RBG left these 4 lessons for the climate fight

September 29, 2020 by  
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RBG left these 4 lessons for the climate fight Rushad Nanavatty Tue, 09/29/2020 – 01:30 Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a hero. The obituaries have focused on her legacy as a feminist icon, her singular determination, her deep humanity, and her profound common sense. These traits were exemplified by her famous dissents — equal parts restrained and biting — against a series of regressive Supreme Court majority decisions. We don’t immediately think of RBG as an environmental activist or climate champion ( Greta Thunberg fandom  notwithstanding). However, her life and career offer plenty of inspiration for our work at RMI — and for anyone concerned with preserving a livable planet. When I think about RBG, these are the lessons I take for the climate fight. 1. Climate action honors RBG’s legacy on equality RBG did more to advance the cause of equality than any justice since Thurgood Marshall. Her life and career were defined by it. As a schoolgirl in Brooklyn, she objected to the fact that the boys went to woodshop while the girls sewed. As co-founder of the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project, she convinced the Supreme Court to rule, for the first time, that gender discrimination was unconstitutional (despite being led by a Chief Justice who had  threatened to resign  if a woman were appointed to the court). As a member of the that court, she fought for voters’ rights (Shelby County v. Holder), comprehensive healthcare coverage (Burwell v. Hobby Lobby), and federalism (Bush v. Gore). She did it patiently and incisively, referring to her role in her ACLU cases as “a kind of a kindergarten teacher… because the judges didn’t think sex discrimination existed.” Showing how discrimination hurt men was often the tactic she used to generate empathy and understanding among the male judges she was dealing with. Climate action honors that legacy — because climate change is as stark an inequality issue as it gets and requires every bit as much doggedness to address. Climate action honors that legacy — because climate change is as stark an inequality issue as it gets and requires every bit as much doggedness to address. The impacts of global warming are deeply regressive, disproportionately hurting our poorest and most vulnerable communities. Black and Hispanic Americans are exposed to  63 percent and 56 percent  more pollution than they create. Our history of redlining has left low-income and minority communities  dangerously exposed to extreme heat . Americans are  far more vulnerable to climate disasters  if they are poor, elderly, disabled, don’t own a car, or can’t speak English. And during and after these events, the rich tend to leave and the poor tend to stay;  poverty rates can climb by a full percentage point  in areas hit by climate disasters. We’re seeing this starkly with our western wildfires — to which Native Americans are six times  more vulnerable  and Black and Hispanic Americans are 50 percent more vulnerable than Whites. And as Bill McKibben  points out , inaction on climate amounts to “generational aggression: it consigns the planet’s young people (and all future generations) to an ever-grimmer planet.” If anyone is inspired by RBG lifelong crusade as the “ Great Equalizer ,” then the climate fight is where it’s at. 2. If you fight well, a big loss can eventually turn into an even bigger win In 2007, Lily Ledbetter sued her employer, the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, for years-long gender-based pay discrimination. A 5–4 court decision went in favor of Goodyear on procedural grounds (i.e., that Ledbetter hadn’t filed the charge early enough). RBG delivered her  dissent  from the bench — a rare open rebuke to her all-male colleagues’ “cramped” interpretation of the law: “The Court’s insistence on immediate contest overlooks common characteristics of pay discrimination, [which] often occur, as they did in Ledbetter’s case, in small increments… Small initial discrepancies may not be seen as meet for a federal case, particularly when the employee, trying to succeed in a nontraditional environment, is averse to making waves… Pay disparities, of the kind Ledbetter experienced, have a closer kinship to hostile work environment claims than to charges of a single episode of discrimination. Ledbetter’s claim… rested not on one particular paycheck, but on ‘the cumulative effect of individual acts.’” Because the court got it wrong, Congress was inspired to step up and get it right. The  Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act  of 2009 was the first piece of legislation signed into law by President Obama. The clarity and conviction of RBGs’ effort in a losing cause was key to achieving the much bigger legislative win. Ledbetter credited RBG’s dissent for giving her “ the dignity to go on ” as she testified before Congress multiple times in the run up to the Act’s passage. We are yet to see comprehensive federal climate legislation in the United States. But a stalled effort is also an opportunity to gather energy. With each serious attempt at a nationwide climate action — the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill, the Green New Deal resolution, the Smith-Lujan clean energy standard proposal — the people on the right side of history sharpen their arguments and strengthen their coalitions. As my colleague Wendy Jaglom has  pointed out : In three short years  [since President Trump’s announced withdrawal from the Paris agreement], the number of EVs on the road has doubled, 16 states have committed to phase down HFCs, the number of cities committed to 100 percent renewable electricity has quintupled, and seven states and 27 gas companies have committed to methane leak reduction. Today, one-third of all Americans live in a jurisdiction committed to 100 percent clean electricity, six million people live in cities committed to all-electric new building construction, and two-thirds of Americans support a 100 percent clean economy by 2050, a carbon tax, and stronger fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks. If the administration’s rejection of the Paris agreement was the equivalent of a flawed interpretation of the law, our burgeoning trans-ideological climate movement may be the equivalent of changing the law itself — more consequential and more resilient. 3. “Speaking in a judicial voice” can help deliver outcomes we all want In a  1992 lecture , RBG talked about the importance of staying cordial and assuming good intentions even when voicing disagreement. In her own words (and quoting Roscoe Pound): “One must be sensitive to the sensibilities and mindsets of one’s colleagues, which may mean avoiding certain arguments and authorities, even certain words… I emphasize that dissents are not devoutly to be avoided. I question, however, resort to expressions that generate more heat than light… It is not good to burden an opinion with “intemperate denunciation of colleagues, violent invective, attributions of bad motives, and insinuations of incompetence, negligence, prejudice, or obtuseness.” The most effective dissent, I am convinced, spells out differences without jeopardizing collegiality or public respect for and confidence in the judiciary.” Given the state of Congress today, and our more general state of political polarization, it may be hard to resist the eye-roll — but resisting it is more important than ever. We need to suppress the friendly fire even within the climate action community. I’ve been in meetings on the Green New Deal where environmental justice groups automatically view all business and industry as evil — and in DC conference rooms where well-meaning business people and policy wonks dismiss those environmental justice groups as liberal “enviro” fantasists. RBG’s guidance echoes Amory Lovins’ longstanding philosophy: “If we  focus on outcomes, not motives , we can achieve results that we all want, but for different reasons… If we simply do what makes sense without having to agree on why it’s important, we and our planet will be better off.” This logic is profoundly applicable to the energy transition. Regardless of whether you care about jobs, industrial competitiveness, resilience, social equity, or simply not breaking the planet, the answer entails accelerating our movement away from fossil fuels and toward a combination of efficiency and renewables. 4. The cost of implementation is irrelevant when the cost of inaction is unthinkable Massachusetts v. EPA  was probably the most prominent environmental case handled during RBG’s time on the Supreme Court — with the court ruling that carbon dioxide is subject to regulation by the EPA under the Clean Air Act. But a more technical and obscure case may be more instructive in our current moment. The most effective dissent, I am convinced, spells out differences without jeopardizing collegiality or public respect for and confidence in the judiciary. In 2001’s  Whitman v. American Trucking Associations , the trucking industry argued that the EPA should consider implementation costs when setting  pollution limits . The court unanimously disagreed — because the statute contains several explicit “bright line” factors — without listing cost as one of them. If legislators wanted the EPA to consider cost, they would have said so; “Congress doesn’t hide elephants in mouseholes,” wrote RBG’s opera buddy, Antonin Scalia, on behalf of the court. Today, with a planet on fire, it is worth considering that principle. As we have written before, the cost of climate inaction  dwarfs  the cost of action to point that it renders the latter meaningless in comparison. There is over $5 trillion in value-at-risk to US assets under a middle-of-the-road global warming scenario—not including the cost of market volatility. Our country can clearly spend when it needs to (or Congress wants to); nearly $2.7 trillion in CARES Act funding approved within two weeks,  $2.4  trillion to $ 3 trillion  on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or the annual $1 trillion a year that our fossil fuel-burning power plants cost America, based on the federal government’s base-case estimates on the social cost of carbon. The cost of greening our economy seems quaint in comparison;  $476 billion  for comprehensive grid modernization, for example, or $11 billion for a nationwide network of EV fast charging stations. A program to upgrade 120 million homes would cost  $3.6 trillion  — while generating  $1.4 trillion  in net value (energy cost savings minus retrofit costs). In the  Whitman  case ,  RBG and her colleagues ruled that implementation costs were irrelevant when stacked against the primary “requisite to protect the public health” with “an adequate margin of safety.” Replace “public health” with “planet,” and you have the argument for an ambitious green recovery and rebuilding program. — Losing a hero is hard. But it also creates the space — and the need — for others step off the sidelines and into the fray. Once we’re done mourning, we must get to work. Pull Quote Climate action honors that legacy — because climate change is as stark an inequality issue as it gets and requires every bit as much doggedness to address. The most effective dissent, I am convinced, spells out differences without jeopardizing collegiality or public respect for and confidence in the judiciary. Topics Climate Change Leadership Collective Insight Rocky Mountain Institute Rocky Mountain Institute Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has lunch with a group of Wake Forest law students in the Worrell Professional Center on Wednesday, September 28, 2005. Photo by Wake Forest University School of Law/Flickr

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RBG left these 4 lessons for the climate fight

Supreme Court will make historic Clean Water Act ruling

March 4, 2019 by  
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This Fall, the Supreme Court will make a monumental decision on whether the Clean Water Act prohibits groundwater pollution. The upcoming case is in response to a 2018 verdict in Hawaii, which ruled that a wastewater facility needed a Clean Water Act permit to inject treated wastewater into ground wells. The ruling will have national implications about what constitutes direct water pollution with two possible and controversial outcomes: either creating a massive loophole for major polluters or drastically expanding the Clean Water Act to include infinite sources of non-direct pollution. “This is the most significant environmental law case in the last few year,” former Head of the Justice Department’s Environment Division, John Cruden, told E&E News . First, what is groundwater? According to the U.S. Geological Survey , ground water is water that is beneath land surface. It is water that fills pores and fractures in sand, soil and rocks. Groundwater supplies 40 percent of water used by the public and 39 percent of water used in U.S. agriculture. It also feeds into bodies of water, such as lakes, rivers and the ocean. Related: Compensation for conservation: water markets are economists’ answer to scarcity What is the Clean Water Act? Since 1972, the Clean Water Act has been the main federal law governing the health of the country’s waterways. The Clean Water Act explicitly covers all navigable bodies of water. This definition has been up to judicial interpretation, but widely includes ocean, rivers, lakes, streams and wetlands, arguably including bodies of water that fill after heavy rains. The Clean Water Act channels federal funding to state and Tribal governments for water protection and remediation projects. Direct polluters are also required by the Act to obtain permits for any pollution discharged into bodies of water. The pollution case in Hawaii Last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility in Maui was in violation of the Clean Water Act and needed a permit for its ongoing practice of injecting 3 to 5 million gallons of treated wastewater into the ground every day. In 2011, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study used tracer dye to prove that treated sewage was seeping out into coastal waters near Kahekili Beach. In 2012, a coalition of environmental advocacy organizations sued the treatment facility in order to protect nearshore coral reef. In 2018, the Court determined that because of its traceability, this case was considered direct pollution and therefore required a Clean Water Act permit. “If the Supreme Court reverses the lower courts’ decisions, chemical plants, concentrated animal feeding operations, oil refineries, and other industrial facilities would effectively have free rein to discharge pollutants indirectly into the nation’s waterways without Clean Water Act permits,” Earth Justice said in a statement reported in USA Today . However, the County of Maui argues that this is their most environmentally friendly option given limited resources and that they would need more time and funding to explore alternate methods of disposing of wastewater, such as offshore facilities.The County believes such issues should be determined at a local level, where judges understand the constraints. “We all want unpolluted waters, healthy coral and fish. But we want workable solutions, not onerous and costly government red tape. This is a home-rule issue that should be addressed here, not by far-off regulators imposing rules that don’t properly address our real world problems,” Maui County spokesperson Brian Perry said to the Lahaina News . Have other courts ruled on groundwater pollution? This is not the first time a local court has had to make a decision on indirect versus direct groundwater pollution and the Clean Water Act. In fact, USA today reports that in 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in South Carolina ruled that an oil spill from a burst pipeline was in violation of the Clean Water Act because the oil seeped through groundwater and entered bodies of water such as the Savannah River. However, in 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Kentucky ruled that pollutants from a coal ash pond that entered groundwater was not in violation of the Clean Water Act because groundwater does not fall under “navigable waters”. The Supreme Court has important decisions to make both about state versus federal jurisdiction and also about the possibilities of discharging pollution into groundwater. If the Supreme Court rules against the local decision, environmentalists believe this would give polluters free reign to contaminate the country’s important water sources. If it upholds the local decision, municipalities worry they will be inundated with costly changes to infrastructure as well as open targets for lawsuits for everything from road runoff to leaky water fountains. The Supreme Court is expected to hear the County of Maui, Hawaii versus Hawaii Wildlife Fund in October or November, 2019. Via The Lahaina News Image via Shutterstock

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Supreme Court will make historic Clean Water Act ruling

What the Supreme Court shakeup means for climate change

February 18, 2016 by  
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The Clean Power Plan hangs in the balance following the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

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What the Supreme Court shakeup means for climate change

New Contraceptive Implant Could Give Women Wireless Control Over Their Own Fertility

July 30, 2014 by  
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While corporations like Hobby Lobby have been battling to take away women’s choices when it comes to contraception, the Gates Foundation and MicroCHIPS Inc. strive to give women full control over their own reproduction. MicroCHIPS is in the process of developing a contraceptive implant that can be controlled wirelessly and, unlike contraceptive implants like IUD’s, would only need to be replaced every 16 years or so. Even better, the implant can be controlled by the wearer, allowing women, and not their employers, to determine when and how they decide to use their birth control. Read the rest of New Contraceptive Implant Could Give Women Wireless Control Over Their Own Fertility Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: contraception , contraception technology , contraceptive health care , contraceptive implant , Gates Foundation contraception , Gates Foundation contraceptive implant , health care , Hobby Lobby , Hobby Lobby contraception , Hobby Lobby contraceptive implant , Hobby Lobby reproduction , Hobby Lobby Supreme Court , hormone implant , medication implant , MicroCHIPS contraception , MicroCHIPS contraceptive implant , remote control contraception , wireless control contraception

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New Contraceptive Implant Could Give Women Wireless Control Over Their Own Fertility

Man-Made Leaf Can Make Oxygen with Just Water and Light

July 30, 2014 by  
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It seems like we are constantly getting a little bit closer to being able to live in outer space, but one teeny-tiny little detail keeps holding us back: oxygen. Plants just don’t like zero gravity environments and toting around an indefinite oxygen supply isn’t really feasible. Enter the Silk Leaf: a manmade “plant” that can actually create endless oxygen using gold old light and water. Read the rest of Man-Made Leaf Can Make Oxygen with Just Water and Light Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: air filters , artificial oxygen , biological air filter , design innovations , filtering the air , Julian Melchiorri , Julian Melchiorri Silk Leaf , making oxygen , Manmade leaf , manmade plant , manmade plant filter , oxygen in space , oxygen using light , oxygen using water , plant light , producing oxygen , Royal College of Art , Silk Leaf , Silk Leaf manmade leaf , Tufts University

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Supreme Court Supports the EPA’s Plan to Control Carbon Emissions

February 25, 2014 by  
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Several U.S. Supreme Court justices confirmed that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has sufficient power to regulate carbon emissions . A case was brought by 13 states and several power companies claiming that the EPA was going too far when it evoked air quality rules to ease the impact of emissions on climate change. Fortunately, a majority of the justices seemed to side with the EPA and were not willing to re-open a 2007 Massachusetts case that upheld the EPA’s broad power to enforce emissions. Read the rest of Supreme Court Supports the EPA’s Plan to Control Carbon Emissions Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: air quality control , air quality laws , Climate and Clean Air director , climate change 2007 Massachusetts , EPA air quality laws , EPA case , EPA climate change , EPA climate change powers , EPA power , EPA power over carbon emissions , EPA supreme court case , Justice Roberts EPA powers , Justice Roberts on carbon emissions , Justice Roberts on climate change , national air quality laws , Natural Resources Defense Council , supreme court , supreme court Utility Air Regulatory Group v Environmental Protection Agency , US Supreme Court , US Supreme Court Carbon Emissions , US Supreme court hears Utility Air Regulatory Group v Environmental Protection Agency Utility Air Regulatory Group v Environmental Protection Agency        

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Monsanto Wins $84,456 in US Supreme Court Case Against an Indiana Farmer

May 14, 2013 by  
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Farming will never be the same after the United States Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of Monsanto in a seed patenting case against an Indiana farmer that some had hoped would break the company’s monopoly on modern agriculture. Monsanto sued Vernon Bowman after he purchased their Roundup Ready Soybeans from a grain elevator to plant a late second crop, The Guardian reports . Bowman argued that the patent was exhausted since he bought the seeds from a third party, but the corporate giant said he had agreed not to save any of the harvest for replanting when he entered into a contract to purchase their seeds. Justice Elena Kagan agreed that patent exhaustion did not apply in this case and the court ordered Bowman to pay $84,456. Read the rest of Monsanto Wins $84,456 in US Supreme Court Case Against an Indiana Farmer Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: Environment , farming , genetically modified organisms , GMO , Indiana farmer , Indiana Farmer loses to Monsanto , Monsanto , News , patent exhaustion , roundup ready , Supreme Court agriculture case , US seed patenting        

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Monsanto Wins $84,456 in US Supreme Court Case Against an Indiana Farmer

Monsanto Wins $84,456 in US Supreme Court Case Against an Indiana Farmer

May 14, 2013 by  
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Farming will never be the same after the United States Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of Monsanto in a seed patenting case against an Indiana farmer that some had hoped would break the company’s monopoly on modern agriculture. Monsanto sued Vernon Bowman after he purchased their Roundup Ready Soybeans from a grain elevator to plant a late second crop, The Guardian reports . Bowman argued that the patent was exhausted since he bought the seeds from a third party, but the corporate giant said he had agreed not to save any of the harvest for replanting when he entered into a contract to purchase their seeds. Justice Elena Kagan agreed that patent exhaustion did not apply in this case and the court ordered Bowman to pay $84,456. Read the rest of Monsanto Wins $84,456 in US Supreme Court Case Against an Indiana Farmer Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: Environment , farming , genetically modified organisms , GMO , Indiana farmer , Indiana Farmer loses to Monsanto , Monsanto , News , patent exhaustion , roundup ready , Supreme Court agriculture case , US seed patenting        

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Monsanto Wins $84,456 in US Supreme Court Case Against an Indiana Farmer

Earth Day’s over: Now let’s get serious about the battle for Brand Green

May 11, 2012 by  
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Earth Day is the supreme occasion for positioning what it means to be green. Unfortunately, the rest of the year, NGOs are in a losing battle to define what green means in the minds of consumers.

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Earth Day’s over: Now let’s get serious about the battle for Brand Green

US Must Transition to Clean Power by 2012 or Miss the Chance

January 26, 2010 by  
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If the US was smart, we would be funding a massive switch to renewable energy now, while we still can. By 2012 we could be out of luck. China is sitting on the only currently mined sources of many of the rare earth minerals needed to build electric cars , solar panels and wind turbines.

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US Must Transition to Clean Power by 2012 or Miss the Chance

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