Feds agree to consider Western Bumblebees an endangered species

Federal wildlife biologists said…they will consider protecting the native western bumblebee as an endangered species.

Once widespread, bumblebees have declined across western North America and, for at least one type, it may be too late.

A Defenders of Wildlife petition drove the decision by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials to launch a scientific review to determine whether bumblebees need federal protection to survive.

The petition declares western bumblebees at risk of extinction — hammered by habitat loss in the face of development and population growth, disease, pesticides and climate change…

Bees, including native bumblebees, play key roles as pollinators of flowering plants and agricultural crops from the Dakotas to California and Alaska to Mexico.

Wildlife advocates in recent years have urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture to do more to try to stop the spread of disease to wild bees. They asked federal regulators to control commercial bumblebees and, in particular, prohibit transport of bumblebees beyond their native ranges. They contend commercial bumblebees should move between states only when certified as disease-free.

Sensible. I suppose it’s asking too much of government since the Age of Reagan to consider scientific caution sufficient reason to regulate any sort of interstate commerce. It’s not like we’re considering the productivity of American foodstuffs as mission-critical, eh?

The Republican myth about white voters

…In politics, for many Republicans the most unassailable truth is that winning the presidency is easy if only…and here everyone finishes the sentence with their pet theory of electoral politics.

That there is so much conviction that it might be easy for Republicans to win a national election is an odd one given history. Over the last six presidential elections, Democrats have won 16 states every time for a total of 242 electoral votes out of the 270 needed to win. In those same six elections, Republican presidential candidates carried 13 states for 103 electoral votes…

But still the myth survives that there are these masses of untapped white voters just waiting for the right candidate…The simple truth is that there simply aren’t enough white voters in the America of 2016 to win a national election without also getting a substantial share of the non-white vote. Romney won 17 percent of the non-white vote. Depending on white voter turnout, a Republican needs between 25 percent and 35 percent of the non-white vote to win…

The Trump campaign talks about being able to reach out to Hispanics and African Americans but it’s not an overstatement to say he would be the most unpopular candidate with either group to ever lead a national ticket. Only 12 percent of Hispanics have a favorable view of Trump with 77 percent unfavorable. Even among Hispanic Republicans, he has a 60 percent unfavorable ranking. Among African Americans, 86 percent have an unfavorable view of Trump…

We can go on. But of course none of this will dissuade the Trump believers who will point to his dismantling of the Republican field as proof that he is a new force in politics and to use that popular phrase I loathe, “There are no rules.” It’s a legitimate point and one impossible to argue as there is no alternative universe in which there was an alternative election in which the Republican candidates ran better campaigns against Trump.

It’s true that voter registration and turnout is up in the Republican primaries and I don’t see any reason not to credit Trump with those increases. We’ve seen this before with little impact on the general election but more voters and more voter enthusiasm are positive…

But let’s not kid ourselves. Even if John Kasich or Ted Cruz, the remaining two candidates, were to emerge, the advantage is still very much with the Democrats. And until the party grows its appeal with non-white voters, it’s going to take an inside straight to win the White House.

Stuart Stevens is an American travel writer and political consultant…In 2013, he became a founding partner in Strategic Partners & Media, the consulting firm with the best record in statewide races. He served as a top strategist for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign.

He helped elect more governors and US Senators than any other current Republican media consultant.

Not exactly a left-wing advocate.

China’s new economic model doesn’t sacrifice environment for profit


click to enlargeShutterstock
Shenzen leads China’s pilot city program in new green development

Chinese lawmakers have approved the country’s 13th Five-Year Plan, the high-level document that will guide policymaking through 2020, including the country’s approach to climate and energy policy. As the world’s second-largest economy and the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, China necessarily plays a role in shaping global climate policy — and if it can deliver on the goals outlined in the plan, that role will undoubtedly expand.

The plan is the first to set a national cap on energy consumption — 5 billion tons of standard coal equivalent for 2020 — as well as offering new visions for energy efficiency and air pollution. A World Resources Institute analysis concluded that this FYP sets China on a path to a 48 percent reduction in carbon intensity levels by 2020, compared to 2005 levels…For reference, China’s pledge to the Paris Agreement has the country slashing carbon intensity by 60-65 percent of 2005 levels by 2030.

All told, it’s the “greenest Five-Year Plan that China has ever produced,” said Barbara Finamore, director of NRDC’s Asia program…

There’s a lot more to the FYP than energy policy, but many of the other pieces are complementary when it comes to the climate. New standards on air quality indicators like PM 2.5, for example, will no doubt rein in the country’s rampant coal burning.

But it’s not all about coal, either. While China saw a cut in coal use of around 3 percent in 2015, it increased its oil consumption by 5.6 percent in the same year. “If China is going to peak its CO2 emissions, it cannot just rely on cutting coal,” said Finamore. “Transportation emissions and oil consumption are going to be exceedingly important.” And they are: The FYP addresses vehicle emissions and public transportation in cities, in addition to allocating new money to high-speed rail initiatives.

I haven’t read through the plan myself – yet – but, I’ve blogged before about changes already initiated. Notably, providing natural gas for household cooking and heating. Hopefully, the target of reaching every household in every Tier 1 city will be achieved during this 5-year plan. Though Talking Heads on Western TV relish the topic of smog in China, they always seem to miss the point that half that smog comes from household coal fires – identical to the problem faced in the UK after World War 2.

I lived through a similar conversion process in the New England industrial city where I grew up and the change is dramatic, beneficial and qualitative in how life is affected.

It’s easy to raise questions about China’s ability to follow through on these kinds of ambitious plans in the face of slowing economic growth. The FYP outlines a target GDP growth rate of 6.5 percent through 2020 — speedy by global standards, but a far cry from the 10 percent growth rate of yesteryear.

But that’s not the right way to think about it, said Paul Joffe, senior foreign policy counsel at WRI. “China envisions a ‘new normal’ level of growth,” explained Joffe to press. “At that level, they view the economic and environmental targets as entirely compatible.” In other words, anyone wildly gesticulating at China’s flagging growth rate needs to take a chill pill. Ten percent is simply not sustainable.

It also doesn’t match China economic planners’ vision of a model wherein up to 70% of the GDP is based on consumption, goods and services.

Joffe’s description of coinciding economic and environmental goals bucks the conventional economic logic that says “you need to consume more to grow more,” said Kate Gordon, a vice chair at the Paulson Institute. That logic is faltering. Earlier this week, the International Energy Agency released data suggesting energy-related emissions and global GDP growth are decoupling. Indeed, Gordon argues that China’s energy-efficiency savings have in part allowed for that kind of decoupling…

The plan’s ambition gives post-Paris climate-action further momentum, and can only serve to strengthen the recent U.S.-China climate pact. As with all ambitious plans, though, implementation will be key — and the country is outlining some stark transitions. Upwards of 1.8 million workers in the coal and steel industries are expected to lose their jobs due to changes outlined in the FYP, and those workers will need to be retrained and reemployed. Truly delivering on those goals will require an unprecedented degree of foresight and coordination.

Though I haven’t read the details – as I mentioned above – I watched many of the discussions on TV. Fact is, the target for new urban jobs is much higher than just those needed to be retrained and reemployed. That is 10 million new jobs every year.

I can’t skip over the sour grapes still to be consumed by anyone mentioning how this ties in with the US-China climate pact. That will certainly enjoy respect and a part of this 5-year plan. In China. As long as the US Congress is controlled by the Party of Do Nothing – likely the case until sometime after the 2020 census, redistricting, an opportunity to sort Republican gerrymandering – ain’t nothing like new positive environmental legislation coming out of Washington DC.