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It's just a baby

Happy first birthday, U.S. Climate Action Plan!

climate action's first birthday
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Anthropogenic climate change is as old as a tortoise -- it's been more than a century since our fossil-fuel pollution started raising temperatures and melting snow and ice. Global action to temper climate change is considerably younger. It hasn't been a quarter of a century since the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change was launched to help thrash out global climate treaties.

And here in the U.S., climate action is little more than a disoriented baby. It has been exactly one year since President Barack Obama unveiled his Climate Action Plan, circumventing Congress and setting 75 goals for reducing carbon pollution, bracing for the impacts of climate change, and leading international climate efforts.

Since then, as the administration notes in a progress report, it has proposed carbon pollution rules for new and existing power plants, ramped up efforts to use federal land for renewable energy projects, leased out federal waters for a planned wind farm, published an overdue National Climate Assessment, embarked on an effort to reduce methane pollution, and proposed a $1 billion climate adaptation fund. Meanwhile, Obama and other Democrats and their progressive allies have begun a campaign of ridiculing Republicans on their climate-change denialism, using the issue as a wedge.

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If you think climate politics in the U.S. are crazy, wait till you see what just happened in Australia

al-gore.jpg
Center for American Progress

Hold on to your hats! Australia's already-bizarre carbon price adventures veered into the utterly surreal overnight.

Picture this: An eccentric billionaire mining baron, most famous outside Australia for commissioning a replica of the Titanic, appearing alongside the world's most recognizable climate campaigner and former U.S. vice president, Al Gore, to announce Australia's relatively new carbon tax will be scrapped, and a new emissions trading scheme proposed, effectively screwing over the sitting conservative prime minister, Tony Abbott, who is hell-bent on getting rid of carbon legislation altogether.

It's a big blow to a prime minister who said recently in Canada that he has "always been against" an emissions trading scheme, and believes fighting climate change will "clobber the economy."

For watchers of Aussie politics, it was a visual feast of weirdness. For U.S. readers, imagine -- I don't know -- industrialist Charles Koch jumping on stage with writer and activist Bill McKibben and you're getting close.

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Why the Voting Rights Act and Freedom Summer matter in the climate justice struggle

voting rights activists with signs
SEIU / David Sachs

Today marks one year since the U.S. Supreme Court effectively gutted the historic Voting Rights Act of one of its signature civil rights protections. The reverb from the Shelby County v. Holder decision was felt so widely that it brought environmentalists, labor groups, and LGBTQ advocates together under a pledge to help civil rights groups on the voting rights front. And it activated the Democracy Initiative, a progressive coalition formed by the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, and the NAACP to fight for elections reform.

What does the Voting Rights Act have to do with climate and environment? Well, the main way for us to ensure that our governments protect us against environmental and climate catastrophe is to vote people into office who have our best environmental interests in mind. This is true from local government, where officials decide on land-use codes and waste-disposal practices, on up to the federal government, where national climate policies are made. The environmental movement needs as many voters as possible to hold governments and companies accountable for taming their pollution. It can’t do that if voters of color are vulnerable to discrimination.

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How to not lose your shirt when the climate goes bust

Michael Bloomberg, Tom Steyer, and Hank Paulson
Jim Gillooly/PEI; Helloaloe/Wikipedia; Fortune Live Media

Much of the computing power that crunches the data for the Bloomberg financial empire lives in a building on Houston and Hudson, in Manhattan. It won't be there for much longer, though. After Hurricane Sandy, having a data center three blocks from the Hudson River no longer feels like a great idea.

"I own my company," former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a press conference Tuesday morning. "I want to sleep at night. I do some things so I can do that."

Bloomberg was there -- along with Tom Steyer, Henry Paulson, and a bipartisan League of Superfriends-style "Risk Committee" of political and financial heavy hitters -- to announce a project called Risky Business. The project, summarized in a report released today, is an ambitious attempt to spell out, in plainspoken, unvarnished business talk, the threat that climate change poses to the serious work of making money.

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The Supreme Court’s latest greenhouse-gas ruling is a 97% victory for the environment

gavel coming down on power plant
Kelsey Amelia Bates

One doesn’t typically associate Justice Antonin Scalia with environmental victories, but Monday's Supreme Court decision in Utility Air Regulatory Group v. Environmental Protection Agency (“UARG”) is just that, albeit with caveats we’ll address below.

Let’s start with the good news. In a 7-2 opinion written by Scalia -- and joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Anthony Kennedy, and the court’s four progressives -- the court held that the Environmental Protection Agency may regulate the greenhouse gas emissions of any “major emitting facility” already required to receive a permit under the Clean Air Act’s Prevention of Significant Deterioration (“PSD”) program due to its emission of other air pollutants. According to EPA calculations, this reading of the statute covers roughly 83 percent of stationary sources of greenhouse gas emissions in America.

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The cities have spoken

U.S. mayors call for emergency action on climate change

emergency action needed on climate change
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America's mayors have sent an urgent message to federal lawmakers -- and to the nation: "Emergency action" is needed on climate change.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors, a bipartisan group that represents the leaders of 1,400 cities, each of which is home to at least 30,000 people, has called on the Obama administration and Congress to "enact an Emergency Climate Protection law that provides a framework and funding for the implementation ... of a comprehensive national plan" to reduce greenhouse gas pollution.

If members of Congress understood the urgency of climate change as well as the nation's mayors do, we might not be in as much of a screwed-up climate situation as we are in today.

The resolution, which was approved by delegates during four days of meetings in Dallas, expresses strong support for the EPA's draft rules on power-plant pollution. It also calls on Congress to hurry up and extend renewable energy tax credits.

Another resolution approved by the group endorses the establishment of Obama's proposed $1 billion climate-adaptation fund.

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Climate change is the next market crash, says former Treasury secretary

Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson
Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

It's not every day that a Republican finance guy -- one who remembers George W. Bush as a "terrific boss" -- writes an op-ed in The New York Times imploring the nation to set up a carbon tax. Not this year, anyway; just a few years ago, it might've been ho-hum.

Once, the carbon tax was the conservative, free-market solution to the climate problem, as opposed to the big-government, heavy-handed-regulation solution. Now that so many Republicans don't accept that there is any climate problem at all, the whole idea just looks like another evil tax to them. And when a former Treasury secretary under the GOP flag steps forward to advocate it -- to insist that we have no choice, we're crazy not to act fast and act big -- it's news.

In June of 2006, Henry Paulson left a position as CEO of Goldman Sachs to become secretary of the Treasury. At the time, Paulson reports telling President Bush and his economic team that he was fairly sure the country was headed for a financial crisis before the end of Bush's last term, based on the size of hedge funds and the lack of transparency in the over-the-counter derivative market, though he wasn't sure how specifically the collapse would happen.

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PAC mentality

Now climate hawks have their own super PAC

Climate Hawk T-shirt
T-shirt design by Joe Imman

A realization has been gradually dawning on climate change activists: Too many Democrats vote the right way on their issues but never lead on them. Yet every big legislative victory requires lawmakers who will publicly argue for an issue and aggressively push legislation.

And so activists have started launching political action committees (PACs) to identify and aid candidates who will be outspoken, active climate leaders. In California, the new state-level PAC Leadership for a Clean Economy endorsed its first two State Assembly candidates earlier this year. And now a national counterpart, Climate Hawks Vote, has gotten going as well, starting to build support for climate leaders in congressional races. (Tom Steyer's NextGen Climate Action super PAC is also aiming to influence elections, but it's mostly focused on knocking out bad actors rather than finding and supporting good ones.)

Last Thursday, the Climate Hawks super PAC announced its first endorsements: Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz (D), who is facing a primary challenge from Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, and Stanley Chang (D), a Honolulu city councilman running to replace Hanabusa in the House of Representatives. Climate Hawks has hired two field organizers in Hawaii to knock on Democratic voters’ doors and raise awareness about Schatz's and Chang’s environmental credentials. (As a super PAC, Climate Hawks can endorse candidates and run ads and "education campaigns," but it cannot donate directly to a candidate or coordinate with his or her campaign.)

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Jon Stewart explains how to make GOP senators care about climate

Screen shot 2014-06-20 at 1.32.09 PM

There's no better evidence of how much the Republican Party has changed on the environment than this: The fact that Environmental Protection Agency administrators who served under Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush all think global warming is real and we should do something about it.

On Wednesday, this quartet -- William Ruckelshaus, who served under both Nixon and Reagan; Lee Thomas, who served under Reagan; William Reilly, who served under George Bush Sr., and Christine Todd Whitman, who served under George W. Bush -- testified before a U.S. Senate subcommittee. But as the Huffington Post's Kate Sheppard reports, the Republican senators present "mostly ignored" their testimony.

The whole spectacle was enough to inspire a Jon Stewart rant, one that is truly priceless. Watch:

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What you don't know can hurt you

Pennsylvania ordered its health workers to never discuss fracking

Pennsylvania won't discuss fracking
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In the heavily fracked Keystone State, the economic interests of frackers trump the health concerns of residents.

That much is abundantly clear in the wake of an extraordinary story by StateImpact Pennsylvania, which interviewed two retired state health department workers. The former workers say they were ordered to not return the phone calls of residents who complained that nearby fracking was harming their health. Instead, they were told to pass messages on to their superiors, who apparently never returned the calls either. The health workers were also given a list of fracking-related "buzzwords" to watch out for: