U.S. Jus­tice De­part­ment Comes Out Swing­ing in Cli­mate Change Law­suit and More

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If some­one de­lib­er­ately causes harm to another per­son they should be held ac­count­able, right?

What if the harm is to an en­tire planet and threat­ens all life on Earth, shouldn't those re­spon­si­ble still be held ac­count­able? Not in Trum­p­land.

On April 8, 2016, U.S. Fed­eral Judge Cof­fin ruled that a class ac­tion law­suit filed by a group of 21 plain­tiffs with ages from 8 to 19 could pro­ceed. That law­suit, filed against the U.S. Gov­ern­ment and co-de­fen­dants rep­re­sent­ing the Oil and Gas In­dus­try and U.S. Man­u­fac­tur­ing, al­leges those be­ing sued are to­gether re­spon­si­ble for long-term dam­age to global cli­mate, and that they knew they were caus­ing such harm all along.

The law­suit, con­sid­ered a land­mark in that it was for the first time us­ing chil­dren – the ones who would have to live with the legacy left by those who caused cli­mate change – as a class with the req­ui­site stand­ing to take on Big Oil. Af­ter the April 8th de­ci­sion, it was even ac­tively be­ing stud­ied as a po­ten­tial in­ter­na­tional model to drive man­dated cli­mate change ac­tions via the courts.

A later de­ci­sion by sep­a­rate Fed­eral Judge Ann Aiken blocked a fur­ther at­tempt to dis­miss the case. In her rul­ing, she said the plain­tiffs in the case jus­ti­fi­ably wanted the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to “cease their per­mit­ting, au­tho­riz­ing, and sub­si­diz­ing of fos­sil fu­els and, in­stead, move to swiftly phase out CO2 emis­sions.”

That of course was then. This is a brand-new year.

The new U.S. Pres­i­dent and his col­leagues at the ‘new and im­proved’ U.S. Jus­tice De­part­ment just or­dered a ‘shot across the bow’ at the Fed­eral Court to ask for an im­me­di­ate stay in that trial.

That move si­mul­ta­ne­ously asked to ap­peal Aiken’s rul­ing and to re­quest a de­lay in the trial un­til their ap­peal is heard.

Be­hind the move is the new ad­min­is­tra­tion’s firm be­lief that cur­rent CO2 emis­sions stan­dards are need­less harsh in their im­pact on mod­ern plant de­sign and au­to­mo­tive emis­sions, among other things.

A sec­ond foun­da­tion for the cur­rent le­gal move is the new ad­min­is­tra­tion’s be­lief that CO2 emis­sions and the hu­man be­ings who al­lowed those emis­sions to rise are not to blame for global warm­ing. As the Cab­i­net Mem­ber most re­spon­si­ble for set­ting pol­icy in this area, the new EPA head, Scott Pruitt, is al­ready mak­ing his own po­si­tions in this area clear. As he said in a March 9 in­ter­view on the busi­ness tele­vi­sion net­work CNBC on its “Squawk Box” pro­gram, in re­sponse to the ques­tion: “Do you be­lieve CO2 is the pri­mary ‘con­trol knob’ for cli­mate?” an­swered with the fol­low­ing:

“I think that mea­sur­ing with pre­ci­sion hu­man ac­tiv­ity on the cli­mate is some­thing very chal­leng­ing to do and there’s tremen­dous dis­agree­ment about the de­gree of im­pact. So no, I would not agree that it’s a pri­mary con­trib­u­tor to the global warm­ing that we see.” He went on: “But we don’t know that yet… We need to con­tinue the de­bate and con­tinue the re­view and the anal­y­sis.”

So ac­cord­ing to Pruitt, the ad­min­is­tra­tor who will be re­spon­si­ble for han­dling changes in en­vi­ron­men­tal pol­icy over the next four years (as a min­i­mum), there is ‘tremen­dous dis­agree­ment’ about this whole CO2 thing and its role in rapidly in­creas­ing the tem­per­a­tures on the planet.

Since the in­ter­view, many have pointed out to Mr. Pruitt that not only do the ma­jor­ity of sci­en­tists who have looked into this ac­tu­ally con­cur on that CO2 emis­sions as a re­sult of hu­man ac­tiv­ity are the ma­jor con­trib­u­tor to cli­mate change im­pacts, his own agency seems to dis­agree with his po­si­tion as well as well.

As noted on the ac­tual EPA web­site as of this mo­ment, it says in its sec­tion on “Causes of Cli­mate Change” that:

“Car­bon diox­ide is the pri­mary green­house gas that is con­tribut­ing to re­cent cli­mate change. CO is

2 ab­sorbed and emit­ted nat­u­rally as part of the car­bon cy­cle, through plant and an­i­mal re­s­pi­ra­tion, vol­canic erup­tions, and ocean-at­mos­phere ex­change. Hu­man ac­tiv­i­ties, such as the burn­ing of fos­sil fu­els and changes in land use, re­lease large amounts of CO ,

2 caus­ing con­cen­tra­tions in the at­mos­phere to rise.

“At­mo­spheric CO con­cen­tra­tions have in­creased

2 by more than 40% since pre-in­dus­trial times, from ap­prox­i­mately 280 parts per mil­lion by vol­ume (ppmv) in the 18th cen­tury to over 400 ppmv in 2015. The monthly av­er­age con­cen­tra­tion at Mauna Loa now ex­ceeds 400 ppm for the first time in hu­man his­tory. The cur­rent CO level is higher than it

2 has been in at least 800,000 years.”

The web­site goes on to de­scribe just how big the prob­lem is in yet another quote, say­ing that:

“Hu­man ac­tiv­i­ties cur­rently re­lease over 30 bil­lion tons of CO2 into the at­mos­phere ev­ery year. The re­sul­tant build-up of CO2 in the at­mos­phere is like a tub fill­ing with wa­ter, where more wa­ter flows from the faucet than the drain can take away”.

All of which means that we as a hu­man species are lit­er­ally drown­ing our­selves in CO2, which in turn is par­tially re­spon­si­ble for cre­at­ing a mas­sive global warm­ing ef­fect on the planet.

Of course EPA ad­min­is­tra­tor Pruitt will likely sug­gest some changes to this in the very near fu­ture, so as to bet­ter re­flect in­dus­try pro­pa­ganda. So those in­ter­ested in learn­ing more in what many see as a thought­ful, balanced, and well-pre­sented ex­pla­na­tion about how se­ri­ous car­bon diox­ide emis­sions are – may want to take a look now rather than wait un­til later.

Be­sides what Scott Pruitt will do at the EPA to change the mes­sag­ing about global warm­ing and roll­back past CO2 emis­sions con­trol pol­icy, his agency is also ex­pected to work hand-in-hand with the Repub­li­can lead­er­ship in the U.S. Congress to ease up on the ac­tual laws about emis­sions stan­dards in the coun­try.

The White House has also taken ac­tion on all this al­ready by cre­at­ing a first-draft bud­get that would, if im­ple­mented, re­move hun­dreds of mil­lions of re­search dol­lars out of the EPA and other agen­cies fo­cus­ing on track­ing, pre­dict­ing, and rec­om­mend­ing what to do about green­house gas emis­sions and their causes.

Specif­i­cally, the bud­get would cut:

About half of the EPA’S cur­rent sci­ence fund­ing for the agency’s Air, Cli­mate and En­ergy Re­search pro­gram

An es­ti­mated 17% of the re­search fund­ing at the Na­tional Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion that sup­ports cli­mate re­search and the many satel­lite pro­grams in place to mon­i­tor tem­per­a­ture change and green­house gas emis­sions. Th­ese pro­grams were con­sid­ered crit­i­cal in set­ting the poli­cies the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion had taken on spe­cific fos­sil fuel prospect­ing and us­age.

In ad­di­tion to this, the Trump Ad­min­is­tra­tion has also made clear its in­tent to re­work some of the past ex­cel­lent work by the Na­tional Aero­nau­tics and Space Ad­min­is­tra­tion (NASA) in this area. NASA cur­rently has satel­lite and cli­mate sci­en­tists ded­i­cated on a ma­jor scale to mon­i­tor­ing cli­mate change ef­fects and green­house gas emis­sions as well. Specif­i­cally, NASA pro­grams co­or­di­nat­ing the launch of satel­lites that mon­i­tor changes in sea level, car­bon lev­els and air tem­per­a­tures, much of which are cur­rently used to jus­tify the tight­en­ing of emis­sions stan­dards, are all on the chop­ping block, ac­cord­ing to those who have seen the draft bud­gets.

Se­na­tor Ted Cruz and Rep­re­sen­ta­tive La­mar Smith, both Texas Repub­li­cans and both chairs of con­gres­sional pan­els that over­see the space pro­gram, have rec­om­mended that NASA now trans­fer all of its ‘earth sci­ence’ ac­tiv­i­ties to other agen­cies so it can in­stead fo­cus on deep space ex­plo­ration in­stead of some­thing use­ful.

One ‘pos­i­tive’ thing one can say about the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion’s po­si­tions on cli­mate change is that they are at least well-or­ches­trated across the var­i­ous agen­cies in­volved, from the Jus­tice De­part­ment fil­ings to the EPA and even crit­i­cal NASA sup­port of all this. There is no dif­fer­ence of opin­ion within the agency.

And ra­bid right-wing Bre­it­bart News, the for­mer home where cur­rent Chief Strate­gist of the White House Stephen K. Ban­non used to hold the po­si­tion of Ex­ec­u­tive Chair, also has the mes­sage well in sync.

In an ar­ti­cle pub­lished March 11 on Bre­it­bart’s web­site, they make th­ese state­ments prais­ing Scott Pruitt in his state­ments on CO2 emis­sions shortly af­ter the CNBC in­ter­view that raised all the fuss on March 8:

“Two pieces of ex­cel­lent news from the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency (EPA)...

“First, [Scott Pruitt] has come clean and said what he should have ‘fessed up to a while back: he doesn’t be­lieve in the Car­bon Fairy.”

And “...the Sec­ond piece of good News is that the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency has just lost its head of En­vi­ron­men­tal Jus­tice”.

Mr. Mustafa Ali, the past head of the En­vi­ron­men­tal Jus­tice De­part­ment within the EPA, re­signed af­ter look­ing at a pro­posed bud­get cut of $2 bil­lion from its de­part­ment – and con­sid­er­ing what it all meant.

For most, how­ever, the lack of sci­en­tific in­tegrity on be­half of the Trump regime when it comes to cli­mate change is def­i­nitely not “ex­cel­lent news” – and spells dis­as­ter for the U.S. and the world with re­spect to fu­ture dam­age to the en­vi­ron­ment as new rules and laws are put in place.

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