“Innovation”: the latest GOP smokescreen on climate change policy

GOP smokescreen on climate change policy

The politics of climate change are shifting against the GOP. New polling shows that majorities of Republicans accept that climate change is a problem and support steps to address it. It is mainly the stubborn core of far-right conservatives, mostly older white men, that still rejects reality altogether.

It’s a crucial juncture for the party. There are two ways it could go.

The first is a good-faith search for conservative-friendly climate solutions. A handful of Republicans are taking this route, supporting a bill called the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, introduced in the House in November and (in a slightly different form) the Senate earlier this month. It would implement a $15 carbon tax, rising at $10 a year, with all the revenue returned as per-capita dividends, aiming to reduce US carbon emissions 40 percent within 10 years and 90 percent by 2050. It’s a credible, ambitious climate effort. It’s got two Republican co-sponsors in the House and one in the Senate.

(It is distinct from the similar though somewhat less ambitious proposal from the Climate Leadership Council, which is backed by several retired Republicans and the Americans for Carbon Dividends PAC.)

The problem is that most GOP funders and elected officials remain devoted to the cause of protecting fossil fuels, and protecting fossil fuels is, by definition, incommensurate with serious action on climate change.

In his latest piece, Jenkins attempts simultaneously to cling to a bunch of the denialist myths he’s peddled for years and to chide climate activists for their lack of “maturity” in not supporting nuclear power or a carbon tax — solutions to a problem he does not believe warrants attention. (Large swaths of the left support the former and there is near-universal support on the left for the latter, but never mind that.) The sole intellectual organizing principle seems to be that the left, or at least the left of Jenkins’s stale imagination, must be bad and wrong.

GOP smokescreen on climate change policy

But in other cases, there is some rhyme and reason to the bullshitting. One recent rhetorical gambit from Republicans is a retreat from “climate change is a hoax” to “we don’t know how much humans contribute,” which, as I wrote recently, is just another way of denying the science. (There is much uncertain in climate science, but human contribution is not part of it. We are definitely causing global warming.)

And when science denial becomes sufficiently untenable, the final line of defense, now as ever, is economic: Anything government does to counter climate change will just mess up the economy and cost taxpayers money. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) told CNN he believes the climate is changing, but “I’m also not going to destroy our economy.”

However, with clean energy technologies so visibly booming, coal so visibly dying, and climate change in the headlines, a purely negative message is not enough. GOP “moderates,” the ones who still want to appear on Meet the Press, need some kind of positive message.

What the Four Pins drama says about Twitter as a company

Twitter as a company

The account, best known for memes about menswear and the internet-savvy but “swagless” kids who foam at the mouth upon each announcement of a new limited-edition sneaker, has a few claims to fame: It was first to notice Jonah Hill getting “fit”; first to pay careful attention to the California streetwear evolution of early-aughts relic John Mayer; and, quite simply, the most thorough and diligent chronicler of the rise of a streetwear-obsessed subculture that was once relegated to Reddit and is now covered in Vogue.

It disappeared from Twitter for a little less than a month, starting in mid-December — seemingly out of chances to stop posting unlicensed photographs of celebrities. Then CEO Jack Dorsey, reportedly, personally brought it back. The internet rejoiced.

But you don’t have to be interested in Supreme or Simpsons reaction GIFs or even style in general to care about the @Four_Pins journey. This drama says enough about life on our capriciously run dominant platforms, before it says anything in particular about fashion. And the blip of a conflict is a reminder of how Twitter operates — by whim, and in secret — who has influence over it, and what Jack Dorsey cares about.


Complex failed to monetize the Four Pins website, but the Four Pins Twitter account was a hit all along. In December 2015, after Four Pins’ pending closure was unceremoniously revealed in the middle of a New York Times story about an internet-y Italian menswear store on the Upper East Side, Schlossman tweeted, “chill fam the twitter isn’t going anywhere it’s not like any of u literally read the site more than once lmao.”

It only got bigger after the site stopped existing, accruing hundreds of thousands of new followers in the past two years — partly because the jokes were funny, but largely because it was in the right place at the right time, and because everyone loves a chaotic, disembodied troublemaker. Oddly, although Schlossman never denied receiving a small monthly fee from Complex to keep the account running and took credit for the account in his personal Twitter bio, “Who runs Four Pins?” became its own persistent meme, as documented by Dave Infante for Mel Magazine earlier this year. It just seemed like there must be some omnipotent, mannerless menswear god behind the keyboard.

After years of decline, US carbon emissions are rising again

US carbon emissions are rising again

The Trump administration has frequently deflected responsibility for regulating greenhouse gas emissions to limit climate change by arguing that emissions are on the decline in the US anyway.

“Thanks to President Trump’s regulatory reform agenda, the economy is booming, energy production is surging, and we are reducing greenhouse gas emissions from major industrial sources,” said acting Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler in a statement last year. “The Trump Administration has proven that federal regulations are not necessary to drive CO2 reductions.”

According to new data, that’s no longer true.

The Rhodium Group on Tuesday reported that US energy-related greenhouse gas emissions rose in 2018 by 3.4 percent, the second-largest margin in 20 years, reversing a three-year decline. It’s an alarming shift, especially given that scientists recently warned that we are running out of time to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius this century.

For the third year in a row, the largest source of US greenhouse gas emissions, Rhodium reports, is the transportation sector, fueled by greater demand from industry, diesel trucks, and air travel. It’s followed by power generation, industry, and buildings.

Even though cleaner energy sources like wind and solar are expanding rapidly, it’s not enough to keep emissions overall from rising: Power sector emissions still grew by 1.9 percent last year. That increase came even though the United States retired 16 gigawatts of coal-fired power capacity and saw coal consumption dip to its lowest levels in 39 years. The reason? Energy demand still rose, and natural gas largely filled the void. Natural gas emits about half the carbon dioxide of coal, so the emissions intensity — the amount of carbon dioxide released per unit of energy — still fell.

US carbon emissions are rising again

The United States is already off course for its commitments under the Paris climate agreement to cut its greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, and now the gap is even wider. President Trump announced in 2017 his intent to withdraw the United States from the Paris agreement, which can’t happen until 2020.

The bitter truth is that cost declines in renewables, technology improvements, and market forces won’t make a meaningful dent in greenhouse gas emissions without federal policy.

And the Trump administration is running in the opposite direction, advancing policies that would increase emissions, including freezing fuel economy standards for cars and trucks, rolling back the Clean Power Plan which limits emissions for existing power plants, and relaxing carbon dioxide emissions restrictions on new coal power plants. And despite the ongoing government shutdown, the Interior Department is still advancing fossil fuel extraction, including drilling in the Arctic.

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