• Hill Heat
  • Posts
  • The burning passion of the absurd man

The burning passion of the absurd man

Social cost of carbon, environmental justice, a Camus continuation


Since last week’s newsletter made reference to Camus’s Myth of Sisyhpus, I figured I should actually read it. So I did (let’s be honest, I skimmed). Camus defines the absurd as the conflict between the human “longing for happiness and for reason” and the “unreasonable silence of the world.” He offers one example:

We shall deem a verdict absurd when we contrast it with the verdict the facts apparently dictated. And, similarly, a demonstration by the absurd is achieved by comparing the consequences of such a reasoning with the logical reality one wants to set up.

Judge James D. Cain Jr., appointed by Donald Trump to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, ruled Friday to block the Biden administration from measuring the costs of global warming in regulations. Cain agreed in full with the six former Confederate states (Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and Texas) and the four coal states (Kentucky, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming) who brought the suit that the social cost of carbon measure is illegal overreach and economically harmful.

Cain reached true Camusian absurdity when he concluded the federal government must be barred from limiting greenhouse pollution, because doing so might reduce fees from oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Specifically, Louisiana will be directly harmed by the reduction of funds necessary to maintain the state’s coastal lands.”

Cain notes why Louisiana has such a dire need for such funds:

“Louisiana is losing swaths of coastal land—nearly two thousand square miles and counting—due to follow-on effects from environmental catastrophes.”

That these “environmental catastrophes” are caused by the oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico was left unmentioned. Bye bayou!

Cain’s ruling, if it stands, will also block the new social cost of carbon calcuation that an interagency working group headed by Heather Boushey is working on—it was originally promised “no later than January 2022,” but they’re still looking for outside experts, so we’ll probably have to keep waiting. E&E News’ Jean Chemnick looks into how the group may be incorporating environmental justice into this very wonky process.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is tackling the social-cost-of-carbon question in its February meeting this Thursday, with the agenda item “Consideration of Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Natural Gas Infrastructure Project Reviews.” As recommended by analyst Susan Tierney, FERC would use the social cost of carbon measure and projected lifetime greenhouse pollution to assess the climate impact of proposed natural gas projects. Unsurprisingly, the fossil-gas industry would not like FERC to do this.

*no longer an accurate representation of the Louisiana coastline

Everywhere our homes are increasingly threatened by fossil-fueled climate disasters—extreme heat, wildfires, and floods. For millions of Americans, however, there is literally no escape—for they are locked up in one of the nation’s thousands of prisons, detention centers, boot camps, juvenile centers, correctional facilities, et cetera. In a must-read series, The Intercept’s Alleen Brown describes what happens when global warming goes to jail.

Tomorrow, Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-N.M.) is holding a legislative hearing on his Environmental Justice for All Act (H.R. 2021), which will “require federal agencies to consider community health impacts during permitting decisions; codify into law the federal government’s existing environmental justice initiatives; and impose new fees on oil, gas and coal companies to fund local transitions away from fossil fuel economies.” The witnesses will be Edison State professor Nicky Sheats, East Yard Communities’ Laura Cortez, and Amy Laura Cahn, acting director for the Environmental Justice Clinic at Vermont Law School.

And Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) will chair a hearing on the opportunity afforded by the $1.5 billion in the bipartisan infrastructure act for the E.P.A. Brownfields program, which cleans up toxic sites across the country. Historically, about $90 million is appropriated every year for grants to local governments and nonprofits, so the extra $300 million per year is a big deal.

Thanks to global warming, koalas are now officially endangered. Livestock methane pollution (cow burps) is still getting a pass from the Biden administration. Sorry to Bengals’ fans for the outcome of yesterday’s game, but how about all those ads for electric cars? Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) sends a letter to the SEC: Where’s your climate change disclosure rule?

David Remnick has a great interview with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, in which she discusses how to refill one’s well of hope and what it’s like being inside the “shitshow” of Congress.

The question that we’re really facing is: Was the last fifty to sixty years after the Civil Rights Act just a mere flirtation that the United States had with a multiracial democracy that we will then decide was inconvenient for those in power?

Hearings on the Hill this Week:

As Camus writes: “Having started from an anguished awareness of the inhuman, the meditation on the absurd returns at the end of its itinerary to the very heart of the passionate flames of human revolt.”

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone. @climatebrad

Subscribe to Hill Heat

Climate science, policy, politics, and action

Join the conversation

or to participate.