It’s official, y’all! The Hot Take podcast will be coming back to you on Friday, April 22. It’s been almost a year since we’ve been off the air, and we’ve missed it! Although we’re grateful to all the resources Critical Frequency was able to provide to launch the show and keep it going for three seasons, we’re very excited to come back with the support of one of the biggest podcast networks out there, Crooked Media, and with a team of folks who can help out with everything from research and booking guests to production and promotion.
Now that we have all these resources, we’re going to do things a bit differently this season. First of all, the show will be weekly (instead of every other week), coming out on Fridays (instead of Sundays). About half of the episodes will be dedicated to sorting through a messy topic with other writers , just like we’ve always done. The other half will be the two of us talking through the latest news on climate—or, occasionally, talking about climate in pop culture (movies, Netflix series, etc.). We’ve already got an exciting array of guests lined up and we honestly cannot wait to get back in your headphones.
We started this newsletter the very first time we took a hiatus from the podcast as a way to keep in touch with our audience. What we found is that it was a way to grow our audience and reach folks who aren’t super into podcasts, while maintaining a connection with those from our podcast audience who like a bit of both. We’ve really loved having this outlet while the podcast was silent and we’re excited to see how far we can go with both back in high gear. To that end, we are announcing a sale on newsletter subscriptions between now and launch day! Sign up now and get 30 percent off your subscription! We’ll also be doing some newsletter giveaways throughout the month, so keep an eye on our Twitter feed (@RealHotTake) for those.
P.S. Yes, we know we’re coming back on Earth Day. No, it wasn’t intentional. Yes, we’re going to talk about how much we hate what Earth Day has become and argue for a return to its roots.
No Livable Future in a Police State
By Mary Annaïse Heglar
This Wednesday, on the heels of the release of yet another damning IPCC report, a group of climate scientists and activists took to the streets in Los Angeles, amid incredibly unseasonable 100 degree temperatures. Ultimately, a handful of protesters chained themselves to the door of the Chase Bank and were arrested.
What’s so interesting about this particular protest is the mismatch between the police response and the media response. By all accounts—and by photographic evidence—the police presence was unreal. Police were gathered in huge numbers with riot gear before the protest even got started. You usually don’t see that level of police response to a climate protest…. Unless it’s made up mostly of people of color, particularly Indigenous people. Not when it’s white folks. That’s a lot of taxpayer dollars going to silence a bunch of people who simply want to survive. Who exactly are the police protecting and serving here?
On the other hand, the media response has been paltry. In fact, I can barely find any coverage outside of local Los Angeles news, not even in the LA Times. Not that I think this one protest should have generated wall-to-wall coverage—especially when the aforementioned people of color-led protests often generate even less coverage—but the IPCC report should definitely have upended the news cycle.
This massive police response is also a reminder that there can be no livable future in a police state. The fact that there are funds for police riot gear, but not for clean energy is a clear choice, and one we can scarcely afford anymore.
Can the IPCC Re-Focus on Impact?
By Amy Westervelt
Every few years the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) releases an assessment—it’s referred to as “the IPCC report,” but it actually consists of three main reports and a handful of special-focus reports, all prepared by three working groups. Working Group I focuses on the scientific evidence for climate change; Working Group II on the impacts, adaptation and vulnerabilities; and Working Group III on mitigation, which includes not only what we can do about it, but also what's stopping us.
The 2018 round of IPCC reports got a LOT of media attention, more than any ever had, thanks to a combination of uncharacteristically stark warnings from climate scientists and a media cycle that wasn't quite as inundated with crises as the current one. It’s generally credited with sparking the Fridays for Future school climate strikes, the Sunrise Movement, and all sorts of renewed attention from both politicians and the media on the climate crisis. And yet…
On April 4, 2022, the IPCC released the mitigation report for its current cycle and, folks, if the 2018 report was blunt, this one is absolutely screaming "do something!!!" It all but flat-out says we have failed to meet the target of keeping warming below 1.5 degrees. It also delivers the absolute gut punch that in the past decade—the time when we’ve known the most about climate change, and the decade in which that 2018 report drove so much more attention—average greenhouse gas emissions have increased. So not only are we not moving in the right direction, we’re fucking running in the wrong one. The report also doesn’t mince words about the reasons for that: political corruption and corporate interests. Despite all that, coverage was as slim as those pre-2018 days.
There are lots of mitigating circumstances ('scuse the pun). For a start, the release of the report was pushed back thanks to the fraught approval process for the report's Summary for Policymakers, or SPM (you can read more about that here). That meant that reporters got zero time with the actual report before we had to write about it, which was particularly problematic because some government representatives involved in the SPM process succeeded in watering it down so much it reads like the summary of an entirely different report. Plenty of reporters will only read the SPM—and miss the importance of this report. And then, of course, there’s the fact that this report comes amid a war in Europe, a never-ending pandemic, a Supreme Court nomination, and the absolute mockery that Joe Manchin is making of U.S. democracy every damn week. Ironically, this report is also the first one to include any mention of the media itself and its role in both creating support for policy shifts and spreading disinformation and doubt, and further enabling delay on climate action.
All of which says to me that the IPCC might need to re-think who this report is for and what it’s meant to do. Most folks working in climate now acknowledge that we’re not dealing with an information deficit issue when it comes to climate action, but with entrenched power and a lack of political will. The IPCC report says as much, in fact. If the IPCC wants its work to have any impact at all, it needs to reach influencers outside of the IPCC process. And to do that, it needs to form a better relationship with the media, one that gives journalists maybe even two whole days to read a complex 3,000-page report and figure out how to communicate it, one that sees the media as a partner in communicating the science and social science, not an adversary. In a nutshell it needs to embrace transparency over gatekeeping—the future of not only the IPCC itself, but the world, depends on it.
When Doves Cry
By Mary Annaïse Heglar
One of the things that keeps people out of climate conversations is the language barrier. There’s so many terms that, if you haven’t lived and breathed climate policy for years, will make absolutely no sense to you. Sometimes that’s because the word is so esoteric, but every once in a while it’s because it really, truly doesn’t make sense. Enter: “climate hawk.”
I saw it this week in this article from Politico that frames the people who supported the climate provisions in what used to be called Build Back Better as “climate hawks” and referred to Senator Joe Manchin as a “centrist.” Sigh. Those terms have meanings, and connotations, and they couldn’t be more mismatched with the people they’re meant to describe.
“Centrist” implies reasonable—someone willing to meet in the middle and consider many approaches to reach a goal. Manchin is not that. “Hawk” implies someone who chooses aggression and violence first and always, even when there is a plethora of other solutions at their feet. Climate advocates are not that. Climate advocates want to save the planet from a violent and deadly force. They want to stop a genocidal, ecocidal industry. They want peace. That actually makes them doves, not hawks.
Manchin, on the other hand, is a literal coal baron and the fossil fuel industry’s inside man. If he’s supposed to be a centrist, what exactly is he in the middle of? Nazis on the one side and people who—checks notes—want a livable future on the other? There’s no way to label Joe Manchin a “centrist” without validating people who believe in lizard people as a legitimate side of the political spectrum. By his enthusiastic and unquestioning support for a clearly violent industry, Joe Manchin is nobody’s centrist. He is a fossil fuel hawk and we should call him that.
As far as I can tell, the term “climate hawk” traces back to this 2010 article from David Roberts. I have a lot of respect for David and others who have been thinking about this stuff far longer than I have. But I think it’s undeniable that the discourse has changed dramatically since 2010 and it makes sense to update our terms. In 2010, the climate movement was not showing nearly as much teeth as it does today. Back then, the general image of an environmentalist was someone who was not just dovish, but sheepish. That’s not the world we live in today.
Language is always fluid, and now it’s time to flow in the other direction. If you’re pro-planet, you’re a dove. If you’re pro-fossil fuels, you’re a hawk.
The Godparents of the New Right-Wing: Ginni & Justice Clarence Thomas
By Amy Westervelt
Against all odds, Ketanji Brown Jackson was confirmed as the newest Supreme Court justice this week, and Republicans are handling it by having the racist tantrum everyone expected. KBJ won’t turn the balance of the court, it’s still pretty stacked in favor of conservatives and corporations, but she is young enough to outlive some of the older extremists on the bench.
Why does that matter for climate? Because some really important cases are headed to the Supreme Court at the moment, and the current bench gives every indication that they will rule in favor of corporations over people any day of the week and that goes twice for oil companies. Given his recent health scares, we can’t help but daydream about Justice Thomas being ousted in time for a Biden-appointed replacement. Especially given all the recent news about his poor health, followed by news of his wife’s involvement in the January 6th Insurrection. But honestly, nothing could be less surprising than one or both of the Thomases being involved in that shit. Here’s a not-at-all exhaustive list of the many ways this duo has fucked with American democracy over the years.
- Justice Thomas has enough conflicts of interest to be impeached. There’s actually a process by which a Supreme Court Justice can be impeached, but it’s only ever been invoked once, back in 1804 (the Justice in question was acquitted). In more recent history, William O. Douglas, an environmental activist, drew attention from Republicans eager to shift the court when he served on the board of the Sierra Club. He resigned in 1962 because he said it was possible the group could be involved in litigation that would reach the court. That potential conflict pales in comparison to Thomas’s many entanglements. On top of the fact that his wife is involved in several conservative groups who have been parties to cases that come before the Supreme Court, Thomas himself is surrounded by close friends who are conservative leaders pushing everything from school choice to climate denial.
- Ginni Thomas was the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s attorney during their peak denial days. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been a hub of anti-climate, pro-oil activity for decades. It was a key organizer and spreader of climate denial in the 1980s and 1990s, during which time Ginni Thomas was one of the Chamber’s attorneys. In more recent years, Mrs. Thomas has complained that the climate movement is “turning kids into robots for climate change.”
- Justice Thomas crafted the right’s anti-civil rights strategy. Thomas began crafting his take on civil rights as the leader of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In broad strokes, he believes that equal opportunity doesn’t necessarily mean equal outcomes, and that all the government owes those it has systematically marginalized in the past is laws that treat everyone equally. There’s no need to address past wrongs because, in Thomas’s worldview, what happened in the past ceases to have any impact once laws have been updated. So the impact of slavery, for example, ended the minute slavery was outlawed. The impact of Jim Crow? Gone the second those laws were gone. It’s why he’s been opposed to Affirmative Action all along. But Thomas also handed the rightwing the argument that, well actually, most civil rights legislation proposed post Brown vs. Board is actually racist. He coached aggrieved white conservatives to veer away from arguments of “reverse racism” against white people and to embrace instead the idea that Affirmative Action privileged elite Black people over the Black working class, and that laws that take race into account at all are inherently racist. It’s been a winning strategy for the right for decades.
- Ginni Thomas’s pet causes are all headed to the Supreme Court. Ginni Thomas, a lawyer who runs the far-right lobbying firm Liberty Consulting, has been a vocal conservative activist and frankly a hardcore rightwing nut for decades. But her various activities were mostly dismissed as… I don’t know, a hobby? A light interest in rightwing authoritarianism, just like knitting and marathon running, but with fascism? In recent years folks have begun to take it more seriously because—lo and behold—all of Ginni’s pet causes keep finding their way to the Supreme Court. Who’da thunk it? In an expose by Jane Mayer at The New Yorker, political scientist Artemus Ward said he believes Ginni has an enormous amount of influence over Thomas, pointing to her frequent posts on a list-serv of his clerks, where she advocates for various positions near to her heart. “Virginia Thomas has direct access to Thomas’s clerks,” Ward said. He noted that while Justice Thomas doesn’t post to the list, his wife “is advocating for things directly. It’s unprecedented. I have never seen a Justice’s wife as involved.”
- Ginni Thomas was a leader of the “Stop the Steal” movement. Texts obtained by the Washington Post and CBS News (and now in the hands of the Jan 6 Committee) reveal that Ginni Thomas was encouraging Trump’s chief-of-staff Mark Meadows to mount an effort to overturn the 2020 election. In 21 (?!) urgent text messages sent over just a few days, Ginni urged Meadows, “Help This Great President stand firm!! The majority knows Biden and the Left is attempting the greatest Heist of our History.” Ginni has publicly denied any conflict of interest between her activism and her husband’s work on the Supreme Court. “Clarence doesn’t discuss his work with me, and I don’t involve him in my work,” she said in an interview with the conservative Washington Free Beacon in March. But several of the country’s top legal scholars told The New Yorker in late March that, at a minimum, Justice Thomas should immediately recuse himself from any cases relating to the 2020 election and its aftermath.
Your weekly roundup of climate coverage.
Rising Temperatures, Rising Tides
California's in for Summer Water Shortages After Officials Find Just 2.5 Inches of Snowpack by Angely Mercado for Earther
'It's Now Or Never': We Have 3 Years to Reverse Course, Major Climate Report Finds by Molly Taft for Earther
One-Third of Americans Faced Extreme Weather in Recent Years, Survey Finds by Derrick Bryson Taylor for The New York Times
The Razor’s Edge of a Warming World by Emily Atkin for GQ
The Climate Presidency?
How the US government left Lake Charles in limbo after Hurricanes Laura and Delta by Jake Bittle for Grist
The Postal Service EV Drama, Explained by Brian Kahn and Lisa Martine Jenkins for Protocol
Joe Manchin waffles on electric vehicles: 'I have grave concerns about moving too quickly towards an EV-only future' by Joseph Zeballos-Roig for Insider
IPCC: We can tackle climate change if big oil gets out of the way by Amy Westervelt for The Guardian
Private Report Shows How Amazon Drastically Undercounts Its Carbon Footprint by Will Evans for Reveal
One Weird Trick for Fossil Fuel Companies to Actually Do Something Right by Molly Taft for Earther
What's really holding the world back from stopping climate change By Rebecca Leber and Umair Irfan for Vox
Democrats Worried About Gas Prices Are Begging Oil Companies to Drill More | The New Republic by Kate Aronoff for The New Republic
Why Is the IPCC Tiptoeing Around Fossil Fuels? | The New Republic by Kate Aronoff for The New Republic
Carbon Removal Isn't the Solution to Climate Change | The New Republic by Genevieve Guenther for The New Republic
Republicans Say “Woke” Wall Street Is Boycotting Fossil Fuels. The Numbers Prove Otherwise. | The New Republic by Kate Aronoff for The New Republic
Methane Emissions Soared to a Record in 2021, NOAA Says by Raymond Zhong for The New York Times
Ukraine war sparks fears of more gas extraction in quake-prone region by Mara Hvistendahl for the Intercept
Justice Is Justice Is Justice
Losing Ground - Reveal Reveal
Texas pledged access for non-English speakers to environmental documents and meetings. The rollout has been riddled with issues. | Grist by Erin Douglas for The Texas Tribune in Grist
California offers $100 million for tribes to buy back their land | Grist by Joseph Lee for Grist
Glimmers of Hope
Debunking Demand by Amy Westervelt for Drilled
Ecuador’s High Court Rules Wild Animals Have Legal Rights, by Elizabeth Gamillo for Smithsonian
Climate in Culture
Bill Nye Sells Out, Shills for Coca-Cola on Plastic Bottles by Molly Taft for Earther
NASA scientist arrested at climate change protest by Joe Dana for 12 News
Pinterest Says Your Vision Board Can't Deny Climate Change by Passant Rabie for Earther
As Gas Prices Went Up, So Did the Hunt for Electric Vehicles - The New York Times by Maggie Astor for the New York Times
IPCC report recognizes missing ingredient for climate action: Political will | Grist by Zoya Teirstein for Grist
As Russia attacks Ukraine, experts weigh European 'renaissance' for nuclear energy by Joseph Winters for Grist