Some for Me and None for You
By Mary Annaise Heglar
On this week’s episode of the podcast, Amy and I talked to David Wallace-Wells about all the parallels between the climate crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic. This was David’s second appearance on Hot Take. The first time was in March 2020, just a few days after lockdowns had gone, well, viral across the nation. We hadn’t planned to talk to him about the pandemic for that episode, we just couldn’t avoid it. This time, it was the whole point. David is one of many climate journalists who drifted into the COVID beat and we wanted to learn how that disaster had colored his lens on the climate crisis.
Not gonna lie, this is one of my favorite conversations on Hot Take so far. There’s a lot about it I’m still processing, but one thing David said has been sticking with me ever since we recorded: is there something that makes rich people in rich countries happy to see poor people in poor countries suffer? We were talking about the pandemic response and how the only way to get out of this safely was to vaccinate everyone—far past our borders. But we didn’t. That, in effect, means that we had a choice to create a world where everyone is protected, but instead chose one with medium protection for ourselves and no protection for anyone else. (P.S. David was clear that this does not apply to every American or every European, but pretty broadly translates to the decision makers in those places.)
This idea that we and the Europeans have the highest standard of living than anywhere else is so ingrained in American identity, I’m not sure many of us know who we’d be without it. It’s taken as a given that people in the Global South have a shitty quality of life and that’s perfectly okay. It’s a big part of how the climate crisis “snuck up” on a lot of folks in the Global North.
This mindset is not new. In fact, it’s the backing ethos of white supremacy and capitalism. It’s why slavery happened in the first place, and definitely why Reconstruction was a failed project. It reminds me of this scene from Always Sunny in Philadelphia—a thing isn’t worth doing unless you have someone’s face to shove it in.
The climate crisis forces us into a moment where we have no choice but to build a new world. If we’re going to build a better one, this mindset has to go. That means we can’t keep skirting around the real work of toppling white supremacy. It is the only way out of this mess for good.
More Legal Drama and the Importance of Naming the Villain
By Amy Westervelt
In the past few months I’ve seen several news stories with headlines like “More Than 20 States Press Judge to Continue Migrant Expulsions,” or “More GOP state AGs join suit protesting Biden’s scrapping of Title 42,” or this week “17 states push EPA to revoke California’s ability to set its own vehicle emission standards.” Not a single one of these articles (the first two focused on immigration, the third on climate policy) mention the hugely powerful and well-resourced coordinating body behind all these GOP attorneys general, the Republican Attorneys General Association, or RAGA. Whenever a half dozen or more conservative attorneys general show up together to file a suit, join a suit, or file a brief, you better believe RAGA is in the background coordinating it. It’s their whole raison d’être (yeah, French, deal with it).
I really encourage folks to listen to the incredible researcher Lisa Graves on this, but in the meantime, here’s a quick primer: Formed in the late 1990s by the AGs of Texas ( it was now-senator John Cornyn running the Texas AG’s office back then), Alabama, and South Carolina as a reaction to the tobacco litigation, step one of RAGA's mission was to get more Republican attorneys general elected. At the time, there were more Democratic than Republican attorneys general, and they wanted to reverse that. With the balance tilted in their favor, RAGA planned to block anything like the tobacco litigation from ever happening, and copy the strategy to push lawsuits that benefit corporations. No surprise, then, that they have turned up to argue against every climate liability suit that’s been filed in the last few years.
In its early years, the organization raised money through the Republican National Committee, and it hid money that way too. Donations to RAGA went into the general "soft money" account of the RNC, so it was impossible to tell what was donated specifically to RAGA. Eventually the 2010 Citizens United decision removed the need to funnel money. Then on April 5, 2014, the Supreme Court ruled in McCutcheon et al v FEC to remove the cap on political donations. On April 6, 2014 RAGA launched its super-PAC: the RAGA Action Committee. Its stated aim was:
- to preserve the constitutional design of federalism;
- to address policy challenges and advocate solutions;
- to support Republican state attorneys general in fighting federal encroachment, protecting citizens against crime and promoting free markets;
- to provide the Republican attorneys general a platform for their proper role as leaders in the national Republican Party;
- to assist in the election of Republican candidates for attorney general and the reelection of incumbent Republican attorneys general.
Note that the original mission of RAGA—to elect more Republican AGs—was now last on the list. The group also created its 501(c)(4), the Rule of Law Defense Fund in 2014, which also happens to be the year that the balance of attorneys general in the country shifted in Republicans' favor. They secured 27 AG spots to the Democrats' 24 that year, and have maintained that split ever since. If you've heard of the Rule of Law Defense Fund, chances are that's because of the group's role in helping to fund the January 6, 2021 Capitol insurrection. Rule of law!
This week they showed up in a federal case about whether or not California has the right to set its own emissions caps for vehicles. You might recall that Trump revoked that right back in 2019. Well, under Biden, the EPA reversed Trump’s decision in March 2022. Now 17 Republican attorneys general have filed a petition in appeals court to reopen the issue. It’s the typical “states rights for me, but not for thee” argument we’ve come to expect from Republican officials. Here’s the thing, though, by joining forces to file legal complaints in service of policymaking, these attorneys general are further evidence of the politicization of the justice system. They can easily come together to file a constitutional challenge and, if they win that challenge, fundamentally change constitutional law without anything ever being put to a vote. And this California case is not the only climate case they’ve gotten involved with.
- An attempt to stop the big U.S. youth climate suit from moving forward
- An attempt to stop President Biden's cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline
- A successful attempt to block the Biden administration from using social cost of carbon to analyze policy decisions
- A successful attempt to strike down most of the 2016 methane rule
"RAGA now is not just a recipient of donations from Big Oil and big corporations," Graves says. "But it's also a major recipient of funds in which the source is completely unknown to anyone other than the person raising the money."
One source of dark money she points to is CRC Advisors, the latest venture of Leonard Leo, who's best known for spearheading the Federalist Society's decades-long campaign to install as many conservative judges as possible. They’re the folks responsible for Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett sitting on the Supreme Court bench today, but they’ve also installed hundreds of conservative judges in districts all over the country. That chick who unilaterally decided to lift the mask mandate for planes? A Federalist Society pick.
"The agenda of Leonard Leo and the other people who fund RAGA is structural change, a legal revolution," Graves says. "And one of my primary concerns is that there will be an attempt to take away the power of Congress to regulate carbon.”
That’s a very possible outcome of the West Virginia v EPA case the Supreme Court is currently mulling. All of which makes me wonder: Why are so many journalists writing stories about a gaggle of Republican AGs showing up in cases that have a major impact on policy, and not mentioning RAGA? It’s like talking about Exxon and never mentioning the American Petroleum Institute, or talking about the Capitol Insurrection without mentioning the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys, or talking about the Big Lie or CRT and never mentioning the Koch network. People need to understand the significance of 17 Republican attorney generals trying to dictate whether or not California can regulate emissions, and they won’t if journalists don’t tell them.
The Ultimate Savior Complex
By Mary Annaise Heglar
Over the past two weeks, we’ve all been digesting the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion to overturn Roe vs. Wade, drastically reducing access to safe abortion across the country. For lots of people, it’s setting in how protracted and expansive the war on abortion has been, from the trigger laws in place all over the country to the implications for IVF. Where I live in Louisiana, it could mean traveling across several state lines to get a safe abortion, and even IUDs are on the line.
If you’re reading this newsletter, you know that there’s nothing under the sun that doesn’t intersect with climate change—precisely because it takes place under the sun, on this planet. In Atmos, Alexandria Herr wrote about how climate change increases the need for abortion. Last week, Amy wrote about the implications for the climate cases in front of the Supreme Court. But I want to pick up on something else Amy wrote about: climate change and abortion restrictions are being driven by the same people.
One group at the core of both the pro-birth, anti-planet movements is the Religious Right. In an extremely perverse and contradictory reading of the Bible, these folks have decided it is their job to carry out both the book of Genesis AND Revelation. That’s the beginning AND end of creation—two things that kinda can’t happen at the same time. These folks think it’s their job to create the conditions present in the Book of Revelation—from the environmental devastation to the relocation of Jews to Israel—so that their Savior can return. So they’re…saving their own Savior?
Who taught these people reading comprehension? At no point in the Bible does Jesus ask for anyone to prepare the way for His return. Sorry, but your Lord and Savior does not need an alley-oop from you. Furthermore, the Bible is quite clear about mankind’s responsibility as stewards of the earth and about how it’s not our job to judge one another and that vengeance is the Lord’s. But they just… fly right over those parts! Where on earth do these people get off casting themselves as the judge, jury, and executioner… let alone the Alpha and Omega, is beyond me. WHOSE FLOCK IS THIS??
Look, I’m never one to judge someone for their religion, but I was raised Christian… and this ain’t Christian. But then again, these are the descendants of the same Christians who thought slavery and colonialism were “of God” so…
Stuff to Read, Watch, Listen to This Week!
By Amy Westervelt
Despite all the bad climate news swirling about, there are quite a few helpful new studies, docuseries, podcasts and more that are well worth your time. Here are a few I caught recently:
- Climate Colonialism - Been meaning to recommend this one for a while, but Dr. Farhana Sultana put out this paper on climate colonialism earlier this year that I really think anyone interested or working in climate should read. In it, she highlights not just the uneven distribution of climate impacts, driven by colonialism, but also how a lot of the ways we research and talk about climate today reproduces those same colonialist patterns. It’s a must read!
- New Study: We need 12 million climate activists – In a new paper, activism researcher Dana Fisher looks at what’s needed to cause what she calls an “AnthroShift” on climate–big changes across multiple aspects of society. She comes to the conclusion that it’s got to be either a massive crisis (a war, an epic disaster) or a major mobilization. According to the literature if you can get 3.5 percent of the population or more out in the streets for an extended period of time, it can drive the sorts of changes we need to see. In the U.S., that means about 11.5 million climate activists. Feels achievable, no?
- I’m in a Documentary! Coming to Paramount+ this week, Black Gold is a three-part docuseries from Time, CBS and Darren Aronofsky’s Protozoa Pictures that focuses on the role of Exxon in shaping environmental and climate policy, with a particular focus on former Exxon CEO Lee Raymond. You’ll spot me as the only dropping f-bombs in it. Sorry mom.
- Hot Farm - a new podcast from the fine folks at the Food and Environment Reporting Network (a very cool org that connects various large national outlets with reporters working on stories at the intersection of agriculture, food, the environment, and climate). Hot Farm looks at a constituency that’s often overlooked in climate discussions: farmers. Farmers are often painted as anti-environmentalists or climate skeptics, but in my experience they’re climate pragmatists. Few people are closer to the land or more aware of changes in weather patterns. In Hot Farm, host Eve Abrams travels across the Midwest, talking to farmers about what they are doing, or could be doing, to combat climate change, and it’s terrific!
Rising Temperatures, Rising Tides
Record heat fueling violent storms in central US - The Washington Post, by Matthew Cappucci and Jason Samenow
The swift march of climate change in North Carolina's 'ghost forests', by Brady Dennis for The Washington Post
North Carolina beach homes collapse from lumbering coastal storm - The Washington Post, by Jason Samenow and Brady Dennis
Video Shows Surging Water From a Melting Glacier Destroying a Landmark Bridge, by Rimal Farrukh for Vice
India tries to adapt to extreme heat but is paying a heavy price, by Gerry Shih and Kasha Patel for The Washington Post
Wildfires are still catching us off-guard. Congress' plan to fix that isn't going anywhere. by Chad Small for Grist
Winds fuel New Mexico wildfire, complicating containment efforts, by Elizabeth Miller and Paulina Villegas for The Washington Post
The Largest Water Reservoirs in California Are Rapidly Receding by Angely Mercado for Earther
Facing a new climate reality, Southern California lawns could wither, by Joshua Partlow
50-50 Chance We Hit 1.5 Degrees of Warming by *Checks Watch* 2026 by Molly Taft for Earther
Durban's Floods Are a Climate Change Warningby Glen Retief for the New Republic
Congress is routing climate policy through the Army Corps of Engineers by Jake Bittle for Grist
The Climate Presidency?
Why Biden's Plan to Fix Gas Prices Isn't Working by Kate Aronoff
Creaky U.S. power grid threatens progress on renewables, EVs, by Tim McLaughlin for Reuters Investigates
Drowning in Student Loans and Rising Tides | Atmos, by Yessenia Funes
Biden Administration Cancels Oil Drilling Sales in Alaska and Gulf of Mexico by Lisa Friedman for The New York Times
Democrats push to overhaul mining law, citing clean energy - The Washington Post, by Maxine Joselow and Vanessa Montalbano
The Democrats Really Are That Dense About Climate Change by Robinson Meyer for the Atlantic
House panel will investigate USPS plan to purchase 8.6 mpg trucks, by Jacob Bogage for The Washington Post
Exxon Doubles Down on “Advanced Recycling” Claims That Yield Few Results, by Amy Westervelt (!)
Climate chaos certain if oil and gas mega-projects go ahead, warns IEA chief | Environment | The Guardian, by Fiona Harvey, Matthew Taylor and Damian Carrington
Fed utility weighs coal plant switch options, climate impact | AP News, by Jonathan Mattise
Fossil Fuels Aren't Just Harming the Planet. They're Making Us Sick - Inside Climate News, by Liza Gross and Victoria St. Martin
Raimondo fails to reassure a rattled solar industry - The Washington Post, by Maxine Joselow and Vanessa Montalbano
Climate change: Airlines miss all but one target - report - BBC News, by Georgina Rannard
Report: 'Carbon Bombs' Are Poised to Screw Us Over Big Time by Angely Mercado for Earther
Big Oil investors reject calls for stricter climate goals — so far - The Washington Post, by Maxine Joselow and Vanessa Montalbano
Do not use Ukraine war to defer climate goals, warns Mark Carney, by Kalyeena Makortoff for The Guardian
Where is Russia's oil going? - The Washington Post, by Steven Mufson
Oil Majors Have Found a Sneaky Way to Look Greener on Paper by Molly Taft for Earther
The massive, unregulated source of plastic pollution you've probably never heard of by Neel Dhanesha for Vox
How shareholders are pushing big banks for climate action by Manuela Andreoni for The New York Times
Elon Musk Isn't a Climate Hero by Molly Taft for Earther
Oil Giants Sell Dirty Wells to Buyers With Looser Climate Goals, Study Finds by Hiroko Tabuchi for The New York Times
Justice Is Justice Is Justice
India and Pakistan's severe heat wave, explained by Umair Irfan for Vox
To Equitably Confront Climate Change, Cities Need to Include Public Health Agencies in Planning Adaptations, by Aydali Campa for Inside Climate News
The Climate Reality of Roe v. Wade | Atmos, by Alexandria Herr
The Department of Justice Announced New Climate Cops. What Can They Do? By Audrey Carleton for Vice
Black communities are last in line for disaster planning in Texas, by Tracy Jan for The Washington Post
Tuvalu, sinking in the Pacific, fears becoming a superpower 'pawn' | Reuters, by Kirsty Needham
Brazilian groups want direct access to US forest funding | AP News, by Fabiano Maisonnave
Justice Dept. Tries to Shift Environmental Justice Efforts From Symbolic to Substantive by Glenn Thrush and Lisa Friedman for The New York Times
What overturning Roe v. Wade means for pregnant people in pollution hotspots, by Naveena Sadasivam & Eve Andrews for Grist
The plan to ensure Indigenous peoples have a voice at the UN by Joseph Lee for Grist
Glimmers of Hope
A quiet revolution: Southwest cities learn to thrive amid drought by Jim Robbins for Grist
Reimagining Rehabilitation | Atmos, by Adam Mahoney
A Climate Progressive Leads a Crowded Democratic Field for Pittsburgh's 12th Congressional District Seat, by Kristoffer Tigue for Inside Climate News
Joy for environmentalists as California blocks bid for $1.4bn desalination plant, by The AP in Huntington Beach for The Guardian
How climate scientists keep hope alive as damage worsens | AP News, by Seth Borenstein
Scientists Discover Unexplained Abundance of Rare Nuclear Fusion Fuel on Earth, by Becky Ferreira for Vice
What if the Wind and Sunshine Really Belonged to All of Us? | The Nation, by David McDermott Hughes
The secrets to passing climate legislation — even in red states by Kate Yoder for Grist
California lays out plan to drastically cut fossil fuel use | AP News, by Kathleen Ronayne
Climate in Culture
Chef Crystal Wahpepah on the power of Indigenous cuisine: 'Native foods are overlooked', by Maria C. Hunt in Oakland
The Future of Climate Careers | Atmos, by Daphne Chouliaraki Milner
He bought the house 9 months ago. Then the ocean swept it away, by Brady Dennis for The Washington Post
Melting Glacier Reveals Nearly Two Dozen Huge Ancient Sea Creature Fossils, by Audrey Carleton for Vice
“Black Gold” Reviewed, by Emily Sanders for ExxonKnews
“How Much Climate Anxiety Helps?” Interview with Britt Wray on her new book! By Ana Sales for Death, Sex, Money podcast
There’s an election in Australia. Here’s how climate fits in by Somini Sengupta for The New York Times
California regulators reject governor's pitch for carbon neutrality by 2035 by Diana Kruzman for Grist
A New York power line divided environmentalists. Here's what it says about the larger climate fight. by Zoya Teirstein for Grist
Senegal sees opportunity and 'hypocrisy' in Europe's search for gas, by Danielle Paquette and Evan Halper for The Washington Post
Coral reefs provide stunning images of a world under assault | AP News, by Curt Anderson and Cody Jackson
This group decided to clean up Lake Tahoe. They found more than 25000 pounds of submerged trash, by Parth M.N. for The Los Angeles Times