Carbon Levels Projected to Surpass a Historic Milestone

The Guardian: “The Earth’s climate will enter a new ‘permanent reality’ from next year when concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere are likely to pass a historic milestone, the head of the UN’s weather agency has warned.”

“The record concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere were up 43% since pre-industrial times, said the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), prompting its secretary general Michel Jarraud to say immediate action was needed to cut CO2 emissions.”

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“Concentrations of CO2 stood at a global annual average of 397.7ppm in 2014, up from about 278ppm in 1750, and the UN said the global annual average is likely to pass the symbolic 400ppm milestone in 2016. Scientists say that the ‘safe’ level of CO2 to avoid dangerous global warming is more like 350ppm.”

The Francis Effect: More Americans are Worried About Global Warming

The Yale Project on Climate Communication reports that “today more Americans and more American Catholics are worried about global warming than six months ago and more believe it will have significant impacts on human beings.  Some of these changes in Americans’ and American Catholics’ views can be attributed to the Pope’s teachings, as 17 percent of Americans and 35 percent of Catholics say his position on global warming influenced their own views of the issue.”

“Key findings include: Americans have become more concerned about global warming. More Americans say that global warming is happening (Americans: from 62% in March to 66% in October, +4 points; American Catholics: from 64% in March to 74% in October, +10 points).”

“More Americans think global warming will harm people here and abroad. More think global warming will cause a great deal or moderate harm to people in developing countries (Americans: from 48% to 63%, +15 points; American Catholics: from 45% to 62%, +17 points).”

“Aligned with Pope Francis’s message, Americans are more likely to think global warming is a moral issue (Americans: from 32% to 38%, +6 points; American Catholics: from 34% to 42%, +8 points).”

What Happened to Swing Voters?

Jonathan Chait: “A new paper by political scientist Corwin Smidt (via John Sides) documents the decline of swing voters, or … ‘floating voters,’ which means voters who pull the lever for a different party than the one they supported in the previous election. From the 1950s through the 1980s, 10 to 15 percent of voters floated between the two parties in presidential elections. Recently that rate has fallen to about 5 percent:”

“The sorting of American politics into semipermanent, warring camps unfolded over decades. But the red-blue map that first came into public consciousness during the 2000 election created a searing impression of a cultural divide between a Democratic Party rooted in the coasts and upper Midwest and a Republican Party dominating the old Confederacy, Appalachia, and the Mountain West. Smidt points out that the jarring events of George W. Bush’s first term — a recession, a terrorist attack, a war in Iraq — failed to dislodge the hardening partisan loyalties.”

“Every effort to break the stalemate in the age of polarization has failed. Red-state Democrats and blue-state Republicans have tried to create separate, localized identities for their candidates that can allow them to compete in hostile terrain. It doesn’t work because elections at every level have increasingly grown nationalized.”

“That is why voters used to make individual-based judgments of their candidates for Congress. Now they just vote for the same party all the time

Obama Cements Climate Change Stance With Keystone Pipeline Decision

Philip Bump notes that Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL Pipeline carries little downside.

“Republicans would have hammered Obama for the excessive delay in approval, had the president decided to approve the pipeline’s permit. There’s a wide seam of partisanship that runs through climate change as a political topic, which is readily apparent in polling on the subject. Republicans aren’t going to dislike Obama more after this decision, which most people saw coming anyway. But he gets to define himself and his party on a subject that could become enormously important over the coming decades.”

“While rejecting Keystone XL doesn’t solve the problem of climate change — and while Transcanada could try again with the next president — approving it wouldn’t have necessarily doomed the planet, either. The formal decision to reject the pipeline is best seen as political in the broadest sense: A statement from the president of the United States that climate change is a serious factor in its decision-making process. Since the issue of climate change became a critical one, it’s a statement that has nearly been unheard in Washington. And Barack Obama would appreciate if you remembered who said it.”

Renewable Energy Poised to Surge Ahead in Next 15 Years

Reuters: “Renewable energy supply in eight major economies will collectively more than double by 2030 due to new national climate and energy plans, according to a study by the think tank World Resources Institute.”

“Total clean energy supply from eight of the world’s 10 largest greenhouse gas emitters – Brazil, China, the European Union, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico and the United States -will jump to 20,000 terawatt hours (TWh) from around 9,000 TWh in 2009.”
“Combined with the Paris climate agreement, it’s clear that renewable energy is poised to surge forward in the next 15 years bringing clean and affordable power to millions of people worldwide.”

Trillions in Savings Anticipated From Projected Emissions Reductions

Inside Climate News: “Global action to reduce carbon dioxide has produced at least $60 billion in economic benefits to the U.S. in the last five years, according to a new analysis. It also concludes that current rates of  emission reductions worldwide could contribute another $2 trillion in the next 15 years.  ”

“The report was published Thursday by by the Institute for Policy Integrity, a think tank and advocacy organization at the New York University School of Law, and concluded that the U.S. will gain far more from global efforts on climate change in damages avoided to the economy, public health and the environment than proposed regulations would cost.”

“To calculate the economic benefits to the U.S., the authors first multiplied the tons of carbon dioxide emission reductions pledged by other countries and the social cost of carbon to find the economic benefits for all countries. They then estimated the United States’ share of those benefits.”

“The Obama administration has estimated the social cost of carbon at $41 per ton in 2015. That cost goes up to $79 in 2050 as the effects of adding carbon to the atmosphere become more damaging.”

Obama Rejects Keystone XL Pipeline

Politico: “The Obama administration is expected to reject the Keystone XL pipeline today, a move that would mean a major victory for his green supporters and a stunning defeat for the oil industry, the Canadian government and Republicans in Congress.”

“President Barack Obama will give a statement at 11:45 a.m. in the White House, with Vice President Joe Biden in attendance … The move follows months of widespread expectations that Obama would kill the pipeline, fueled by repeated public comments in which he scoffed at supporters’ predictions that it would be a major job-creator. The verdict comes after more than seven years of furious lobbying on one of the most politically charged environmental disputes in U.S. history.”

Uninsured Rate Hits a Record Low

The Hill: “The uninsured rate has fallen to a new low of 9 percent, marking 16.3 million more people with health insurance since ObamaCare’s coverage expansion took effect in 2013, according to data released Thursday.”

“The survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds that the uninsured rate was 9 percent in the first six months of the year, corresponding to 28.5 million people, ticking down from 9.2 percent in the first three months of the year.”

“But those changes seem major when compared to previous years. The 9 percent figure is down from 11.5 percent uninsured in 2014 and 14.4 percent in 2013.”

“That corresponds to 7.5 million more people with insurance compared to 2014 and 16.3 million more compared to 2013.”

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NY Attorney General Investigates Exxon for Climate Change Lies

New York Times: “The New York attorney general has begun an investigation of Exxon Mobil to determine whether the company lied to the public about the risks of climate change or to investors about how such risks might hurt the oil business.”

“According to people with knowledge of the investigation, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman issued a subpoena Wednesday evening to Exxon Mobil, demanding extensive financial records, emails and other documents.”

“The investigation focuses on whether statements the company made to investors about climate risks as recently as this year were consistent with the company’s own long-running scientific research.”

“The Exxon inquiry might expand further to encompass other oil companies, according to the people with knowledge of the case, though no additional subpoenas have been issued to date.”

“Attorneys general for other states could join in Mr. Schneiderman’s efforts, bringing far greater investigative and legal resources to bear on the issue. Some experts see the potential for a legal assault on fossil fuel companies similar to the lawsuits against tobacco companies in recent decades, which cost those companies tens of billions of dollars in penalties.”

Americans Most Satisfied With Government Health Plans

Gallup: “Americans’ satisfaction with the way the healthcare system works for them varies by the type of insurance they have. Satisfaction is highest among those with veterans or military health insurance, Medicare and Medicaid, and is lower among those with employer-paid and self-paid insurance. Americans with no health insurance are least satisfied of all.”

Satisfaction With the U.S. Health System Varies by Insurance Type

“Americans who get their health insurance through government-sponsored or assisted plans, such as Medicare and Medicaid or veterans insurance, are more likely to be satisfied with the way the healthcare system is working for them than those who have employer-paid insurance or who pay for insurance themselves. There may be a number of reasons for this, such as government plans being more inclusive and having a lower direct cost to the insured person than employer plans or personally paid-for plans. Additionally, the question asks about healthcare generally, and not cost specifically. Therefore, other aspects of the government plans such as access to more specialists, the availability of different services or ease of scheduling appointments may also factor into the higher satisfaction levels.”

Bevin Already Hedging His Obamacare Repeal Pledge

Politico: “Matt Bevin won the Kentucky governorship on a vow to dismantle Obamacare, but the obstacles he faces rolling back a law that covers nearly one in 10 Kentuckians offers a preview of the struggles that a Republican president would face living up to a ‘repeal and replace’ pledge in 2017.”

“Even before the votes were cast, Bevin had started hedging his repeal bet, saying he would not take coverage away from people who have it. He can give the health law in his state a more conservative veneer. But he can’t scrap it completely.”

“And if he tries to scale back Medicaid too much, he could crash into another complication: an obscure 1966 state law that requires the state to draw on all the federal dollars available for Medicaid. Advocates say any move to leave federal dollars untapped would likely lead to a lawsuit. The federal government is fully funding expansion through 2016, and will pay at least 90 percent in future years.”

“’The ultimate lesson here … is that because so many people have gained coverage already through the Affordable Care Act that legislation is a whole lot more resilient than the rhetoric you hear from its opponents.’”

TransCanada Fumbles in its Approach to Keystone Pipeline

Wall Street Journal: “On Wednesday, the State Department denied TransCanada’s request earlier this week to suspend its permit application for Keystone—a move that would have essentially punted the pipeline decision to after the 2016 elections. The Obama administration is widely expected to reject the proposed pipeline as soon as this week, ending a yearslong drama.”

“Interviews with more than two dozen people—including current and former TransCanada executives and government officials—suggest that the company fumbled its U.S. push for the pipeline by pursuing a politically naive public-relations strategy over the past seven years, and failing to play an aggressive role in shaping the pipeline debate.”

“For example, TransCanada didn’t open a Washington office until June 2012, at least two years after the pipeline became a national issue in the U.S. Before that, Paul Elliot, its only full-time staff lobbyist for the pipeline in Washington, regularly commuted to the city from New York.”

“In the past two years, the company has adopted a more aggressive tone and poured more money into U.S. lobbying and advertising, spending $3.6 million in 2014. It also shuffled the roles of two senior executives to address the concerns of landowners along proposed pipeline routes and to put more emphasis on public relations.”

U.S. Poised to Hit a 20-Year Low in Carbon Emissions

The Hill: “The United States’ power sector is on track to hit a 20-year low in carbon dioxide emissions, thanks largely to massive numbers of coal power plant closures, an environmental group said.”

“The Sierra Club’s report, prepared with the help of Michael Bloomberg’s Bloomberg Philanthropies, concluded that since 2010, a third of the nation’s coal plants have closed or announced closure, driving down carbon output.”

“Largely thanks to those closures … the United States this year is likely to reach carbon levels last seen in 1995, and will meet the goal of the 2009 cap-and-trade legislation.”

“The Sierra Club report, which relies on government data and independent research, concluded that the electricity sector’s carbon will fall below 2 billion tons this year for the first time in two decades, while the entire economy’s carbon will be about 5.3 million tons.”

Majority of Republicans View Medicaid Expansion Favorably

Drew Altman: Thirty states have expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act since the Supreme Court made it a state option in 2012 … You would think expanding Medicaid is a political black mark in the eyes of all Republicans … But the limited polling the Kaiser Family Foundation has done on the issue has found that most Republicans do not oppose Medicaid expansion. In fact, they favor it.

“In a December 2014 poll, 52% of Republicans said they had a favorable view of Medicaid expansion, 44% had an unfavorable view, and 3% did not voice an opinion. In the same poll, as the chart above shows, 56% of Republicans in states that had not expanded Medicaid had a very favorable (23%) or somewhat favorable (33%) view of expansion. This survey was conducted too far in advance of the 2016 primary elections to poll likely Republican voters. Views were also different in two strongly anti-expansion states in polling Kaiser did with the New York Times in 2014. A majority of Republicans in Louisiana (66%) and North Carolina (53%) preferred that their state keep Medicaid as is.”