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Millions of years of evolution have graced birds with a wealth of healthy instincts. They have mastered the art of flight, and many species fly thousands of miles when the seasons change, unerringly returning time and again to a distant refuge where the weather is calm. More than anything, though, birds know better than to shit in their own nest. This is an instinct the president of the United States has yet to develop, and the whole wide world may come to pay a brutal price for it.
November’s COP 26 international environmental summit in Glasgow was an unsurprising disappointment on pretty much every level: A bunch of world leaders beholden to the global energy industry came together in the rain to pretend they were making progress on the existential threat hovering over us all, but the act wore thin in a hurry. An environmental summit whose participants cannot summon the will to admit that burning coal is bad for the air and water is an environmental summit that should have stayed in bed.
Adding insult to injury, the Biden administration held a massive lease sale for oil and gas drilling rights in the Gulf of Mexico scant days after the conclusion of the summit. Some 80 million acres of sea floor — which could contain more than a billion barrels of oil and more than 4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas — were up for grabs. According to an analysis by The Center for American Progress, “[T]he offshore lease sale alone has the potential to emit 723 million metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere over its lifetime, equivalent to operating more than 70 percent of the United States’ coal-fired power plants for a year.”
As if this were not bad enough, there is the timeline. The companies that bought leases to drill in the Gulf — Exxon and BP stand tall in the crowd — will need years to install the infrastructure required to get to the oil and gas. This means the actual extraction and burning of these fossil fuels will not even begin until around 2030, a year many climate scientists have set as a hard deadline for reversing course on our ecological dissolution.
The whole thing felt like a deliberate finger in the eye of the environmental movement by the Biden administration, but the president and his people begged for understanding: The courts are making us do this, they claimed. We paused all new leasing a year ago but got slapped by an injunction that required us to do the auction. It is out of our hands.
“We’re required to comply with the injunction,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in November as all this was unfolding. “It’s a legal case and legal process, but it’s important for advocates and other people out there who are following this to understand that it’s not aligned with our view, the president’s policies, or the executive order that he signed.”
And if my cat had wheels, she’d be a wagon. The Guardian reports:
The Biden administration admitted that a court decision did not compel it to lease vast tracts of the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas drilling, shortly before claiming it was legally obliged to do so when announcing the sell-off, the Guardian can reveal.
The president’s administration insisted it was obliged to hold the lease sale due to a court ruling in favor of a dozen states that sued to lift a blanket pause placed on new drilling permits by Biden. But a memo filed by the US Department of Justice before the lease sale acknowledges that this judgement does not force the government to auction off drilling rights to the gulf.
“The administration has been misleading on this, to put it mildly. It’s very disappointing,” said Thomas Meyer, national organizing manager of Food and Water Watch. “They didn’t have to hold this sale and they didn’t have to hold it on this timeline. We know this will exacerbate the climate crisis, it undermines US credibility abroad and it contradicts a campaign promise by Biden.”
The urgent need to address anthropogenic climate disruption becomes more evident by the day. A massive Antarctic ice shelf called Thwaites is maybe five years away from shattering, according to newly released data. “Total collapse of Thwaites could result in several feet of sea level rise, reports The Washington Post, “endangering millions of people in coastal areas.”
A historically hot summer in the Pacific Northwest is responsible for the heat-related deaths of as many as a billion sea creatures. Many other species have also been impacted, including humans. These so-called “heat domes” have been followed by long stretches of warm, dry weather that have virtually erased the snow pack high in the western mountains. Without enough snowfall, drought and fire are all but guaranteed to follow.
The president has broken the First Rule of Birds.
Only days ago, tornadoes tore through nine states, including Kentucky, in the middle of the night, causing unimaginable damage and sparking a debate as to the relationship of the climate crisis to the monster storm. A variety of factors are involved in the formation of tornadoes, making it difficult to pinpoint causality. Yet the sheer size of the storm, combined with the timing — tornadoes of any size in December are extremely rare — make it hard to claim that climate had nothing to do with it.
President Biden campaigned hard on salvaging the climate fight before it is too late. While he is no Donald Trump, Biden has been revealed in this oil lease fiasco as yet another lying politician willing to eat dirt for the fossil fuel industry. Trump would have done these things and then claimed he didn’t, but would’ve said that even if he had done them, which he didn’t, they were the right things to do. Biden just does them, and moves on down the line.
The president has broken the First Rule of Birds. The trouble is, this nest belongs to all of us, and we are well and truly screwed without it.