Biden Clamps Down on Climate Change and Other Top Stories This Week

Joe Climate

Biden has wasted no time in getting to work in his first week in office. He has signed a whopping 27 Executive Orders. Compare that to the first week’s of Donald Trump who signed 4, or Obama with 4, or Bush with 0.

Biden is not messing around. Wednesday’s orders were very focused on Climate, leading Ole Joe to call it “Climate Day in the White House”. So we thought we’d break them down for you real quick

Today's Highlights

In no particular order, here are some highlights

  • Establish climate issues and climate considerations as an essential element of National Security and Foreign Policy, which effectively paves the way for more climate oriented measures in the future
  • Assembly of the National Climate Task Force, assembling leaders across 21 federal agencies and departments that is charged with implementing Biden’s climate agenda
  • Direct federal agencies to procure carbon pollution-free electricity & clean, zero-emission vehicles all of which must be Made in America
  • A pause has been put on Secretary of the Interior from entering new oil and natural gas leases on public lands or offshore waters
  • Elimination of fossil fuel subsidies
  • Commitment to conserving at least 30% of our lands and coastal waters by 2030
  • The establishment of the Civilian Climate Corps Initiative to put Americans to work conserving and restoring public lands, waters, and reforestation
  • A commitment to addressing environmental justice and deep, thorough exploration and analysis of how climate change is disproportionally hurting disadvantaged communities

 And lets not forget the 2 BIG ones he did on Day 1 last week

  • Reentering the Paris Climate Accord
  • Stopping the Keystone XL Pipeline

 We have a full piece on the Keystone topic below.

 Executive Schmecutive

So what exactly are Executive Orders as opposed to Legislation that has to pass through Congress?

 Executive Orders can function more or less as federal laws. The Constitution actually doesn’t account for these specifically, but it also doesn’t preclude them either, and does bestow the power on the Office of the President to take any executive action deemed necessary for the good of the people.

 Now, Congress can pass laws that override Executive Orders, but that can take time as we know with Congress. The president can veto Congress laws however and throw them back into congressional vote.

 Unlike Congressional legislation, Executive Orders are easier to overturn. As Trump did to Obama with his Day 1 to take out Obamacare. And as Biden is now doing to Trump.

 Confused yet? Yeah so are we. Welcome to the US government. All the checks and balances make for a bit of a maze.

 Either way, this was a big day for all of us at Animalia and for the future of this planet. Maybe the biggest day ever on the Climate Crisis in the US. Go celebrate it, then let’s get back to work.

 

 

 

Biden & The Keystone

The Keystone state was a big battle around that Biden, which his special connection to small town Scranton, fought hard to win. That would be Pennsylvania for those of you who don’t know all your state nicknames, and yes that’s the Scranton from The Office which has been a quarantine favorite.

We are talking a different Keystone here, however. The Keystone XL pipeline.

 This was a pipeline that was set to run from Alberta, Canada to Nebraska. Carrying 830,000 barrels of oil a day in what would amount to be one of the biggest energy pacts ever between Canada & the US.

Obama originally rejected it in 2014 citing environmental concerns. Trump brought it back during his tenure. And Joe Biden, on his 1st busy day signing executive orders, repealed it. And he has a lot of supporters for doing so. As well as a lot of opposition.

Jobs vs. Climate

There are valid complaints on both sides here.

 For those who favor the repeal, which to be clear we do here at Animalia, they do so in the name of wanting to move us off of fossil-fuels and protect our environment.

  • The Alberta oil is from what they call tar sands. These take a lot more effort to extract. In fact the carbon emissions from extracting this oil is 17% above standard oil
  • The pipeline will run through several major bodies of natural water and forest and any leak could devastate these ecosystems forever
  • Two different Native American communities sued the government last year because the pipeline would run tribal lands considered sacred and critical to environmental stability
  • The money being invested here could instead be routed towards jobs in renewable energy

 

And then there are those against, who point out:

  • Over 3,000 full-time and up to 8,000 additional part-time jobs may be lost from this repeal at a time when Americans and Canadians need work because of the pandemic
  • This pipeline decreases our oil dependency on overseas nations and OPEC, moving us closer to energy independence (we already get 36% of our oil today from Canada btw)
  • Even if we want to get off of fossil fuels, in the short term we still need oil as that will take time, and if we don’t get it from the Keystone pipeline we’ll be getting it overseas where we add transportation costs and carbon emissions to get it here

 Will the renewable jobs gained offset the Keystone jobs lost? Hard to say and in the short term, no.

 This may not be the best short-term economic decision, but it’s a critical long term message that Climate Change is an URGENT crisis and needs to be treated as such, which means at some point we need to start making long-term oriented decisions, not short-term ones.

 Here is a great piece from the BBC outlining the two sides of this debate from the lens of the people it impacts.

 Do Canadians Get Angry?

 Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is not too happy with this.

 This is a big time set back in economic gains for Canada and more energy independence for North America as he sees it.

 He expressed his disappointment to Biden even though they both agree on tackling the climate crisis, it just seems through different means.

 The US relationship with Canada is often overlooked given, ya know, it’s Canada. However there is a lot we do together and a lot more to do together on the climate front, so good ole Joe needs to send Justin a little apology bottle of whiskey and stick to his guns on this one.

 Or Watch Neil Young & Willie Nelson

 Believe it or not, these two legends recorded a song to stand up and oppose the Keystone XL Pipeline in 2014 we dug up for you:

 

Gordon Gekko Goes Green

Last year, BlackRock CEO Laurence D. Fink shocked the financial world when his annual letter outlined stating climate change will be a defining factor in companies’ long-term prospects and this would reshape finance to push towards more sustainable firms.

 When Fink speaks, everyone listens. His firm is the largest asset holder in the world with over $9 trillion in assets under management. He is to finance what Anna Wntour is to fashion. When he speaks, everyone listens.

 Well, his 2021 letter was just released, and he’s taking it up a notch.

Sustainability for the Win

 After last year’s letter, Microsoft announced a plan to be carbon negative by 2030 and Delta announced a $1 billion effort to be carbon neutral in 10 years in response. Mr. Fink talks, and money walks.

 This year’s letter said he expects companies to disclose detailed business plans for how their business model will be compatible with a net-zero economy. It’s no longer a warning shot, it’s a requirement. Last year, Mr. Fink voted against 69 companies and 64 company directors for climate-related reasons. He can oust CEOs and spurn corporate takeovers with a single phone call.

 Just this week, with the letter coming out, the New York City Pension fund divested $4 billion of fossil-fuel related assets.

 Mr. Fink is now working on a temperature alignment metric to ensure companies are offer products and services that align to a net-zero pathway (in terms of global temperature rises in accordance with the Paris Climate Agreement


MSG? No that’s ESG to you sir

You may or may not know the acronym ESG

It refers to scoring companies on Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance to measure their sustainability, societal impact, and culture.

 It was ushered in years ago to encourage investors to trade on these measures, not just bottom line finances. But it has not amounted too much. It’s more PR and hand waving than substance.

 Mr. Fink pointed out that part of the problem is this way of thinking puts these issues in silos. The pandemic for example has been both an environmental issue and a social justice issue. The adverse effects of climate change will negatively impact lower-income people much worse than those in higher income brackets.

 It might be time to come up with a new framework.

 

 Still Work To Do

There is still a lot of work to do. For example, Reclaim Finance and Urgewald published a report that BlackRock still holds $85 billion in assets related to coal.

 Mr. Fink explains that these are assets tied up in indexes such as the S&P that he can not legally trade and unwind from. Part of that is true, but there does seem to be some room for BlackRock to fully and completely divest even faster.

 Another issue is the haze around carbon offsets. These are mechanisms companies can use to offset their own emissions by doing something completely different that is pro-climate- such as protecting a forest. This way they get to “carbon neutral” without actually changing their own business. But how exactly are they protecting a forest? Did it need protecting in the first place? Nobody is auditing these offsets.

 For example, we here at Animalia call B.S. on Delta’s plan last year. When you dig into the details, you find that they are offsetting their carbon with purely speculative technology investments, such as carbon capture, that is not yet proven and they assume all of them work out 100% to the best possible outcome to make their math work. This so that they don’t need to fly less, more efficient, or move off of fossil fuels. Sounds sketch.

 

 

A Bittersweet January for Wolves in America

 A rollercoaster of a start to the year for our beloved wolves.

 First, on the good news, the state of Colorado officially started the process for the reintroduction of the gray wolf following a slim victory in a November vote.

 However, in a bigger setback, in his final days in office determine to solidify his legacy as one of the most vile human beings in the last hundred years, Donal Trump officially removed gray wolves from the Endangered Species List.

 Rocky Mountain High

 The reintroduction in Colorado is a long time coming. Gray wolves were eradicated by the 1940s. The people stood up last November and passed an every so narrow vote to bring them back by the year 2023.

 The Western Slope is where the reintroduction will take place. The Parks and Wildlife Commission approved this week a process to bring in scientists and involve the public in forming the plans for making this a reality.

 Wolves are critical apex predators. They keep prey numbers in balance which in turn protects vegetation and ecosystem health. Many ranchers and farmers oppose wolves for fear of endangerment to their livestock. Only, there has never been any substantial evidence behind this, only anecdotal stories of one-off incidents where the livestock where not penned in very well.

 This happening in conjunction with the federal delisting makes things a bit murky for now, but we imagine Joe Biden and the new regime will find a way to get that back in order soon enough.

 Still, there is a lot of coordination that needs to go into this reintroduction between a lot of opposing parties, so the other fear is a filibuster of sorts that prevents any process from moving forward. Wolf management and conservation is probably the biggest political issue in this country most people don’t know about.

 Trump Does Trump

 Of course the moldy business potato of a human would do this. Of course Trump would delist wolves in his final days just to be a dick. Did we forget his sons love big game hunting and have had a hobby of killing endangered species across the world for years? Nobody should be surprised here.

 Already in South Dakota, hunters, trappers, livestock owners, and landowners are back to killing gray wolves. In Minnesota, livestock owners can now kills wolves who pose “an immediate threat” - as if that is going to be ethically interpreted.

 Last year in Idaho, where the state has long deregulated wolf protection despite the federal mandate, a record breaking 570 wolves, including dozens of pups, where brutally killed via traps and snares and aerial hunts.

 There are only 108 wolves left in Washington, 158 in Oregon, and just 15 in California. This is a species on the brink and Trump and his cronies decide to delist them from protection.

 Little Red Riding Hood

 Those who oppose wolf protection have been doing so for decades from three distinct groups:

  1. Livestock owners who feel wolves are a threat to their animals
  2. Hunters who feel wolves will limit prey numbers like Caribou and Elk they want to keep hunting
  3. Trappers who sell wolf pelts (yes this still happens today)

As for #1 - there is no evidence that supports it. Literally none. Yes, there are incidents once in a while, but this is like saying nobody should be allowed to leave their home in a thunderstorm due to lightning strikes. Or nobody should ever get on a plane again due to a crash. There is just no long term, systemic evidence that supports the case.

 As for #2 - take a hike. How absurd is it that Hunters are fighting for the right to hunt wolves so that they have more species to hunt in addition? Find a new hobby. Charge for ethical nature excursions to observe wolves, not kill them. No respect for this claim here.

 As for #3 - sorry but go *&$# yourselves. That’s all.

 We stand for wolves all the way and will continue to do so unapologetically.

 A wolf video we love:

 If you want to learn more about wolves in this country and their story of living on the brink, please go and check out Wolf Nation. And amazing book you won’t soon forget.

 

 

Right Whale Populations Increasing

 The critically endangered right whale has recently made headlines due to some positive news regarding their numbers. The total count of winter sightings of this particular species has reached 65. This season alone, at least 14 new calves have been reported and identified- three of which were born to first-time mothers. Wildlife officials stated that this was the most encouraging calving season in years, which everyone is pretty happy about.

 On a More Dismal Note...

With that being said, this positive news comes at a time when whales in our waters are still experiencing an unusual mortality event. Since 2017, dozens of whales have been mysteriously dying, puzzling researchers. They still aren’t exactly sure why, however new studies reveal it may be linked to a lack of food due to rising sea temperatures, resulting in starvation and malnourishment. Everything comes back to global warming, unfortunately.

This means that even with the uptick of new calves, efforts will need to be redoubled in order to sustain the populations and protect the calves. Right whales face many other threats to their population daily, including fishing ropes and speeding vessels- which together have been responsible for more than 200+ right whale deaths in the past decade. Essentially, the whales are being killed off faster than the population can replenish.

In fact, commercial whalers nearly drove right whales to extinction by the early 1890’s. While official protections were established around 1950, the population never recovered due to human threats. 

 Good News or Bad News: Which is it?

Moral of this bittersweet story, while we take a moment to rejoice in this positive success, this news just means that we must work harder than ever before to halt the human activities that are devastating these populations. It also casts a hopeful light on what CAN happen when we work hard to conserve species.

 You can read the full story here.

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