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    Ketanji Brown Jackson sworn in to supreme court after ruling deals blow to climate crisis – as it happened

    Today marked the end an extraordinary term for the supreme court, the aftershocks of which will be felt for years, decades and perhaps even generations to come. From abortion to climate, prayer in school to guns, American life looks differently today than it did just a few weeks ago. The court itself also looks differently. For the first time in its more than 200 year history, a Black women will sit on the court. Here’s what else happened today.
    The supreme court sided with conservative states in a ruling with profound implications for the global effort to tackle the climate crisis. In a statement, Joe Biden vowed to find new ways to limit greenhouse gas emissions and transition to renewable energy.
    In its final decision of the term, a majority of justices agreed that Biden could end his predecessor’s controversial immigration policy.
    A judge in Florida said he would temporarily block a law banning abortions after 15-weeks from taking effect.
    New polling by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research suggests that half of all Americans believe Donald Trump should be charged over his actions on January 6.
    The Justice Department on Thursday announced it was opening an investigation into the New York Police Department’s special victims division after concluding that there was “significant justification” to examine its handling of sex-abuse cases.
    In a new piece for the Guardian, climate scientist Peter Kalmus warns that the Supreme Court’s decision will have far-reaching and devastating consequences for the planet – and humanity. .css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}In an era of crises, global heating increasingly stands out as the single greatest emergency humanity faces,” Kalmus writes. “Global heating is driving extreme heat, drought and flooding in the US and around the world. It’s driving wildfire and ecosystem collapse, and may already be contributing to famine and warfare. Crucially, this is all worsening day by day, and it will continue to worsen until we end the fossil fuel industry.

    Without a livable planet, nothing else matters. As the Earth’s capacity to support life continues to degrade, millions, eventually billions of people will be displaced and die, fascism will rise, climate wars will intensify and the rule of law will break down. The myth of American exceptionalism will offer no protection from deadly heat and climate famine.
    In the US we now live under the sway of robed, superstitious fools hellbent on rolling back basic civil liberties and rejecting scientific facts. Carl Sagan, warning against this sort of anti-science, wrote: “The candle flame gutters. Its little pool of light trembles. Darkness gathers. The demons begin to stir.” The consequences of ignoring scientists for too long are coming home to roost.
    We desperately need a government working to stop Earth’s breakdown rather than accelerate it, but petitions or pleas to “vote harder” will not make this happen. Due to capture by the ultra-rich, our only option is to fight. To shift society into emergency mode and end the fossil fuel industry, we must join together and do all we can to wake people up to the grave danger we are in. We must engage in climate disobedience. I believe that the tides could still turn, that power could shift suddenly. But this can only happen when enough people join the fight.The US supreme court just made yet another devastating decision for humanity | Peter KalmusRead moreAs Democrats search for ways to protect abortion access, a group of liberal senators are calling on the Pentagon to ensure military servicemembers will have access to the procedure regardless of where they are stationed. In a letter, Senate Democrats on the Armed Services Committee, led by Hawaii senator Mazie Hirono, asked Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to act to “preserve the health and welfare of our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Guardians.” It asks the Department of Defense to provide a plan that ensures women seeking reproductive care in states where abortion is severely restricted or banned are allowed to travel out of state to seek care, as well as protects their privacy CNN first reported the letter. “Entrusted to your care are hundreds of thousands of troops, dependents, and Department of Defense civilians who have lost access to safe abortions and now face threats of criminal prosecution for seeking out those services,” the Democratic senators wrote. It concludes: “We owe it to these service members to look after them and ensure they have the ability to continue accessing safe reproductive health care no matter where their military service sends them.”In a dissenting opinion on Thursday, supreme court justice Clarence Thomas incorrectly suggested that Covid-19 vaccines were developed using the cells of “aborted children”. Politico spotted the claim from the conservative justice in a dissenting opinion in response to a decision by the court not to hear a challenge to New York’s vaccine mandate. Over the objection of Thomas and two other conservative justices, the supreme court on Thursday allowed New York to require all healthcare works show proof of vaccination. “They object on religious grounds to all available COVID–19 vaccines because they were developed using cell lines derived from aborted children,” Thomas said of the 16 healthcare workers who brought the challenge.Rumors and conspiracy theories fueled vaccine hesitancy and undermined public faith in public health institutions in the United States, where more than 1 million Americans have died from covid-19. Here’s Politico correcting the record..css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}None of the Covid-19 vaccines in the United States contain the cells of aborted fetuses. Cells obtained from elective abortions decades ago were used in testing during the Covid vaccine development process, a practice that is common in vaccine testing — including for the rubella and chickenpox vaccinations.
    A group of doctors, nurses and other health care workers brought the case, suing the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York in an objection to the state’s vaccine mandate on religious grounds. The district court issued a preliminary injunction, but the Court of Appeals reversed it and the Supreme Court ultimately declined to hear the challenge on Thursday.
    Conservative Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch joined Thomas in his dissenting opinion. And some Thomas defenders noted that he was simply reciting the allegations made by those refusing to get the vaccine.Read the full story here.The Justice Department on Thursday announced that it had opened a civil rights investigation into the New York City police department’s special victims division after concluding there was “significant justification” to examine its handling of sex-abuse cases. In a press release, federal prosecutors said the department had received reports of deficiencies dating back more than a decade. The investigation will look at whether the division has engaged in a pattern of gender-biased policing, examining allegations that include “failing to conduct basic investigative steps and instead shaming and abusing survivors and re-traumatizing them during investigations,” the department said.“Victims of sex crimes deserve the same rigorous and unbiased investigations of their cases that the NYPD affords to other categories of crime,” Damian Williams, the US attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement. “Likewise, relentless and effective pursuit of perpetrators of sexual violence, unburdened by gender stereotypes or differential treatment, is essential to public safety. We look forward to working with our partners in EDNY and the Civil Rights Division to assess the NYPD’s practices in this area.”As abortion clinics shutter around the country and providers navigate a fast-changing legal environment, a judge in Florida said he would temporarily block a 15-week ban from taking effect in the state. The decision comes in response to a court challenge by reproductive healthcare providers who argued that the Florida state constitution guarantees a right to the procedure.According to the Associated Press, the judge, John Cooper, issued the ruling from the bench, but it does not take effect until he signs a written order. The law, passed earlier this year by the state’s Republican-controlled legislature and signed into law by Republican governor Ron DeSantis, goes into effect Friday.Cooper said Florida’s ban was “unconstitutional in that it violates the privacy provision of the Florida Constitution.”DeSantis’ office said it would appeal the ruling.In a new statement, Biden vowed to press forward with executive actions to combat climate change despite what he called the supreme court’s “devastating” ruling on Friday that significantly hobbles the government’s ability to limit carbon gas emissions. “While this decision risks damaging our nation’s ability to keep our air clean and combat climate change, I will not relent in using my lawful authorities to protect public health and tackle the climate crisis,” Biden said in the statement. Biden said he has directed federal agencies to review the decision in search of ways the administration might still be able to limit pollution. .css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}We cannot and will not ignore the danger to public health and existential threat the climate crisis poses. The science confirms what we all see with our own eyes – the wildfires, droughts, extreme heat, and intense storms are endangering our lives and livelihoods.
    I will take action. My Administration will continue using lawful executive authority, including the EPA’s legally-upheld authorities, to keep our air clean, protect public health, and tackle the climate crisis. We will work with states and cities to pass and uphold laws that protect their citizens. And we will keep pushing for additional Congressional action, so that Americans can fully seize the economic opportunities, cost-saving benefits, and security of a clean energy future. Together, we will tackle environmental injustice, create good-paying jobs, and lower costs for families building the clean energy economy.
    Our fight against climate change must carry forward, and it will. A new survey from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that nearly half of US adults believe Donald Trump should be charged with a crime for his role in the January 6 attack on the Capitol, compared with 31% who say he should not be. Nearly 6 in 10 US adults say he “bears a great deal or quite a bit of responsibility” for the violence that unfolded at the Capitol, it found.The survey was conducted after the first five public hearings held by the House committee investigating the attack but before Tuesday’s hearing, which featured explosive testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson, a top aide to Trump’s final chief of staff, Mark Meadows. Unsurprisingly, views of Trump’s culpability varied widely along party lines. Nevertheless, it is perhaps a sobering data point for the former president as he toys with a second bid for the White House. It’s been a busy morning in Washington. Here’s where things stand.
    The supreme court ended a monumental session with another pair of consequential decisions. In a 6-3 decision, the court’s conservative majority sided with Republican officials and fossil fuel companies in a ruling that curbs the administration’s ability to combat global warming.
    In a second ruling, the court agreed 5-4 that Biden had the authority to end a controversial immigration policy enacted by his predecessor, known informally as the “Remain in Mexico” program.
    During a press conference in Madrid, Joe Biden said he supported changing the Senate rules to pass abortion and privacy protections. But Democrats do not have enough votes to alter, much less eliminate, the filibuster.And as long as the filibuster remains in place, they lack the Republican support to pass legislation that would codify Roe into law.
    Ketanji Brown Jackson was sworn in as the 116th supreme court justice. She is the first Black woman to serve on the court.
    For this history books. Ketanji Brown Jackson is sworn in as the 116th supreme court justice and the first Black woman to serve on the court.History made. Ketanji Brown Jackson was sworn in as the newest associate justice of the supreme court on Thursday, becoming the first Black woman in history to ascend to the nation’s highest bench. WATCH: Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is officially sworn in as first Black female Justice of the Supreme Court.— CBS News (@CBSNews) June 30, 2022
    In a brief ceremony at the supreme court, Chief Justice Roberts administered the Constitutional oath. Justice Stephen Breyer, who retired at noon, delivered the judicial oath. She is the court’s 116th justice.“Are you prepared to take the oath,” Roberts asked. “I am,” Jackson said, raising her right hand. The 51-year-old Jackson joins the court at an extraordinary moment, after one of the most consequential terms in modern memory. The court’s 6-3 conservative supermajority handed down a slew of decisions that expanded gun rights, eliminated the constitutional right to an abortion and, just today, curtailed the government’s ability to fight climate change.Her confirmation was the fulfillment of a promise Joe Biden made to supporters during the 2020 presidential campaign, when he vowed to nominate a Black woman justice if a vacancy arose. Earlier this year, Breyer announced he would retire at the end of the term, paving the way for her elevation to the court. A former public defender, she brings a unique background. Her arrival is expected to do little to change the court’s ideological composition as she views herself in the mold of her predecessor, one of just three liberals on the court.Roberts said there would be a formal investiture in the fall. Senator Patrick Leahy, the 82-year-old Democrat from Vermont, will undergo hip surgery today after falling in his Virginia home, his office said in a statement. The statement notes that Leahy, a skilled photographer, was born blind in one eye and has had a “lifelong struggle” with depth perception. “He has taken some remarkable dingers over the years but this one finally caught up with him,” it said.The statement said Leahy is expected to make a full recovery but did not offer any timeline for his return. In a Senate divided 50-50, his absence could delay Democrats plans to confirm a host of judicial nominations and a new director to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. It may also imperil negotiations over a reconciliation bill, that may be the vehicle for Democrats’ scaled-back climate proposals, all the more urgent in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling today. Now at risk: timely confirmation of ATF and judicial noms, including a DC Circuit judge, and possible reconciliation votes.— Mike DeBonis (@mikedebonis) June 30, 2022
    Biden reiterates his support for changing the filibuster rules to pass abortion protections. We have to codify Roe v. Wade into law.And as I said this morning: If the filibuster gets in the way, then we need to make an exception to get it done.— President Biden (@POTUS) June 30, 2022 More

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    Joe Biden says he supports overriding filibuster to protect abortion rights – video

    The US president has said he would support changing the Senate filibuster rules to codify abortion rights nationally, calling the supreme court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade ‘destabilising’. ‘We have to codify Roe v Wade in the law and the way to do that is to make sure Congress votes to do that. And if the filibuster gets in the way, it’s like voting rights … we should require an exception to the filibuster for this action,’ Biden said. He added he would meet with a group of governors on Friday to discuss abortion rights

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    Biden backs exception to Senate filibuster to protect abortion access More

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    Biden backs exception to Senate filibuster to protect abortion access

    Biden backs exception to Senate filibuster to protect abortion accessPresident in Madrid says he supports ‘exception to the filibuster for this action to deal with the supreme court decision’01:39Joe Biden said on Thursday he would support an exception to the Senate filibuster to protect access to abortion, after the supreme court overturned the right in a historic ruling this month.The Roe ruling is not about states’ rights. It’s about power and control | Derecka PurnellRead more“If the filibuster gets in the way, it’s like voting rights,“ Biden said during a press conference at the Nato summit in Madrid, adding that there should be an “exception to the filibuster for this action to deal with the supreme court decision”.The term filibuster refers to the 60-seat super-majority needed for most legislation to pass the Senate without being blocked by any single senator.The rule is meant to help the Senate act as a less volatile chamber than the House, which works on simple majority votes, and to protect the rights of the minority.But many on the left charge Republicans and some centrist Democrats with using the rule more in the archaic, Spanish-derived sense of the word “filibuster” – as pirates or raiders, ransacking the political process to their own advantage.Biden was a senator from 1973 until 2009. An institutionalist to the core, he has been reluctant to support changes to the filibuster – even “carve-outs” for key legislation.Earlier this year, Biden endorsed a carve-out on the issue of voting rights. The move was meant to answer Republican attacks on those likely to vote Democratic, prominently African Americans, but two Democrats, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, stood in the way of their party.Biden’s latest comments made clear he is willing to support a carve-out to protect abortion rights. Manchin and Sinema would in all likelihood block the move once again.With the Senate split 50-50 and controlled by the vote of the vice-president, Kamala Harris, Democrats’ legislative options are limited.Biden is therefore under pressure to take executive action to protect abortion rights. Although his options are few, in Madrid he said he would meet governors on Friday to talk about the issue and would “have announcements to make then”.Biden also repeated harsh criticism of the decision to overturn Roe v Wade, the 1973 ruling which guaranteed the right to abortion, and reiterated his warning that other constitutional protections could be at risk from a supreme court tilted right by three justices appointed by Donald Trump.01:29Biden said: “One thing that has been destabilising is the outrageous behavior of the supreme court of the United States in overruling not only Roe v Wade but essentially challenging the right to privacy.”Clarence Thomas, the senior conservative on the court, has written that other privacy-based rights, to contraception, gay sex and same sex marriage, should be examined.Thomas did not say another such right, to interracial marriage, was in question. He is Black. His wife, the far-right activist Ginni Thomas, is white.As a devout Catholic, Biden has long seen many US left question his bona fides as a supporter of abortion rights. In such quarters, the president’s remarks in Spain met with rather weary responses.Elie Mystal, justice correspondent of the Nation, wrote: “Oh look, Biden said he wasn’t open to changing the filibuster to pass a federal abortion law, people loudly complained, and now he’s changed his mind. FUNNY HOW THAT WORKS!“It’s almost like telling elected officials what we want them to DO makes them more likely to DO IT.”TopicsJoe BidenAbortionUS SenateUS politicsnewsReuse this content More

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    A quarter of Americans open to taking up arms against government, poll says

    A quarter of Americans open to taking up arms against government, poll saysSurvey of 1,000 registered US voters also reveals that most Americans agree government is ‘corrupt and rigged’ More than one quarter of US residents feel so estranged from their government that they feel it might “soon be necessary to take up arms” against it, a poll released on Thursday claimed.This survey of 1,000 registered US voters, published by the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics (IOP), also revealed that most Americans agree the government is “corrupt and rigged against everyday people like me”.The data suggests that extreme polarization in US politics – and its impact on Americans’ relationships with each other – remain strong. These statistics come as a congressional committee is holding public hearings on the January 6 insurrection.This deadly attack on the US Capitol stemmed from the false, partisan, pro-Donald Trump belief that Joe Biden did not win the 2020 election. Rioters attempted to thwart certification of the election, in an effort to keep Trump in office.Although the violent insurrectionists targeted Republicans and Democrats alike, GOP Trump loyalists have insisted that the committee is illegitimate. These attacks on the committee intensified after Trump staffers themselves – including former attorney general Bill Barr – publicly described his efforts to push “the big lie” that the presidential election was stolen.The survey indicates that distrust in government varies among party lines. While 56% of participants said they “generally trust elections to be conducted fairly and counted accurately”, Republicans, Democrats and independents were dramatically split on this point. Nearly 80% of Democrats voiced overall trust in elections, but that number dipped to 51% among independents and a mere 33% of Republicans.Per the poll, 49% of Americans concurred that they “more and more feel like a stranger in my own country”. Again, this number reflected sharp political divisions: the sentiment was held by 69% of self-described “strong Republicans”, 65% of self-described “very conservative” persons, and 38% of “strong Democrats”.Of the 28% of voters who felt it might soon be necessary “to take up arms against the government”, 37% had guns in their homes, according to the data.One-third of Republicans – including 45% of “strong Republicans – hold this belief about taking up arms. 35% of independent voters, and 20% of Democrats, also agreed, the poll said.Meanwhile, those polled voiced negative sentiments about persons from opposing political parties. Seventy-three per cent of self-described Republican voters agreed that “Democrats are generally bullies who want to impose their political beliefs on those who disagree,” and “an almost identical percentage of Democrats (74%) express that view of Republicans”.“While we’ve documented for years the partisan polarization in the country, these poll results are perhaps the starkest evidence of the deep divisions in partisan attitudes rippling through the country,” said the Republican pollster Neil Newhouse, who conducted the survey in May with and Democratic pollster Joel Benenson.The survey also stated that almost half of respondents expressed averting political talk with other people “because I don’t know where they stand”. One-quarter described losing friends, and a similar proportion claimed to have avoided relatives and friends, due to politics, per the survey.TopicsBiden administrationRepublicansDemocratsUS politicsnewsReuse this content More

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    Kinzinger slams fellow Republican Boebert and warns of ‘Christian Taliban’

    Kinzinger slams fellow Republican Boebert and warns of ‘Christian Taliban’Adam Kinzinger says ‘no difference between this and the Taliban’ after Lauren Boebert’s call to end separation of church and state A Republican congressman slammed GOP colleague Lauren Boebert’s recent call to end separation of church and state in the US, warning: “There is no difference between this and the Taliban.”“We must opposed [sic] the Christian Taliban,” Adam Kinzinger, a US representative for Illinois, said on Wednesday. “I say this as a Christian.”Republicans seek to install ‘permanent election integrity infrastructure’ across USRead moreKinzinger, who is on the committee investigating the deadly January 6 attack on the US Capitol, was referring to comments that the Colorado Republican congresswoman made at a church in her state. During an address at the Cornerstone Christian Center in Basalt, Boebert said she was exhausted by the separation of church and state principle; this principle is a key tenet of the US constitution.“The church is supposed to direct the government,” Boebert said, according to the Hill. “The government is not supposed to direct the church. That is not how our founding fathers intended it.”“I’m tired of this separation of church and state junk – that’s not in the constitution. It was in a stinking letter and it means nothing like they say it does,” Boebert also remarked, reportedly prompting applause. The extreme rightwing politician routinely makes comments that foment the culture war: she opposes gun control, questions the efficacy of vaccines, and the 2020 election outcome.Boebert was alluding to an 1802 letter that Thomas Jefferson – who was president at the time – sent to a church organization. In this correspondence, Jefferson said that the American public had constructed “a wall of separation between Church and State”, the Hill said.Despite Boebert’s remarks about the letter, the first 10 US constitutional amendments – called the Bill of Rights, as they sought to confirm the “fundamental rights” of US citizens – were ratified on 15 December 1791. That means they predate the letter.The first amendment, which is part of the Bill of Rights, states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”This reference to religion is the “Establishment Clause”. The Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute explained that this clause “prohibits the government from making any law ‘respecting an establishment of religion’”.“This clause not only forbids the government from establishing an official religion, but also prohibits government actions that unduly favor one religion over another,” the Institute continued. “It also prohibits the government from unduly preferring religion over non-religion, or non-religion over religion.”The US supreme court, which now has a super majority of conservative justices, has increasingly indicated openness to permitting religion in the public sphere. Earlier in June, the panel rejected a Maine statute that had barred religious schools from receiving tuition assistance from public money, the Hill noted.The justices also ruled in support of a one-time public high school football coach who was suspended for praying with players at the 50-yard line following games. In her dissent on the ruling, the liberal justice Sonia Sotomayor said: “This court continues to dismantle the wall of separation between church and state that the framers fought to build.”TopicsRepublicansUS politicsnewsReuse this content More

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    Liz Cheney calls Trump's election actions more chilling than imagined – video

    The Republican US representative Liz Cheney has said Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election were ‘more chilling and more threatening’ than first imagined, while calling on Republicans to choose between loyalty to Trump and the constitution. 
    Cheney, a commanding presence on the congressional panel investigating the January 6 Capitol riot by Trump supporters, warned against descending into vitriolic partisan attacks that could tear the political fabric of the country apart and urged her audience to rise above politics. 
    ‘My fellow Americans, we stand at the edge of an abyss, and we must pull back,’ she said in a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California

    Liz Cheney’s condemnation of Trump’s lies wins over Democrats
    Tuesday’s hearing was a masterclass on the threats posed by Trump to our republic More

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    Earthly Order: ‘mercurial professor’ with urgent ideas on climate change

    Earthly Order: ‘mercurial professor’ with urgent ideas on climate changeIn his ambitious new book, distinguished professor Saleem Ali tries to bridge the gap between politics and science to help plan for a safer future Saleem Ali – whose Twitter bio begins “Mercurial Professor” – is not trying to be the new Stephen Hawking.“People buy all these theoretical physics books in droves because they think having them on the shelves will make them look smart,” opines the distinguished professor of energy and the environment at the University of Delaware. “A Brief History of Time is a very difficult book to read.”Poisoned legacy: why the future of power can’t be nuclearRead moreAli believes his own, anecdote-filled book is far more accessible. Earthly Order: How Natural Laws Define Human Life is an ambitious effort to bridge the gap between politics and science, drawing on his experience as a National Geographic field explorer who has worked in more than 150 countries.Ali has three passports, having been born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, moved to Pakistan aged nine and lived in Australia for several years. In a phone interview from Delaware, he happily ruffles feathers by defending nuclear power, suggesting that democracies can learn lessons from autocracies and attacking the last sacred space on television: the nature documentary.“Some of these nature biodiversity documentaries can, in fact, create a problem because they lead to niche thinking,” he says. “They are good for some things like biodiversity conservation but they are not making the connections often that you need to do.”Indeed, the 48-year-old revels in complexity and loathes dumbing down – even if it means frustrating literary agents. “When I was writing the book, agents would ask me, ‘What’s your one argument?’ I’d say, ‘You know, I’m writing a book about earth systems, I can’t have one argument. I have to approach the issues with nuance.’ This is the problem we have, unfortunately, in terms of communication of environmental issues.”To illustrate the point, Ali cites predictions that Dubai in the United Arab Emirates will soon be so hot that it will be uninhabitable. “That is such a ludicrous statement from the point of view of looking at how humans have interacted with the environment,” he contends.“Most cities in the western world are uninhabitable in winter without infrastructure, including New York City or London – if you didn’t have heating you wouldn’t be able to survive or you could have a very short existence with hypothermia.“We have developed adaptive mechanisms so to say that Dubai would be uninhabitable in summer without air conditioning makes no sense from the point of view of earth systems. But it makes a good headline because people immediately start panicking and they’re like, ‘Oh my goodness, it’s becoming so bad.’”Humanity will have to adapt, he argues, for example through different types of architecture and more subterranean dwellings. He believes this is the pragmatic way forward in responding to some climate crisis thresholds that are now irreversible – while still aggressively reducing dependence on fossil fuels and refusing to surrender to the worst-case scenario.“If we frame the conversation as, look, this is going to be a future which is not ideal, we wish we had not gone that pathway, we wish we had reduced emissions, but now we need to figure out what’s the best way to adapt to this new future, that would be much more constructive and realistic to work through with some of the people who have been climate deniers.“But it wouldn’t mean complacency. You still need a lot of action around it. That’s where I feel as though we’ve been remiss in attacking this issue.”Ali is among the voices who contend that nuclear power, long anathema to many on the left, deserves a second look. It currently provides about a fifth of electricity in the US, accounting for about half the country’s carbon-free energy, and some companies – including one started by the Microsoft founder Bill Gates – are developing smaller, cheaper reactors that could supplement the grid.But the US has no long-term plan for managing or disposing of radioactive waste that can persist in the environment for thousands of years. Nuclear disasters at Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island, Chernobyl in Ukraine and Fukushima in Japan have cast a long shadow. Although countries such as France are sticking with the technology or planning to build more plants, others, including Germany, are phasing out their reactors.Ali argues: “There has been a completely emotional kneejerk response to Fukushima, especially in Germany, which they are realising now was a mistake. If you look at the actual science in terms of the natural order of how energy is extracted from materials, nuclear energy is the most energy-dense resource.“If you look at the data in terms of the the morbidity and mortality of Fukushima, you had not a single person die of radiation exposure; they died of the tsunami. The International Atomic Energy Agency published a report last year which showed that there were no cancer clusters around there either. And yet you had an entire energy policy recrafted. That is why Germany is in this dependency situation.”Indeed, Ali does not believe that western democracies have all the right answers. He suggests that for decades their leaders have been talking about climate in a fashion that is too narrow, failing to join dots in the public imagination. He is donating all royalties from the book to environmental literacy programmes in developing countries.“There was a strategic mistake made in terms of framing it just as climate change. I always like, with my students, to talk about global environmental change. We’re talking about many aspects of the global system which are changing. When people think of climate change, immediately it is just resonating as, ‘Oh, are we getting more heat or cold?’“That’s not really what’s going on. We’re talking about water scarcity. We’re talking about the ways in which energy is going to be delivered. If we had framed the conversation around global environmental change, it would have been easier to be able to figure out all of these interconnections.”Ali, who has a PhD in environmental planning, continues: “We assume that democratic systems are going to be able to deliver efficient outcomes but the reality is democratic systems are often very short-term-oriented because they are driven by election cycles.“We have the same problem with reference to even business decision making, especially publicly traded companies which are driven by quarterly earnings reports. When you’re talking about long-range impacts, there is definitely a disconnect between both aspects.“We threw the baby out with the bathwater when we started to lobby against planning. ‘Planning’ had these connotations that it was going back to somehow centrally planned economies but you need a certain bureaucracy to continue the planning programmes and we needed to have planning independent of the political apparatus. That’s been another reason why, unfortunately, we have ended up in this current impasse with climate change.”Do autocracies, which Joe Biden warns are locked in a global struggle with democracies, do it better? Ali, whose book draws a contrast between China and India, says: “China is going to have problems in terms of their dependence on coal but there is definitely a much more technically oriented approach to decision making in China. Even if you take out the part about the central planning, the Confucian approach has been much more around let’s bring technocracy to the mix.”Public transport in a classic example, he believes, with China deciding to switch from planes to trains as the dominant mode between major cities and getting it done within a decade. “Here in the US we’re stuck with Amtrak, which they have still not been able to change because there isn’t this sense of let’s work through all of the technical details and make it happen based on those decisions.“That’s also linked to the fact we have a very litigious culture that makes it very challenging to be able to develop new projects. Unfortunately, in current democracies the actual process of getting feedback and stakeholder engagement and litigation becomes an end in itself. There is just no point at which you draw the line and say, OK, now we have to move forward.”This, he continues, is one of the reasons that the outsider businessman Donald Trump was an attractive proposition to millions of frustrated voters in the 2016 presidential election. “People saw that at least there was this willingness to make a decision. Much as I lament many aspects of his policies – building the wall – there was a decision.“In environmental discourse, we often talk about the precautionary principle, that you have to be careful about things, but if you go to the extreme, it becomes paralysis because you can’t make any kind of forward movement. That’s the main problem we have had.”But no, Ali is not calling for dictatorship in America, as he insists: “Democracies can correct that. I don’t see this as being something that only autocracies can do. We just need democracies to be made more efficient and form processes where decisions are based on technical knowledge and, after a certain point, that technical knowledge should trump – for want of a better word – negotiations.”By Ali’s lights, environmental awareness is no longer enough; environmental literacy is critical to the survival of the planet. Or as he puts it: “Depth in understanding of complexity is essential for functional order on Earth.”
    Earthly Order: How Natural Laws Define Human Life is out on 15 July
    TopicsBooksClimate crisisPolitics booksUS politicsfeaturesReuse this content More

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    The case against Donald Trump – podcast

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    The US congressional hearings on the Capitol Hill attack have been prime time viewing. And the case against Donald Trump has been building for all to see, says Lawrence Douglas

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    The testimony was unprecedented. In an extraordinary sitting in Washington DC of the congressional committee investigating the attack on the US Capitol building, a White House staffer detailed how Donald Trump had attempted to grab the steering wheel of his presidential car in determination to join his supporters as they rioted. Cassidy Hutchinson also testified that Trump would fly into rages, on one occasion throwing a plate at the wall, smashing it in anger and leaving ketchup dripping down a White House wall. Lawrence Douglas, a professor of law at Amherst College, tells Michael Safi that, throughout the series of slickly produced hearings, the committee has told a compelling narrative of the events that led up to the riots on January 6. And it goes beyond that, to alleged attempts to “steal” the election via slates of “fake electors” and by piling pressure on key officials such as the vice president and the justice secretary. As the case against Trump and many of his aides is laid out though, the next steps are far from certain. Even if the evidence unearthed by the committee does reach the standard needed to bring prosecutions, would a prosecution of the former president be deemed in the public interest – and could a jury be found of 12 people who would act completely impartially, in what is now a deeply polarised country? More