’s revenue in 2022 was $604 billion, spinning off $161 billion in pure profit.

Most of it’s executives and stockholders are already morbidly rich; this will put nobody in the poorhouse.

But isn’t the impact of this industry on our planet so consequential that — instead of just reducing their most senior executives’ income/revenue from billions to hundreds of millions — we should actually be holding the decision makers to account?

The legislature of New York State is considering a superfund bill that would move financially in this direction against domestic fossil fuel producers; other states will probably soon follow, although none are yet law.

None, though, yet target decision making senior executives as was done after World War II with the senior executives of the manufacturer of Zyklon B and the bosses and owners of the companies that ran medical experiments in concentration camps.

The discussion isn’t limited to the United States. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported this week:

“As fires blaze in Alberta, Saskatchewan and B.C., new research has drawn a direct and measurable link between carbon emissions traced back to the world’s major fossil fuel producers and the increase in extreme wildfires across western Canada and the United States.”

They based that reporting on a new peer-reviewed study published the week before in Environmental Research Letters that, the CBC noted:

“[F]ound that 37 per cent of the total burned forest area in Western Canada and the United States between 1986-2021 can be traced back to 88 major fossil fuel producers and cement manufacturers.”

But these companies have not stopped buying off politicians, making it clear that extracting money from the ones causing all this damage and death worldwide may not be enough to provoke real change from the billionaire and multi-millionaire investors and executives making the decisions. Instead, we must motivate those executives themselves.

Another remedy, therefore, comes from the Nuremberg principles that were created in 1950 by the United Nations after World War II. While their original goal was to prosecute Nazis and deter future genocidal actions by dictatorial regimes, they could arguably apply to today’s intentional mass murder at the hands of the world’s fossil fuel executives.

More specifically, the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague was created by the Rome Statute on July 17, 1998. It goes beyond the “war crimes” and “crimes of aggression” defined by the Nuremberg principles and specifies both those two along with “the crime of genocide” and “crimes against humanity.”

That last category is clarified as including:

“[I]nhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health.”

The United States has never signed onto the ICC, but actions against fossil fuel executives based in the US can be brought by other signatory nations. If the effort were started outside the United States, for example, Royal Dutch Shell is based in the Netherlands, a full signatory to the Rome Statute.

As of three years ago, two US states had launched fraud investigations into ExxonMobil, although the one lawsuit by New York failed to bring a conviction (it was based on a charge that they had committed fraud against their investors).

Multiple US cities have sued fossil fuel companies for climate change damages, although there has not yet been a “breakthrough” case that could establish a precedent for others. But as damages continue to pile up and our weather becomes increasingly violent, expect more to come.

Fossil fuel companies have been following a business model since their early years in the 19th century of internalizing profits while externalizing (dumping on the public) their costs and damages.

Which brings us to a second possible solution to this crisis: nationalize the companies themselves, so their profits can be used to remedy their harms.

If ever there was an industry that merited nationalization, the fossil fuel industry is it. They manipulate prices to both enhance profits and swing elections, bribe their way through the halls of Congress, and pump out a steady stream of lies about climate change. All while pouring hundreds of billions into the money bins of their morbidly rich CEOs, shareholders, and senior executives.

America has a long and proud history of taking on companies that put profits over the public good during a time of crisis. And we could acquire controlling interest of the nation’s three largest fossil fuel players — ExxonMobil, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips — for, according to Robert Pollin writing at The American Prospect, fewer than a half-trillion dollars.

For less than a quarter of the cost of Trump’s billionaire tax cuts we could rapidly move a long way toward saving our nation and the world from climate destruction.

All the American government would have to do is to go into the public marketplace and start purchasing the stock of each of these companies at a premium to buy majority shares in each of them. Again, the cost would be less than 1/4th of Donald Trump‘s tax cut. It could probably be done in a matter of months, possibly even weeks.

But is it even possible? Turns out that history says an emphatic, “Yes!”

During the crisis of World War I, President Woodrow Wilson nationalized the country’s railroads, phone companies, and telegraph operators. He did the same with the nation’s radio networks and radio stations. All were returned to private ownership after the war, but that temporary nationalization helped get America through the crisis.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt did the same during World War II, nationalizing airplane manufacturers, gun manufacturers, over 3,300 mines, the nation’s railroads, dozens of oil companies, Western Electric Co., Hughes Tool Co., Goodyear Tire and Rubber, and even one of the nation’s largest retail outlets, Montgomery Ward. He also nationalized 17 foreign companies doing business in the US.

After FDR died, President Harry Truman continued seizing companies that were using the war as an excuse to jack up profits to the detriment of the nation. He nationalized meatpacking facilities across the country, the Monongahela Railroad Company, the nation’s steel mills, and hundreds of railroad companies.

Like with Wilson’s nationalizations, nearly all were returned to the private sector after the war was over, although it took until 1965 before all were privatized. Many had had their boards of directors and senior management replaced with people who’d put the interests of the nation ahead of their greed for profits.

In the 1970s, in the wake of the collapse of the Penn Central Railroad, President Richard Nixon oversaw the nationalization and transfer of 20 railroads into the newly created National Rail Passenger Corporation, now known as Amtrak.

In 1974 Congress created another nationalized entity to deal with freight rail, the Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail), which absorbed dozens of failing rail companies. Conrail was government held until 1987, when it was privatized in the then-largest IPO in American history.

In 1984, when the Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust Company was in a crisis, President Ronald Reagan’s administration oversaw the FDIC, nationalizing it by acquiring an 80 percent ownership share in the company; it wasn’t re-privatized until 1991, and was bought by Bank of America in 1994.

Also in the 1980s, after Reagan recklessly deregulated the Savings & Loan industry, banksters made off with billions leaving the wreckage of crushed S&Ls all across the nation.

When the government agency that insured them, FSLIC, went bankrupt itself in 1987, Reagan and Congress created an umbrella agency — the Resolution Trust Corporation (RTC) — to nationalize 747 of America’s S&Ls with assets of over $400 billion. Their assets were sold back into the private market in 1995 as the RTC shut itself down, having averted a 1929-style banking crisis through temporary nationalization.

When George W. Bush was handed the White House by 5 Republican appointees on the Supreme Court, the nation’s airline security system was entirely in private hands.

They failed miserably on 9/11, so Bush didn’t even bother with the normal acquisition process that would protect the hundreds of small contractors running security at airports across the nation: he simply nationalized the entire system and created a government agency, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to take over airport and airline security.

President Bush also partially nationalized the nation’s airlines, creating the Air Transportation Stabilization Board that traded around $10 billion in loans to airlines in crisis (air traffic collapsed after 9/11) in exchange for company stock. We (through our government) ended up holding 7.64 million shares in US Airways, 18.7 million shares of America West Airlines, 3.45 million shares in Frontier Airlines, 1.47 million shares in American TransAir, and 2.38 million shares in World Airways.

Congress had deregulated the nation’s banks in 1999 when Republicans pushed through an end to the Glass-Steagall Act and Bill Clinton signed it into law. The resulting banking system crash in 2008 forced the Bush administration to nationalize the country’s two largest mortgage lenders (they held about 40% of all US mortgages), Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

The Bush administration then additionally nationalized a 77.9% share in AIG, a 36% share of Citigroup, and a 73.5% share of GMAC, forcing out GM’s CEO Rick Wagoner, who’d been a particularly terrible manager of that company and was actively lobbying against what Bush thought were America’s interests.

As President Barack Obama came into office in 2009, GM and Chrysler were on the brink of collapse. His administration created a new company, NGMCO, Inc., that nationalized the assets of GM and was 60.8% owned by the federal government.

GM was finally fully re-privatized by the Obama administration in 2013. Chrysler went through a similar process, although both the UAW and the Canadian government were part owners when it was temporarily nationalized.

Thomas M. Hanna, Director of Research at The Democracy Collaborative and author of Our Common Wealth: The Return of Public Ownership in the United States, compiled most of the data above in a brilliant paper titled “A History of Nationalization in the United States 1917-2009.”

Toward its end, he summarizes brilliantly the case for nationalizing — perhaps only temporarily — America’s largest oil and gas companies:

“In such times of political and economic crisis, policymakers of all ideological persuasions in the United States have never been hesitant to use one of the most powerful tools at their disposal: nationalization of private enterprises and assets.
“This included the Democrat Woodrow Wilson, who nationalized railroads, and the telephone, telegraph, and radio industries (among others), and the Republican Ronald Reagan, who nationalized a major national bank; the Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt, who nationalized dozens of mining and manufacturing facilities, and the Republican George W. Bush, who nationalized airport security and various major financial institutions; the Democrat Barack Obama, who nationalized auto manufacturers, and the Republican Richard Nixon, who nationalized all passenger rail service.”

Today’s climate crisis dwarfs the threat of Nazism in the 1940s, Bin Laden’s 9/11 attack, or the massive bank robberies that took place during the Reagan and Bush administrations.

It literally threatens all life on Earth.

Yet the fossil fuel industry continues to fund climate denial and lobby against any meaningful solutions, as we saw when every Republican in the Senate along with coal baron Joe Manchin killed the $500 billion investment in clean energy the Biden administration proposed in their 2021 Build Back Better legislation.

Squeals of “socialism!” and “Venezuela!” aside, we know how to nationalize industries that are working against our nation’s interests and have done it before, repeatedly.

And this time it’s not just about saving our banks or fighting a war. This time, it’s literally about saving the world.

How Ron DeSantis is 'trying to out-Trump Trump' on climate: report

Scientists have been warning that as climate change accelerates, Florida will be hit especially hard — from hurricanes and floods to rising sea levels. Increasing insurance rates are a symptom of Florida's climate woes; WUSF-FM (a National Public Radio affiliate in Tampa) reported that Florida homeowners can expect their property insurance rates to increase by 40 percent in 2023 even though they are already paying almost three times the national average.

But Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is seeking the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, is as much of a climate change denier as his main competitor in the primary: former President Donald Trump.

Oliver Milman, in a report published by The Guardian on May 28, notes that DeSantis has dismissed climate science as "the politicization of the weather" and "left-wing stuff"; denies that climate change had anything to do with Hurricane Ian's severity, and is a strident promoter of fossil fuels. DeSantis often mocks green energy as "woke."

READ MORE: Why DeSantis’ 'out of touch and unserious' failure to launch should be the least of his worries: columnist

Pete Maysmith, the League of Conservation Voters' senior vice-president of campaigns, told The Guardian, "The cost of taking his anti-climate record to the national stage as president would be catastrophic. DeSantis has already made clear he would unleash his war on climate science, clean energy jobs, and strong pollution safeguards against clean air and clean water."

But not all conservatives are climate change deniers. Former Rep. Bob Inglis (R-South Carolina) believes that DeSantis is missing a golden opportunity by failing to tackle climate change from the right.

The former GOP congressman told The Guardian, "He could've been the post-Trump successful governor, the solver of problems. But instead, he's choosing to be more of the anti-woke warrior than Trump. He's slugging it out in the Trump lane, which is really a terrible mistake…. He could've said, 'Hey, we are dealing with this climate issue in Florida. Let's lead the world on this.' Instead, he's trying to out-Trump Trump."

READ MORE: Ron DeSantis signs six-week abortion ban into law

The Guardian's entire report can be found at this link.

Right-wing US Supreme Court delivers 'catastrophic loss for water protections'

The U.S. Supreme Court's right-wing majority on Thursday severely curtailed protections for "waters of the United States."

The decision in Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is "unanimous in result but very split in reasoning," explainedSlate's Mark Joseph Stern. "The upshot of Sackett is that, by a 5–4 vote, the Supreme Court dramatically narrows" which wetlands are covered by the Clean Water Act (CWA).

The majority opinion—authored by Justice Samuel Alito and joined by all of the court's other right-wing members except Justice Brett Kavanaugh—concludes that the CWA only applies to wetlands with "a continuous surface connection" to larger bodies of water, excluding those that are "adjacent."

Earthjusticedeclared in response to the ruling that "this is a catastrophic loss for water protections across the country and a win for big polluters, putting our communities, public health, and local ecosystems in danger."

Manish Bapna, president and CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), was similarly critical, saying that "the Supreme Court ripped the heart out of the law we depend on to protect American waters and wetlands."

"The majority chose to protect polluters at the expense of healthy wetlands and waterways. This decision will cause incalculable harm. Communities across the country will pay the price," Bapna warned.

"What's important now is to repair the damage," he added. "The government must enforce the remaining provisions of law that protect the clean water we all rely on for drinking, swimming, fishing, irrigation, and more. States should quickly strengthen their own laws. Congress needs to act to restore protections for all our waters."

Elizabeth Southerland, former director of science and technology in EPA's Office of Water, noted that "since 1989, the U.S. government has used Clean Water Act authority to either prevent the filling of wetlands or to permit filling only when an equal acreage of wetlands is reclaimed or restored."

"Wetland preservation is critical for providing flood control, absorbing pollutants, preventing shoreline erosion, storing carbon, and serving as a nursery for wildlife," stressed Southerland, now a volunteer with the Environmental Protection Network.

Thursday's decision, she said, "is a big win for land developers and miners, who will now be free to destroy certain types of wetlands without paying for wetland reclamation," and "a big loss for communities who will have to pay more to treat their drinking water and respond to increased flooding and shoreline erosion."

The high court was criticized for hearing the case—brought by an Idaho couple denied a permit by the EPA—as the federal agencuy was finalizing a new waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule following the Trump administration's widely condemned rollback. The Biden administration's policy was just finalized in December.

"While Earthjustice and our allies are closely evaluating the impact of the Sackett decision on the new WOTUS regulation," said Sam Sankar, the legal group's vice president of programs, "we can say with certainty that the court has once again given polluting industries and land developers a potent weapon that they will use to erode regulatory protections for wetlands and waterways around the country."

Capturing carbon with machines is a failure. So why are we subsidizing it?

Policymakers are pouring money into techno-fixes to solve the climate crisis, even though scientific studies indicate nature-based solutions are all-around more effective.

Human activity—mostly the burning of fossil fuels—has raised Earth’s atmospheric carbon content by 50 percent, from 280 parts per million (ppm) to 420 ppm. Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, we’ve released approximately 950 billion metric tons of carbon into the air. Every year, humans emit more than 40 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, as of 2021 measurements. Even if we stop burning fossil fuels now, the amount of CO2 already in the atmosphere will cause Earth’s climate to continue warming for decades, triggering heat waves, droughts, rising sea levels, and extreme weather.

This article was produced by Earth | Food | Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Climate scientists warn that if we want to avert catastrophe, a significant amount of excess atmospheric CO2 must be captured and sequestered. The process is called carbon dioxide removal (CDR), and it has been receiving more attention as nations, states, and industries strive to meet their climate goals. But how should we go about doing it?

There are two broad strategies: biological and mechanical. Nature already absorbs and emits about 100 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide every year through the natural processes in the biosphere—including plant growth—an amount 2.5 times humanity’s annual carbon output. So, according to advocates for biological carbon removal, our best bet is simply to help the planet do a little more of what it is already doing to absorb carbon. We could accomplish this through reforestation, soil-building agricultural practices, and encouraging kelp growth in oceans.

On the other hand, advocates for mechanical carbon removal point to technologies that successfully capture CO2 in the laboratory; if these machines were scaled up, those advocates tell us, we could create an enormous new industry with plenty of jobs while removing atmospheric carbon and reducing climate risk. Scientists are exploring several chemical pathways for direct air capture (DAC) of carbon and ways to sequester CO2 in porous rock formations. Revenue streams come from government subsidies or from the use of captured CO2 in enhanced oil recovery (EOR).

So, which pathway—nature or machines—holds more promise?

In its sixth assessment report, released in March 2023, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations body that regularly assesses the current state of climate science, points out that “biological CDR methods like reforestation, improved forest management, soil carbon sequestration, peatland restoration[,] and coastal blue carbon management can enhance biodiversity and ecosystem functions, employment[,] and local livelihoods.”

On the other hand, notes the IPCC, the implementation of mechanical DAC along with underground sequestration of CO2 “currently faces technological, economic, institutional, ecological-environmental and socio-cultural barriers.” Further, the current global rates of mechanical carbon capture and storage “are far below those in modeled pathways limiting global warming to 1.5°C to 2°C.”

In a study published in the journal PLOS Climate in February 2023, a team of American scientists analyzed the benefits and downsides of the two pathways in detail. They used three criteria: effectiveness (“[d]oes the process achieve a net removal of CO2 from the atmosphere” once all inputs and outputs are accounted for?), efficiency (“[a]t a climate-relevant scale… [of a billion metric tons of CO2 per year], how much energy and land are required?”), and impacts (“[w]hat are the significant co-benefits or adverse impacts [on nature and society]?”).

The team gathered data and crunched the numbers. The lead author, June Sekera, a carbon researcher and visiting scholar at the New School for Social Research in New York, concluded:

[B]iological sequestration methods, including restoration of forests, grasslands, and wetlands and regenerative agriculture, are both more effective and more resource efficient in achieving a climate-relevant scale of CO2 removal than are techno-mechanical methods—which use machinery and chemicals to capture CO2. Additionally, the co-impacts of biological methods are largely positive, while those of technical/mechanical methods are negative. Biological methods are also far less expensive.

In this comparative study, the scores for natural versus mechanical carbon removal methods were not close: Natural methods won in every category—and by a significant margin. The problem with machine-based carbon removal is not just that current technologies are immature (with the hope of getting better with more research and investment), but also that using machines is inherently inefficient, costly, and risky. On the other hand, removing carbon by restoring nature costs less, is more effective at reducing atmospheric carbon, and offers numerous side benefits.

The American study also noted that its findings “that biological methods exhibit superior effectiveness in comparison to DAC are consistent with data reported in the 2022 IPCC study.” It added in plain terms: “According to the IPCC, not only are biological methods of CDR more effective than DAC…, but their effectiveness is projected to increase significantly over time.”

As if to underscore that conclusion, a separate study published in March 2023 in the journal Nature Climate Change concluded that the protection and rewilding of even a small targeted group of wildlife species would help facilitate the capture and storage of enough carbon to keep the global temperature below the tipping point of warming 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

You might expect, therefore, that policymakers would currently be directing all of their support toward natural carbon removal methods. But you’d be wrong. Government policy support in the form of subsidies is being shoveled mostly into mechanical carbon removal.

In the U.S., the primary subsidy for mechanical CDR is the federal 45Q tax credit, introduced in 2008, which offers $10 to $20 per metric ton of CO2 captured and stored. But there are also carbon offset credit programs (including the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard), subsidies for building CO2 pipelines, and subsidies for the production of alternative fuels (including ethanol and hydrogen) that rely on carbon capture technology to be considered “low-carbon.” The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 significantly increased the number of credits in 45Q and broadened eligibility, and included federal subsidies for oil producers who pump CO2 underground to make it easier to extract trapped petroleum—which is by far the most common way of using captured CO2.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which President Biden signed in November 2021, included billions in federal funding for carbon capture projects. In the Midwest, as a result, there has been a rush to build thousands of miles of CO2 pipelines for carbon sequestration—a frenzy that has set off regulatory chaos and is pitting farmers and Native Americans against biofuel plant operators and venture capitalists. Researchers continue to spend time and money finding new chemical pathways to mechanical CO2 capture—resources that could instead be diverted to biological CO2 removal methods. Even AI is being enlisted in mechanical carbon capture efforts.

There are also subsidies that, in effect, promote nature-based CDR methods, including soil conservation and wetlands restoration programs, but these programs were not initially intended for carbon capture and sequestration, and they are not optimized for that purpose. In November 2022, at the global COP27 climate summit in Cairo, the Biden administration announced the “Nature-Based Solutions Roadmap,” an outline of strategic recommendations to put America on a path to “unlock the full potential of nature-based solutions” to address “climate change, nature loss, and inequity.” The roadmap calls for updating policies, providing funding, training a nature-based solutions workforce, and prioritizing research, innovation, knowledge, and adaptive learning to advance nature-based solutions. However, the roadmap remains, for the most part, in the realm of good intentions.

There’s only so much funding available for climate solutions, and the total amount is woefully inadequate. Only strategic investment will obtain significant results for the dollars spent, and it is now clear which path will get results.

Given the clear superiority of nature-based solutions, why is so much support still going toward mechanical carbon capture? Poor judgments in the past have created funding streams and projects with a momentum of their own. Most of the gold-rush fever surrounding mechanical carbon capture can be attributed simply to the lure of subsidies for building new DAC plants and pipelines.

In a 2018 article published by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Justin Adams—who at the time was the managing director for global lands at the U.S.-based environmental nonprofit Nature Conservancy—urged the European Union to take the lead on using nature-based solutions in the climate crisis fight. “Many economists and policy advisors ignore the potential of natural climate solutions at our peril,” warned Adams’s article, calling a 2018 report by the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (EASAC) “short-sighted” for downplaying the potential of nature-based climate solutions.

“Natural climate solutions are in fact the world’s oldest negative emissions technology,” Adams wrote. “By managing carbon dioxide-hungry forests and agricultural lands better, we can remove vast quantities of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and store them in trees and soils.”

The science tells us that policymakers and investors have so far been wrong to advocate so strongly for mechanical CDR solutions to the detriment of biological ones. The fate of future generations is at stake, and we cannot afford to waste both time and money on techno-fixes that are ineffective at achieving our climate goals. The clear path forward to addressing the looming catastrophic effects of climate change is to restore nature.

Author Bio: Richard Heinberg is a senior fellow at the Post Carbon Institute and the author of Power: Limits and Prospects for Human Survival.

Our times call for managing complexities, not solving problems

How Paicines Ranch in California works to bring business and investment up to date with our times and closer to nature—prioritizing ecosystem health, habitat, and the sequestration of carbon through soil practices.

At first the ground squirrels felt like the enemy—a problem to be solved. They were causing major issues for the 25 acres of vineyard at Paicines Ranch in San Benito County, California, with their burrows and mounds, and their taste for fine grapes.

This article was produced by Local Peace Economy, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

“We were like, these squirrels are terrible, we must get rid of them—or at least keep them out of the vineyard,” recalls Esther Park, CEO of Cienega Capital. While Park doesn’t work directly on the vineyard, she collaborates with the team that does via the No Regrets Initiative, which is the financial and investment arm of Paicines Ranch that Cienega Capital funds.

The vineyard crew came up with a number of schemes to solve the problem of those pesky ground squirrels. That is, until they met with ecologists and learned about the many essential roles the squirrels, and the underground burrows they create, play in the ecosystem.

“While they might be annoying to us as humans, they’re actually pretty key to providing habitat to many different species,” said Avery Sponholtz, who is on the No Regrets Initiative team and director of philanthropy for the Globetrotter Foundation. (Both are interconnected with the ranch as both were created by Sallie Calhoun and work in tandem with one another.)

It’s not every vineyard that would deem the ecological role of ground squirrels as equal in value to high crop yields. But instead of looking at challenges like that of the ground squirrels as problems to be solved—which is the predominant mode of operating just about everywhere you look in today’s largely extractivist, capitalist world—Paicines Ranch is intentionally working to operate under a different mentality: They’ve taken on an intentional mindset of managing complexities rather than solving problems.

In the example of the ground squirrels, the complexity lies in the fact that support for regenerative ecosystems is a core value of Paicines Ranch’s mission. The project was founded with the aim of working with the dynamic natural world to explore ways of building healthy ecosystems while growing crops and supporting community through food. Its 7,600 acres double as wildlife habitat for “animals, birds, insects, trees, plants, grasses, springs, rivers, and much more,” notes its website.

“We realized if we’re going to hold diversity of species up as an outcome that we want to achieve, those ground squirrels are actually pretty important,” says Park.

Now, instead of trying to solve the problem of the ground squirrels, the team has shifted toward “managing the complexity of [the] ecosystem,” adds Park.

“The squirrels are not necessarily helping us achieve some of the outcomes that we want, and yet they are helping us to achieve some of the other outcomes we want. And we’re getting comfortable with not having the answers, and just doing what we can to manage the complexity of that.”

Park shared another example of how to shift into managing complexities rather than solving problems, from the investment world.

“We deal a lot with grass-fed and pastured livestock operations, and one of the things that most producers point to as being a problem for them is access to [meat] processing [facilities],” she says.

Park says the problem the livestock operations often bring up is that they need more meat processing facilities, and while there have been many efforts to try to address the problem, “most of them have failed.” Parks says this boils down to the fact that the challenge is significantly more complex than just a need for more processing.

“It’s not just that you need a processor… There are all these other factors in the ecosystem that are affecting your whole supply chain,” she says. “It’s better to think about ways to manage all of the moving parts in a way that will serve each individual business, but also to get to know the processor and their business, and also the consumers and all of the other folks who are involved.”

She shares that she helped organize an online workshop for the purpose of connecting all of the different stakeholders along the meat production and processing supply chain. Among the speakers was an experienced and successful meat processor who spoke about the real constraints they face as a business, and the conversation began “helping people get their heads around the complexity of the nature of what they’re facing, versus thinking, ‘This is the answer to solve my problem,’ because oftentimes it’s actually not.”

Holistic Management

Managing complexities—rather than solving problems—has become a theme of the work Calhoun, who owns and manages Paicines Ranch and works with Park and Sponholtz, puts into the world. In addition to her work with the ranch, Calhoun is an activist, impact investor, and philanthropic funder in regenerative agriculture who founded the No Regrets Initiative, which seeks to use a wide variety of forms of capital—human, natural, investment, and philanthropic—to effect change in the agricultural system. She says all that she does aims to improve the health of ecosystems and the communities living in them. Calhoun’s efforts are often aimed in particular at agricultural soil health and sequestering carbon in soil to mitigate climate change.

Calhoun says she was introduced to the idea of running a business centered on managing complexities via Allan Savory, a livestock farmer and president and co-founder of the Savory Institute, who came up with something called holistic management. Managing complexities is one of the key premises of holistic management.

“It was created to help land stewards—because if you are a land steward, you are inherently managing complexity, right?” says Calhoun. “[Allan Savory] makes the distinction that the systems that we create, like computers and the internet, are complicated, but we understand them. Whereas there’s a whole set of natural living systems, which are complex—and complexity means that we can’t actually understand them. If we poke them, we don’t know what’s going to happen, and so we need to respond accordingly.”

Another main point of holistic management Calhoun points to is that so many systems we operate under are focused on preventing unwanted problems, rather than managing for the wanted outcomes.

“We literally declare war on drugs, and war on terror, and war on poverty—thereby guaranteeing the continuation of all of those things, because it’s this mentality of fighting against a problem rather than thinking about what you want to create,” she says. “My ideas really started over 20 years ago from the work of [Savory], and now we’ve been able to carry that and figure out what it means in other parts of our work.”

Managing the Complexities of Our Changing World

The realities of our changing planet call for different ways of doing business, relating to success, and, generally, being in the world. We were warned that climate disasters and their strange weather would come, and now they’re upon us, causing immense collateral damage to humans and other feeling beings on this special planet of water and life. The compound horrors we’ve collectively contributed to as a species are spiraling to a scale that can feel almost as hard to wrap our minds around as the vastness of the stars, time, and the universe. Tensions and talk of war are on the rise globally, and people in the wealthiest nations on the planet are contending with cost-of-living crises, worsened in the wake of the economic fallout of an ongoing global pandemic. And things do not promise to improve anytime soon—especially not by way of business as usual. Creative, collaborative, care-based ways of relating will be necessary to weather the coming storms—literally and figuratively.

There is an opportunity in the midst of the polycrisis (as the World Economic Forum has dubbed it) to reframe the challenges ahead as “complexities to manage” rather than “problems to solve.” This reframing can save us from becoming overwhelmed and has the potential to guide people toward more realistic ways of being and expectations. Because that’s what life is, ultimately: a series of complexities, as notes Jodie Evans, co-founder of CODEPINK.

Evans hosted a conversation with Calhoun, Park, and Sponholtz in March 2023 as part of an upcoming webinar series, and their conversation focused on just that: managing complexities in business and life.

During the conversation, Calhoun shared that the work their team does operates under two sets of guiding principles: one for soil, another for relationships.

Soil health principles, Calhoun says, include keeping the soil covered; keeping green, growing roots in the ground as much of the year as you can; having a diversity of plants; minimizing disturbance—which includes both tillage and also synthetic chemicals, fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides; and, where possible, integrating animals.

Calhoun says the first five soil health principles, listed above, are derived from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and are noncontroversial. She and her team also added a sixth, which is to integrate creative humans who are passionate about the regeneration of the landscape.

The relationship principles, she says, tend to be a little murkier.

“We spend a lot of time talking about the soil health principles and the ways that we keep soil healthy, and we’re thinking now amongst our team about relationship health principles and how to bring those into our work in a more explicit way and be able to share for those funders and investors… [to provide more] articulation of the way that we try to operate in relationship,” says Calhoun.

Sponholtz shared the first draft of relational principles from her notebook:

  1. We believe that we must have bidirectional trust in our relationships.
  2. We believe that we are interdependent and that our fates are tied to each other.
  3. We believe that there is magic, and not everything is knowable with the senses that we have available to us in this moment.
  4. We believe that love is necessary, and the response to beauty is love.
  5. We believe belonging is necessary.
  6. We believe that complexity is critical.

On Magic and Remembering We Are Nature

Park elaborated on the third principle about magic, which draws from a rich and long historical foundation of human intuition and spirituality that crosses cultures.

“We’ve been fixated on this kind of one-dimensional way of knowing something is true, which is data, and yet, historically, we had wisdom that comes from places other than data, or even our brains,” she says. “We relied on our senses, and our senses expand to the relationships that we have and the vibrations that we feel from… nature, and from each other. Those are real ways of knowing things, but we’ve put them to the side as being woo-woo or being something irrational or unreliable. And yet these are things that are super important to informing how we work.”

Park notes that Indigenous cultures around the world have always valued ways of knowing beyond data, and that it’s vital to center those Indigenous, more natural technologies, systems, and ways of being as paths to the future.

“As a team, we really embrace these, what we call, ‘original ways of knowing,’” she says. “We’ll have discussions like: ‘There’s something in my gut that doesn’t feel right about this.’ And we’ll all be like, ‘Okay, we’re not doing it.’ That weighs equally, and in fact sometimes more, to us than what we might see or read on paper. That’s an important part of the way that we work that is different.”

Park says one of the root causes of the situation we find ourselves in today as humans is disconnection from ourselves, from each other, and from the natural world.

“It’s those disconnects that allow us to do the really harmful things that we do to each other and to the land,” she says. “If we’re so disconnected, then we have to reconnect… And particularly when it comes to the natural world, part of that reconnection is acknowledging that we are part of it.”

She says often some of the efforts to solve the problems we are facing neglect to see humans as a part of nature and Earth. For example, land conservation often frames the ideal as being for humans to remove themselves from nature.

“The idea is to just get the people off the land and let nature do its thing,” she says. “But we’re part of nature too. Here in North America, the Indigenous folks actively managed the land. It didn’t just sort of become that way on its own. They actively managed it. We’re a part of this story too.”

And, she notes that humans have a lot to learn from the rest of the planet.

“We need to approach things with humility, knowing that as a species we are the babies; trees and plants were here way before we were. They’re our ancestors and they’re our elders, and we have to respect our position in the ecological sphere.”

Part of doing that is to return to taking an approach closer to that of nature, rather than top-down approaches that seek to control and compartmentalize—in other words, making the shift into managing complexities.

Author Bio: April M. Short is an editor, journalist, and documentary editor and producer. She is a co-founder of the Observatory, where she is the Local Peace Economy editor, and she is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute. Previously, she was a managing editor at AlterNet as well as an award-winning senior staff writer for Good Times, a weekly newspaper in Santa Cruz, California. Her work has been published with the San Francisco Chronicle, In These Times, LA Yoga, Pressenza, the Conversation, Salon, and many other publications.

Exploring the US and India’s grim and violent rightward turns

Priti and Stan Cox, Two Great Powers, Too Much Violence

Let me offer a small prediction: between this moment when I’m writing the introduction to Priti Gulati and Stan Cox’s new piece and the moment, a few days from now, when it’s actually posted at TomDispatch, the question isn’t whether there will be another mass shooting in America, but how many of them there will be. In a country where an estimated one of every 20 people, or some 13 million of us, owns not just a gun but an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, it goes without saying that carnage lies ahead. After all, 2023 is already proving a record year for both mass shootings (in which at least four people other than the gunman — and yes, they are almost always men or boys — are killed or wounded) and mass killings (in which four or more people other than the gunman are slaughtered).

By early May, there had already been more than 200 mass shootings in this country and we’re on target (so to speak) for at least 60 mass killings by year’s end. (There were “only” 36 in 2022.) It’s long been the case that ours is the sole country on planet Earth where there are more privately owned guns than people. With just 4% of the world’s population, we possess something like 40% of the globe’s guns. Imagine that!

In a country where gun “control” remains essentially a fantasy, given the Trumpublican Party (and the present Supreme Court), the AR-15 has become the slaughter weapon of choice, whether of the young man who entered a Buffalo supermarket and killed 10 Black customers or of Kyle Rittenhouse, the young man who killed two Black Lives Matter protestors at a Wisconsin rally and was later invited to Mar-a-Lago by Donald Trump. And keep in mind that, while a few states have tried to impose restrictions or bans on assault rifles and President Biden has indeed supported a national ban, some Republican members of Congress now proudly sport AR-15 pins on their lapels as a sign of their commitment to the “right to bear arms” in America.

With that in mind, let TomDispatch regulars Priti Gulati and Stan Cox tell you something about where our all-too-well-armed country and Priti’s homeland, India, could both be heading, politically speaking, in this all-too-murderous moment of ours. Tom

Between a Yoga Mat and a Hard Place

The Violent Urge for Supremacy in the World’s Two Largest Democracies

Are you worried about the rising political power of violent white nationalists in America? Well, you’ve got plenty of company, including U.S. national security and counterterrorism officials. And we’re worried, too — worried enough, in fact, to feel that it’s time to take a look at the experience of India, where Hindu supremacist dogma has increasingly been enforced through violent means. While there are striking parallels between both countries, India appears to have ventured further down the road of far-right violence. Its experience could potentially offer Americans some valuable, if grim, lessons.

As a start, let’s look at two recent incidents, one in India and the other in the United States.

Laws passed in most Indian states against the killing of cattle have served as a common pretext for the violent enforcement of Hindu beliefs. Recently, for example, three men were arrested on charges of abducting and murdering Junaid and Nasir, two Muslim men transporting cattle through the northern state of Haryana. They first beat Junaid to death, then strangled Nasir. Both bodies were incinerated in a car left at the side of the road. That attack was linked to paramilitary gangs known as gao rakshaks (cow protectors) who, in these last years, have been on a rampage of violence in northern India, though similar horrors have recently been recorded further south in Maharashtra, home to India’s largest city, Mumbai.

In the United States, too, violent hatred is both on the rise and being all too perversely celebrated on the right. Within three days of being charged with involuntary manslaughter, Daniel Penny, the U.S. Marine veteran who made national news by choking to death Jordan Neely, a homeless, mentally ill Black man on a New York City subway car, raised a whopping $2.7 million from the Christian crowdfunding site GiveSendGo. Charged with manslaughter, he’s already been dubbed a “subway Superman” by Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz, while his fellow Floridian, Governor Ron DeSantis, tweeted that to “stop the Left’s pro-criminal agenda” we all must “stand with Good Samaritans like Daniel Penny.”

Sadly enough, those episodes, occurring half a globe apart, are just two data points in surges of violent extremism sweeping both India and the United States. That trend first took off in India in 2014 with the election victory of Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), making him prime minister. In the United States, it hit big time with the 2016 election of Donald Trump as president. But such mayhem — and the broad approval of political violence by Hindu supremacists there and white supremacists here — has only grown in the years since.

Those incidents also illustrate one crucial difference between far-right violence in India and the United States. Whereas the surge of Hindu-supremacist violence has become a nationally organized collective effort, most American white-supremacist violence is still being committed by individuals acting alone.

In the U.S., we’ve experienced a growing outbreak of hate shootings in which the victims simply find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time (and all too often of the wrong color), even as a longer-term trend of mass killings committed by racially motivated and ever better armed “lone wolves” rises. Notably, among those solo actors, Kyle Rittenhouse, who shot and killed two Black Lives Matter protesters in 2020, and a host of others have reaped lavish praise from leading Trumpublican politicians, including that MAGA kingpin The Donald himself. (He, in fact, invited Rittenhouse to Mar-a-Lago in 2021.) And 2023 is already on track to set a record for mass shootings, while hate crimes in general rose to more than 200 per week in 2021, the last year for which the FBI has complete data. The vast majority of those crimes were committed by unaffiliated individuals.

In India, by contrast, hate violence is often highly organized. The cattle vigilantes recently arrested in Haryana, for example, were affiliated with Bajrang Dal, the youth wing of Vishnu Hindu Parishad (the World Hindu Council), which, in turn, is an offshoot of a vast Hindu nationalist paramilitary organization, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

The RSS movement was launched in 1925 with one mission: to make India (then still a British colony) a Hindu Rashtra — that is, a “Hindu Nation.” Its approach was inspired by the fascist movements of a century ago in Italy and Germany. Today, it has a membership of five to six million and holds daily meetings in more than 36,000 different locations across India. Worse yet, the ruling BJP party, with Modi at its head, is an offshoot of RSS.

In 2002, Modi was the chief minister of the state of Gujarat when horrific communal violence took almost 2,000 lives, mostly Muslim, in a political and social earthquake that helped kick off the current wave of Hindu nationalism. In 2014, on the strength of the Hindu nationalist bona fides he’d earned 12 years earlier, he became prime minister and soon all hell broke loose.

Cows and Bulls**t

In a majority of India’s states today, cow slaughter is designated a crime and put in the same category with rape, murder, or sedition. As Harsh Mander, who has organized against communal and religiously-inspired violence, explains in his bookPartitions of the Heart, “The campaign today that claims to defend [the cow] has nothing to do with love of any kind.” It is instead “another highly emotive symbol to beat down India’s minorities into submission and fear.”

Laws against cattle slaughter and beef consumption lay largely dormant until 2014. Now, they are being enforced ever more violently by Hindu supremacist vigilantes. Those laws, in fact, have provided a much-needed pretext for extreme violence. As Tej Parikh noted recently in the Asia-Pacific magazine The Diplomat, “Two Muslim women were raped in Mewat [in Haryana state] in early September [2022], after their attackers had accused them of eating beef.” And to put those acts in the context of this moment, he added that “the maximum sentence for a convicted rapist in Haryana is three years less than for a cow slaughtering offense.”

As Mander has pointed out, such beef bans are a tool for subjugating Muslims, Dalits (formerly referred to pejoratively as “untouchables”), Christians, and Adivasis (Indigenous peoples) to Hindu rule. Strange as it may sound, an American analogy could be the criminalization of abortion. In one country, cattle, in the other, human fetuses are being used as right-wing implements to oppress, socially control, and reassert supremacy over significant sections of our respective populations.

As in the U.S., violence against women is rampant in India and perpetrators are often treated with remarkable leniency. Consider Sandip, Ramu, Lavkush, and Ravi, four upper-caste Hindus who, in 2020, tortured, gang-raped, and killed a 19-year-old Dalit girl in the middle of a pearl millet field in the state of Uttar Pradesh. This March, a court found Sandip alone guilty — and only of “culpable homicide not amounting to murder.” The other three men were acquitted.

In the Hindu supremacist context, the phrase ghar wapsi (which literally means “homecoming”) refers to forcibly converting people from Islam or Christianity to Hinduism. In a recent typical case, a BJP politician, the state secretary of Chhattisgarh in northeastern India, home to many low-caste Hindus and tribal peoples, coerced more than 1,100 Christians into undergoing a ghar wapsiceremony.

Hindu supremacists regularly use confinement and violence to secure such conversions. For instance, two women have filed a complaint against priests at a yoga center in the state of Kerala where they were held captive in an effort to do so. “I was forced to do work as housemaid including cleaning and preparing dishes for 65 inmates,” one of them swore in her affidavit. A priest, she wrote, “threatened that they would kill Isaac [her Muslim husband] if I went back to him.” The other woman told the court, “People at the [yoga] center asked me to leave [her Muslim husband] Hameed. When I resisted, they slapped my face, kicked my lower abdomen and stuffed cloth in my mouth to prevent me from screaming.”

Hindu nationalists are also raising alarms over “love jihad,” a false conspiracy theory that claims Muslim men are out to charm Hindu women into wedlock, conversion, and the production of Muslim babies. A recently released propaganda film, The Kerala Story, purports to show how 32,000 women from that state were converted to Islam and recruited by Islamic State terrorists. No matter that none of that ever happened, “love jihad” rhetoric, including the portrayal of Muslim men as “deceitful, sexual monsters,” is being embraced even by white supremacists in the United States, according to Zeinab Farokhi, a professor at Toronto University.

East Meets West, West Meets Caste

Washington and New Delhi recently announced that Prime Minister Modi will be making a state visit to the U.S. in June. During that visit, notes the Indian outlet The Wire, “Modi is likely to visit New York for Yoga Day on June 21.”

Indeed, he will, for that annual yoga event was Modi’s brainchild. In 2014, he proposed that an International Day of Yoga be celebrated at the summer solstice and the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution to that effect. An avid yoga practitioner, Modi then wrote, “Yoga embodies unity of mind and body, thought and action… a holistic approach [that] is valuable to our health and well-being.” These days, maybe Modi should take a little more time for yoga, which might allow him to gain a more holistic understanding of the hate and cruelty now rippling through Indian society. (Substitute Donald Trump for Modi doing yoga, if you want a little grim humor right now.)

Today, there are an estimated 4.3 million South Asian-Americans living in the U.S., including people from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan. A report released by a caste-abolitionist group, Equality Labs, entitled “Caste in the United States,” found that even in America, “many South Asians who identify as being from the ‘lower’ castes… tend to hide their caste,” because they fear that “they and their families could be rejected from South Asian cultural and religious spaces, lose professional and social networks, or even face bullying, abuse, and violence.”

Recently, however, a few rays of light have pierced the political gloom. In February, Seattle became the first city in the U.S. to prohibit caste discrimination and (joke, joke) yoga had nothing to do with it. The ban passed because of the hard work and solidarity of local activists, along with socialist Seattle city council member Kshama Sawant who proposed it. Then, on May 11th, casteism was banished from an entire state, the nation’s largest, when the California senate passed a bill to that effect.

To add another positive note, the very next day, Modi’s BJP was trounced by the Congress Party in elections to the legislative assembly of Karnataka, a crucial state in Indian politics. When the BJP won it five years ago, it was considered a key step in that party’s rise to national dominance. Now, those of us in favor of genuine democracy and not right-wing terror in both countries can only hope that the Karnataka defeat is a harbinger of BJP’s decline (just as we hope that neither Donald Trump nor Ron DeSantis can take the White House in 2024).

But even small victories don’t come without pushback from Hindu-nationalist expatriates and RSS/BJP “intellectuals” in India, as is true with Trumpists in America. Unsurprisingly enough, they condemned the new caste measures in the U.S., declaring them “Hinduphobic” (just as white right-wingers here chant “All Lives Matter” in the context of police violence and to mock the Black Lives Matter movement). But, asks the political theorist Kancha Ilailah Shepherd, “How can the practice of caste discrimination… be tackled without local laws or institutional rules?”

Too many upper-caste Indians and white Americans think of themselves as the only ones worthy of enjoying the spoils of the earth. They want it all and are ready to get it by exploiting, not to say violating, non-upper-caste bodies in India and non-white ones in the U.S., along with cows and fetuses, using religion as a tool in both cases. The bodies of Dalits, Muslims, Christians, the people of occupied Kashmir, liberals, journalists, historians, climate and human rights activists, educators, Blacks, Indigenous people, women, LGBTQ people — all of them are fodder for the violent right-wing in both countries.

In the sludge of such destructive exceptionalism, there can be felt a sense of uncertainty, a potential for both of our societies to break down completely. Sadly, yoga and vegetarianism do not encapsulate life in India; upper-caste exceptionalism does. Similarly, “peace and love,” not to speak of democracy, hardly define life in America anymore for a growing set of Trumpublicans. For them, white exceptionalism does and, worse yet, these days it goes all too well armed with that best-selling weapon of this moment, the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.

Honestly, there needs to be a deeper discussion of all of this before it’s too late.

Summer blackouts during heatwaves could cause 'immense loss of life and illness' in major US cities: study

Climate change can be a vicious cycle during the summer months.

Hotter temperatures inspire people to use their air conditioning more. But using more power, according to scientists, aggravates the very thing that is fueling the need for more AC: climate change.

In an article published by the New York Times on May 23, journalist Michael Levenson examines the effects that summer blackouts can have in major cities like Phoenix and Atlanta — effects that include more "deaths and illnesses."

READ MORE: Marjorie Taylor Greene stuns experts with scientifically illiterate rant on climate change

Drawing on a study published by the journal Environmental Science and Technology on Tuesday, May 22, Levenson explains, "If a multi-day blackout in Phoenix coincided with a heat wave, nearly half the population would require emergency department care for heat stroke or other heat-related illnesses, a new study suggests…. Since 2015, the number of major blackouts nationwide has more than doubled. At the same time, climate change is helping make heatwaves worse and increasing instances of extreme weather around the world."

Climate change deniers typically point out that Phoenix has always had hot summers — it's in the Arizona desert, after all — just as Miami has always had hurricanes and Buffalo has always been known for heavy winter snowfall. But the point that such arguments miss is that climate change intensifies and increases everything. That means even hotter summers in Phoenix, even more droughts in California, even more hurricanes in Miami and even heavier snowfall in Buffalo. Tornadoes have been common in Oklahoma, Kansas and North Texas — the area known as Tornado Alley — but climate change will make them even more common.

"This summer, two-thirds of North America, including the Southwest, could experience shortfalls in the electrical grid, particularly during periods of extreme heat when demand for air-conditioning spikes, straining resources, according to an analysis released this month," Levenson warns. "Phoenix's mayor, Kate Gallego, has urged the federal government to add extreme heat to the list of disasters like floods and hurricanes that could prompt a federal disaster declaration."

The reporter adds, "The new analysis found that Phoenix, which is heavily reliant on air conditioning to keep residents cool in the desert heat, would experience immense loss of life and illness if a citywide blackout during a heatwave lasted for two days, with power gradually restored over the next three days. Under that scenario, an estimated 789,600 people would require emergency department care for heat-related illnesses, overwhelming the city’s hospital system, which has only 3000 emergency department beds, the study said."

READ MORE: 'Is he really that stupid?' Twitter aghast after Ron Johnson says climate change will 'benefit' US

Read the New York Times' full article at this link (subscription needed) and the Environmental Science and Technology report here.

Experts say more cuts needed as states agree to reduce Colorado River use

California, Arizona, and Nevada on Monday struck a deal with the Biden administration in which the states agreed to take less water from the dangerously overdrawn Colorado River—an agreement cautiously welcomed by conservationists, who warned that the cuts are insufficient to stabilize a system upon which tens of millions of people rely.

Monday's breakthrough agreement follows nearly a year of negotiations and missed deadlines and involves the Biden administration, the three states, Indigenous tribes, water management districts, and agribusinesses. Under the plan, the federal government will distribute around $1.2 billion worth of Inflation Reduction Act funds to cities, tribes, and water districts if they cut back on water use. The three states agreed to use 3 million acre-feet less water between them by the end of 2026. This would amount to 13% of their total Colorado River allocation.

"There are 40 million people, seven states, and 30 tribal nations who rely on the Colorado River Basin for basic services such as drinking water and electricity," U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement. "Today's announcement is a testament to the Biden-Harris administration's commitment to working with states, tribes, and communities throughout the West to find consensus solutions in the face of climate change and sustained drought."

Last August, amid extreme drought driven by the climate emergency and warnings of a possible "catastrophic collapse" of the Colorado River, the U.S. Interior Department announced the first-ever tier 2 shortage for the waterway, triggering water-use cuts in Arizona, Nevada, and the country of Mexico for 2023.

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton called the agreement "an important step forward towards our shared goal of forging a sustainable path for the basin that millions of people call home."

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, hailed the "partnership with our fellow Basin states and historic investment in drought funding," while asserting that "we now have a path forward to build our reservoirs up in the near-term."

"From here, our work must continue to take action and address the long-term issues of climate change and overallocation to ensure we have a sustainable Colorado River for all who rely upon it," Hobbs added.

Luke Runyon, president of the Society of Environmental Journalists, noted on Twitter that "the agreed-to cuts are significantly less than what federal scientists and officials had said were necessary to stabilize the river system on which tens of millions in the Southwest rely."

John Entsminger, general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, toldE&E News that "the plan set forth by the Lower Basin states is not a panacea for the river, but rather a consensus solution that will help manage near-term water demands while serving as a bridge to negotiate the post-2026 operating criteria."

"The Colorado River Basin has a warmer and drier future ahead and reducing water use, increasing water efficiency, and maximizing water recycling and reuse is paramount to a sustainable future for the 40 million people that depend upon this critical water supply," he added.

As Common Dreams reported last month, advocacy groups including Food & Water Watch also criticized proposed deals between the administration and states for failing to address the overexploitation of water resources by corporate agriculture and fossil fuel companies.

While unusually heavy snowfall and subsequent spring meltwater have helped temporarily avert what experts warned last year could be a "doomsday scenario" for the Colorado River Basin in 2023, the vital waterway remains in danger of running too low to provide enough water for all who rely upon it.

The Colorado River historically ran about 1,450 miles from its headwaters high in the Rocky Mountains of northern Colorado into Utah, through the Grand Canyon in Arizona, and then along Nevada and California's southeastern borders before flowing into the northernmost tip of the Gulf of California in Mexico.

The river—which is an oasis in the unforgiving desert that surrounds it for much of its course—long sustained Indigenous peoples both before and after the genocidal colonization of the Southwest, and since the U.S. conquered the region from Mexico it has been a lifeline for American settlers and cities as well as Native tribes.

Western states began dividing the river's water between them around a century ago, and throughout the 20th century, massive dams and channels diverted water hundreds of miles away to sprawling, thirsty farms on previously desert lands and to rapidly expanding cities like Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Diego, and Las Vegas.

Under the Colorado River Compact, states sidestepped Indigenous tribes and agreed to annual water allocations that they must use in full or face usage-based cuts the following year. This "use it or lose it" system has created what critics call "perverse" incentives for farmers to grow water-intensive crops in the desert.

Today, around three-quarters of the river's flow is siphoned off to irrigate more than five million acres of farmland, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Hydroelectric plants along the Colorado also generate more than 12 billion kilowatt hours of electricity annually.

The river has been running especially low in recent decades as worsening droughts driven by the climate emergency have gripped the Southwest and as the population of the nation's driest region explodes. The Colorado no longer empties into the sea, and models predict that by the year 2100 its flow could be further reduced by more than half.

"The only way to solve the long-term shortage on the Colorado River is to take a lot less water out of the system," environmental and resource economist Nick Hagerty stressed in reaction to Monday's announcement. "Which necessarily means permanent reductions in crops grown. That's where the focus needs to be."

'In peril': UN chief warns war and climate crisis threaten global progress on human health

"Progress is in peril."

That was United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres' warning Sunday to the 76th World Health Assembly.

Over seven decades ago, he noted, "countries came together and affirmed some fundamental truths: that peace depends on health; that disease in one nation endangers all; and that achieving the greatest possible health for everyone, everywhere relies on cooperation."

Since the creation of the World Health Organization (WHO), Guterres continued, "human health has advanced dramatically: global life expectancy—up over 50%; infant mortality—down 60% in 30 years; smallpox—eradicated; and polio on the verge of extinction."

But now, "war and conflict threaten millions. The health of billions is endangered by the climate crisis. And the Covid-19 pandemic has stalled, and even reversed, progress in public health," the U.N. leader said in a video address kicking off the assembly.

"We can return to the path of progress. We can realize our ambitions for health and well-being for all. But only if the world works together. If we cooperate, despite the tensions straining relations between nations," he stressed.

Guterres called for "strengthening the independence, authority, and financing of the World Health Organization," and said that "it is vital to prepare for the health threats to come—from new pandemics to climate dangers—so that we prevent where we can, and respond fast and effectively where we cannot."

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus—who earlier this month declared Covid-19 over as a global health emergency—similarly urged international coordination during his welcome speech to the assembly. The agency leader said that "in 2020, I described Covid-19 as a long, dark tunnel. We have now come out the end of that tunnel."

"To be clear, Covid-19 is still with us, it still kills, it's still changing, and it still demands our attention," Tedros continued. The end of the emergency "is not just the end of a bad dream from which we have woken. We cannot simply carry on as we did before."

"This is a moment to look behind us and remember the darkness of the tunnel, and then to look forward, and to move forward in the light of the many painful lessons it has taught us. Chief among those lessons is that we can only face shared threats with a shared response," Tedros added. He stressed that the pandemic accord now being negotiated "must be a historic agreement to make a paradigm shift in global health security, recognizing that our fates are interwoven."

As the assembly—scheduled through May 30—got underway in Geneva, Switzerland, Guterres was in Hiroshima, Japan, for the Group of Seven (G7) summit, where he also underscored the importance of global cooperation while speaking to the press on Sunday.

"My message to G7 leaders is clear: While the economic picture is uncertain everywhere, rich countries cannot ignore the fact that more than half the world—the vast majority of countries—are suffering through a deep financial crisis," Guterres said. "The crushing economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, Russia's invasion of Ukraine, unsustainable levels of debt, rising interest rates, and inflation are devastating developing and emerging economies."

"There is a systemic and unjust bias in global economic and financial frameworks in favor of rich countries," he declared, highlighting that "access to Covid-19 vaccines was deeply unfair" and "the recovery has been extremely unbalanced."

While the U.N. chief argued that "it's time to reform both the Security Council and the Bretton Woods institutions," referring to the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, he also said that "even within the present unfair global rules, more can and must be done to support developing economies."

G7 countries are "central to climate action," Guterres said, noting the need for "faster timelines to phase out fossil fuels and ramp up renewables," an end to dirty energy subsidies, and financial support for developing nations that are disproportionately bearing the brunt of a crisis largely created by the Global North.

As Common Dreams reported earlier Sunday, since G7 leaders on Saturday put out a communiqué addressing a wide range of topics, campaigners around the world have decried the statement's support for further investments in planet-heating gas, calling it "a blunt denial of the climate emergency."

'Death sentence': G7 blasted for supporting natural gas investments

"Energy security can only be achieved by rapidly and equitably phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable energy, not locking in deadly fossil fuels and lining the pockets of oil and gas executives," said one critic.

Since Group of Seven leaders on Saturday put out a wide-ranging communiqué from a Japan-hosted summit in Hiroshima, climate action advocates from G7 countries and beyond have blasted the statement's support for future investments in planet-heating gas.

The statement comes after G7 climate, energy, and environment ministers were criticized for their communiqué from a meeting in Sapporo last month as well as protests around the world this week pressuring the summit's attendees to ditch fossil fuels and "deliver a clear and just renewable energy agenda for a peaceful world."

To meet the 1.5°C goal of the Paris climate agreement, the new statement commits to "accelerate the phaseout of unabated fossil fuels so as to achieve net-zero in energy systems by 2050 at the latest" along with "the elimination of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies by 2025 or sooner."

"The G7 must stop using fossil fuels immediately—the planet is on fire."

The statement also highlights that last year, G7 nations—Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States—pledged to end "new direct public support for the international unabated fossil fuel energy sector, except in limited circumstances," though as recent analysis shows, some are breaking that promise.

The communiqué then endorses liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a solution to "the global impact of Russia's war on energy supplies, gas prices and inflation, and people's lives," referencing the invasion of Ukraine:

In this context, we stress the important role that increased deliveries of LNG can play, and acknowledge that investment in the sector can be appropriate in response to the current crisis and to address potential gas market shortfalls provoked by the crisis. In the exceptional circumstance of accelerating the phaseout of our dependency on Russian energy, publicly supported investment in the gas sector can be appropriate as a temporary response, subject to clearly defined national circumstances, if implemented in a manner consistent with our climate objectives without creating lock-in effects, for example by ensuring that projects are integrated into national strategies for the development of low-carbon and renewable hydrogen.

"The G7 energy outcome correctly diagnoses a short-term need for energy security, then promotes a dangerous and inappropriate lock-in of fossil gas that would do nothing to address this need," responded Collin Rees, United States program manager at Oil Change International (OCI). "Energy security can only be achieved by rapidly and equitably phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable energy, not locking in deadly fossil fuels and lining the pockets of oil and gas executives."

After accusing the summit's attendees of "using the war as an excuse," deflecting blame for current conditions, and neglecting Global South countries disproportionately suffering from the climate crisis, Max Lawson, head of inequality policy at Oxfam, declared that "the G7 must stop using fossil fuels immediately—the planet is on fire."

Greenpeace International global climate politics expert Tracy Carty also demanded a swift end to fossil fuels, charging that "G7 leaders' endorsement of new fossil gas is a blunt denial of the climate emergency" which dooms "current and future generations."

Gerry Arances, executive director of the Philippine Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development, similarly argued that "the endorsement of increased LNG deliveries and investment in gas in the G7 communiqué is no mere backsliding—it is a death sentence being dealt by the G7 to the 1.5°C limit and, in consequence, to the climate survival of vulnerable peoples in the Philippines, Southeast Asia, and across the world."

"Unless they genuinely put forward the phaseout of all fossil fuels, Japan and all G7 nations spout nothing but lies when they say they have aligned to 1.5°C," he continued. "They cannot claim to be promoting development while subjecting our people to decades more of pollution and soaring energy prices. We reject this notion of a development powered by fossil fuels."

Looking to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) planned for later this year, Arances added that "Japan and G7 leaders should already be warned that civic movements will not tire in pushing back against fossil fuels and false solutions and in demanding a renewable energy transition."

"Civic movements will not tire in pushing back against fossil fuels and false solutions and in demanding a renewable energy transition."

Other campaigners also specifically called out the Hiroshima summit's host—including Ayumi Fukakusa, deputy executive director at Friends of the Earth Japan, who asserted that the country "has used the G7 presidency to derail the global energy transition."

"Japan has been driving the push to increase gas investments and has been promoting its so-called 'green transformation’ strategy," Fukakusa said of a "greenwashing scheme" featuring hydrogen, ammonia, nuclear, and carbon capture and storage technologies.

OCI Asia program manager Susanne Wong agreed that given the nation's promotion of gas expansion and technologies to prolong the use of coal, "this year's G7 is revealing Japan's failure of climate leadership at a global level."

"Activists mobilized 50 actions across 22 countries this week to demand that Japan end its fossil fuel finance and stop driving the expansion of gas and other fossil-based technologies," Wong added. "Japan will continue to face intense international scrutiny until it stops fueling the climate crisis."

Groups from other G7 countries also called out their political leaders. Petter Lydén, head of international climate policy at Germanwatch, said, "Most likely, the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, has been a driving force behind the weak language on gas, which is a serious blow to Germany's international credibility on climate."

Citing sources familiar with summit negotiations, The New York Timesreported Saturday that "Britain and France fought the German effort" while U.S. President Joe Biden was caught between defending his climate agenda and "aiding other United States allies intent on increasing their access to fossil fuels."

OCI's Rees said the that "this betrayal continues a disturbing turn by President Biden and Chancellor Scholz from rhetorically committing to climate leadership to openly boosting fossil fuel expansion. History will not look kindly on world leaders who accelerate the pace of fossil fuel buildout in the face of worsening climate crisis."

Goodbye to the American Century: China, India, and the emerging New World Order

Michael Klare, The G-3 and the Post-Ukraine World

In truth, we may be on a planet we hardly recognize. Recently, in case you missed it (and how could you have, given the coverage?), Prince Charles became King Charles III, ruler of… well, once upon a time, at the height of the British empire, or even perhaps in 1952 when his mother became queen, significant parts of the world. Admittedly, when she was crowned, India, a British colony at her birth, was already an independent nation. Still, Great Britain then remained an imperial force to be reckoned with. No longer. In 2023, as TomDispatch regular Michael Klare notes today, India is about to pass England and slip into fifth place among the world’s economic powerhouses.

In other words, in so many ways, we are indeed on a new planet. Not that long ago, there were two great powers on planet Earth, the United States and the Soviet Union, locked in an unending “Cold War.” Today, the second of those has become a Russia deeply enmeshed in a conflict it launched but has no possibility of winning. You can almost see its power seeping away. Meanwhile, that other, the country that in 1991 became planet Earth’s self-anointed “sole superpower,” also seems to be slipping significantly.

As Juan Cole pointed out recently at this site, its moment as the crucial outside force in the Middle East has now evidently been ceded to China, a country ready to act as a mediator bringing Iran and Saudi Arabia into a positive relationship. Despite the fact that the U.S. still spends more on its military than the next 11 countries combined, what was once the American Century is now, as Klare makes clear today, potentially the century of the G-3 — China, India, and the U.S. — and whether that means new cold wars, hot wars, or an era of unparalleled cooperation on a planet increasingly at the edge of who knows what remains to be seen. Tom

Goodbye to the American Century

China, India, and the Emerging New World Order

Not so long ago, political analysts were speaking of the “G-2” — that is, of a potential working alliance between the United States and China aimed at managing global problems for their mutual benefit. Such a collaborative twosome was seen as potentially even more powerful than the G-7 group of leading Western economies. As former Undersecretary of the Treasury C. Fred Bergsten, who originally imagined such a partnership, wrote in 2008, “The basic idea would be to develop a G-2 between the United States and China to steer the global governance process.”

That notion would become the basis for the Obama administration’s initial outreach to China, though it would lose its appeal in Washington as tensions with Beijing continued to rise over Taiwan and other issues. Still, if the war in Ukraine teaches us anything, it should be that, whatever the desires of America’s leaders, they will have little choice (other than war) but to share global governance responsibilities with China and, in a new twist on geopolitics, with India, too. After all, that rising nuclear-armed nation is now the most populous on the planet and will soon possess the third-largest economy as well. In other words, if global disaster is to be averted, whether Americans like it or not, this country will have little choice but to begin planning for an emerging G-3.

Two questions come to mind immediately: Why the G-3, and why is its emergence likely to be such an inevitable outcome of the war in Ukraine?

Starting with the second of those critical questions, the G-3 lies in our future exactly because neither the United States nor Russia has proven capable of achieving what its leaders might consider a satisfactory outcome to that war. On Moscow’s side, the possibility of wiping out Ukraine as a functioning state has proven a remarkable failure; on Washington’s, the utter defeat of Russia and the demise of Vladimir Putin appears highly unlikely.

Amid the seemingly never-ending catastrophe of the war in Ukraine, it’s become increasingly evident that China and India are likely to shape its final resolution. Russia can’t keep fighting without the support of those two countries, thanks to their refusal to abide by harsh Western sanctions, their continuing trade with Moscow, and their massive purchases of Russian fossil-fuel reserves. In addition, neither of those countries wants the war to escalate or drag on for much longer, given the harm it’s doing to the prospects of global growth. For the Chinese, in particular, it’s been generating friction with crucial trading partners in Europe who resent Beijing’s continuing ties to Moscow. For their own reasons, therefore, the leaders of those two countries are likely to put increasing pressure on both Moscow and Kyiv to seek a negotiated outcome that will, it goes without saying, satisfy neither side.

At the same time, while the war in Ukraine has exposed the startling weakness of Russia’s previously vaunted military, it has also revealed in a striking fashion the limits of American power. After all, when the war began in February 2022, President Joe Biden was confident that most of the world would join the U.S. and Europe in isolating Moscow by, among other things, halting purchases of Russian energy supplies and imposing tough sanctions on that country. For him, this was still the American Century. “The United States is not doing this alone,” he declared at the time. “For months, we’ve been building a coalition of partners representing well more than half of the global economy… We will limit Russia’s ability to do business in dollars, euros, pounds, and yen to be part of the global economy.”

As it happens, we seem to have entered a new yet-to-be-defined epoch characterized by diminishing U.S. global clout. After all, despite determined efforts by Washington and its NATO allies to limit Russia’s access to the global economy, Moscow has largely succeeded in keeping itself afloat, even while financing its ever more expensive military disaster in Ukraine. Thanks for this go significantly to China and India, which have continued to buy enormous quantities of Russian oil and natural gas (even if at steeply discounted prices).

No less significantly, Washington has largely failed to persuade most of the global South, including key rising powers like Brazil, India, and South Africa, to embrace President Biden’s view of the Ukraine war as an “existential” struggle between liberal democratic states and illiberal autocratic ones. As he put it in a speech delivered a year ago in Warsaw, “We [have] emerged anew in the great battle for freedom, a battle between democracy and autocracy, between liberty and repression, between a rules-based order and one governed by brute force.”

But outside Europe, such ringing statements have largely fallen on deaf ears, as non-Western leaders have emphasized their own national needs and decried the West’s hypocrisy when it comes to defending the global “rules” it claims to honor. In particular, they have complained about the way such sanctions imposed on Russia have raised food and fertilizer prices in their own countries, harming millions of their citizens.

“I would still like to see a more rules-based world,” S. Jaishankar, India’s foreign minister, typically told Roger Cohen of the New York Times. “But when people start pressing you in the name of a rules-based order to give up, to compromise on what are very deep interests, at that stage I’m afraid it’s important to contest that and, if necessary, to call it out.”

Little as Washington has attended to such perspectives, count on one thing: post-Ukraine, we will find ourselves in a new world order. After the expected Ukrainian spring/summer offensive, which is unlikely to dislodge all Russian troops from the lands they’ve seized since last February, India and China will almost certainly be nudging both countries toward a peace settlement aimed more at restoring the flow of global trade than upholding fundamental principles of any sort.

Indeed, the Chinese peace plan for the war, though ignored or reviled by most Western analysts, may end up proving the most effective blueprint for a settlement, with its vague call for respecting the sovereignty of all states and its emphasis on eliminating sanctions, restoring global supply lines, and freeing up the Russian and Ukrainian grain trade. Indeed, however reluctantly, even Secretary of State Antony Blinken has conceded that it might provide a template for a future settlement.

Why the G-3?

While the outcome of the Ukraine war still remains in doubt, count on one thing: the emergence of China and India as major actors in its resolution will help define the future world order — one in which the United States will have to share global governance responsibilities with China and India, the world’s two other major power nodes. Europe isn’t qualified to play such a role because of its internal divisions and dependence on U.S. military power; Russia isn’t because of the decline of its military and economic strength. The G-3 countries, however, possess some basic characteristics that set them apart from all other powers and are only likely to become more pronounced in the future.

Let’s start with population. In 2022, China, India, and the United States had the world’s largest, second-largest, and third-largest populations, jointly accounting for an estimated 3.2 billion people, or approximately 40% of all people on the planet. While India is expected to overtake China as the world’s most populous nation this year, those three countries are still likely to remain atop the population heap in 2050, hosting an estimated 3.4 billion people by then. Of course, no one knows how major famines, pandemics, or climate disasters may affect such numbers, but those populations do confer enormous advantages when it comes to production, consumption, and even, if necessary, war-fighting.

Next, consider economic clout. The U.S. and China have long had the world’s number one and two economies, with India in sixth place and rising, if still behind Japan, Germany, and the United Kingdom. It is, however, expected to overtake the UK this year and, in some projections, will reach number three by 2030. Together, the G-3 will then account for a greater share of global economic activity than the next 20 countries combined, including all the European economies and Japan. Consider that a form of power no one will be able to ignore.

The U.S. and China are widely assumed to possess the world’s two largest and most powerful militaries, with Russia still claiming the third spot, though its military has been severely diminished thanks to the war in Ukraine and isn’t likely to regain its prewar strength for years, if ever. India’s military is large indeed, with an estimated 1.4 million men and women in uniform (compared to China’s two million, Russia’s less than a million, and America’s 1.4 million), but it’s not as well equipped with advanced weaponry as the other three. The Indians are, however, spending billions of dollars on the acquisition of advanced combat systems from Europe, Russia, and the United States. As its share of global wealth increases, count on New Delhi to invest ever more money in the “modernization” of its armed forces.

There is one other area where China, India, and the U.S. lead the world in numbers: in their emissions of carbon dioxide and other climate-altering greenhouse gases. With all three continuing to rely on fossil fuels for a large share of their energy consumption, China, India, and the U.S. are expected to top the list of the world’s leading carbon emitters for decades to come. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the G-3 will account for an estimated 42% of global carbon emissions by 2050 — more than Africa, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East combined.

The G-3 in Practice

Total up all those factors and it’s obvious that China, India, and the United States are likely to dominate any future world order. Sadly, that doesn’t mean they’re destined to cooperate — far from it. Competition and conflict will undoubtedly remain an enduring characteristic of their relationships, with the ties between any two of them constantly waxing and waning. (Think of the revolving alliances and antagonisms between Eastasia, Eurasia, and Oceana in George Orwell’s prophetic dystopian novel 1984.) But of one thing we can be certain: no major global problem, whether it be climate change, economic catastrophe, another lethal pandemic, or a Ukraine-style war, will be solved if those three powers can’t figure out some form of cooperation, however informal.

There was at least one previous moment of three-way concordance. In November 2014, in the leadup to the Paris Climate Summit of the next year, President Barack Obama forged a working alliance with President Xi Jinping of China aimed at achieving a successful outcome and then incorporated Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi into their joint effort. His meetings with Xi and Modi at the start of the Paris summit were, according to then-White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, meant to “send a strong message to the world about their strong commitment to climate change.” Many analysts believe that the 2015 summit would never have succeeded had it not been for the combined leadership of Obama, Xi, and Modi.

Needless to say, that budding partnership was upended when Donald Trump entered the White House and terminated U.S. adherence to that agreement. All too sadly, in the years that followed, Washington’s cooperation with Beijing and New Delhi on climate change largely ceased, while American disputes with China over trade, Taiwan, and the South China Sea only grew more heated. Today, the leaders of the world’s top two economies are barely speaking and their armed forces appear poised for a violent clash at almost any moment. They also remain at odds over Ukraine, with Washington demanding that Beijing sever economic ties with Russia and the Chinese insisting on the legitimacy of their “ironclad” alliance with Moscow.

Again, all too sadly, such antagonisms are more likely to prove the norm in U.S.-China relations than that brief outburst of cooperation in 2014-2015. And while India has grown closer to the United States in recent years — in large part to balance China’s growing economic and military might — its leaders are loathe to become overly dependent on any foreign power, however closely aligned they might be in political terms. The prognosis, then, is for continued brittle and often tense relations among the G-3 countries.

Nonetheless, those three nations will have little choice but to deal with one another in some fashion when it comes to the major global problems confronting all of them. Climate change is certainly among the most pressing: if global carbon emissions continue to rise in accordance with the IEA’s current projections, world temperatures could soar to far more than 2.0 Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above the pre-industrial era, the target cap set by the Paris Climate Agreement. That, in turn, will ensure a calamitous new reality for all three countries (as well as the rest of the world), including extreme coastal inundation, widespread desertification, and profound water scarcity. None of them can avoid such an outcome alone. Only by working in concert to reduce global emissions might they avert what is otherwise likely to be climate catastrophe for themselves and the planet.

The same is true of any other major global challenge, including future severe economic crises, pandemic outbreaks, major regional conflicts, and the further proliferation of nuclear weapons. However uncomfortable the leaders of China, India, and the United States might be when it comes to collaborating with their counterparts, they will have little choice if they are to escape an increasingly calamitous future. Like it or not, they will have to embrace some form of G-3 collaboration, however little acknowledged it may be at first. In time, as they come to recognize their mutual interdependence, they might even find themselves collaborating in a more formal, amicable manner — to the benefit of all the inhabitants of planet Earth.

Most Americans oppose killing horses for food. Here’s how to end this brutal practice

Tens of thousands of American horses are slaughtered every year due to a loophole in federal policy.

Horses have played a unique role in American history. They have helped us discover new lands, carried soldiers into battles, and plowed farmers’ fields. It’s no accident that so many monuments of Americans throughout history show them seated on a horse.

This article was produced by Earth | Food | Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

To this day, horses remain our partners, companions, and therapeutic healers for people with PTSD, physical disabilities, chronic illness, and more. That includes people like me. I had just a 5 percent chance of survival after being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. Horses played a huge part in my healing. It has since become my mission to save the lives of the majestic animals who helped me get through one of the toughest times of my life.

Many Americans would be repulsed by the idea of eating horse meat given horses’ special place in our culture. Indeed, polling from Lake Research Partners shows that 83 percent of Americans oppose the slaughter of horses for human consumption. Yet tens of thousands of American horses are shipped across our borders for slaughter every year in a brutal display of animal cruelty.

There is a way we can fix this.

A Policy Loophole Enables Horse Slaughter

Congress began prohibiting the use of Department of Agriculture funding for inspections of horse slaughter facilities in 2006, which effectively prevented such facilities from operating in the United States. But that hasn’t entirely stopped the domestic horse-slaughter industry.

Since the beginning of the 21st century, more than 1 million American horses have been slaughtered after being exported to kill facilities in Canada and Mexico, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The horse meat is then shipped to markets in Europe and Asia for human consumption.

“At least 85 percent of horses slaughtered at European Union-approved Canadian horse slaughterhouses originated in the United States, and 50 percent of the horse meat produced from those animals was exported to the EU,” according to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation.

Federal lawmakers can close this loophole with legislation that would formally ban horse slaughter in the United States and any related interstate or foreign export activity.

After years of advocacy efforts by animal welfare groups, members of Congress made significant progress in moving a bill in 2022—titled the Save America’s Forgotten Equines (SAFE) Act—to do just that.

The SAFE Act advanced in a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee by voice vote in June 2022 and had more than 223 cosponsors across both parties. But without a bipartisan agreement between Democratic and Republican leaders to pass the bill in both chambers, lawmakers left the bill to expire with the outgoing session of Congress on January 3, 2023.

Three sticking points that held up this bill need to be worked out for future legislation to move forward. These include clarifying the criminal intent of people who put horses into the slaughter pipeline; working out a compromise with First Nations tribes regarding the number of wild horses on their lands; and developing an effective enforcement system by the Department of Agriculture.

Some tribes say that there are too many wild horses damaging natural resources on their lands. These concerns could be addressed by relocating these horses to private buyers or new homes, supported by the establishment of a hotline for tribes to use to facilitate the process. There is a compromise that can be made to ensure these horses can be saved.

To be clear, it is illegal to sell a federally protected wild horse for slaughter under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971. Yet some wild horses have ended up in the slaughter pipeline through illegal sales or after they have been adopted by a member of the public.

Both sides know what needs to be resolved. But those with the power to move this bill refused to compromise on these three issues. They did what we must not do: allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good.

There is now a fresh opportunity to ban horse slaughter by adding an amendment to the 2023 Farm Bill reauthorizing Department of Agriculture programs, which is up for renewal at the end of September.

The last Farm Bill in 2018 included an amendment to ban the slaughter of dogs and cats in America. The amendment also included a ban on exporting them for slaughter.

Equines should be added to this existing amendment. Including horses in this Farm Bill provision is the humane thing to do, since they are companion animals just like dogs and cats.

The Unique Cruelty of Horse Slaughter

Horses that end up in the slaughter pipeline are typically purchased at auctions by “kill buyers” who outbid individuals and organizations who want to give these horses good homes. Frequently, these kill buyers will then shuttle the horses to additional auctions to see if they get more money, all while forcing the horses to stand in trucks for days without rest, food, or water.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the horses eventually shipped to slaughterhouses across the border are again packed into trucks for up to four days without food, water, or rest. The terrified horses’ fight-or-flight response kicks in. But with nowhere to escape, they inadvertently injure themselves.

Many horses don’t survive the harrowing journey. Still, others arrive at the slaughterhouses with injuries so severe that they aren’t even able to stand.

The ones that do make it to their destination are then subjected to a traumatic slaughter process, starting with getting beaten into cramped kill chutes. Since horses instinctively thrash their long necks when frightened, stunning them with a captive bolt frequently requires repeated blows to the head.

As a result, horses are often still conscious during dismemberment. It is hardly a quick, painless death.

The images documenting this abuse are tough to see. But it’s essential for us to know the truth of the horrific conditions faced by these horses sent across our borders for slaughter.

Toxic Risk

The consumption of horse meat is also dangerous for humans. American horses are routinely given a wide range of medications and chemical substances that are prohibited by the Food and Drug Administration for use in livestock. Since American horses are typically kept as companion animals and not raised for slaughter, their meat is toxic for human consumption.

Most American horses have been exposed to many drugs prohibited for use in animals raised for food, such as the pain reliever phenylbutazone. Many racehorses, meanwhile, are also given illegal drugs to enhance their performance. These drugs can be toxic when ingested by humans.

Given the lack of oversight of the health of horses exported for slaughter across U.S. borders, regulators cannot guarantee that the horse meat is safe for human consumption.

Some of the top markets importing horse meat have recognized this food safety threat. The European Union—a primary importer of horse meat—has instituted more stringent import policies, including a ban on horse meat sourced from Mexico.

What We Can Do to Stop Horse Slaughter

Saving even some of the tens of thousands of horses shipped across our borders each year for slaughter is better than not saving any of them at all.

Concerned citizens can contact their members of Congress and urge them to support legislation that would permanently ban horse slaughter in the United States and prohibit related export activity across borders. The 2023 Farm Bill is the next best chance to save horses from slaughter. Make your voice heard on behalf of horses who need our help.

After all, animal abuse is against the law. We should ensure our policies reflect that. For centuries, Americans have depended on horses, and we still do. Now, America’s horses are depending on us.

Author Bio: Siri Lindley is a co-founder of Horses In Our Hands, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending the slaughter of America’s horses. Lindley is also a world champion triathlete, coach, author, and keynote speaker.

US Supreme Court sides with farm animals and rejects challenge to California law

One advocate called the ruling a "victory for sustainable, humane farming against giant corporations that prioritize cost-cutting and profit margins over the environment, food safety, and animal welfare."

In what sustainable agriculture, public health, and animal rights champions celebrated as a major victory, the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a California law prohibiting the in-state sale of pork, eggs, and veal derived from creatures "confined in a cruel manner."

The law, known as Proposition 12, was challenged by the National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau Federation. The organizations claimed that "because of California's huge market share... pork producers elsewhere would be required to abide by" its rules, and they argued unsuccessfully that this would violate the U.S. Constitution's "restraints on the authority of states to regulate industry beyond their borders," The Washington Post reported.

Writing the majority opinion for the 5-4 decision in National Pork Producers v. Ross, Justice Neil Gorsuch rejected what he described as the plaintiffs' request for the court to "fashion two new and more aggressive constitutional restrictions on the ability of states to regulate goods sold within their borders."

"While the Constitution addresses many weighty issues, the type of pork chops California merchants may sell is not on that list," Gorsuch wrote on behalf of himself and Justices Clarence Thomas, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Amy Coney Barrett.

"A major victory for animal welfare and a more regenerative, healthful, and humane future of our food."

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh, and Ketanji Brown Jackson "would have kept the case involving California's humane pork production laws alive but sent it back to a lower court for more work," the Post noted.

Food & Water Watch legal director Tarah Heinzen called the ruling "a rightful victory for sustainable, humane farming against giant corporations that prioritize cost-cutting and profit margins over the environment, food safety, and animal welfare."

"It is also a critical victory for the rights of states that seek to do better on those issues than some of their neighbors, or the country at large," she added.

George Kimbrell, legal director at the Center for Food Safety, which filed a brief in support of California last year, also welcomed Thursday's decision as "a major victory for animal welfare and a more regenerative, healthful, and humane future of our food."

"The Supreme Court rejected industrial agriculture's far-reaching efforts to curtail states' rights to enact laws governing farming to prevent animal cruelty and to protect the public health. Instead, the court properly recognized the value and benefits of such laws," said Kimbrell. "Intensive confinement of pigs poses profound danger to food safety and the public health such as foodborne illness and disease and pathogen transmission, and important laws like Prop 12 mitigate those risks."

As the advocacy group Animal Outlook explained in a statement:

Proposition 12 sets minimum space requirements for egg-laying hens, mother pigs, and baby cows raised for veal in California, such that these animals cannot be confined in the industry-standard cages, which are barely bigger than their bodies. Prop 12 also requires that any eggs, pork, or veal sold in the state comply with these space requirements, regardless of where those products were produced.

After Prop 12 was approved by nearly two-thirds of California voters in 2018, the meat industry proceeded to challenge the law in four separate lawsuits.

"Every court to consider each of the cases, at both the trial and appellate level, has ruled against the industry," Animal Outlook pointed out. "Today's Supreme Court ruling is the industry's latest in that string of losses."

"No matter how cruel or painful a practice is, the animal agriculture industry has fought against laws to prohibit it—in this case, all the way to the Supreme Court," said Cheryl Leahy, the group's executive director. "When a powerful industry will stop at nothing to make complicity in cruelty mandatory, it's a clear sign that the cruelty is part and parcel of that industry, and the only way to refuse to be a part of it is to not eat animals altogether."

'Failure is not an option': EPA chief announces strict CO2 limits for fossil fuel power plants

United States Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan on Thursday introduced new regulations on fossil fuel-based power plants to combat climate change.

"If finalized, the proposed regulation would mark the first time the federal government has restricted carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants, which generate about 25% of U.S. greenhouse gas pollution, second only to the transportation sector. The rule also would apply to future electric plants and would avoid up to 617 million metric tons of carbon dioxide through 2042, equivalent to annual emissions of 137 million passenger vehicles, the EPA said," according to Reuters.

In a speech at the University of Maryland, Regan explained that the changes are an investment in the future that will benefit everybody.

READ MORE: 'Bad news': Unexpected melting of Greenland glacier could double sea-level rise projections

"We're working every single day to ensure that all people, no matter the color of your skin, the money in your pockets, or the community that you live in, realize the full protection of our environmental laws. And today's announcement only solidifies our commitment to protecting those who are most vulnerable among us. Now, the good news is our work is not sacrificed. These aren't restrictions as some would say. This is about seizing the moment and understanding that we have an obligation to not only leave behind a healthier planet for generations that will come after us, but to leave behind a fairer and more just society — to leave behind a nation with a thriving economy, good-paying jobs, and energy security," Regan said.

"Folks, this is our future We're talking about. And we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity for real climate action. So failure is not an option. Indifference, it's not an option. Inaction, it's not an option," Regan continued.

"And let me be clear, it's not about party affiliation, it's not about politics. It's about uniting as a society, as a nation, as a people for the greater good of humanity," he added. "It's about recognizing and acknowledging that we may not exactly agree on the how, but we must agree on the what. We may not see eye to eye on every policy or every solution, but we have to understand that we are all in this fight together."

Watch Regan below or at this link.

READ MORE: 'What a weirdo': Twitter shreds 'cartoon character' Republican for declaring 'there is no climate change'

What happens when LTAI (Less Than Artificial Intelligence) gives way to AI?

Whose Planet Are We On?

What Happens When LTAI (Less Than Artificial Intelligence) Gives Way to AI?

After almost 79 years on this beleaguered planet, let me say one thing: this can’t end well. Really, it can’t. And no, I’m not talking about the most obvious issues ranging from the war in Ukraine to the climate disaster. What I have in mind is that latest, greatest human invention: artificial intelligence.

It doesn’t seem that complicated to me. As a once-upon-a-time historian, I’ve long thought about what, in these centuries, unartificial and — all too often — unartful intelligence has “accomplished” (and yes, I’d prefer to put that in quotation marks). But the minute I try to imagine what that seemingly ultimate creation AI, already a living abbreviation of itself, might do, it makes me shiver. Brrr…

Let me start with honesty, which isn’t an artificial feeling at all. What I know about AI you could put in a trash bag and throw out with the garbage. Yes, I’ve recently read whatever I could in the media about it and friends of mine have already fiddled with it. TomDispatch regular William Astore, for instance, got ChatGPT to write a perfectly passable “critical essay” on the military-industrial complex for his Bracing Views newsletter — and that, I must admit, was kind of amazing.

Still, it’s not for me. Never me. I hate to say never because we humans truly don’t know what we’ll do in the future. Still, consider it my best guess that I won’t have anything actively to do with AI. (Although my admittedly less than artificially intelligent spellcheck system promptly changed “chatbox” to “hatbox” when I was emailing Astore to ask him for the URL to that piece of his.)

But let’s stop here a minute. Before we even get to AI, let’s think a little about LTAI (Less Than Artificial Intelligence, just in case you don’t know the acronym) on this planet. Who could deny that it’s had some remarkable successes? It created the Mona Lisa, Starry Night, and Diego and I. Need I say more? It’s figured out how to move us around this world in style and even into outer space. It’s built vast cities and great monuments, while creating cuisines beyond compare. I could, of course, go on. Who couldn’t? In certain ways, the creations of human intelligence should take anyone’s breath away. Sometimes, they even seem to give “miracle” a genuine meaning.

And yet, from the dawn of time, that same LTAI went in far grimmer directions, too. It invented weaponry of every kind, from the spear and the bow and arrow to artillery and jet fighter planes. It created the AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, now largely responsible (along with so many disturbed individual LTAIs) for our seemingly never-ending mass killings, a singular phenomenon in this “peacetime” country of ours.

And we’re talking, of course, about the same Less Than Artificial Intelligence that created the Holocaust, Joseph Stalin’s Russian gulag, segregation and lynch mobs in the United States., and so many other monstrosities of (in)human history. Above all, we’re talking about the LTAI that turned much of our history into a tale of war and slaughter beyond compare, something that, no matter how “advanced” we became, has never — as the brutal, deeply destructive conflict in Ukraine suggests — shown the slightest sign of cessation. Although I haven’t seen figures on the subject, I suspect that there has hardly been a moment in our history when, somewhere on this planet (and often that somewhere would have to be pluralized), we humans weren’t killing each other in significant numbers.

And keep in mind that in none of the above have I even mentioned the horrors of societies regularly divided between and organized around the staggeringly wealthy and the all too poor. But enough, right? You get the idea.

Oops, I left one thing out in judging the creatures that have now created AI. In the last century or two, the “intelligence” that did all of the above also managed to come up with two different ways of potentially destroying this planet and more or less everything living on it. The first of them it created largely unknowingly. After all, the massive, never-ending burning of fossil fuels that began with the nineteenth-century industrialization of much of the planet was what led to an increasingly climate-changed Earth. Though we’ve now known what we were doing for decades (the scientists of one of the giant fossil-fuel companies first grasped what was happening in the 1970s), that hasn’t stopped us. Not by a long shot. Not yet anyway.

Over the decades to come, if not taken in hand, the climate emergency could devastate this planet that houses humanity and so many other creatures. It’s a potentially world-ending phenomenon (at least for a habitable planet as we’ve known it). And yet, at this very moment, the two greatest greenhouse gas emitters, the United States and China (that country now being in the lead, but the U.S. remaining historically number one), have proven incapable of developing a cooperative relationship to save us from an all-too-literal hell on Earth. Instead, they’ve continued to arm themselves to the teeth and face off in a threatening fashion while their leaders are now not exchanging a word, no less consulting on the overheating of the planet.

The second path to hell created by humanity was, of course, nuclear weaponry, used only twice to devastating effect in August 1945 on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Still, even relatively small numbers of weapons from the vast nuclear arsenals now housed on Planet Earth would be capable of creating a nuclear winter that could potentially wipe out much of humanity.

And mind you, knowing that, LTAI beings continue to create ever larger stockpiles of just such weaponry as ever more countries — the latest being North Korea — come to possess them. Under the circumstances and given the threat that the Ukraine War could go nuclear, it’s hard not to think that it might just be a matter of time. In the decades to come, the government of my own country is, not atypically, planning to put another $2 trillion into ever more advanced forms of such weaponry and ways of delivering them.

Entering the AI Era

Given such a history, you’d be forgiven for imagining that it might be a glorious thing for artificial intelligence to begin taking over from the intelligence responsible for so many dangers, some of them of the ultimate variety. And I have no doubt that, like its ancestor (us), AI will indeed prove anything but one-sided. It will undoubtedly produce wonders in forms that may as yet be unimaginable.

Still, let’s not forget that AI was created by those of us with LTAI. If now left to its own devices (with, of course, a helping hand from the powers that be), it seems reasonable to assume that it will, in some way, essentially repeat the human experience. In fact, consider that a guarantee of sorts. That means it will create beauty and wonder and — yes! — horror beyond compare (and perhaps even more efficiently so). Lest you doubt that, just consider which part of humanity already seems the most intent on pushing artificial intelligence to its limits.

Yes, across the planet, departments of “defense” are pouring money into AI research and development, especially the creation of unmanned autonomous vehicles (think: killer robots) and weapons systems of various kinds, as Michael Klare pointed out recently at TomDispatch when it comes to the Pentagon. In fact, it shouldn’t shock you to know that five years ago (yes, five whole years!), the Pentagon was significantly ahead of the game in creating a Joint Artificial Intelligence Center to, as the New York Timesput it, “explore the use of artificial intelligence in combat.” There, it might, in the end — and “end” is certainly an operative word here — speed up battlefield action in such a way that we could truly be entering unknown territory. We could, in fact, be entering a realm in which human intelligence in wartime decision-making becomes, at best, a sideline activity.

Only recently, AI creators, tech leaders, and key potential users, more than 1,000 of them, including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and billionaire Elon Musk, had grown anxious enough about what such a thing — such a brain, you might say — let loose on this planet might do that they called for a six-month moratorium on its development. They feared “profound risks to society and humanity” from AI and wondered whether we should even be developing “nonhuman minds that might eventually outnumber, outsmart, obsolete, and replace us.”

The Pentagon, however, instantly responded to that call this way, as David Sanger reported in the New York Times: “Pentagon officials, speaking at technology forums, said they thought the idea of a six-month pause in developing the next generations of ChatGPT and similar software was a bad idea: The Chinese won’t wait, and neither will the Russians.” So, full-speed ahead and skip any international attempts to slow down or control the development of the most devastating aspects of AI!

And I haven’t even bothered to mention how, in a world already seemingly filled to the brim with mis- and disinformation and wild conspiracy theories, AI is likely to be used to create yet more of the same of every imaginable sort, a staggering variety of “hallucinations,” not to speak of churning out everything from remarkable new versions of art to student test papers. I mean, do I really need to mention anything more than those recent all-too-realistic-looking “photos of Donald Trump being aggressively arrested by the NYPD and Pope Francis sporting a luxurious Balenciaga puffy coat circulating widely online”?

I doubt it. After all, image-based AI technology, including striking fake art, is on the rise in a significant fashion and, soon enough, you may not be able to detect whether the images you see are “real” or “fake.” The only way you’ll know, as Meghan Bartels reports in Scientific American, could be thanks to AI systems trained to detect — yes! — artificial images. In the process, of course, all of us will, in some fashion, be left out of the picture.

On the Future, Artificially Speaking

And of course, that’s almost the good news when, with our present all-too-Trumpian world in mind, you begin to think about how Artificial Intelligence might make political and social fools of us all. Given that I’m anything but one of the better-informed people when it comes to AI (though on Less Than Artificial Intelligence I would claim to know a fair amount more), I’m relieved not to be alone in my fears.

In fact, among those who have spoken out fearfully on the subject is the man known as “the godfather of AI,” Geoffrey Hinton, a pioneer in the field of artificial intelligence. He only recently quit his job at Google to express his fears about where we might indeed be heading, artificially speaking. As he told the New York Times recently, “The idea that this stuff could actually get smarter than people — a few people believed that, but most people thought it was way off. And I thought it was way off. I thought it was 30 to 50 years or even longer away. Obviously, I no longer think that.”

Now, he fears not just the coming of killer robots beyond human control but, as he told Geoff Bennett of the PBS NewsHour, “the risk of super intelligent AI taking over control from people… I think it’s an area in which we can actually have international collaboration, because the machines taking over is a threat for everybody. It’s a threat for the Chinese and for the Americans and for the Europeans, just like a global nuclear war was.”

And that, indeed, is a hopeful thought, just not one that fits our present world of hot war in Europe, cold war in the Pacific, and division globally.

I, of course, have no way of knowing whether Less Than Artificial Intelligence of the sort I’ve lived with all my life will indeed be sunk by the AI carrier fleet or whether, for that matter, humanity will leave AI in the dust by, in some fashion, devastating this planet all on our own. But I must admit that AI, whatever its positives, looks like anything but what the world needs right now to save us from a hell on earth. I hope for the best and fear the worst as I prepare to make my way into a future that I have no doubt is beyond my imagining.

'Bad news': Unexpected melting of Greenland glacier could double sea-level rise projections

A glacier in the north of Greenland is melting faster and in a different way than scientists previously thought, and this has troubling implications for the future speed of global sea-level rise.

The new discovery was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Monday. The scientists found that warming ocean water had melted a cavity in the bottom of Petermann Glacier taller than the Washington Monument, as The Associated Press reported. If other glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica behave the same way, it could double predictions for how quickly the burning of fossil fuels will melt ice and raise sea levels.

"It's bad news," study author Eric Rignot, a University of California, Irvine (UCI), glaciologist, told the AP. "We know the current projections are too conservative."

The Petermann Glacier is a massive glacier in Northwest Greenland that contains enough ice to raise sea levels by a little more than a foot, the study authors noted. It is one of four Greenland ice masses that make up "the largest threat for rapid sea-level rise from Greenland in the coming decades" since they drain into the ocean below sea level.

Up until recently, however, the glacier was relatively stable, gaining about as much mass each year as it lost. That began to change in 2016, when the center of its grounding line began to edge backward at a rate of 0.6 miles per year.

A glacier's grounding line is the place where it moves from being supported by land to floating on the ocean, and it's this feature of Petermann that is the focus of the new study. The scientists from UCI, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, the University of Houston, Finland's Iceye mission, China's Tongji University, the German Aerospace Center, and the Italian Space Agency used satellite radar data to learn that the grounding line was moving significantly with the tides.

"Petermann's grounding line could be more accurately described as a grounding zone, because it migrates between 2 and 6 kilometers [approximately 1.2 to 3.7 miles] as tides come in and out," lead author Enrico Ciraci, a UCI assistant specialist in Earth system science and NASA postdoctoral fellow, said in a statement. "This is an order of magnitude larger than expected for grounding lines on a rigid bed."

This movement, in turn, accelerated ice melt.

"These ice-ocean interactions make the glaciers more sensitive to ocean warming," Rignot explained.

Between 2016 and 2022, the grounding line retreated by more than two miles. During that time, the warmer ocean water melted a 669-foot tall cavity at the bottom of the glacier. The melt rates around the cavity for 2020-21 were 50% greater than the melt rates for 2016-19, and, during 2022, the cavity stayed open the entire year.

What's especially concerning to the study authors is that what happens in Petermann may not stay in Petermann.

"These dynamics are not included in models," Rignot said.

If they were included, it could double sea-level rise projections, the study authors observed.

Hélène Seroussi, a glaciologist at Dartmouth College who was not involved with the study, cautionedThe Washington Post that models for ice melt and sea-level rise would not incorporate these findings overnight, since scientists still need to determine how many glaciers they really apply to. However, Seroussi acknowledged that the measurements were unprecedented.

"The melt rates reported are very large, much larger than anything we suspected in this region," Seroussi said.

Andreas Muenchow of the University of Delaware, a scientist who studies Petermann Glacier but was also not a part of the study, further told the Post that the high melt rates were observed over a relatively small area.

"My main takeaway is that models need to be improved," Muenchow said.

Why a Pacific Northwest tsunami could be even more devastating than Hurricane Katrina: report

Conversations about earthquake dangers in the U.S. usually focus on California, but the United States' entire West Coast is earthquake-prone — from San Diego to Portland to Seattle. Mexico's Pacific Coast is also at risk, as is British Columbia in Western Canada.

Earthquakes are conducive to tidal waves, and according to Seattle-based journalist Eric Scigliano, authorities fear that a tsunami in Washington State could be even more devastating than Hurricane Katrina — the disaster that caused severe flooding in New Orleans in 2005.

In an article published by Politico on May 7, Scigliano explains, "Someday — next week, next year, maybe next century — a sudden and deadly marine shock will strike the Northwest Coast: what locals call the Big One, a circa 9.0-magnitude offshore earthquake generating tsunami surges reaching 60 feet high or more…. Even if preparations speed up, Coast Guard rescuers will face a daunting task after the Big One strikes — assuming they survive it themselves. Semper paratus — 'Always ready' — goes the Coast Guard motto. But this certain disaster of uncertain date will wash away all the Guard's preparations."

READ MORE:Marjorie Taylor Greene stuns experts with scientifically illiterate rant on climate change

U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Kyle Cuttie told Politico, "It's hard to say whether we’ll be first responders or victims."

Scigliano notes that a tsunami in Washington State could "inundate the coast up to an elevation of 100 feet above sea level in some spots"

"Following Hurricane Katrina," the journalist notes, "the Coast Guard rescued more than 24,135 people stranded and imperiled along the Gulf Coast and evacuated another 9409 medical patients to safety. It would likely face an even bigger challenge when what's widely expected to be, in the words of Washington's Emergency Management Division, 'the largest natural disaster ever in the United States,' strikes the Pacific Northwest."

READ MORE: How 'hydrological whiplash' brought 'deadly storms' to rain-drenched California: climate scientists

Read Politico's full report at this link.

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