Editorial & Opinion

We Are All Going to Die and Nobody Gives a Shit

Extreme climate change is coming and your government doesn’t care.
Photo for We Are All Going to Die and Nobody Gives a Shit

Published on September 20, 2021
By Greg Brailsford

Welcome to our new weekly feature on Uprise RI: an editorial that tells it like it actually is, gives you the inside scoop on how government and business really operate, and how you can use this information for your benefit. I am going to discuss timely topics that matter from an angle that is not often taken. A little bit about me for background: I was brought up a conservative (without really understanding what that was), learned how the world really works in my 20s, and have been a staunch progressive ever since. I have been on both sides of the “culture war” which has been going on much longer than many of us think. I am the co-owner of RIFP and am responsible for all of Uprise RI’s operations, allowing Steve to do what he does best. While I am a progressive, I take the concept of integrity seriously. This column has no secret agenda. I will challenge you to think about events and people from a different angle and question long-held beliefs. If you are looking for a one-sided editorial you will not find it here. What you will get here every week is a much-needed dose of candor on how we approach problems, a new way of looking at things, and most importantly how to use this information to your advantage. If this intrigues you, hop on board.

This week I am bringing climate change to the forefront: a problem that everyone acknowledges but nobody in power seems to take seriously. What should be an immediate, Manhattan-project level emergency in which we pour every resource we have into solving is instead treated like a far-distant inconvenience that will affect “them” and not “us”. In fact, it has already affected us and it is going to get a lot worse. I will spare you a lecture about the science of climate change. Instead, read the summary of the IPCC’s groundbreaking report on climate change released last month, which covers most of what you need to know. If that is not enough, this year’s highly unusual weather events – multiple powerful hurricanes, never ending wildfires, unprecedented heat waves, and relentless flooding – should bring the situation into perspective.

So what are we going to do about it? From a government perspective, not much so far. Both conservatives and liberals have joined forces to elect members of Congress and state officials that simply do not take climate change seriously. I know what you’re thinking, liberals: “Who me? I would never! I vote for climate champions!” We often equate a “climate denier” with an extreme right winger who makes a lot of noise about climate science being “fake”, when in fact any elected official not pouring all of their resources into fighting climate change right now, is in effect a climate denier. The IPCC report makes it clear with no ambiguity that immediate, extreme action is required right now to tackle the problem. So, anything short of that is a denial of the problem, period. Actions speak louder than words – there is no difference between a Republican doing nothing because climate change is “fake” and a Democrat doing nothing but acknowledging it is real. No difference whatsoever. RI Rank’s recent release of their 2021 Environmental Rankings brought this to the forefront, with several RI Democrats in particular who are regarded as “environmental champions” falling to the lower half of the rankings – because it turns out talking a good game and voting for it are not the same thing. This is a big deal when it comes to something as serious as climate change. I want to hammer it home with a recent example I experienced first hand. Who’s ready for story time?

As many of you know, I am also the Executive Director of RI Rank. For the annual Environmental Rankings we use the bill list that the Environmental Council of RI publishes, to score legislators. Several weeks back their policy coordinator reached out to me asking if we could chat so they could get some advice on how they could improve their own report card. They indicated an interest in endorsing our rankings, if we might be willing to include bill sponsorship in our scoring. I should note that RI Rank does not seek endorsement of its rankings by any of the organizations whose lobby lists we use. I explained that we looked into sponsorship as a scoring factor and found it to be meaningless – it has no teeth. Lawmakers can sponsor or co-sponsor anything they want and then vote against it. Laws (and climate action specifically) happen through votes, not sponsorships. The conversation was cordial and ended on a pleasant note. At this point I still felt we had the same goal: pushing for positive environmental action.

Then we published the rankings. A few days later ECRI’s policy coordinator again reached out asking if they could see the “data” we used to score legislators. I explained our process and provided them with all of the raw vote data (this is publicly available but we have a system that automatically scrapes it from the RI legislative website, saving a lot of time). After reviewing the data, the ECRI representative and their president indicated that they could not endorse our rankings because, they implied, the rankings did fall how they expected.

ECRI provided specific examples. They wondered how a Senator like Frank Lombardo could score a 100 when he sponsored a bill to burn medical waste. Let’s review. Frank Lombardo was eligible to vote on 18 of the bills that ECRI listed as environmental bills they supported. He voted with ECRI’s position on all 18 of them. That is why he scored a 100, alongside eight other Senators who did the same. We may not like a particular member of the General Assembly, but if they vote for good legislation – that is really what matters. Mr. Lombardo’s bill on medical waste never came to a vote, so his sponsorship of the bill had no real-world impact. That is what we measure at RI Rank: actual real-world impact.

Often times, politicians sponsor bills that they know have no chance of being passed or even coming to a vote. They do this to send a message to their constituents, “I’m doing what you asked”, without any real action. Democrats in Congress are masters of this scam. When Republicans hold the majority, Dems sponsor and vote in favor of “message” bills they know have zero chance of becoming law. Then when they hold the majority, make little to no effort to get these same bills passed. It is something Republicans rarely do – if they sponsor a bill, they do actually fight to pass it.

You just read about the example of an “environmental enemy” who turned out not to be much of one. Now let’s look at the opposite end of the spectrum. I hate to put Senator Valverde on blast, but she was the other example ECRI implied in their correspondence as someone expected to be at the top of the rankings. Senator Valverde ranked 28th out of 37 in the Environmental Rankings. This came as a surprise to ECRI, but a quick look at the bills she voted on as a member of the Senate Environment & Agriculture committee shows why:

On the Energy & Climate category she scored a 91 overall, voting against only one low-priority ECRI-endorsed bill that prohibits large solar projects being placed in open spaces (instead of on existing infrastructure, the ideal location). However, on Health and Conservation bills, it was a different story. Here are some bills that stood out and how the Senator voted:

  • S-110: Bans toxic PFAS chemicals in food packaging – voted down in committee
  • S-702: Prohibits the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, which have proven to be harmful to insects, including bees, and have ripple effects throughout ecosystems – voted down in committee
  • S-36: Reduces the use of polystyrene foam containers – voted down in committee
  • S-106/S-220/S-562: Creates a refundable deposit for bottles to encourage recycling – voted down in committee

Does this make Senator Valverde a bad legislator on environmental concerns? Of course not, and her overall score of 80 reflects that. But to claim that the senator is a environmental champion when she voted down bills banning PFAS and neonicotinoid pesticides among others is improper. One of the main factors that separates RI Rank from other legislator scorecards is our data-based approach that leaves no room for playing favorites.

Far too often, voters (and organizations) develop a view of legislators based on what they say because that is what today’s media covers. The media never points out how individual legislators vote, because let’s face it…it’s boring. Today’s media is all in on sensationalism, so words carry far more weight than they should and this results in voters believing a politician stands for something that in practice they may not. Your “favorite” elected official may go on the news every week and talk up the need for climate legislation, but are they voting for it?

I mentioned how Congressional Democrats play this game and I will give you an example of this that just happened last week. In 2019, House Democrats voted to pass HR3, a bill to lower prescription drug prices. Here is how that vote went:

Every House Democrat voted in favor of HR3 in 2019

See what I see? 100% of House Democrats voted for this bill. Why is that? Why did even the five House Dems who are bought by the pharmaceutical industry and voted against it last week vote in favor of the bill in 2019? Because Republicans controlled the Senate in 2019, so they knew the bill would not go anywhere. This is how Democrats signal to their voters “We’re working for you” without actually working for you, and instead abiding by the wishes of their donors. Now that Democrats are in power, those five members must stop it from passing and did exactly that. This happens over and over, year after year, because Democratic voters allow it. “Vote blue no matter who” means Democrats never have to earn your vote. All they need to do is not be a Republican, and they have your vote.

Here’s the big problem: With climate change, we don’t have time for any more bullshit. We need real action, now. Today. The only way we are going to get it is to hold our elected officials accountable. In other words, if you vote Democrat, you must threaten to withhold your vote and mean it, or they will not budge. That’s not all. Dem voters must stop voting for whomever the media nudges them to vote for and start voting for progressives in primaries that will push a climate agenda. This is a topic for a future column, but trust me when I tell you that the media never has your best interests in mind in who they cover and how. Their only interest is boosting whatever candidate will bring them the highest ratings – and yes, Donald Trump was that candidate in 2016. They all do this. CNN. MSNBC. Fox. CBS. OAN. All of them. Stop playing into their game. If we are going to solve the climate crisis, you will need to pay attention and prioritize a candidate’s stance on climate as the top issue that matters.

Rear View

  • It appears Jorge Elorza’s run in with Dan McKee several weeks ago has ended, at least for now, his political career. It is unfortunate that the WaterFire incident was likely the cause, as McKee’s stooge had no basis for placing his hands on Elorza, and by doing so made the scene look much worse for the Providence mayor. Despite this ploy, McKee has no chance of being re-elected governor next year.
  • Much ado was made recently in social media by pro-COVID conservatives because they claimed the VAERS system showed 12,000 “deaths” reported after vaccination, and this “should have raised alarms”. However, if you actually read the entries, and I read over 100 of them at random, nearly all of them (and it’s roughly 6,000 – not 12,000) acknowledge the patient was already dying and that the vaccine is unlikely to be the cause of death, however they reported it out of obligation because the government requires it. Nonetheless, if all 6,000 deaths were caused by vaccines, vaccination would still overwhelmingly be a better option since 650,000+ people in the US have died without it.
  • As electric vehicles soar in popularity, McDonald’s or another large fast food chain might be wise to add high-speed EV chargers to their restaurants to lock in a new source of business nationwide as the market for fast charging rapidly expands.
  • In a surprise to nobody who understands how modern police function, Olympic gymnasts – one after the other – testified under oath last week that the FBI not only swept their claims of molestation by Larry Nassar under the rug, but went so far as to fabricate their witness statements and actively worked to protect Nassar so that his pedophilia could continue. When police are never held accountable for the job they do and everyone from both sides of the aisle goes out of their way to put them on a pedestal, this is just one of the terrible outcomes that results.

Next Week – The Culture War: A Battle to Distract You

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