Apr 26, 2017 – Arsenal For Democracy Ep. 178

Posted by Bill on behalf of the team.

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Topics: Which environmental safety regulations and climate rules have Republicans attacked so far in 2017? Will climate emergency lead to climate austerity governments? People: Bill and Jonathan Produced: April 24th, 2017.

Episode 178 (55 min, incl. 5 bonus minutes):
AFD 178

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Proposed: A Constitutional Right to Safe Air and Water

In this Arsenal For Democracy mini-series, we propose new, progressive Constitutional rights. Part IV: A right to safe air and water, by Bill.

Protecting the environment is not an abstract concept about saving rainforests or polar bears, although these are important in their own way. Environmentalism is fundamentally about people. Whether or not environmental safety is maintained has a tangible, daily effect on millions of lives. Poisoned air and water is responsible for the premature deaths of tens of thousands of Americans each year. The air we breathe and the water we drink must be free from contaminants. That is an inalienable human right.

Sadly, too often, our society has allowed dangerous pollution to be released into our air and water, with enormous health consequences. Disproportionately, those impacts have fallen on low-income and minority individuals and communities. Justice for these crimes has been intermittent at best.

We need to ensure — swiftly and fairly — the elimination of pollution, meaningful and substantial compensation for those affected, and punishment for those responsible.

Environmental public safety should not be taken lightly or be treated as an afterthought corrected by an occasional minor fine. Just as we have taken seriously the public health threat from smoking, so too must we take seriously the daily public health consequences of poor regulation and poor enforcement of environmental public safety.

According to the American Lung Association, the human and financial costs to our society are clear:

Particle pollution also diminishes lung function, causes greater use of asthma medications and increased rates of school absenteeism, emergency room visits and hospital admissions. Other adverse effects can be coughing, wheezing, cardiac arrhythmias and heart attacks. According to the findings from some of the latest studies, short-term increases in particle pollution have been linked to:

– death from respiratory and cardiovascular causes, including strokes;
– increased mortality in infants and young children;
– increased numbers of heart attacks, especially among the elderly and in people with heart conditions;
– inflammation of lung tissue in young, healthy adults;
– increased hospitalization for cardiovascular disease, including strokes and congestive heart failure;
– increased emergency room visits for patients suffering from acute respiratory ailments;
– increased hospitalization for asthma among children; and
-increased severity of asthma attacks in children.

 
By contrast, taking action pays huge dividends:

– Looking at air quality in 545 counties in the U.S. between 2000 and 2007, researchers found that people had approximately four months added to their life expectancy on average due to cleaner air. Women and people who lived in urban and densely populated counties benefited the most.
– Another long-term study of six U.S. cities tracked from 1974 to 2009 added more evidence of the benefits. Their findings suggest that cleaning up particle pollution had almost immediate health benefits. They estimated that the U.S. could prevent approximately 34,000 premature deaths a year if the nation could lower annual levels of particle pollution by 1 µg/m^3

 
Our federal, state, and local governments must guarantee and secure the people’s right to a habitable world, at present and in future, via enforceable law and regulation. In doing so, particularly by transforming our energy and transportation sectors to cleaner modes, we will ensure safe and clean air and water.

Our nation’s constitution ought to enshrine this common-sense governing principle as an amendment. That might read something like this:

“Every person has the right to safe and clean air and water. Congress and the states shall make such laws as are necessary to secure this right to all residents. The federal executive and judiciary and the governments of the states shall implement and enforce these provisions by appropriate action.”

Why did Hillary Clinton bring up the big climate talks failure?

Arsenal Bolt: Quick updates on the news stories we’re following.

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I reacted very negatively to Secretary Clinton’s bizarre debate anecdote about the 2009 Copenhagen climate talks, but I couldn’t quite remember all the details, other than my generalized and deep disappointment about the results of those talks at the time. This post filled my memory gap in…

“Hillary Clinton Is Living in a Climate Change Fantasy World” – Slate.com

About midway through the [first 2016 Democratic presidential] debate, Clinton staked her climate record on what’s widely perceived to have been one of the biggest diplomatic failures in recent history — the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009. After years of anticipation, the meeting of world leaders ended in disarray, with Obama and his aides famously wandering around the convention center, looking for the leaders of China, India, Brazil, and other key nations. The toothless deal struck at the last minute was called a “grudging accord” by the New York Times the next day. Yes, Obama—and Clinton, then his secretary of state—were instrumental to that deal, but it’s hardly something Hillary should be proud of.

So it was pretty strange to hear her comments on Tuesday night. In her first answer on climate change, Clinton said, “I have been on the forefront of dealing with climate change starting in 2009 when President Obama and I crashed a meeting with the Chinese and got them to sign up to the first international agreement to combat climate change that they’d ever joined.”

In reality, the sour legacy of Copenhagen has haunted international climate negotiations ever since. It’s now widely believed that the U.S. never wanted a legally binding climate deal in Copenhagen at all—even though the Democrats controlled the Congress at the time and may have been able to successfully ratify the treaty—opting instead for a mostly empty pledge of billions of dollars in aid to developing nations. Among environmentalists, Clinton has retained only a mediocre reputation on climate change as a result.

Her Copenhagen comment wasn’t just a poor choice of wording, because she brought it up again later in the debate.
[…]
In her expanded version of the story, Clinton and Obama were roaming Copenhagen “literally … hunting for the Chinese.” Once they found them, she said, “We marched up, broke in, and said, ‘We’ve been looking all over for you. Let’s sit down and come up with what we need to do.’” That all sounds very Jason Bourne, but it’s not a good substitute for effective climate policy.

 

Climate policy: Disengage “stakeholders”?

Perhaps there has been too much engaging of certain uncooperative and undermining stakeholders in the climate change policy discussions. As one of the world’s largest climate action protests ever unfolded this weekend, Anna Lappé makes that case in a new Al Jazeera America op-ed entitled “What climate activists can learn from the fight against Big Tobacco”:

Progress has been stalled in part because the biggest polluters in the world — those oil and gas companies responsible for the lion’s share of emissions, for example — have been given a seat at the negotiating table, treated as partners and stakeholders at the annual global meetings called the Conference of Parties, or COP. Over the years, these COPs have featured industry-sponsored pavilions, dinners and breakaway meetings. And companies have been granted official observer status through their industry trade associations, which are considered nongovernmental organizations under current climate meeting rules. Some have even attended as official members of country delegations. (For instance, a representative from Shell joined the Nigerian delegation to COP16 in 2010 and Brazil’s to COP14 in 2008.)

As climate activists call for governments to take real action on climate, the decades-long fight against Big Tobacco — specifically, how public health advocates successfully kept companies away from the negotiating table — holds powerful lessons for the role industries should have in these key talks.

 
It would be one thing if the oil and gas companies were actively interested in pursuing new energy strategies or diversifying their future plans into new and cleaner areas, but as she notes they are spending a lot of money trying to undermine the case that new regulations or laws are even needed in the first place. And in that regard they are probably forfeiting their right to have a seat at the table as stakeholders.

Incidentally, that mention of the Shell rep serving on the delegation from Nigeria in 2008 and 2010 is very unsurprising. As I explored in an article in January 2011, entitled “The Nigerian Republic of Royal Dutch Shell”, on the Nigeria-specific revelations from the leaked diplomatic cables a few years ago:

Royal Dutch Shell has essentially become, according to the company itself, the industrial octopus inside Nigeria’s government, even in the “democratic” era…

The ambassador reported: “She [Ann Pickard, then Shell’s vice-president for sub-Saharan Africa] said the GON [government of Nigeria] had forgotten that Shell had seconded people to all the relevant ministries and that Shell consequently had access to everything that was being done in those ministries.”

 
Until now, most of the discussions have included oil and gas lobby folks on the theory that their “buy-in” would be critical to producing actionable plans for dealing with climate change. But what if they just refuse to buy-in? It should be clear after more than two decades of efforts that they aren’t really interested in taking the transformative steps necessary to bring their businesses into the future. At this point, they have too much influence at the table, rather than not enough. The fight against Big Tobacco is probably a useful analogy.

Dark clouds of smoke and fire emerge as oil burns during a controlled fire in the Gulf of Mexico, May 6, 2010. The U.S. Coast Guard, working with BP, local residents and other federal agencies, conducted the burn to help prevent the spread of oil following the explosion on Deepwater Horizon, an offshore drilling unit. (Credit: US Navy via Wikimedia)

Dark clouds of smoke and fire emerge as oil burns during a controlled fire in the Gulf of Mexico, May 6, 2010. The U.S. Coast Guard, working with BP, local residents and other federal agencies, conducted the burn to help prevent the spread of oil following the explosion on Deepwater Horizon, an offshore drilling unit. (Credit: US Navy via Wikimedia)

AFD 56 – Internationalism and Localism

Latest Episode:
“AFD 56 – Internationalism and Localism”
Posted: Tues, 10 September 2013

Bill and Persephone discuss Russia’s assertion that the UK is irrelevant to world affairs, then we examine the most successful global treaty of all time (and efforts to improve it), and we conclude by asking how individual cities and towns are possibly able to pass abortion bans on their own because that is crazy.

Additional links referenced:

http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/0/EED8A9F289E19D3F85257966005DBF51

AFD 52: The Right to Rule

Latest Episode:
“AFD Ep 52 – The Right to Rule”
Posted: Tues, 06 August 2013

Who has the right to rule in a society? What is a democracy? How do citizens get to participate in a civil society? In light of events in Egypt, Persephone and Bill discuss political theories of legitimacy, governance, and civil society. Then, they discuss what Boston is doing to prepare for global warming effects. Warning: This episode may be educational.

Back on the Air! AFD Ep 48 – June Recap

Latest Episode:
“AFD Ep 48 – June Recap”
Posted: Tues, 02 July 2013

In the first episode of the summer at the new studio, my new co-host, Persephone, joins me to discuss the Voting Rights Act decision, the DOMA and Prop 8 cases, Wendy Davis, Obama’s climate speech, and Syria. This online version of the episode includes a much longer debate on the Syria problem.