Good afternoon from the suddenly-smoky-again East Coast. As a former colleague at The Chronicle who moved to New York said to a few weeks ago: I thought we left this behind in California.
But a major rule of climate change is that overall, there's no real escape. Sure, some places won't be as hot, but everywhere will be affected. Perhaps you can choose your particular version, but most people can't.
Right now, a heat dome is lingering over Texas and nearby parts of Mexico, making it one of the hottest places in the world (so far, their electricity grid appears to be holding, arguably because of solar and lots of new batteries).
I've kept writing it in different ways, but climate change is absolutely here, and all the efforts to lower carbon pollution - from the smallest to the largest - are in service of a future that is still changed, but not the worse-case scenario. Degrees of warming really matter.
Various versions of "you caused sea level rise knowingly, so now you have to pay for city/county's coastline damages" lawsuits have already been filed, but this is a new one to me:
Lawyers for the county are moving forward with a lawsuit against 17 oil and gas companies alleging that the burning of their fossil fuel products, which leads to greenhouse gas emissions that are warming the planet, was a substantial contributor to a heat dome event roughly two years ago. Ninety-six people died across Oregon as a result of the heat dome, with the majority living in Multnomah County.
They're asking for $50 million in actual damages, as well as $1.5 billion in future damages, but it could be years before the suit makes it way through the legal system.
I'll spoil the answer to this one at the risk of you not reading Sammy Roth's thoughtful discussion of a question he gets all the time as a climate reporter: No.
But don't scrap your back-of-the-napkin math for your own solar panels just yet. As with many things involving the energy transition, the most likely answer is both. Roth takes on both the environmental issues with utility scale renewable energy and the fact that we actually just don't have enough roofs for the power we need today (and the answer is not necessarily building more roofs).
Speaking of lawsuits, arguments this week in Montana's version of young people suing over government decisions on fossil fuels is a fairly good summation of how state laws are both crucial and limited in their impact on climate action. Montana officials said they, by law, can't consider climate change when issuing oil and gas permits:
Nowakowski said state law does not give her agency the authority to deny permits because of climate change or greenhouse gas emissions. But she described MEPA as a “two-way street” and said the agency can receive public comments about climate change during a project review.
“If the public asks you to look [at climate change], do you?” asked Barbara Chillcott, an attorney for the youth plaintiffs with the Western Environmental Law Center.
“We are prohibited from doing so,” Nowakowski said.
“That sounds kind of like a one-way street to me,” Chillcott replied.
Why a lobbyist would tell a reporter for a watchdog news site that he and others are in the process of misleading lawmakers is perplexing, to say the least, but I share this Capital & Main story from California to highlight one of the many ongoing state-level fights about brand new rules around carbon capture and storage (i.e sequestering carbon in the ground to prevent new or capture existing pollution):
“To be blunt,” he added, “we are misadvertising what the bill does, what our intention is.”
SB 438 purports to clarify the state’s rules governing carbon dioxide (CO2) capture and storage, which prohibit companies from injecting fluid-gaseous CO2 into the ground in order to produce more oil. The bill says companies will not be penalized for inadvertently pulling up oil while burying CO2.
But this is a red herring, Pahos said. He said he and other lobbyists intend to push for changing the bill later in the legislative session, so that it instead speeds up approvals for CO2 pipelines by handing greater authority to state regulators who are under pressure to meet emissions reductions goals within the decade.
No, climate activists are not coming for NYC pizza