This is the newsletter of OptOut Climate, a program of the OptOut Media Foundation. OptOut maintains a free news aggregation app for exclusively independent media that's available for Apple and Android devices. Find out more about the app at optout.news.
Vast stretches of land are on fire. Our rivers and lakes are drying up. Species are being obliterated, and people are dying to save their lands. If this were fiction, it would have all the makings of an epic apocalyptic novel.
The good thing is that this desperate story of the climate crisis could one day have a brighter ending. Across the globe, people are advocating for radical action and moving governments to address what has become a generational struggle. Throughout it all, independent media are covering the emergency. With this biweekly newsletter, we aim to bring you the best climate coverage from OptOut’s growing network of independent news producers.
I'm Cristian Salazar, climate editor at OptOut. Thank you for reading.
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The Climate Package
Some have called it historic (STATES NEWSROOM), a game-changer (HIGH COUNTRY NEWS), a gut punch to fossil fuel companies. Others describe it as a betrayal of Black and Brown communities and an unnecessary compromise with dirty energy industries that got us into the climate mess in the first place. Both descriptions could be true at the same time.
Even supporters of the $369 billion climate deal, which is included in the Inflation Reduction Act that President Biden signed into law Tuesday, agree it’s not pretty. Born of the dealmaking of two Democratic U.S. Senators—one an unabashed lover of fossil fuel money and the other a blue-state democrat—it is a two-headed beast with dueling visions of how this country thinks about energy amidst the climate crisis.
To be sure, the deal between Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Chuck Schumer of New York would inject billions of dollars into renewable energy projects and stimulate clean car adoption. Independent assessments conclude that the climate investments would have real-world impacts by significantly cutting emissions and lowering clean energy costs. It is the biggest climate action ever undertaken by the U.S. But it will also hand fossil fuel companies expansive opportunities, such as access to new leases on federal lands.
Congress passed the bill last week, with Democrats and Republicans voting on party lines. It is a major win for Biden and his party.
The act’s jarring duality, reported on expansively by independent media, threatened to fragment the climate movement, with mainstream activists applauding the deal effusively while the environmental justice wing pushed back by describing how frontline communities, as well as Black and Brown people, would bear the burden of the deal’s worst traits.
Robert Bullard, an OG of the environmental justice movement, told THE NATION that the Act “has some good things in it that are greatly needed by low-income, people of color and environmental justice communities.” This includes incentives for clean energy technologies and investments to target pollution. But Bullard said that it puts some communities in the “precarious position” of having to go along with unproven technologies, “more pollution, and unfair health ‘trade-offs’ in order to get environmental and climate benefits.”
The act’s risky balancing act of clean energy incentives and fossil fuel industry priorities was too much for the Climate Justice Alliance, which includes many organizations that represent communities of color. “We Can’t Allow Frontline Communities to Be Sacrificed by Catering to the Profit Interests of the Dying and Outdated Dirty Energy Industry,” their statement declared.
But not to let the negative drown out the good, THE AMERICAN PROSPECT reported on how the Act attacks diesel pollution to improve the lives of people who suffer the health fallout, and creates a framework for electric-vehicle adoption.
Prospect Executive Editor David Dayen further breaks down the positive impacts on the publication’s Left Anchor podcast.
Meanwhile, local communities across the country assessed what the bill, if signed into law, could mean for them.
Louisiana, for instance, was expected to get a boost from the clean energy provisions in the Act because of its numerous fossil fuel and petrochemical facilities which could earn a tax credit for switching to renewables and other climate friendly technologies, the LOUISIANA ILLUMINATOR reports.
New York is also expected to fare well, THE CITY reports, by funneling money into the state’s own ambitious climate plans.
Notably, environmentalists in Alaska “worried that tradeoffs in the bill will lead to more mining and drilling in the state,” the ALASKA BEACON reports. “It does feel like they’re trading—they’re sacrificing Alaska to get climate gains elsewhere,” said Native Movement attorney Rebecca Noblin.
With the climate deal set to be law, most people seem to have accepted it for what it is: a good investment that falls short of the real need.
“It’s so not enough, we have a lot more to do, and people are still hungry for more, which I think can be a good place to be in,” says Francesca Fiorentini.
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Earth, Wind, Fire & Money
In THE TEXAS OBSERVER, reporter Delger Erdenesanaa examines the political fight over a “tantalizing clean energy opportunity”–700,000 acres of federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico that offshore wind developers will soon be able to lease.
WHOWHATWHY republished a Hakai Magazine article on Norway’s Hywind Farm that explores the impact of the world’s largest floating offshore wind farm. Though clearly a boon for clean energy, the development could “potentially disrupt vital natural processes.”
Meanwhile, heat waves, supercharged by climate change, are causing droughts, deaths, and wildfires around the world. But you wouldn’t know that by watching the usual bullshit on corporate TV news. FAIR reports that the ravages of heat waves in the Global South are all but ignored by Western media as they focus on Europe and the U.S. As FAIR underscores, people are literally baking to death on the pavement in New Delhi, where it reached 120.5° F in May. But corporate and legacy media seem to blame India for extreme heat by being an emerging fossil fuel consumer. “If not to blame, then not worthy of the human angle,” writes Cynthia Nahhas.
Finally, OptOut’s own Alex Kotch reports at EXPOSED BY CMD on efforts by an “anti-woke” crusader to raise millions of dollars, including from independent media arch-villain Peter Thiel, to take business away from financial asset management companies that commit to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing. This comes as a growing number of right-wing types attempt to pass legislation at the state level to squash any attempts to divest from fossil fuels.
Three questions for Peter Gleick on Droughts, Climate Change and Conflict
Peter Gleick is a co-founder of the California-based Pacific Institute, where he is currently a senior fellow. A MacArthur “genius” and an expert on the global water crisis and climate change, he spoke to OptOut via Zoom.
How do you describe the impact of climate change on the droughts happening all over the world right now?
Droughts by themselves are a natural phenomenon, and we have them everywhere. We have wet years, we have dry years, the climate and the weather itself is naturally variable. But what we're seeing now is an amplification of the natural cycles that we're used to from the past. All of the extreme events that we see now are increasingly influenced, not necessarily caused by, but influenced by human-caused climate change. And in the case of droughts, the droughts that we're seeing in the Western U.S., in Europe right now, the incredibly extreme droughts that we're seeing in France and Germany and England, those droughts may have occurred anyway, but now they're worsened by human cause.
As you're looking across all these signals about climate change and drought and the water crisis, where do you feel like things are going?
We do see violence associated with water almost on every continent. Obviously, countries and regions where water is better managed, where water is more equitably distributed, where water systems are more sophisticated, tend to have fewer examples. But the greatest problems are places where water is scarce, where populations are growing, where water is badly managed, where institutions are weak.
What’s one takeaway people should keep in mind about drought and climate change?
It’s critical that we get climate change under control, that we reduce emissions of greenhouse gasses. And a lot of the conversation about that has focused on the need to change over our energy system from fossil fuels to non-carbon sources. But I would also note that because our water system uses a tremendous amount of energy for collecting and treating and distributing and using water that there's a role to play for our water system in this area as well. If we can make our water system more resilient to climate, then we've achieved two things at once. We're reducing the severity of the climate problem, and we're reducing the impacts that the unavoidable consequences of climate change impose on our water system.
NYC Climate Week
September 19-25, New York, NY
National Association of Science Writers Conference: #SciWri22
October 21-25, Memphis, Tennessee
Apply for a grant to attend
Climate Solutions Reporter
National Public Radio
Director of Climate & Energy
Union of Concerned Scientists
Thanks for reading OptOut’s first climate newsletter! If you have questions, tips, or anything else about our climate program, feel free to email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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