Environment

The truth about ExxonMobil's campaign to fund climate science denial

In a secret video recording made public in late June, a top ExxonMobil lobbyist—Keith McCoy, who was fired soon afterward—not only conceded that the oil giant's support for a carbon tax is a sham, but he also admitted that the company quietly financed climate science denier groups to stave off government action and maximize its profits—a fact that my organization, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and others revealed more than a decade ago.

"Did we aggressively fight against some of the science? Yes," McCoy, then ExxonMobil's senior director of federal relations, said during the interview. "Did we join some of these 'shadow groups' to work against some of the early efforts? Yes, that's true. But there's nothing illegal about that. We were looking out for our investments. We were looking out for our shareholders."

For all his candor, McCoy got at least one thing wrong. ExxonMobil did "join"—in other words, pay—denier groups to spread disinformation to blunt initial government attempts to curb carbon emissions. But McCoy inaccurately used the past tense. In fact, the company continues to fund them.

That videotaped interview caused some major heartburn for McCoy's boss, ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods, especially since the House Committee on Oversight and Reform has invited Woods—as well as top executives from the American Petroleum Institute, BP America, Chevron, Shell Oil and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce—to testify at a hearing on October 28 on the "long-running, industry-wide campaign to spread disinformation about the role of fossil fuels in causing global warming."

ExxonMobil has been at the heart of that campaign. Since 1998, the company has paid a network of seemingly independent think tanks and advocacy groups more than $39 million to manufacture doubt about climate science and stymie government action. Only Charles Koch and his late brother David, owners of the coal, oil and gas conglomerate Koch Industries, are known to have spent more.

In 2020, according to ExxonMobil's most recent corporate grantmaking report, the company spent $490,000 on three grantees—the American Enterprise Institute ($100,000), the Regulatory Studies Center at George Washington University ($140,000), and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ($250,000). That amount is down from the $790,000 the company reported it spent on nine climate science denier groups in 2019 and a fraction of what it spent in the past, but there's a catch.

True, the company lost more than $22 billion in 2020 and cut back its grants across the board. But another factor for this decline is that ExxonMobil changed how it reports grants. As first reported by Salon, the company only listed grants of $100,000 or more in its 2020 annual giving report. In previous years, it included grants of $5,000 or more. The change reduces transparency and ultimately means there is no way to tell how much the company spent in smaller donations to support climate disinformation in 2020 or compare the grants it made in 2020 with previous years.

Only three denier groups—the same three named in the 2020 grantmaking report—received $100,000 or more from ExxonMobil in 2019. That year, their grants collectively amounted to $625,000. The other six denier groups the company funded in 2019—the Center for American and International Law ($5,000), the Federalist Society ($10,000), the Hoover Institution ($15,000), the Manhattan Institute ($90,000), Mountain States Legal Foundation ($5,000) and the Washington Legal Foundation ($40,000)—collectively received $165,000. None of those grants, even if ExxonMobil continued them, would wind up in the 2020 report, given the company's new threshold.

Still, it's worth taking a closer look at where the bulk of ExxonMobil's self-reported climate disinformation budget did go in 2020.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Since 2014, ExxonMobil has given more than $5 million on top of its annual dues to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce—a major player in blocking action on climate change for decades. A few years after becoming an ExxonMobil grantee, the Chamber gained some unwanted notoriety by financing a widely debunked report that then-President Trump cited as a primary rationale for pulling the United States out of the Paris climate agreement.

In 2019, however, the Chamber appeared to flip 180 degrees, declaring on its website, "Our climate is changing and humans are contributing to these changes. Inaction is simply not an option." The assertion that human activity is merely contributing to climate change is inaccurate, given that burning fossil fuels is the primary cause, but the statement did represent a quantum leap from when the association spuriously maintained in comments submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency in 2009 that "a warming of even 3 [degrees Celsius] in the next 100 years would, on balance, be beneficial to humans."

That said, the Chamber vowed in an August 24 press release to "do everything [it] can to prevent" the proposed $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill—which would slash carbon emissions from the electric power and transportation sectors—"from becoming law." And in a section on its website addressing climate change, the Chamber calls for "the increased use of natural gas" to make "further progress."

Increase the use of natural gas?! That runs counter to what climate science says about the need to swiftly decarbonize the energy sector, essentially trading one major carbon pollution source—coal—for another—methane, which is 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide in warming the planet. Moreover, according to a December 2019 study in the scientific journal Environmental Research Letters, the carbon dioxide emissions attributable to the boom in natural gas use over the last decade alone have now surpassed the emissions avoided by closing coal-fired power plants.

The American Enterprise Institute

Economist Benjamin Zycher might be considered the climate science denier in residence at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), which has received $4.86 million from ExxonMobil since 1998. Zycher insists that a carbon tax would be "ineffective," has called the Paris climate agreement an "absurdity," and rejects the scientific consensus about the causes and seriousness of global warming.

Zycher published his most recent broadside against climate science in the Summer 2021 issue of National Affairs, a formerly independent conservative policy quarterly that AEI brought in-house in 2019. In his essay, "The Case for Climate-Change Realism," he falsely argued that the "available science" does not support the notion that human activity is "the single most significant cause of climate change" and the "available data" undercut the assessment that extreme weather events are "evidence of an ongoing climate crisis."

As he has in previous articles, Zycher cited roundly debunked hypotheses for the primary causes of climate change, including a shift in northern Pacific Ocean circulation patterns called the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, which scientists have determined is incapable of causing a long-term warming trend, and "changes in solar activity," when, in fact, the sun's energy has declined since the 1980s while average global temperatures have continued to climb.

This summer was not a fortuitous time to be peddling discredited theories. On August 9, less than two months after Zycher posted his essay, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a landmark, nearly 4,000-page "code red for humanity" report warning that the climate crisis is close to spiraling out of control and human activity is "unequivocally" to blame.

Zycher's main objective? To make a case, no matter how specious, for continued reliance on fossil fuels, which he falsely claimed are less expensive than renewables. Proposals to cut carbon emissions, including the Paris agreement, would have little real impact, he argued, and could "be accomplished only by substituting expensive energy for cheaper energy." In fact, according to a recent analysis by Bloomberg, it is "now cheaper to build and operate new large-scale wind or solar plants in nearly half the world than it would be to run an existing coal or [natural] gas-fired power plant." To be sure, no one would confuse Zycher for a scientist or National Affairs for a peer-reviewed journal. But he serves ExxonMobil's interests as a seemingly independent expert who continues to express doubt about climate science and the viability of renewable energy, thereby providing cover for climate science deniers in Congress.

George Washington University's Regulatory Studies Center

The relatively unknown Regulatory Studies Center at George Washington (GW) University received $140,000 from ExxonMobil in 2020 and $1.2 million from the company since 2013. Director Susan Dudley founded the center in 2009 after serving as President George W. Bush's "regulatory czar" at the Office of Management and Budget and, before that, running the Regulatory Studies Program at Koch-financed Mercatus Center at George Mason University. She currently serves in various capacities for other longtime climate science disinformation groups, including the Koch-founded Cato Institute, the Federalist Society, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The Regulatory Studies Center portrays itself as an "objective, unbiased" policy shop, but—like the Mercatus Center—its primary raison d'être is to weaken and quash government regulations, according to a 2019 analysis by the consumer advocacy organization Public Citizen. The GW center's main tools are reports and public comments it submits to Congress, and although it does not get much mainstream news media attention, it has found a receptive audience on Capitol Hill—and in the previous administration. Much of the Trump administration's deregulatory agenda, Public Citizen found, echoed the center's recommendations, including "dramatically reducing the cost that the government attributes to carbon emissions."

But should the Regulatory Studies Center be lumped in with climate science disinformation groups? In response to the Public Citizen report, as well as criticism from UnKoch My Campus and GW student groups, the center issued a statement in February disputing the charge that it rejects climate science. "Contrary to unsubstantiated claims, no one in the Regulatory Studies Center questions climate science," it said. "In fact, most of the Center's scholars do not focus on environmental or energy issues at all. Those who have written on climate issues address economic and legal questions, not the science."

Whether or not the center directly disputes climate science is beside the point. In the face of incontrovertible scientific evidence, most ExxonMobil-funded disinformation groups have revised their position on the reality of climate change. Instead of challenging the science, their efforts now tend to focus on denigrating renewable energy, overstating the costs of transitioning to a clean energy economy while ignoring the benefits, and preventing government action. That is exactly what the Regulatory Studies Center does. In recent years, for example, it has published papers and filed public comments opposing stronger efficiency standards for home appliances and vehicles that would dramatically reduce carbon emissions.

The center also has enlisted the help of unabashed climate science deniers. In the fall of 2018, for example, it tapped Julian Morris to file a public comment supporting the Trump administration's proposed rollback of Obama-era standards for cars and light trucks designed to increase fuel economy and, for the first time, substantially reduce tailpipe carbon emissions. Morris, president and founder of the International Policy Network and vice president of research at the Reason Foundation—two libertarian, climate science denier organizations—falsely declared in a paper published in March 2018 that the "effects of climate change are unknown—but the benefits may well be greater than the costs for the foreseeable future."

Millions More for Disinformation

The money ExxonMobil donated in 2020 to AEI, the GW Regulatory Studies Center and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce represents only a small percentage of the company's recent outlays to sway public opinion and blunt government climate action. It is difficult to document all of the company's related expenditures, but they include:

  • More than $5 million on Facebook ads in 2020, which is more than half of the $9.6 million that the U.S. oil and gas industry spent on the ads, according to an analysis by the think tank InfluenceMap that reviewed more than 25,000 ads on Facebook's U.S. platform. Many of the ads described natural gas as a "green" fuel source and argued that cutting carbon emissions would drive up energy costs.
  • An estimated $10 million in annual dues to the American Petroleum Institute (API) (based on how much Shell Oil recently revealed it paid). The U.S. oil and gas industry's oldest and largest trade association, API is working overtime to block stricter methane emissions standards. McCoy indirectly referenced API during the secretly taped interview when he said ExxonMobil relied on third parties to publicly represent its interests in Congress. "We don't want it to be us, to have these conversations, especially in a hearing," he said. "It's getting our associations to step in and have those conversations and answer those tough questions and be, for the lack of a better term, the whipping boy for some of these members of Congress."
  • At least $100,000 in annual dues to trade associations (based on what it reported it spent in 2019) that have a long track record of peddling climate disinformation, including the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
  • Nearly $834,000 during the 2018 and 2020 election cycles to 118 of the 139 climate science deniers currently in Congress. Over that same time period, the company reportedly spent nearly $41 million to lobby in Washington, but neither McCoy nor ExxonMobil's other in-house lobbyists have broached the topic of a carbon tax—the company's avowed top priority—with legislators since 2018, according to its quarterly lobbying reports.

So while ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods and his colleagues proclaim that they fully understand the threat posed by climate change and are "committed to being part of the solution," the evidence shows they continue to spend tens of millions of dollars every year to promote gridlock in Congress on the issue. The future of the planet as we know it hangs in the balance, but as McCoy acknowledged in his interview, ExxonMobil was—and still is—looking out for its investments and its shareholders' short-term interests, regardless of the long-term consequences.

Elliott Negin is a senior writer at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington, D.C.

4 ways rich nations can keep promises to curb emissions and fund climate adaptation

by Bruce Campbell, York University, Canada

The time has come for Canada and other rich nations to pony-up and pay for the devastation they have caused countries in the Global South. That means, for a start, providing far greater climate adaptation financing to low-income countries and plugging the holes that siphon their limited fiscal resources to tax havens.

Two Canadians have prominent roles at the COP26 climate meeting in Glasgow, Scotland. United Nations Ambassador Bob Rae, is co-chair of the COP26 finance panel, and Mark Carney is the UN special envoy for COP26, responsible for getting financial institutions to join the new Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net-Zero. They are experienced and highly respected individuals with solid reputations as mediators.

However, despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's recent climate plan, Canada's record on greenhouse gas emissions reduction has been abysmal. Furthermore, its failure to meet its climate finance commitments to developing countries will not be viewed favourably as Ambassador Rae attempts to negotiate a meaningful international climate agreement.

The UN says more than 160 financial firms are signed onto the alliance. The “Big Six" Canadian banks — BMO, CIBC, National Bank, RBC, Scotiabank and TD — signed on days before the summit was to begin. Their pledge will undoubtedly be met with allegations that this was merely a public relations exercise. Since the Paris deal was signed in 2015, Canada's five largest banks have provided $700 billion in financing to fossil fuel companies.

Canada, one of the worst carbon emitters

Canada is, historically, the 10th largest carbon emitter and the worst contributor to carbon emissions on a per capita basis. The federal government has committed to reducing carbon emissions to 45 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. However, it has not committed to end fossil fuel company subsidies or provide an end-date for fossil fuel production, despite the urging of the UN secretary general to hold the line.

Low-income countries are tiny emitters of greenhouse gases, least responsible for climate change, yet bearing its worst consequences. In the past 15 years, 90 per cent of deaths from heat wave-related disasters have occurred in low- and middle-income countries. The UN refugee agency estimates that 21.5 million people are displaced by climate change-related disasters every year. For these countries, adaptation, not mitigation, is the overriding priority.

Create zero-interest loans

Twelve years ago, at the Copenhagen summit, rich countries promised to provide developing countries US$100 billion a year in climate finance by 2020. They have yet to meet this target.

Canada has contributed less than 20 per cent of its fair share. Even with the Trudeau government's promise to double climate financing to US$4.2 billion over five years, US$840 million per year, this is still only 24 per cent of its fair share. The Group of 78, of which I am a member of the executive, has called for a quadrupling of Canada's financing commitment as a bare minimum.

Moreover 80 per cent of rich country financing is in the form of loans, increasing the stress on countries already struggling to manage their debt burdens.

International Monetary Fund-created money, or special drawing rights, which is allocated to countries based on their economic size, is largely unused by rich countries. Although discussions are ongoing, there has been no commitment to recycle these funds into zero-interest loans to low-income countries.

Tax havens harm climate action

Tax havens have disproportionately siphoned off wealth from low-income countries, a post-Second World War legacy of former colonies gaining independence that prompted the exit of colonial wealth via the proliferation of tax havens. Their losses have been accentuated during the pandemic.

According to a report by the tax justice network these countries are losing the equivalent to more than half of their yearly public health budgets due to the shifting of multinational corporations profits to tax havens. The loss is equivalent to eight per cent of rich countries' health budgets.

More than 130 countries, including Canada, have reached an agreement, co-ordinated by the OECD, that would establish a minimum of 15 per cent corporate tax to restrict tax avoidance and evasion. However, it has been sharply criticized as being rife with loopholes and carveouts. Oxfam accused it of pandering to corporations, having “practically no teeth" and offering no revenue for the world's poorest countries.

Tax havens are enabled by an infrastructure of lawyers, accountants and bankers, including some from Canada. Rich countries' efforts to restrict and bring greater transparency to international tax rules have largely fallen short.

Even by that standard Canada has been a laggard. The Liberal government recently increased the investigative resources of the Canada Revenue Agency and promised in its most recent budget to address cross-border tax avoidance and evasion schemes. How effective these will be in reining in these actions by wealthy individuals and corporations; past inaction does not bode well going forward. Carney will have his work cut out for him if, or when, he addresses these issues at COP26.

No more blah, blah, blah

To its credit, Canada, along with several other developed countries, is a member of the High Ambition Coalition, a group at the UN talks comprising many of the poorest and most vulnerable developing countries. But good intentions and empty promises will not pass muster. We don't need more “blah blah blah," to quote Greta Thunberg.

The UN Human Rights Council recently recognized access to a clean and healthy environment as a fundamental right and established a special rapporteur on the human rights impacts of climate change. These developments have the potential to make major emitting companies, including Canada's, legally liable for human rights violations arising from climate change.

Hopefully, this will put additional pressure on rich countries to get serious about climate financing, debt restructuring and development funding for poor nations. Inaction is a luxury we can no longer afford.

This is a corrected version of a story originally published on Oct. 24, 2021. The earlier story said the Copenhagen summit occurred 20 years ago instead of 12 years ago. It also said that no Canadian banks were part of the Net-Zero Banking Alliance when, in fact, BMO, CIBC, National Bank, RBC, Scotiabank and TD, joined the alliance on Oct. 19.The Conversation

Bruce Campbell, Adjunct professor, faculty of environmental and urban change, York University, Canada

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Coal is making electricity more expensive than mortgages in West Virginia: 'It does feel wrong'

Centrist Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, not unlike former President Donald Trump, has been unwavering in his support of fossil fuels — which he obviously believes plays well with West Virginia voters. But the coal industry isn't as profitable in that Appalachian state as it once was. And journalist Ella Nilsen, in an article published by CNN's website on October 21, emphasizes that coal is becoming increasingly expensive in West Virginia.

Some liberals, including economist/New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, have been arguing that green energy would be great for West Virginia residents if Manchin and other politicians in the deep red state would give it a chance. Nilsen, similarly, points out that West Virginia's reliance on coal is becoming more and more of a hardship for residents like Charleston, West Virginia homeowner Felisha Chase — who pays more for electricity during the winter months than she spends on her mortgage.

"Coal has become more expensive than renewables or natural gas, the prices of which have fallen rapidly — and in West Virginia, the ratepayers are footing the bill," Nilsen reports. "With three of the state's major coal-fired power plants in need of hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of mandatory upgrades, costs for ratepayers like Chase will continue to go up. Coal may be a dying industry in the U.S., but Joe Manchin, a key Democratic swing vote in the Senate, isn't interested in hastening its demise."

Chase, a registered Democrat, believes that she is by no means the only West Virginia resident who finds her utility bills to be a struggle during the winter months.

Chase told CNN, "It does feel wrong when your electric bill is more than your mortgage. Around here, the old adage is 'coal keeps the lights on.' Anyone struggling to keep their electric on knows it's more than the lights…. If I'm struggling over here, I must be representative of hundreds, if not thousands, of West Virginians."

Nilsen notes that neighboring states "that were once heavily reliant on coal are moving away from it," citing Pennsylvania and Ohio as two examples of states that have — according to the New York Times — greatly reduced their reliance on coal and become more reliant on natural gas and nuclear power.

Sean O'Leary, a senior researcher at the Ohio River Valley Institute (a green energy think tank) told CNN that coal will never be as profitable as it once was.

"These plants, even if they're kept open, are going to be operating at such a low level there will be far fewer jobs and far less coal consumed than it is now," O'Leary explained. "It's as if everyone walks around utterly oblivious to that fact, and it has huge economic implications. If anything, there's a concerted effort to prevent that kind of reimagination of West Virginia as a different kind of energy state."

Here’s how Joe Manchin just positioned China to dominate green energy in the 21st century

Coal baron Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia has succeeded in blocking the part of President Biden's Build Back Better bill that would have moved the U.S. electricity grid quickly to green energy.

This development is very bad news for the earth, since human beings burning coal, petroleum and natural gas contribute the bulk of the 6.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide that the United States farts out into the atmosphere every year, and which is causing the earth rapidly to heat up to uncomfortable levels. Although the U.S. only has 4% of the world's population, it is responsible for 20% of global CO2 emissions. And that is just today. Through modern history, only Britain has been more of a carbon hog than America.

Although we have poisoned the atmosphere with greenhouse gases that do not permit the sun's heat to escape back out into space at the same rate it used to, we have a cushion. The world's oceans absorb carbon dioxide. They will take in all the extra CO2 industrial civilization has put up there. There are two downsides, though. The oceans will become more acidic and that will kill a lot of marine life. And, the oceans have a limit to how much carbon dioxide they can absorb. If we exceed that limit, then whatever CO2 we put up there afterwards will stay in the atmosphere for tens of thousands of years, keeping the earth hot.

We're near to exceeding the limit?

We're near to exceeding the limit.

In fact, one man, Joe Manchin, likely just single-handedly put us over the limit. We needed to green our electric grid as soon as humanly and technologically possible. Manchin won't let us do that. The average surface temperature of the earth is not going to rise only 2.7° F. (1.5° C.). It is going to be more, and it is going to be for millennia.

It is hard to get people to understand what we're doing to the earth and to our children and grandchildren by burning coal and gas for electricity and petroleum for transportation. They are, typically, however easy to mobilize if someone points to an attacking enemy on the horizon.

So let me just point out that Manchin and the Big Carbon corporations that fund him are weakening America's economy and infrastructure in the face of China.

China's President Xi Jinping has just announced, Bloomberg reports, the world's largest wind-and-solar farm. This gargantuan facility will generate 400 gigawatts when it is finished, and 200 gigawatts of capacity will be built by 2025.

You know how much solar capacity the United States now has? 100 gigawatts. And how much wind? 125 gigawatts. So by 2025, if China's plans are realized, just this one facility in the western desert will match the entire wind-and-solar capacity of the U.S. as it now stands. And then by a few years later it will double it. One facility.

Not only that, but researchers from Harvard, Tsinghua University in Beijing, Nankai University in Tianjin and Renmin University of China in Beijing have found that China is on the cusp of a tipping point. By 2025, unsubsidized solar power with battery storage everywhere in China will be cheaper than coal. Indeed, solar plus battery is already cheaper than coal in 3/4s of the country. Especially given drops in the cost of battery storage, the paper concludes that China can get 43% of its total power from solar at less than 2.5 cents a kilowatt hour by 2060, making the Communist Party's current plans for decarbonization by then plausible. Coal is usually figured at 5 cents a kilowatt hour, and solar plus battery is already less than that.

Harvard Engineering School's "News and Events" quotes one of the co-authors, Chris P. Nielsen, the executive director of the Harvard-China Project, as saying that most people now understand that decarbonizing is key to fighting the climate emergency. He adds, "Not as many realize that decarbonizing the power system is the linchpin, especially as more sectors become electrified, and that accommodation by the grid of renewable variability is the toughest part of the puzzle. It's a huge breakthrough, and not just for China, if storage can make solar power grid-compatible at a competitive cost."

The power system must be transformed, that is the provision of electricity. That is exactly what China is pushing full speed ahead on, and which Manchin just foiled in the U.S.

So what happens if you green the power system?

Shi Chen, the co-first author of the paper told "News and Events:"

"Our research shows that if costs continue to decline, especially for storage, there could be opportunities to power vehicles, heat or cool buildings, or to produce industrial chemicals, all using solar energy. This would extend the climate and environmental benefits of solar energy far beyond the power sector as traditionally conceived."

Far beyond the power sector. He is talking about a quantum leap in China's industrial infrastructure.

Furthermore, if you solarize the whole electric grid and use panels plus battery storage to power cars and for cooling and heating buildings, you will put enormous demands on your research and development teams to make cheaper and more efficient solar panels and batteries. China's massive push in this direction will position it to be the market leader in the essential technology of the future, a technology in which it already has an edge. China dominates some 60% of the global solar panel market and is the major producer and consumer of electric cars. We could all be driving Chinese electric cars because their companies got the benefits of massive public investment and consumer buying.

The United States, having been derailed from any similar push by Mr. Manchin, won't be putting nearly as much money into the green energy sector and risks being left in the dust by Beijing.

Millions were evacuated during disasters last year – another growing cost of climate change

by Jane McAdam AO, UNSW

As world leaders prepare for the COP26 climate talks next month, it's worth recalling a sobering line from the royal commission's report into the 2019-20 Australian bushfires: “what was unprecedented is now our future".

The bushfires saw the largest peacetime evacuation of Australians from their homes, with at least 65,000 people displaced. As climate change amplifies the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, evacuations are likely to become increasingly common – and costly – in human and economic terms.

Numbers of displaced people on the rise

Globally, the displacement of people due to the impacts of disasters and climate change is now at a record high.

In 2020, nearly 31 million people were displaced within their own countries because of disasters, at least a third of which resulted from government-led evacuations. And people in poorer countries are six times more likely to be evacuated than those in wealthier countries, according to some estimates.

Already, close to 90% of the world's refugees come from countries that are the most affected by climate change – and the least able to adapt.

Evacuations are an important life-saving emergency response – a temporary measure to move people to safety in the face of imminent harm. Under human rights law, states are obligated to protect people from threats to life, including the adverse effects of disasters and climate change.

At times, this may include an obligation to evacuate people at risk.

However, without careful planning and oversight, evacuations can also constitute arbitrary displacement. They can uproot “significant numbers" of people for prolonged periods of time. And they can expose people to other types of risks and vulnerabilities, and erode human rights.

For example, in 2020, wildfires and flooding exacerbated the existing humanitarian crisis in Syria, prompting the evacuation of thousands of already internally displaced persons who were forced to move yet again.

Too little support after disasters

Unfortunately, the “rescue" paradigm that characterises the way we typically think about evacuations means such risks are too often overlooked. As a result, national responses may fail to appreciate the scale of internal displacement triggered by evacuations, or to identify it at all.

In practice, this may mean there is insufficient support for those who are displaced, and little accountability by the relevant government authorities. Moving people out of harm's way during a disaster may be one element of an effective government response. Ensuring people can return, safely and with dignity, however, is crucial to economic and social recovery.

This is particularly prescient given that evacuations can create significant economic and social disruption.

For instance, the cost of a year's temporary housing for Australia's 2019–20 bushfire evacuees amounted to A$60–72 million. Each day of lost work cost A$705 per person.

Such costs are amplified in the Asia-Pacific region, which accounted for 80% of global disaster-related displacement from 2008–18.

Small island states are particularly affected by disasters and the impacts of climate change. For instance, large proportions of Vanuatu's population were displaced by Cyclone Pam in 2015 and by Cyclone Harold just five years later.

According to a UN forecast, such countries could face average annual disaster-related losses equivalent to nearly 4% of their GDPs. The impact on the long-term prosperity, stability and security of individuals and communities cannot be overstated.

The point is that with greater investment in disaster risk reduction and planning, many of these outcomes could be avoided.

Currently, the amount of money allocated in development assistance to prepare for disaster risks is “miniscule" compared to aid funding for post-disaster responses.

This is clearly is the wrong way around – especially when the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction estimates each dollar spent on preparation could have a 60-fold return.

What leaders at COP26 need to do

The ABC television's miniseries Fires shows that people's decisions about whether to stay or go in an emergency are not simple. People are influenced not only by their perceptions of the risk of harm, but also by the desire to protect relatives, property and animals, or a belief that they can withstand the disaster.

Well-planned, evidence-based strategies are important when an emergency requires rapid decision-making, often in changing conditions and with limited resources to hand. If lines of authority are unclear, or there is insufficient attention to detail during the planning process, evacuation efforts may be hampered further, putting lives and property at greater risk.

It is essential for policymakers to recognise that a government's “life-saving" response to a disaster, such as an evacuation, can itself generate significant human and financial costs. Governments need to incorporate principles from human rights law into their response plans to help protect people from foreseeable risks and to enhance their rights, well-being and recovery.

Climate change is only going to exacerbate increasingly extreme weather events that force people from their homes. At next month's climate talks, leaders must agree on climate change mitigation targets and adaptation policies that avert the need to evacuate people in the first place.

However, achieving change on the ground will require a far more linked-up and integrated approach to climate change, disaster risk reduction, sustainable development and mobility. This includes systematically implementing the recommendations not only of the Paris Agreement, but other international agreements focused on these goals.

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The reckless demands of Sinema and Manchin will cost us in the long run

It appears that some version of President Joe Biden's jobs-and-infrastructure plan is still alive and could very well be passed soon, despite the strenuous efforts of some of the shadier Democrats in Congress to kill it. The Washington Post reports that Biden is agreeing to scale back the bill from the original $3.5 trillion price tag to $1.9 trillion, largely to placate Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, two centrist holdouts who have been vocal about their belief that the original bill is simply too big.

The Post describes Biden's new number as a possible "truce among Democrats' warring left-leaning and moderate factions." This language is misleading, however, for two major reasons. First, the vast majority of Democrats — 96%, to be exact, a group that encompasses both progressive and moderates— support passing Biden's original bill. The holdouts are just a handful of problem children, whose motivations are often more about ego and corruption than ideology. But just as importantly, such framing falsely implies that this is a clash between spendthrift progressives and the more fiscally restrained moderates.

This isn't just a long term issue, either.

As Kate Riga of Talking Points Memo pointed out on a podcast last week, one way the original bill was going to "bring in a lot of money" was by allowing Medicare to negotiate on drug prices, bringing down the overall price tag of the bill. But Sinema has been blocking this provision, clearly more interested in pleasing her drug industry donors than saving the taxpayers money. This is in line with her opposition to raising corporate taxes to reduce the burden on ordinary taxpayers. None of this is the behavior of a "moderate" who is simply trying to be fiscally responsible. This is the behavior of a corporate sellout who is focused on funneling cash from ordinary people's wallets into the pockets of the already wealthy.

As Axios reports, the price gouging of the drug industry is completely out of control. For instance, Indocin, a common drug used to treat arthritis, cost $198 in 2008. The price has since ballooned to $10,350 a box. This is largely due to the fact that Medicare is blocked from aggressive drug price negotiation, allowing drug companies to charge whatever they want, and bill it to the taxpayer. This is corrupt, exploitative and basically theft — and it's what Sinema is protecting. There's nothing fiscally responsible about that.

Manchin's opposition to provisions to help ease the country off fossil fuels and towards cleaner energy follows the same pattern.

As Rebecca Leber of Vox writes, "There is nothing moderate or debatable about the catastrophic changes that global emissions are wreaking on the climate." The uptick in hurricanes, floods, wildfires and other catastrophic weather events brought by climate change don't just cause immense human suffering. They're incredibly expensive. As CNBC reported in January, the costs from extreme weather events cost $210 billion in 2020 alone, and, by all measures, the situation is rapidly getting worse. Contrast that with the $150 billion over 10 years proposed in the Build Back Better plan to encourage utility companies to switch to renewable energy — money that Manchin opposes spending.

This is clearly not about saving the taxpayers money, especially not in Manchin's home state, where the costs from flooding are sky high and expected to get even worse. The people who stand to profit from inaction are Manchin himself and his buddies in the dirty energy industry. Manchin is heavily invested in coal and has become a millionaire from it. And his campaign coffers are heavily filled by the fossil fuel industry, including donors who are typically more associated with the GOP than the Democrats.

As with Sinema and Big Pharma, Manchin's interests aren't really about fiscal responsibility. It's about enriching the already wealthy at the expense of people who live paycheck to paycheck. Worse, he's sacrificing the future of American children for short term profit.

That's not the only way Manchin, who is 74 years old, is abandoning the futures of the youngest Americans. Manchin is demanding a drastic rollback of proposals meant to help parents afford to raise their children in a healthy manner, from affordable childcare to the child tax credit. Again, the excuse for this is cost, but, as Katrina vanden Heuvel points out in the Washington Post, spending money on kids when they're young ends up saving taxpayers money while also improving prosperity for all.

When we underinvest in children, we pay the price for the rest of their lives, through higher spending on remedial education, reactive health care and criminal justice. Meanwhile, multiple studies have found that universal pre-K programs, for example, result in higher college attendance rates, lower arrest rates, lower welfare usage and lower unemployment — while subsidized child care can lead to improved health as adults and keep parents in the workforce.

True fiscal responsibility requires understanding the importance of smart investment. Money spent on infrastructure, child development and health care now can save Americans from having to face exponentially bigger bills down the road. This is basic common sense, and it's unlikely that Manchin and Sinema are so ignorant as to have never heard the phrase "an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure." They just prefer forcing American taxpayers to forgo that ounce of prevention because they and their wealthy benefactors profit more from the pound of cure.

Giving into the demands of these two lobbyist addicts may be the only way for Biden to pass his bill, but it should serve as a reminder that corruption in D.C. is not a fringe concern. It's a financial drain on everyone but the wealthiest Americans who can afford to buy themselves a senator or two.

We ignored the harbingers of doom at high altitudes — and now the woes have arrived for us all

Thirteen thousand feet high on the far side of the Himalaya mountains, we have entered the past and the future at the same time. We are a medical expedition and also a pilgrimage, consisting of doctors, nurses, Buddhist clerics, supernumeraries like me, and a large staff of guides, muleteers, and camp tenders. We are bound for the isolated villages of Upper Dolpo, a remote region of northwestern Nepal, land of the snow leopard — both the actual animal and The Snow Leopard, Peter Matthiessen's nonfiction classic. We are traveling the same trails Matthiessen walked in 1973.

As a medical mission, our purpose is to provide primary health care to people who rarely, if ever, see a clinician. As pilgrims, our purposes are as varied as our individual identities. Mine is to make peace with the anger and grief that have dogged me since finishing a pair of books, one on climate change, the other on extinction. They left me heartsick. My delight in the beauty of the world had been joined to sorrow at its destruction, and the two emotions were like cellmates who refused to get along. Their ceaseless argument soured the taste of life. I hoped that a long walk — about 150 miles in this case — might cure the resultant moral ache. (The story of that walk provides the backbone of my new book, The Trail to Kanjiroba: Rediscovering Earth in an Age of Loss.)

The trails we followed led us into the past in the sense that the high Himalayan world — Sanskrit's "abode of snow" — is a relic of the Pleistocene, a land of glaciers, vast spaces, stony rubble, and frigid rivers. Its cynosure animal is less the snow leopard than the yak, a source of food, fiber, hide, bone tools, transport, and tractor power more essential to the Tibetan settlers of the region than even the bison was to America's Cheyenne or Sioux. Yaks enabled people to inhabit the wintry attic of the world, where today an Ice Age climate still lingers, even as it begins to fade away.

As much as we were entering the past, however, we were also plunging into the future. Lands at these high elevations appear to be warming two to three times faster than those lower down. The reasons for this are only partly understood. Changes in albedo — the reflectance of the land — are part of the answer: as snow packs shrink and glacial ice retreats, the newly bared and darker earth absorbs more solar energy than the white blanket that had covered it. The absorbed energy, in turn, warms the land and accelerates the melting of yet more nearby snow and ice. Windblown soot and dust, often set loose by human activities, can also darken the white, high-altitude world, yielding a similar effect.

From 1962 to 2006 the glaciers of the Himalaya appear to have lost more than a fifth of their ice. They did not all shrink at the same rate. In fact, some glaciers haven't shrunk at all, but measurements of the overall trend in the Sikkim-Nepal region put the average loss at seven inches of depth every year across the whole extent of ice. And, of course, the melting continues.

We used to say that climate disruption at high altitude presaged the changes that were soon to arrive in the rest of the world, that the cascade of broken balances exhibited by melting glaciers, erratic seasons, and unpredictable rivers was a harbinger of woes bound for environments closer to home. Sadly, such changes are harbingers no longer, for the woes have arrived.

Last summer saw nearly an entire Greek island combusted, significant swaths of Italy and Turkey turned to ash, giant expanses of the American Pacific Northwest set ablaze, and another full season of California flambé. Meanwhile, wildfires in Siberia consumed forested areas greater than all the rest combined, while floods in Belgium and western Germany drowned towns and villages that had never seen the like before. Then came an Atlantic hurricane season that has rivaled or surpassed the previous record-setting year in multiple categories. The future about which scientists and activists have warned us for more than 30 years is no longer on our doorstep. It's in the house.

Nowadays, the far Himalaya is less a model for the future than a mirror for the present. You see the same controversies over grazing and the same mistrust of land "managers" that preoccupy the American West. You see patterns of rural-to-urban migration that are common throughout the world, with young people leaving the family farmstead to seek their fortunes in the city. You also see the increased mobility of humanity expressed in legions of outsiders flooding into formerly isolated districts, much to the consternation of longtime residents.

In the case of Dolpo, the vast majority of outsiders invading the region are hunters of a weird fungus, yarza gunbu, that invades the head of a particular caterpillar soon after it hatches in the tundra grasslands. The fungus then consumes the unlucky caterpillar and erupts through the thin soil to produce a miniature tower, only a centimeter or two high, that (with a certain amount of imagination) can be seen to resemble an erect penis. As the snow recedes in the spring, yarza hunters pour by the thousands into the high country. Crawling on their hands and knees or shuffling stooped across the damp heights, they stare intently at the ground, straining to spot the phallic structure of their quarry. Gathered and dried, these rather unappetizing avatars of the male principle sell at cocaine prices as a remedy for impotence and a general tonic for health. Their market includes a large swath of Asia, especially China. Some call it "Himalayan Viagra."

Many Nepalis, especially urban youth, look to science to explain the perplexities of climate change, but in Dolpo and similar regions, yarza gunbu hunters often get blamed for the disturbed weather and chaotic hydrology afflicting the region. The newcomers, so the thinking goes, break unwritten laws, abuse pastureland, pollute streams, and cut shrubs and trees where none should be cut. Such behavior is said to upset the spirits of place. As a result, brutal winters now alternate with ones that are too warm, while avalanches fall where avalanches never fell before. The rains also seem to be affected. They start too early or end too late. Or they don't come at all. And the traditional rituals that people counted on to restore order when things slipped out of balance are proving inadequate to overcome such a high level of disturbance.

The Third Force: Stupidity

If opinion as to the cause of climate change is divided in Nepal, the division is generally benign. Not so in the United States, where it used to be said that, when things got bad enough, the nation's doubters and deniers would come around. Well, things have been bad enough for quite a while, as attested by the incineration of Paradise, California, in 2018, and Greenville, California this summer, the steady diminishment of the Colorado River, and so many other grim indicators. Rather than allow the light of realism to penetrate their thinking, the rightwing cheerleaders of America's culture wars, many of whom serve in Congress, persist in denying, dodging, or twisting the facts of global warming in ways that please their base and their corporate sponsors. Garret Keizer, writing in Harper's Magazine, theorizes that the problem goes deeper than the inevitable tension between liberals and conservatives. He argues that there is "a third force seeking hegemony over this world: stupidity."

Powered by social media, bullshit now travels at the speed of light. A Facebook algorithm is always available to help you segue from funny cat videos to anxiety-inducing clips about QAnon and chem trails. The main objective for Facebook and its advertisers is to keep viewers amused and aroused, to keep them plugged in. For many Internet users, real threats like global warming just can't compete with the loony ones.

The immoral and potentially fatal inability of the United States to take meaningful action on global warming means that Americans share more in common with rural Nepalis than they might imagine. Even through the pall of pollution that hangs over that country's capital, Kathmandu, people there can see that their climatic future will be determined by the billowing smokestacks of the United States, China, India, and Europe. They know that they have little agency on the world stage, little ability to influence events. This is not something new. Nepal is squeezed between the jealous powers of India and China. Each plays a different tune; Nepal dances, but it cannot dance to both at once. With two quarreling neighbors to appease, Nepal is far from being the master of its fate.

We Americans don't see ourselves as subject to the will of others. Since the early days of the republic, our autonomy has been a point of national pride. We chart our own path and we've long believed that, if something isn't right, we can fix it. If something needs doing, we will do it. We fought a world war in two hemispheres and came out victors. We rebuilt Europe. We walked on the moon. We won the Cold War and extended our economic reach around the world, exporting not just manufactured goods but our taste in music, film, fast food, and clothes. We spurred a Green Revolution in agriculture that vastly expanded the human carrying capacity of the globe, and we vanquished smallpox and polio. We were the good guys.

Today those attitudes and that pride seem so… well, twentieth century. Our scientists still develop vaccines, but the rest of us can't agree on using them. Our research institutions still pioneer the science of epidemics and climate change, but the general population can't agree on their underlying reality.

Implementing policies to control a public health crisis that has killed more than 700,000 fellow citizens or mitigating a shift in the global environmental equilibrium that threatens the future of civilization — these "big lifts" now exceed our strength. We can't even agree on a measure as simple as mask-wearing. More concerning yet, fidelity to the basic tenets of our electoral system, once the backbone of our democracy, now seems a relic of the past. Tens of millions of voters reject the clearly documented outcome of our last presidential election, and so do hundreds, maybe thousands, of public officials elected by that very system.

In times of stress, America has sought reassurance in the exploits of its vaunted military, but lately that hasn't worked out too well. Washington's 20-year war in Afghanistan bore a gloomy resemblance to its catastrophic effort to "save" Vietnam from communism, and not just in the way it ended. Imperial hubris, ignorance of local realities, and soaring civilian casualties are just a few of the dismal parallels to the earlier war. And we need hardly speak of Iraq: our invasion there produced an out-and-out disaster premised on out-and-out lies.

Which brings us back to agency. As Americans, we now confront a striking new reality: we don't have the clout we once thought we did. White America now shares its humbled condition with people who live on the farther side of the Himalaya, as well as with Native Americans, Blacks, and many other fellow citizens. America's minorities have long understood the loneliness and vulnerability of not being in command, of having to struggle against a hostile and disordered world. Now, the fractured American majority is getting a taste of how that feels. For want of cohesion and agreement, the United States is failing to address the biggest and most complex problems that confront it. Given how we've used our military since World War II, that reduced capability may not be an entirely bad thing. But where climate change is concerned, it's tragic.

Climate change requires comprehensive, systematic, and immediate action. Again and again at the national level, we've shown that we don't have what it takes. Diagnosis: inadequate agency. Responding to the climate crisis has become a race against time and our government still dawdles at the starting line.

Gratitude, Resilience, and Hope

At 13,000 feet on the farther side of the Himalaya, the world becomes lunar. The tallest vegetation can't hide a golf ball. Nothing is screened from view. What's there is there, as naked as sunlit boulders, as clear as mountain streams. As our expedition meandered from village to village, traversing passes higher than 17,000 feet, we wondered how so stark and spartan an environment might shape the people dwelling in it. In our clinics, we got a partial answer.

The gratitude and resilience of our Dolpo patients impressed us all deeply. One doctor spoke for many of us when he said,

"They come in with joint pain, a blown-out knee, GI distress, a horrible rash, whatever, and maybe we can't help them. 'Sorry,' we say. 'Wish we could do something for you.' And they get up and smile. They say, 'That's fine. Thanks anyway.' And off they go, as cheerfully as they came in. Patients back in my clinic [in the U.S.] are so different. Whatever hurts them becomes so much bigger a thing. And we give them meds for blood pressure or pain, but they really seem to want us to fix something bigger than that, something we don't have meds for. They want us to fix the pain that is in their minds or in their souls. My Nepali patients have lots of problems, but not that one."

The cheerful stoicism of our hosts inspired us. I had joined the expedition carrying much anger at my country's refusal to face its environmental responsibilities and frustration at witnessing the worsening results of its fecklessness. The long walk helped quite a bit. My fellow travelers, the patients we treated, and the spectacular land through which we traveled imparted many lessons. Perhaps the most important involved a rekindling of hope.

Hope is different from optimism and also different from the simple desire for things to turn out well. True hope demands faith in "not-knowing," in trusting the uncertainty of the future. The people of Dolpo seemed to possess that faith. In realms more familiar to westerners, such culture heroes as Czech dissident and later president Vaclav Havel and South African liberator Nelson Mandela also possessed it. Neither Havel nor Mandela knew if the Soviet Union or apartheid would be dismantled in their lifetime.

Nevertheless, through long periods of darkness, each of them cultivated a resilient hope that had two vital components. The first was a commitment to the intrinsic value of right action, irrespective of whether it resulted in the desired outcome. In Havel's words, they did what "makes sense," no matter whether their efforts might ultimately fail. Many philosophies distinguish between "instrumental good," which is realized when an action achieves its goal, and "intrinsic good," which is realized irrespective of result. Havel and Mandela pursued intrinsic good.

Second, they believed in surprise — that sometimes big, consequential things happen with virtually no warning. An earthquake, the fall of the Soviet Union, or a coronavirus epidemic are all good examples. There is no guarantee that the consequences of surprise will be beneficial. That's where true hopefulness and doing what "makes sense" come in — they sustain you through the long wait for surprise. In Czechoslovakia and South Africa when the long-desired surprises arrived, both Havel and Mandela seized their moment and made them as beneficial as possible. The essence of their preparation was that they never lost hope. Neither should we.

Copyright 2021 William deBuys

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Books, John Feffer's new dystopian novel, Songlands (the final one in his Splinterlands series), Beverly Gologorsky's novel Every Body Has a Story, and Tom Engelhardt's A Nation Unmade by War, as well as Alfred McCoy's In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power and John Dower's The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II.

William deBuys is the author of 10 books, including A Great Aridness and The Last Unicorn, which compose a trilogy that culminates with The Trail to Kanjiroba: Rediscovering Earth in an Age of Loss, just published.

'Vile and provable corruption': Bestselling author blasts 'Senator for sale' Joe Manchin ​in damning new video

Don Winslow, the author of several New York Times bestsellers, recently blasted Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) in a newly-released video shared on social media.

For months now, Manchin has positioned himself as one of the main roadblocks of President Joe Biden's proposed Build Back Better agenda, pushing back on key provisions including child tax credits and climate initiatives.

In the video, Winslow described Manchin as a "senator for sale" as he detailed the lawmaker's "financial conflicts of interest as well as those of his family," HuffPost reports. With the video, Winslow tweeted, "[Joe Manchin] is blocking Joe Biden's agenda. We found so much vile and provable corruption in Manchin's life and his families life that we could not fit it all into one video. So this is just Part 1."

After blasting the senator, Winslow granted the media rights to circulate the clip. He tweeted, "To Whom it may concern: This tweet expressly grants all media outlets and journalists across the United States the unrestricted right to broadcast or otherwise distribute this video in whole or in part for free. Signed, Don Winslow/Don Winslow Films."

The latest video comes as a progressive coalition also released a campaign video targeting Manchin and calling him out for blocking Biden's agenda. In the video, Ryan Frankenberry, state director at WV Working Families Party, challenged Manchin to move forward on the popular proposals.

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"We've been phone-banking for six months now, having West Virginians connect with Joe Manchin," said Frankenberry. "We think that right now this is the critical moment where they're going to come some kind of agreement, we hope. And we want to push Joe Manchin … to go big and bold and to deliver for West Virginia."

Future historians — 'if there are any' — will be 'astonished' we let the planet burn to protect coal: Paul Krugman

Somewhere along the line I got the impression that humans were smart. You know, tool use and written communication and reduced fat Corn Nuts and all that. Unfortunately, just because Grandma can open a can of Chef Boyardee without throwing it against a big tree like an ape or Donald Trump might doesn't mean we're going to save our planet in time to secure a viable future for humanity.

Of course, the solutions for combating climate change are available to us—in theory, anyway. That's because we do have many brave, smart people working on these things. But you have to take those solutions off the shelf and implement them, and that's when we start breaking drill bits trying to get to the gooey nougat center of Joe Manchin's head.

The world is burning, but as long as the wildfires don't touch Manchin's scattered piles of coal cash, he's more than willing to let it burn. The West Virginia senator is defying his own constituents' wishes when it comes to his party's potentially transformative Build Back Better agenda, and one of his biggest sticking points is the climate change portion of the reconciliation package. Manchin opposes the bill's Clean Electricity Performance Program, which many climate activists say is the linchpin of President Biden's climate change plan. Why is he holding up meaningful climate action based on a dying industry with no future?

Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman is wondering the same thing:

For the nontweeters:

KRUGMAN: "Future historians — if there are any future historians, that is, if civilization doesn't collapse — will be astonished that we let the planet burn for the sake of an industry that employs less than 3 percent of workers even in West Virginia"

I mean, I get it. I've poured untold resources into dying relationships with no future, but eventually I smartened up. And I was just hurting myself, not every other person on the planet. But somehow I get the feeling that Manchin isn't exactly looking to the future. He is the blithe, noxious farter whom everyone else on the elevator has to deal with, and his legacy will linger for decades even after he leaves.

And sadly, as Krugman and others know, because of the fundamentally undemocratic way our Congress and Electoral College are set up, big money and narrow interests are, for the moment at least, carrying the day.

Manchin threatening key climate provision

Advocates for bold action to slash planet-heating emissions expressed concern Friday and Saturday following reports that a key climate program in the still-evolving reconciliation package may be neutered or taken out completely.

Resistance to the program's inclusion is coming from Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who, along with fellow rightwing Democrat Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, has been a major obstacle to Democrats securing the 50 votes needed for Senate passage of the Build Back Better package.

The new reporting centers on the Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP), which Rep. Sean Casten (D-Ill.) described in a Saturday tweet as "the most impactful part of the Build Back Better Act from a climate perspective" and "puts our electric sector on a path to zero emissions."

"To take it out," he said, "is to decide that climate change isn't a problem."

Author and climate activist Bill McKibben also expressed concern about CEPP potentially being cut out.

"This is high on the list of most consequential actions ever taken by an individual senator," McKibben tweeted. "You'll be able to see the impact of this vain man in the geologic record."

CNN reported on the development Saturday, citing three congressional sources:

"[Manchin] is not there on the CEPP period. We've been trying," one Democratic aide with knowledge of the negotiations told CNN. The aide told CNN that Democrats are trying to find ways to restructure the program to fit Manchin's concerns while still reducing greenhouse gas emissions."
"Whatever comes through will not be called the CEPP, but we're strongly hoping and thinking there will be ways to meet what he wants," the aide said, adding, "If there's a deal to be struck in the next few days, I don't think there's anything resembling CEPP in there."
The New York Times first reported the measure would likely be cut.

Reporting out Saturday by the Washington Post, meanwhile, suggests CEPP could remain but be weakened.

According to the Post:

One of the ideas under consideration would establish a scaled-back, voluntary emissions trading system among aluminum, steel, concrete and chemicals manufacturers that would provide federal funding to help companies curb pollution, according to two people close to the negotiations.

In a statement Saturday in response to the Times' report, the Sierra Club stressed a need to keep CEPP intact—and for the Biden administration to commit to further actions to slash emissions as well, including ending all fossil fuel subsidies.

"Ultimately," the environmental group said, "any final deal must meet the climate test of cutting climate pollution in half by 2030. Right now, that means including the CEPP, and that is why environmental advocates have fought for it as an important priority alongside the clean energy tax incentives and so many of the other policies and climate investments that are in this bill."

"If the CEPP were to be abandoned," the group said, "President Biden and congressional Democrats must deliver bold NEW investments in other climate priorities to close the emissions gap and meet the president's international climate goals in the coming days and weeks as the U.N climate negotiations near."

Joe Manchin fumes after Bernie Sanders op-wd in West Virginia paper calls out obstruction of Biden agenda

Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia lashed out Friday after a major newspaper in his home state published an op-ed by Sen. Bernie Sanders that called out Manchin's obstruction of his own party's Build Back Better reconciliation package.

"Congress should proceed with caution on any additional spending and I will not vote for a reckless expansion of government programs," Manchin said in a statement shared on social media.

"No op-ed from a self-declared Independent socialist is going to change that," he added.

At issue is an op-ed by Vermont Sen. Sanders—an Independent who caucuses with the Democrats—published in the Charleston Gazette-Mail in which he calls the proposed reconciliation bill "an unprecedented effort to finally address the long-neglected crises facing working families and demand that the wealthiest people and largest corporations in the country start paying their fair share of taxes."

Sanders details how the proposal would take action to tackle the climate emergency and make sweeping investments in Americans' wellbeing including through lowering prescription drug prices, expanding Medicare, continuing cash payments to working class parents, and making community college tuition-free.

"Poll after poll shows overwhelming support for this legislation," wrote Sanders. "Yet," he continued, "the political problem we face is that in a 50-50 Senate we need every Democratic senator to vote 'yes.' We now have only 48. Two Democratic senators remain in opposition, including Sen. Joe Manchin." The other is Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

"This is a pivotal moment in modern American history," Sanders continued. "We now have a historic opportunity to support the working families of West Virginia, Vermont, and the entire country and create policy which works for all, not just the few."

The op-ed was published the same day the New York Times and CNN reported that Manchin's opposition to the Clean Electricity Performance Program—dubbed "the most impactful climate investment under consideration in Congress"—would likely mean it's left out of the budget package.

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