Three things Biden should say about climate change in State of the Union

Source: Photo by Drew Angerer / Getty Images

By David Callaway, Callaway Climate Insights

Given the state of the war in Ukraine in the past 24 hours, surging oil prices above $100 a barrel, and the blast of new dire warnings from the United Nations about climate change this week, President Joe Biden is going to have a hard time convincing anyone that his climate agenda is succeeding in his State of the Union Tuesday night.

You can only go to the well of last year’s infrastructure bill so many times before people stop paying attention, if they ever were. But there are a couple of things the president should say in his closely watched speech to retain the world’s confidence America is still in the global climate fight.

First, he should confirm he will break out the climate portion of his stalled Build Back Better legislation into a new bill with a new name. Given the U.S. oil lobby’s use of Europe’s energy crisis to make new demands this week to restart drilling, Biden must respond with a detailed and vigorous argument that only accelerated investment in renewable energy will avert the worst disasters forecast by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on Monday. He should cite Germany, which in the face of massive price spikes this week instead doubled down on its conversion to renewables by pushing the time up several years to 2035.

Second, Biden should applaud European oil companies for breaking ties with Russia in the past 48 hours after decades of controversy doing business in that country. He should call out the fact that when Big Oil wants to move fast on something important, it can. The list of petrol companies divesting from Russia continues to expand this week, with several countries such as Canada now closing their ports to Russian oil and gas. Give credit where it is due, and draw a distinct line between what’s happening there and the pathetic calls for more drilling in the U.S.

Finally, he should exalt the heroic resistance in Ukraine this week and drive home the fact that Russia’s leverage over Europe comes from the same addiction to oil that imperils the rest of the planet through global warming and ask them to rise to the battle together as they always have in dangerous times.

Not sure he will say any of these things, nor have the rhetoric to capture the spirit of and urgency of the moment. But there is an opportunity here, however small, for him to turn the tide on his climate agenda and indeed, his presidency, with this speech.

More insights below . . . .

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. . . . The moolah was amazing. An auction of offshore wind rights for six seabed tracts off the shores of New York and New Jersey has raised $4.4 billion, shattering previous records. See who the top bidders were and which American entrepreneurs were among the (mostly European ) provisional winners. Read more here. . . .

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Editor’s picks: Plastic pollution treaty; ‘Gumbo weather’ disappearing

UN hopes to build plastic pollution agreement

The UN is bringing more than 100 member states to Nairobi next week in the hopes of striking a deal on a global plastics treaty that would battle the growing environmental disaster of plastic pollution. Reuters reported having seen a draft resolution and quoted delegates as saying the treaty would address plastic production and design. Reuters’ exclusive said “Going into the summit, the main sticking points were whether any agreement would be legally binding or voluntary, and if it would address plastic production and single-use packaging design or be confined to improving waste management and recycling.” According to the report, it’s hoped the full agreement will be reached within two years.

‘Gumbo weather’ is coming later every year

Not even gumbo is safe from climate change, climate scientist and geologist Daniel Babin writes in a feature for “Gumbo marks the passage of time in Louisiana in a serious way,” Babin writes. “Every Louisianian I’ve spoken to knows what I mean if I say ‘gumbo weather.’ In my mind, it’s a Saturday in November. The air is a little crisp, and it’s finally time to put on that LSU fleece jacket and head to the Parade Grounds for a tailgate. There, my neighbor’s dad will be serving gumbo from a pot half the size of a bathtub.” But data show “gumbo weather” is coming much later in the year and will be scarce altogether in the second half of the century, particularly in New Orleans, where the projected share of days when the temperature drops below 50°F. becomes “exceptionally rare” in future decades.

Data driven: Send pics, please

. . . . NASA today is launching the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s next weather observing and environmental monitoring system satellite. Currently known as GOES-T, this is the third satellite in NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES) – R series. NASA says this is the most advanced weather and environmental observation system ever launched by the U.S. It’s scheduled for takeoff at 4:38 p.m. Eastern today from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. via an Atlas V rocket. The latest weather satellite represents “huge advancements in technology,” the  National Weather Service’s James Yoe told “We’re still learning how to exploit these satellites fully.” This satellite is one of a group of imaging satellites taking visible and infrared images called GOES-R, or Geostationary Environmental Observational Satellite – R Series. Live launch coverage will begin at 4 p.m. on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website. NASA says GOES-T will be renamed GOES-18 once it reaches geostationary orbit. Following a successful orbital checkout of its instruments and systems, GOES-18 will go into operational service as GOES West. In this position, the satellite will provide critical data for the U.S. West Coast, Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico, Central America, and the Pacific Ocean. . . .

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