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Florida’s Existential Choice For 2016 — Renewables and Climate Responses or Death by Fossil Fuels

People living in the state of Florida have a big problem — their homeland, as it is today, cannot exist for very long if we double down on fossil fuel burning as Donald Trump has proposed. And this situation, in turn, creates a big problem for Trump — he can’t win the 2016 election without Florida’s support. Trump’s vicious combination of climate change denial, anti-renewables policy stances, and attacks on immigrants whose family members may also be displaced by climate change have considerably damaged his chances of capturing the state’s 29 electoral votes. He’s now in a situation where he’s basically reliant on smoke screens and misinformation to convince the voters of Florida to commit what amounts to an electoral suicide.

us-coal-production

(U.S. coal production has been falling since Obama’s election in 2008. As a result, US carbon emissions have plateaued. The kinds of renewable energy that the American people want can continue to generate reductions in greenhouse gasses flooding the environment and give the people living in Florida a fighting chance. But that won’t happen if we elect Donald Trump as President. Image source: Vox and The Energy Information Administration.)

Trump’s Dirty Energy Pledges Would Mean Certain Devastation For Florida

About a week ago, Trump pledged to, in effect, zero out all spending on renewable energy and climate change related science while pushing hard for an expansion of coal, oil, and gas burning if he is elected. Meanwhile, Trump’s energy team is little more than a covey of climate change deniers hand picked directly from the fossil fuel industry. Trump has pledged to kill the EPA, to roll back Obama’s Clean Power Plan, and to drop out of U.S. emissions reductions pledges to the Paris Climate Summit (COP 21).

If you were looking for an example of a perfect storm of the absolute worst climate change and renewable energy related policies, policies that were guaranteed to put the world back on a track toward a devastating business as usual carbon emission — then Trump fits the bill. And to large parts of Florida, Trump’s policy pledges are starting to look a lot like a promise to inflict climate Armageddon on the low-lying state.

(This year, surface melt was observed for the first time in East Antarctica. This new observation points to increased risk of glacial melt from a region that is capable of dramatically raising global sea levels. The people living in low-lying Florida are becoming more and more concerned. And they should be. Video source: Climate State.)

Miami-Dade County sits on the front lines of this rising climate crisis. Already, the city has pledged 400 million dollars to raise streets and upgrade the city’s drainage system. Why? The oceans in Miami have now risen to the point that tides frequently disrupt transportation, flood neighborhoods, and swamp businesses. These upgrades may buy Miami a decade or two or three. But there’s absolutely no way Miami can survive for any longer than this if Trump commits to his policy choices as-is. Even the rosiest rational predictions for sea level rise by the end of this Century put Miami mostly under water well before the year 2100 under the kinds of emission scenarios that a Trump Presidency would commit us to.

Further up the coast, Jacksonville is still reeling from damages inflicted by Hurricane Matthew — a storm made worse both by the record hot Atlantic Ocean and by the added effect sea level rise had on the height of its wind-driven surge of flooding water. Like Miami, Jacksonville is starting to feel the effects of sea level rise. And its likelihood for continued existence this Century would be quite low if Trump’s fossil fuel burning policies were enacted. The story is much the same for pretty much all of Florida’s coastal cities as well as the southern tip of Florida stretching on north to the Everglades. Sea level rise is an existential threat to these regions now. One that will be made far worse if we continue to burn the fossil fuels that Trump is committed to.

Trump Seeks to Kill Renewables While Amendment 1 Attempts to Stymie Solar

Even as Trump is moving to crush renewable energy progress and responses to climate change at the federal level, hurting Florida’s chances of facing down climate threats, the fossil fuel industry and a number of aligned utilities are attempting to stymie solar energy development across the state. Like much of America, residents within Florida are attracted by renewable energy. In fact, a recent poll showed that four out of five voters supported increasing levels of renewable energy development. Home and business owners alike want access to new, clean, independent energy choices. People rightly concerned about the impacts of climate change want more clean energy.

clean-energy-costs

(As the effects of climate change worsened, clean energy costs have been falling. Now costs are so low that financial benefits to individual energy users abound. Fossil fuel industry is acting in increasingly aggressive ways to stifle access by using laws to prevent people from using clean energy sources. Trump is fighting to help these corporations prevent you and your family members from taking advantage of the multiple benefits clean energy provides. Image source: The Whitehouse.)

Since renewable energy is so popular among voters, and even among republicans, fossil fuel special interests often resort to deceptive tactics in order to keep people captive to harmful energy consumption. And this election, utilities have attempted to protect their monopoly power interests by forcing anti-solar Amendment 1 on the state. Amendment 1 aims to open a loop-hole for utilities to charge independent renewable power generators exorbitant fees and to suppress the rate of solar adoption in the state. Amendment 1’s language has been called deceitful by the Union of Concerned Scientists. It’s a proposal that has been put forward by a collection of fossil fuel special interests including Exxon Mobile, Duke Power, The Koch Brothers, Florida Power and Light and others. And if the Amendment passes, it will help to lock Florida in a fossil fueled climate change nightmare. One that is, even now, starting to nibble away at the vital cities that enable the state to function.

Yuge Wave of Climate/Renewable Energy Voters?

With both the future existence of Florida’s cities and access to renewable energy under threat, voters in Florida are turning out like never before. Nationalized Hispanic and Caribbean immigrants whose families may also be forced to seek refuge in the U.S. due to climate change are voting in droves. And the people of the increasingly swamped Miami Dade County are flooding the polls. There, fully 55 percent of registered voters had cast a ballot before election day.

The record turnout in places like Miami-Dade helped bouy the Florida early vote to 6.4 million — more than the total post election day count for the year 2000. This large turnout has come as registered democratic voters lead republicans by 92,000 coming into election day. But first and second generation citizens may well be generating even more of a democratic edge. According to Vice, 86.9 percent more Latinos voted early than during 2012. And a good portion of that 455,000 total are registered as independents and even republicans. Meanwhile, there is some indication that well less than 90 percent of republicans are voting for Trump.

While Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric may have helped to generate some of this shift, it is likely that rising climate and energy concerns are also affecting the Florida vote. A poll from earlier this year found that concerns about climate change from Florida residents was on the rise. Fully 81.3 percent of Florida peninsular residents expressed moderate to serious concern about climate change as an issue. And though debate moderators and their mainstream media sponsors failed to raise the critical issues of climate change and renewable energy in the televised match-ups between Clinton and Trump, Clinton frequently harangued Trump for his noted extreme degree of climate change denial. Furthermore, Trump’s own statements and policy choices have produced enough ripples in the media to generate a general understanding that Trump is fighting against popular advances in renewable energy while stifling responses to climate change in a state where people are becoming increasingly aware that they’re under the gun. Together, these underlying political forces are likely to sap voters away from Trump in a state he must win to secure the 2016 election.

Let’s hope that happens. The future of Florida and so many other important things hangs in the balance.

Links:

Vox

The Energy Information Administration

Trump to Zero Out Clean Energy Funding

Climate State

U.S. Voters Want Renewable Energy

The Whitehouse

Four Reasons to Vote No on Anti-Solar Amendment 1

Florida Early Vote Beats Entire 2000 Turnout

Floridians are More Concerned About Climate Change

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Election 2016: A Portrait of America Under Siege

“Donald Trump is an ignorant man, a vulgar man, a man who reminds me of Adolph Hitler and Josef Stalin in his arrogance and thirst for power.” — Bernie Sanders

A Bizarro Reality

To look at Donald Trump’s version of what makes America great is to take a retrograde step through a rip in space-time and enter a fake populist bizarro land. To venture into an alternate dimension where a once-mighty and enlightened nation was strong-armed into taking the downward-sloping path into crisis and collapse. And like the bizarro land of the Superman mythos, this alternate reality is trying to inflict itself on the real world. It will succeed if we let it.

Trump’s a man who’s angrily proud of the fact that he does not pay taxes to support the safety, security and prosperity of the nation he seeks to lead. He’s a billionaire pandering to white workers’ fears of economic disenfranchisement while fighting to cut the very social and economic supports that these voters often rely on. A red-faced fear-monger blaming innocent immigrants and African Americans for economic woes his party — the republicans — engineered through forty years of trickle down economics. Policies that party is seeking to enforce through an unjust suppression of voters in places like North Carolina and Florida.

trumpdystopia

(A portrait of America under siege. What would America under Trump look like? This smokestack shanty town under darkening skies and surrounded by walls topped with barbed wire fences sitting in the shadow of gilded corporate towers just about says it all. Image source: What Would Jack Do?)

Donald Trump has often sought the populist mantle Bernie Sanders rightly bears. But Trump, Sanders says, “is an ignorant man, a vulgar man, a man who reminds me of Adolph Hitler and Josef Stalin in his arrogance and thirst for power.” And as Bernie Sanders goes to bat on the campaign trail for Clinton, pledging to make Trump —  “start paying his fair share in taxes,” the rage-filled corporate mogul tars the career public servant Hillary Clinton, attempting to smear her with the same Wall Street trappings Trump of Trump Towers ignominy has worn since the day of his birth. In other words, it’s one thing to take campaign donations from Wall Street, but another thing entirely to live, eat, and breathe the Wall Street mantra. To support, as Trump has throughout his life, the same harmful tax cut, deregulation, and anti-minimum wage policies that created the problem of Wall Street vs Main Street in the first place.

Entering the Dystopian Upside Down World of Donald Trump

To live in Trump’s reality is to live in an America under a strange kind of upside down siege. If the real economic problem in America is income inequality — then Trump promotes more of it. If the real threats to America’s foreign policy endeavors are increasing isolation and alienation of our allies — Trump seeks to build a wall. If dictators imperil our country or disrupt our elections, then Trump praises them. And if the very real climate change spurred threats such as coastal inundation facing cities like Miami, Norfolk, and Elizabeth City and drought losses threatening the water supply of the Colorado River states are ever-worsening, Trump seeks to burn more coal, oil and gas, attacks renewables, and denies that climate change is actually happening.

(As bad as the effects of climate change currently are today, Donald Trump’s combination of anti-science, anti-renewables, and pro fossil fuels policy will result in a reversal of critical climate change mitigation at exactly the time when they are needed most. Leonardo Di Caprio makes an impassioned appeal for us to do our part and vote for politicians that support responsible climate change policies and against those like Trump who hurt pretty much everyone by pandering to harmful fossil fuel special interests.)

If abuses by the powerful have created harm in America and abroad, Trump talks up abusive strong-men like Russia’s Vladimir Putin. And Putin, for his own part, appears to have done everything he can to help Wikileaks hack Hillary Clinton’s emails or even post fake versions of emails to further misinform the American electorate.

Trump makes fun of dying polar bears, pretends Obama has no birth certificate, mocks reporters with physical disabilities, panders to white supremacists, and has turned himself into a wretched caricature of misogyny. There’s not a victimizable person, animal, or class he doesn’t appear willing to take advantage of.  Bully may describe him, but it doesn’t fully contain his apparent rage-filled ardor for exploitation, for wrecking lives, for running rough-shod over people or things he has labeled ‘loser.’

Praying to America’s Darker Angels

Trump seems to believe that we can transport ourselves back to a mythological past when America was greater than it is today. To promote the illusion that we are, somehow, not far better off now than we were at a time when African Americans were held as slaves, or suffered under the abuses of Jim Crow, when scientists were persecuted, when there were no labor laws preventing the exploitation of children or protecting workers’ rights to fair pay and treatment, when women had no right to vote, when the abuses of state-supported corporate exploitation by such entities as the East India Trade company led to the real Boston Tea Party and wholesale continental revolt, and when a policy of systemic genocide was enacted against the natives who lived on American soil for thousands of years before the colonists came.

What Trump’s lack-vision fails to see is that America’s aspirations for greatness led her out of a very dark time scarred by these ills and into the far more enlightened age of today. An age that is now under threat by the retrograde narratives and policies promoted by people like Trump who seem to push ever on toward a return to the old dark days of injustice and oppression. And this mindset, the abusive and revisionist view of history, is something we must reject if we are to have much hope of navigating the very serious troubles that are coming in this age global climate change and increasing dislocation. We must embrace new ways of doing things. We must turn to new leaders. We must reject the political violence of an old, angry white man, and the system of dominance and harm that he promotes.

A Necessary Endorsement of One of Our Nation’s Strongest Women

This is my endorsement for Hillary Clinton. A woman whom I admire for her strength, her tenacity, and her clarity of purpose. I may not agree with every policy she stands for or admire every aspect of her life. Like the rest of us, she is human and imperfect. But she is a true American who has served her country with honor. A lady who supports our America not just with her words, but both through paying a fair share of her substantial earnings and through her considerable life’s work. A leader I can stand behind. Someone who has already done many great things for this nation and who I believe, with the help of people like Bernie Sanders, is capable of so much more. In a day when we face off against so many abuses both at home and abroad, I think America would benefit from the steady hand of this strong woman — who has the potential to be a truly historical figure and to lead our nation out of a sea of troubles.

Donald Trump represents the worst sins the old world, but if we give Hillary the right kind of support, she can stand for the better virtues of tomorrow and serve the vision of an age that confronts its problems rather than spiraling ever deeper into self-destructive denial, anger, and isolation. That’s what this election means to me — risking an almost assured disaster by electing Trump or creating a very real possibility for reducing and escaping present harms if we elect Clinton. The choice, for me, couldn’t be clearer.

hillary-stormborn

(Throughout his campaign, Trump has impuned the dignity of women, calling them nasty and bragging about objectifying them. As a strong woman, Hillary is exactly the kind of person who should face down Trump’s misogyny. Image source: House of Clinton. )

So I urge you to lift your voices in this election. To be heard and to make your power and capacity to promote justice known. I ask you to stand strong against the intimidation, against the pervasive misinformation coming from those who would inflict so much harm. You are capable. We are capable. We can do this. We can release America from the siege that a fake Tea Party promoted by corporate interests and that people like Trump have placed her under. And we can make a strike against the underlying systemic mysogyny of our nation by electing our first female President of this United States of America.

I have listened to your voices and I know that you are strong. So be heard! It is time for the real America to shine through.

“Injurious to the American People” — Republicans to Receive a Well-Deserved Drubbing Over Decades of Climate Change Denial in 2016 Election

Back in 2013, Donald Trump had a bit of a hissy fit. The problem? In his mind, the planned construction of majestic wind turbines off the coast of Scotland would mess up the view from his newly built golf course. So Trump, in typical bellicose Trump fashion, went to war against an elegant and beneficial energy source:

Donald Trump isn’t happy. So, as usual, he’s making a big fuss.

The trouble this time? Not Barack Obama’s birth certificate. No. It’s windmills. In this case eleven wind turbine generators slated to be built in the ocean near a new golf course Trump constructed in Scotland.

The wind mills will provide power for a much as half of local residents and cost only about 400 million dollars. Trump’s golf course will cost 1.2 billion and suck up a goodly portion of its own energy while giving nothing back. One project produces a luxury that many residents of the Scotland coast will be unable to enjoy. Another produces renewable, zero GHG emission power that benefits everyone in the region and has much larger benefits around the globe.

Yet Donald Trump’s hoity-toity 1.2 billion golf course is too good for those helpful turbines. Trump, invoking the royal ‘we,’ says “We will spend whatever monies are necessary to see to it that these huge and unsightly industrial wind turbines are never constructed.”

In the end, Donald Trump engaged in a two-year legal battle to stop these wind turbines. A battle that he ultimately lost. But not only did he lose his fight to kill the turbines — he earned himself the disdain of the Scots and many Britons as well. A Scottish leader dubbed Trump ‘three times a loser.’ And hundreds of thousands of Britons signed a petition to have him banned from coming to the UK.

Turbines in the Gloaming

(Wind turbines in the gloaming. Which would you rather have — these gossamer beauties or another golf course for 1 percenters? Image source: Emaze.)

Trump’s self-destructive tilting at wind turbines would be comical — if this kind of socially and environmentally damaging behavior were not endemic to a vast majority of currently-elected republicans. And, in fact, this episode of Trump’s blindness to public sentiment, self-important ranting, and unfounded ideological attacks on a helpful energy source could well be seen as microcosm to the responses of the republican party to the threat posed by human-caused climate change and to its potential mitigations over at least the past three decades.

Who, after all, was the party of drill, baby, drill, fight to defend coal, attack the EPA, dismantle the Clean Water Act, kill the Clean Air Act? Who was it that fought practically every government support for wind, solar, and electric vehicles? Who was it that attacked every international climate agreement even before the signature ink was drying? Who endlessly harangued the IPCC? Who, again and again, attempted to de-fund NASA and NOAA climate science research initiatives? Who stymied a carbon tax, a gas tax, or any other incentive policy that would help people move away from carbon-based energy sources? Who brought snowballs into the Senate as ‘evidence’ that climate change was a ‘fraud,’ despite more objective proofs for human-caused global warming than for the theory of gravity itself?

Global warming since 1850

(Global heat spiral shows planetary warming since 1850. Once you realize that high levels of climate danger are reached at the 1.5 C and 2 C threshold, this graph really hits you like a sucker punch. But, in order to protect their fossil fuel allies from a much needed energy switch, many republicans are willing to pretend a rapid spiral toward more and worse climate disasters isn’t happening. In other words, they’re willing to put the lives and livelihoods of American citizens at risk for the sake of a single, destructive industry. Image source: Ed Hawkins.)

Who fought Obama’s Clean Power Plan? And who, when their legislative roadblocks failed, drummed up 27 fossil-fuel aligned governors to mount a legal challenge for the plan in the US Supreme Court? If there was ever a party that turned support of fossil fuels and denial of climate change into a brand name, then it was republicans.

And this year appears to be an opportunity for republicans to be paid back in full for their bad climate actions by an increasingly informed and concerned electorate. For according to a report today in the Washington Post, fully 64 percent of Americans are worried either a ‘great deal’ or a ‘fair amount’ about climate change — a number that includes 40 percent of self-identified republican voters. In addition, the cited Gallup poll also found that 65 percent of Americans now believe that climate change is human-caused. That’s still not in line with 97 to 98 percent of scientists — but it’s more than enough to influence an election.

And Hillary Clinton, the current democratic front-runner, appears to be homing in on an issue that may well prove to be the weak underbelly of the republican party this year. Chris Mooney, in the Washington Post today found that:

“The Clinton campaign sees polling showing profound political vulnerability on climate for the Republicans generally and Trump specifically, so the Clinton camp intends to push climate themes aggressively, ” adds Paul Bledsoe, who worked on climate issues in the former Clinton White House and is now an independent energy consultant. “They see GOP climate denial fitting into a larger narrative of Trump and the Republicans being willing to deny factual information injurious to the American public just because it doesn’t fit into Tea Party ideology.  That will be a meta-theme of the campaign, and climate fits into it.”

Clinton earlier today announced her overall climate strategy should she be elected. One that included hopes for a carbon tax, but that looked to pragmatically work with Congress over renewable energy funding initiatives. One that continued to build on initiatives already set in place by Obama. Clinton also hinted that she’d treat climate change as a national and international security issue — setting up a climate situation map in the White House. And though Clinton may not be quite as climate-hawkish as the outspoken and passionate Bernie Sanders (which is one of many reasons why I still hope Bernie wins, but it’s looking increasingly like a long-shot), she is certainly a far cry from the wind-killing Trump or any other potential republican candidate (Ted Cruz or Paul Ryan) for that matter.

Plummeting Price of Solar Energy

(With the price of solar cells falling by more than 99 percent since the 1970s, both wind and solar energy are now competitive with coal and gas. In addition, National Renewable Energy Lab figures indicate that over a 30 year lifespan solar energy system averaged a very strong Energy Return on Energy Invested of between 8 and 18 in most cases and as high as 30 in the highest efficiency, lowest material use modules — competitive with both wind and fossil fuels. On the back of these strong economics, solar has caught up with wind and together the two represented 2/3 of installed new power generation in 2015. Clinton’s stated policies would leverage the strengths of renewable energy systems to help mitigate the harmful effects of climate change. Image source: Commons.)

Trump, for his own part, has stated “I am not a big believer in man-made climate change.” So no climate change response plan. No situation room like Clinton’s. He has pledged to do away with all of Obama’s executive orders (including the Clean Power Plan). And he has pledged to de-fund the EPA (thereby removing the EPA’s ability to regulate carbon emissions). Trump has also pledged to reinvigorate the dirty coal industry and to double down on fracking. In other words, true to his wind-killing history in Scotland, Trump would be a nightmare candidate during a time in which the worst effects of climate change are now starting to ramp up.

If Trump and Clinton become the nominees and Clinton decides to use republicans’ vulnerability to the issue of climate change to the fullest, it’s possible that not only would Trump suffer, but so would many other republicans down-ticket. Republican voters from a growing number of regions (like the key battleground state of Florida — which is at risk of having its southern 1/6th rapidly flooded out by sea level rise) are facing increasingly obvious harms as a result of fossil fuel related warming. So there’s a clear vulnerability here if the climate change message is communicated correctly. And if this is the case — if the Senate returns to Democratic hands and if those concerned about climate change get a shot at the House — then we may not just have to settle for clean energy incentives. We could have a decent shot at a carbon tax.

And to this point — for any republican out there in the woods who is listening — even former Ronald Reagan Secretary of State George Shultz (back from the days when republicans were just a little bit wiser and even-handed than they are today) supports a carbon tax:

“I have long advocated a revenue-neutral carbon tax,” Shultz said. “It’s just there to level the playing field. Because you want sources of energy to compete equally and to bear the costs of what they produce.”

But Shultz comes from an era when respectable republicans didn’t do silly things like go tilting at solar panels and wind turbines.

Links:

Donald Trump’s Money Would be Better Spent Building Wind Farms

The 97 Percent Consensus

He’ll Take the Low Road — Trump’s Tortured History With Scotland

Trump — I’m Still a Birther

Emaze

Ed Hawkins

National Renewable Energy Lab Calls Claims of EROEI Constraints on Solar a Myth

The Growth of Photovoltaics

Hat Tip to Colorado Bob

Hat Tip to TodaysGuestIs

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