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White House science office to hold first-ever event on countering 'climate delayism'

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White House science office to hold first-ever event on countering ‘climate delayism’

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy will hold a first-of-its-kind roundtable with leading scientists today on the urgent need to combat climate change and counter arguments for delaying climate action, Maxine scoops this morning.

The event will bring together a diverse group of 17 climate scientists, social scientists, engineers and economists from 11 states and D.C. The discussion will be led by Jane Lubchenco, a well-known marine ecologist who serves as OSTP deputy director for climate and environment. She ran the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under Barack Obama.

“We hope to learn some insights about the science of 'delayism’ and effective ways to counter it,” Lubchenco said in an interview with Maxine.

“Clearly, we see tangible evidence of climate change all around us with sea-level rise, increases in extreme heat, increases in drought, wildfires, ocean acidification [and] floods,” she added. “What we're seeing now is a result of past inaction. That past inaction is haunting us. And so the question is: How do we accelerate effective action?”

The event comes as President Biden's massive climate and social spending plan, formerly known as the Build Back Better bill, remains stalled on Capitol Hill. But Lubchenco said the discussion would not dwell on the uncertain fate of the package, which would have been the largest clean energy investment in the nation's history.

“We don't plan to focus on specific legislation at this event,” she said. “What we are doing is seeking guidance and knowledge from experts about why there is hesitancy to move ahead with effective action to reduce carbon emissions, to reduce greenhouse gases. And that's a broader topic than any specific piece of legislation.”

Here's what else to know about the event:

Who's going

The scientists traveling to the White House today include Michael E. Mann, a climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University who is known for creating a “hockey stick graph of rising global temperatures, and Naomi Oreskes, a historian of science at Harvard University whose 2010 book “Merchants of Doubt” explored how a handful of high-level scientists denied the dangers of tobacco smoke and global warming.

Oreskes said she plans to tell OSTP officials that people who dispute the urgency of addressing global warming are, in effect, rejecting the reality of the climate crisis.

“To deny the urgency is to deny the science,” she said. “We have so much evidence now that serious extreme weather events like wildfires and floods and hurricanes have become substantially worsened by climate change. And it’s hurting people right here and right now.”

Also in attendance will be Katharine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist at Texas Tech University who has sought to engage evangelical Christians in climate discussions.

The other invitees are:

  • Dan Abbasi, a managing director at Douglass Winthrop Advisors who oversees the firm's environment strategy
  • Katey Anthony, an aquatic ecologist and biogeochemist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks
  • Kerry Ard, an associate professor of environmental and natural resource sociology at Ohio State University
  • Shahzeen Attari, an associate professor at Indiana University Bloomington who studies how and why people make decisions about climate change
  • Kim Cobb, a climate scientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Andrea Dutton, a geochemist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who studies sea-level rise
  • Justin Farrell, an associate professor of sociology at Yale School of the Environment
  • John E. Fernández, who leads the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Environmental Solutions Initiative
  • Michel Gelobter, chairman of Cooler Inc., a company that seeks to connect consumer purchases to climate solutions
  • Tony Leiserowitz, founder and director of Yale University's Program on Climate Change Communication
  • Veerabhadran Ramanathan, distinguished professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego
  • Jigar Shah, director of the Energy Department's Loan Programs Office
  • Marshall Shepherd, an expert in weather and climate at the University of Georgia
  • Gernot Wagner, a climate economist at New York University 

Attari said she intends to highlight her research on ideological divides on global warming. For instance, she found in a 2020 paper that both conservatives and liberals support shifting away from fossil fuels toward renewable energy, but they disagree on policies to achieve this transition.

“With today's political polarization, we have found ourselves in this place where it's always party over policy,” Attari said. “How do we break that stronghold by finding common ground, especially when it comes to climate change?”

Pressure points

Exclusive: Groups call on Biden to declare a climate emergency, block fossil fuel projects

More than 1,100 climate and social justice groups today called on President Biden to declare a climate emergency and block new fossil fuel infrastructure ahead of his State of the Union address on Tuesday, according to a letter shared exclusively with The Climate 202.

“You have the authority under existing law to wind down fossil fuel production and catalyze a just, renewable energy revolution to deliver healthier communities, a livable future and millions of good-paying jobs,” the letter says. “It’s critical that you use that authority as quickly and broadly as possible.”

The groups argue that Biden could declare a climate emergency under the National Emergency Act, which has been used by every president and could unlock new executive powers. They also contend that Biden could direct federal agencies to stop approving permits for fossil fuel projects including pipelines, export terminals and refineries, although such a directive could spark legal challenges.

The groups signing the letter include the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, Indigenous Environmental Network and Sunrise Movement

Asked for comment on the letter, White House spokesman Vedant Patel said in an email: "From day one, the President has spurred an all-systems-go effort to take on the climate crisis — one that harnesses an all-of-government approach — because he knows climate change is a blinking code red for our nation. … We are proud of the historic progress and investments we have secured during our first year as the climate crisis threatens our communities, and we’ll continue to address this threat head on in the days, weeks, months and years ahead.” 

Young conservatives to elevate climate at CPAC

Young conservatives attending the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando this weekend plan to push Republican leaders to take the offense on climate change, advocating for a carbon dividends policy that would assess a fee on fossil fuel companies for their emissions and return revenue to the public. 

“With more frequent and visible climate impacts, growing public support for action, and emerging geo-strategic benefits of clean energy innovation and development, this can be a winning issue for the conservative movement,” George Behrakis, president of Young Conservatives for Carbon Dividends, said in an email. 

During a breakout session on Friday, Behrakis said that his organization will make the case to GOP leadership that addressing climate change will also ensure the long-term strength of the country. Behrakis added that he supports a carbon border adjustment, which would impose a fee on carbon-intensive imported goods.

In December, Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) and Donald Trump's national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, wrote an opinion piece in Foreign Policy advocating for a joint carbon border fee between the United States and the European Union.

Fees from Pepco put solar panels out of reach, D.C. residents say

Utility company Pepco is imposing fees of up to $20,000 on D.C. residents who seek to install rooftop solar panels, turning people away from the sustainable option and undermining the District's efforts to fight climate change, your Climate 202 host reports. 

Pepco has informed customers that they need to pay the fee to upgrade the electric distribution system in their neighborhood before installing solar panels, which cost about as much as Pepco’s fee. Otherwise, the system would not be able to safely handle the extra power that would be generated. 

Many residents want to transition to a more sustainable energy source but are not willing to move forward with the installation because of the high additional costs. Slowed solar adoption in the District could frustrate the city’s efforts to reach 100 percent renewable electricity by 2032, the goal of climate legislation signed by Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) in 2019. 

In addressing the issue, the D.C. Public Service Commission is considering whether to require utilities to pay 50 percent of the upgrade costs, up to $5,000 per project.

International climate

Russia-Ukraine crisis elevates energy security concerns over climate fears

After Russia launched a broad attack on Ukraine on Thursday, Europe's attention has shifted — at least temporarily — from reducing fossil fuel use to ensuring energy security, The New York Times's Patricia Cohen reports.

For more than a decade, policy discussions in Europe have centered on reducing oil, gas and coal use to combat climate change. But Russia is Europe's largest energy supplier, and as oil prices hover around $100 a barrel, conversations in Europe are turning instead to energy independence and national security. 

Still, the European Commission is expected to announce a strategy next week to break free from Russian oil and gas, as The Post's Michael Birnbaum and Steven Mufson previously reported.

Agency alert

Postal Service finalizes plans to purchase mostly gas-powered delivery fleet

The Postal Service finalized plans on Wednesday to spend up to $11.3 billion on about 148,000 gas-powered mail delivery trucks, despite objections from Biden administration officials who said the contract would undercut the nation’s climate goals, The Washington Post’s Jacob Bogage and Anna Phillips report. 

The White House Council on Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency had asked the Postal Service this month to rethink its plans, saying the decision was based on a faulty study. President Biden has pledged to transition the entire federal fleet to clean power, and the Postal Service accounts for nearly one-third of federally owned vehicles. But the new trucks, built by Oshkosh, would hit the streets in 2023 and remain in service for at least 20 years, locking the agency into further dependence on climate-warming fossil fuels.


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