Why Biden's climate plans hang in the balance in Georgia; plus Trump's Arctic drilling no-shows

By David Callaway, Callaway Climate Insights

Climate change wasn’t much of a factor in the campaigns for Georgia’s Senate runoffs today. The vast majority of the state’s 11 million people live hours from the rapidly rising seas along its coastline. The candidates stuck to predictable national playbooks, arguing about the Green New Deal, which none of them support.

But the results will have a great impact on Georgia, as well as the entire country. With control of the U.S. Senate at stake, much of President-elect Joe Biden’s $2 trillion climate policy is on the line. From reducing emissions in the power sector, to encouraging the transition to electric cars and other transportation, a hostile Senate could thwart some of the highlights of the policy.

Georgia itself is in the eye of a climate threat that includes stronger hurricanes, soaring heat, water supply issues, and seas that could rise several feet in the next 75 years, by some estimates. Democratic candidates Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, and Republican incumbent Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue — like all of us — will find out tonight what the future holds for Georgia and the country.

The impact of the vote will then be ignored tomorrow while Congress descends into chaos over the U.S. election certification and Washington D.C. faces violent protests spurred by President Trump’s refusal to go quietly. With luck, those will end and Biden will become president in two weeks.

Only then will we realize the scale of the climate threat over the next four years, and whether we have the will and the leaders to fight it.

More insights below. . . .

. . . . Water’s Enron moment? We wrote last month about the start of futures trading in California water, and the implications for making water a tradable commodity. Now, the New York Times is out with an exhaustive report on the Colorado River, which provides water to some 40 million people in seven states. The piece highlighted attempts by other countries, such as Australia, to create water markets, including concerns that professional investors could threaten the integrity of the water system. One source compared it to California’s deregulated energy system in the late ‘90s, which led to abuses from energy trader Enron Corp., among others. A strong, if long, read about what is certain to be a major battle for the Colorado River in coming years. . . .

. . . . Bids for the Trump Administration’s sale of drilling leases on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge are due to be unsealed Thursday, and all indications are the leases will be as popular as a stocking stuffer at a Covid Christmas dinner party. Analysts expect few — if any — oil companies to make offers, given the bad publicity, expected lawsuits, and determination of the incoming Biden Administration to scuttle the sale in a few weeks. One theory is that the state will step in to buy them as a backstop for future use, though no one is quite sure whether that is legal. What is known is that the government won’t get anywhere near the $900 million it originally estimated for the leases. With minimum bids at $25 an acre, and maximum land to sell placed at 1.5 million acres, that suggests something closer to $37.5 million as a minimum, though one taxpayers group told The New York Times it could be closer to $15 million. . . .

In Latin America, sustainability means gender equality

. . . . Women like Denise Hills are leading the way on climate change solutions in Latin America, writes Michael Molinski. While global numbers show roughly equal numbers of number of men and women in sustainable finance, in many Latin American countries women are showing sharp gains in environmental, social and governance positions. Hills, who overseas sustainable progress at Brazilian cosmetics giant Natura & Co., is one example of women executives fighting not just for more responsibility, but for better environmental performance as well.

Latin American women have been closing the gap compared to the rest of the world when it comes to gender equality. For example, Latin American women have the highest percentage of women in scientific research at 44%, versus 28% for the rest of the world. And an increasing number of those researchers are entering environmental fields. . . .

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