Some (Podcast) News
By Mary Annaïse Heglar and Amy Westervelt
So, most of you know that Hot Take started as a podcast back in late 2019 and we expanded with the newsletter in the summer of 2020. We took the podcast on hiatus last summer and we’re thrilled to finally share why we’ve been away so long: we’re moving to the Crooked Media network!
What does this mean for the podcast? For listeners, it will be a seamless transition; if you're already subscribed, you don't have to do anything (and if you're not, subscribe wherever you get your pods!). And once we re-launch, you'll get episodes in your feed every week. For us, it means we have more support. We got started based on a swift friendship and deep frustration with the state (and dearth) of climate discourse. But we didn’t have a ton of resources at our disposal. Amy used the resources she could from her own company, Critical Frequency. Neither one of us has ever taken a salary from the pod or the newsletter. Amy did the audio editing and producing on her own time. Mary did most of the research and outlining on her own time, and we booked the guests and planned the seasons completely on our own. If that doesn’t sound like a lot of work, let us assure you that it is, especially when it's all unpaid. Any money the pod (or this newsletter) brought in went toward paying for stuff like graphics, music, equipment, and production support whenever we could get it.
Moving to Crooked means we'll have production and marketing staff. That means we'll have help getting Hot Take out to a broader audience, and we'll be able to concentrate our work on the content—and actually be paid for it! It also means that Critical Frequency will re-focus on what it's always done, reported narrative podcasts with a focus on climate. In addition to co-hosting Hot Take, Amy will continue to work on Drilled and a new climate law pod Damages (more on that next week). And you'll still see both of us writing in various outlets along with the newsletter.
We’re proud of what we've built with Hot Take, and incredibly gratified that we managed to catch the attention of one of the biggest, most successful podcast networks out there. We firmly believe that if we’re going to avert, or even survive, the climate crisis, we have to learn how to talk about it, both in the media and among ourselves. People always talk about how the key to moving on climate is building political will—but how do you build that political will? We can’t wait to take that conversation to the masses, and we think Crooked gives us the perfect platform to do that. It says a lot that rather than create their own new take on a climate show, Crooked is trusting us to bring climate to their audience. We're not only their first climate show, but also one of their first acquisitions of another podcast (the other is a great legal podcast, Strict Scrutiny, both announced in Variety this week)
None of this means that Hot Take will no longer be a labor of love. Even though we’ll have the support of a major network, we will remain ourselves, just better rested and better resourced. We can’t wait!
We'll share more updates soon, including our re-launch date! If you can’t wait either, we suggest going back to the beginning with our just-before-COVID episodes looking back on climate change in the media in the Trump Era.
BONUS: 2020: The Shitshow
The Climate Argument for Packing the Courts
By Amy Westervelt
Back in 2016, climate policy researcher Peter Erickson published a paper that looked at how expanding oil production in the U.S. increased oil consumption worldwide. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: despite all of its claims to the contrary, the fossil fuel industry does not just supply a demand. It manufactures demand.
Erickson used the Department of Interior’s own math, which has historically been quite friendly to the fossil fuel industry, to determine that if the U.S. were to expand oil production by X barrels, global oil consumption would increase by about 0.5X barrels, because the fossil fuel industry somehow always finds a way to spur demand. He shared his findings with the Department of the Interior, and this week a D.C. federal court judge used those findings as part of his justification for canceling oil and gas leases of more than 80 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico.
You might recall that President Biden canceled those leases himself earlier this year via executive order. But almost immediately a group of 13 Republican attorneys general, led by Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, sued and a federal judge in Louisiana blocked that order mandating that the Biden administration hold the lease sales that had already been scheduled. (If you’re wondering if Louisiana is an oil autocracy, the answer is yes. Yes, it is.)
Environmental groups sued to block them again, saying the Department of Interior had used outdated environmental information to authorize those leases in the first place, and had thus violated the National Environmental Protect Act (NEPA). That’s what federal judge Rudolph Contreras affirmed in his decision this week, making the very obvious, but somehow also groundbreaking, conclusion that If you expand oil production, you also expand oil consumption and, therefore, greenhouse gas emissions. What’s really huge about this decision is that it actually takes into account the fact that U.S. oil companies supply the rest of the world too: In other words, when we’re calculating climate impacts we can’t limit that to just what’s getting consumed in the U.S. In his decision, Contreras wrote that the Trump Department of the Interior had “acted arbitrarily and capriciously in excluding foreign consumption from their greenhouse gas emissions” and that whatever business disruptions halting new leases in the Gulf might bring, they “do not outweigh the seriousness of the NEPA error in this case and the need for the agency to get it right.”
This case is a perfect example of how and why the courts are so critical when it comes to climate accountability. First, you’ve got the initial actions of the Republican attorneys general, which was coordinated through the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA). RAGA was organized back in the late 1990s by Republicans as a response to the tobacco litigation, which had been spearheaded by Democratic attorneys general. Republicans looked at that and realized (a) it was a good idea, and it had worked, (b) Democrats outnumbered Republicans in attorneys general offices, and (c) if they were going to protect other industries from legal action (like, oh I don’t know, the fossil fuel industry), they needed to tip that balance and start strategizing their own multi-state cases. The attorneys general of Alabama, Texas, and South Carolina came together to start RAGA, and then set about fundraising and strategizing to get more Republican attorney generals elected. Within a decade, they had tipped the scales in favor of Republicans. In the past decade, RAGA has spearheaded multiple suits pushing a conservative policy agenda. Thanks to Citizens United, the 2010 Supreme Court case that gave corporations the right to donate anonymously to political campaigns, RAGA was able to create a Political Action Committee to funnel dark money from industry groups and corporations straight to the attorneys general that are supposed to regulate those industries, but are now working on their behalf instead.
But what we also see in the case on oil leases decided this week is that RAGA doesn't always win. That their opponents are getting wiser. The suit environmental groups filed to combat RAGA's efforts successfully blocked those Gulf oil leases again. And the federal judge in that case set precedent with his decision, ruling that yeah, you actually do have to consider climate implications when you’re weighing whether or not to open up land to offshore drilling.
And then of course, all legal roads—or at least most—lead to the Supreme Court. Just as this momentous decision was coming out of a D.C. federal court, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer announced he’s retiring, which means Biden will have an opportunity to nominate a new judge to the Supreme Court bench. Most on the left are hoping Biden puts the youngest, most progressive Black woman on the bench he can. It would be the first step toward shifting the ideological balance of the court. But that shift won’t happen for another 30 years. In the meantime, we’ve got a very pro-corporate, conservative Supreme Court that will be weighing in on critical climate issues. It’s one reason that the idea of packing the court while he can is something Biden should seriously consider. Radical as it may seem—or even be—allowing a handful of politicians and corporate titans to, once again, dictate whether or not we will act to avert climate catastrophe is far more radical.
Abolition Is a Process
By Mary Annaïse Heglar
Last March, right after we recorded one of my favorite podcast episodes—the one about prison abolition with one of our favorites guests, Drew Costley—I decided to take my personal education about prison and police abolition more seriously. It had always seemed like such a beautiful concept, but I still had so many questions. I understood that “accountability” is not synonymous with “punishment” and that a world without prisons is not necessarily a world without consequences. But… we can talk all day about what a world without prisons is NOT, but what IS it?
In trying to answer that question, I ordered a hefty amount of books, but I didn’t get around to finishing one of them until last week (shut up!). I started with Derecka Purnell’s Becoming Abolitionists. I started the book looking for answers, but found far more questions. I would have expected that to be frustrating, but it wasn’t. It was actually clarifying. I learned that abolition is less about having all the answers and more about having the courage to ask the questions.
And it’s not about an overnight process, either. It’s about dismantling the systems that lead to crime in the first place, instead of punishing it once it happens. It’s about caring for the victim as well as the perpetrator—because both are human—and trying to make them whole again. In other words, it’s about creating a new world while living in the old one. That takes time, and intention. And iteration. Which is something that probably sounds really familiar to climate folks.
I think all of this applies to fossil fuel abolition too. As much as I love the idea, we are not going to get off fossil fuels overnight. And we still don't have a clear picture of what that new world looks like. Right now, we’re talking less about “abolition” and more about “deconstruction.” But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t state abolition as our ultimate goal. Otherwise, we get so lost in “process” that all we ever get is gradual steps and “bridge fuels.” All trees, no forest. Instead of passing through the middle, we get stuck there. And getting halfway out of an emergency is still an emergency. There’s no middle ground when it comes to a livable future.
Dreaming in Paris
By Amy Westervelt
In the aftermath of the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, advocates for climate action almost universally agreed: The targets set in that agreement were weak. Not only was the goal of keeping warming "well below 2 degrees Celsius" weak, but also the details of the agreement wouldn't even get us to that target. In the seven years since that agreement was reached, as we've watched country after country fall short of their targets, a significant number of folks have begun talking about Paris as a real goal.
James Hansen—the climate scientist who first testified to Congress back in 1988 that global warming was already evident, and whose 1990s predictions for warming have predicted exactly what we're experiencing today with eerie accuracy—has been saying since even before the Paris summit back in 2015 that the 1.5 or 2 degrees of warming is dangerous. Hansen has argued for goals that align with science. In the simplest possible terms: burning fossil fuels has created an imbalance in our atmosphere, pumping too many greenhouse gases (and especially CO2) into it, leading to runaway climate change. To address that problem we have to get back to a balanced atmosphere, of no more than 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide. In other words, zero degrees of warming. Zero is the goal. Not 1.5, not 2, and certainly not "net zero," which means nothing. The goal is zero. We’re at 1.2 degrees now. Look around you. Does it look safe to you?
Are we on track to get to zero? Hell no. Can we get on track to get there? It's not looking great. Does that mean we shift the goalposts and aim lower? No! “When all else fails, lower your expectations,” is the worst possible mantra for the climate movement. Realism is fine, necessary even, but you don't stop fighting for what you know is right, or change your definition of “livable”, just because it looks like you're not going to get there.
Your weekly roundup of climate coverage.
Rising Temperatures, Rising Tides
An Extraordinary Iceberg Is Gone, but Not Forgotten - The New York Times, by Henry Fountain
Great Barrier Reef on verge of another mass bleaching after highest temperatures on record, by Graham Readfearn for The Guardian
Fish growth slowed by high temperatures and plastic chemical BPA, research finds, by Donna Hu for The Guardian
Regions growing coffee, cashews and avocados at risk amid global heating, by Hibaq Farah for The Guardian
The UK's History Is Disappearing With Its Peatlands, by Angely Mercado for Earther
Parasites that thrive in a warming planet are killing Minnesota’s moose, by Liz Scheltens for Vox
Peru govt and Repsol revise estimated size of oil spill to over 10,000 barrels | Reuters, by Marco Aquino and Marcelo Rochabrun
Stop the Clock | Atmos, by Yessenia Funes
Rare snowfall in Istanbul and Athens paralyzes cities, sparks rescues, by Mehmet Guzul and Elena Becatoros for the Associated Press
Rocketing demand for fossil fuels could deal blow to climate goals, report says, by Jillian Ambrose for The Guardian
Extreme weather is destroying more crops. Taxpayers are footing the bill, by Jena Brooker for Grist
Montana considers limits on wolf hunting after 23 from Yellowstone are killed, by Matthew Brown for the LA Times
Heavy smog blankets Beijing ahead of Olympics as authorities pledge to clean up the air, by Christian Shepherd for the Washington Post
Your Gas Stove Is Leaking Methane Even When It's Off: Study, by Molly Taft for Earther
US agencies sued after OC oil spill harmed marine life - Los Angeles Times, originally in the Associated Press
The Climate Presidency?
Judge throws out massive Gulf of Mexico oil and gas lease sale, by Anna Phillips and Maxine Joselow for the Washington Post
Biden outpaces Trump in issuing drilling permits on public lands, by Anna Phillips for The Washington Post
House Democrats to launch three climate task forces - The Washington Post, by Maxine Joselow
The Supreme Court vs. the Earth | The Nation, by Elie Mystal
The Best of Democrats' Bad Options? | The New Republic, by Kate Aronoff
Analysis: Biden gets climate win with court loss on Gulf of Mexico oil leases | Reuters, by Nichola Groom and Valerie Volcovici
Exclusive: White House mulls extension of Trump-era solar tariffs, with tweaks | Reuters, by Jarrett Renshaw and Nichola Groom
This Supreme Court Case Could Destroy Water Protections, by Molly Taft for Earther
US EPA finalizes rule extending refinery compliance deadline for biofuel laws | Reuters, by Stephanie Kelly for Reuters
Big Oil's New Ad Campaign Is 'One of the Creepiest' It's Ever Made, by Brian Kahn for Earther
Why I Divested My Bank Account and You Should Too | The Nation, by Ilana Cohen
The Oil Industry Has a $500 Billion Bubble Problem, by Angely Mercado for Earther
Oil firms accused of scare tactics after claiming climate lawsuits 'a threat to US', by Chris McGreal for The Guardian
How a $60 million bribery scandal helped Ohio pass the 'worst energy policy in the country', by Nathanael Johnson for Grist
How to Sue a Government Over Climate Change, by Helen Meriel Thomas for Vice
Oatly ads banned by UK watchdog over 'misleading' green claims, by Mark Sweney for The Guardian
Justice Is Justice Is Justice
Desecrating the Sacred, by Ruth H. Hopkins for Atmos
Undocumented workers are cleaning up our climate disasters. A new bill would protect them, by Zoya Tierstien for Grist
Redwood Forest in California Is Returned to Native Tribes - The New York Times, by Isabella Grullón Paz
Should Environmental Activists Sabotage Fossil Fuel Infrastructure? | The Nation, by Andreas Malm and Daniel Sherrell
EPA announces 'bold' action to monitor pollution in 'Cancer Alley', by Darryl Fears for The Washington Post
California's plan to slash solar subsidies seems backwards. It's not, by Shannon Osaka for Grist
The Young Activist Fighting to 'Change the Faces of Power', by Dharna Noor for Earther
Facing toxic lead contamination, a California barrio continues its long struggle for justice, by Yvette Cabrera for Grist
People Most Affected by Climate Crisis Ready for Civil Disobedience, by Angely Mercado for Earther
Glimmers of Hope
America’s Climate Workforce Suits Up, by Yessenia Funes for Atmos
GM Will Invest $7 Billion in EV Batteries and Electric Trucks, by Mack DeGeurin for Earther
Los Angeles Is Making Good on Its Promise to Ban Oil and Gas Wells, by Mack DeGeurin for Earther
California bill would ban single-use cigarette filters - Los Angeles Times, by Christian Martinez
Los Angeles moves to end oil drilling in the city, by Dakota Smith for the LA Times
Climate in Culture
Yes, there's a climate change version of Wordle now , by Kate Yoder for Grist
We're All Crazy in Someone Else's Eyes | The New Republic, by Liza Featherstone
Which Drugs Will Survive Climate Change? We Investigated, by Greg Walters and Jamie Leventhal for Vice
Jordan Peterson and Joe Rogan Talking About Climate Change Will Make Your Brain Dissolve, by Molly Taft for Earther
QAnon Conspiracy Theorists Force Butterfly Sanctuary to Shut Down, by Shoshana Wodinsky for Earther
Bean burrito or beef burrito? Restaurants try messages on menus to help diners order less meat, by Oliver Milman for The Guardian
Saudi Arabia Says Pink Hydrogen Is for Girlbosses, by Molly Taft for Earther
Bill Nye Says the Way We Talk About Climate Change Matters - The New York Times, by Alexis Benveniste
Rising temperatures threaten future of Winter Olympics, say experts, by Niels de Hoog for The Guardian
UK pupils failed by schools' teaching of climate crisis, experts say, by Fiona Harvey for The Guardian
Europe seeks natural gas supplies as conflict with Russia over Ukraine looms - The Washington Post, by Steven Mufson and Michael Birnbaum
Hoda Katebi's Mission to Abolish Sweatshops | Atmos, by Daphne Chouliaraki Milner
Piecing It Together, by Willow Defebaugh for Atmos