THE BIG HEAT
“There are no unsacred places; there are only sacred places and desecrated places.”
WENDELL BERRY writer, farmer
Warning over Truss links to US lobbyists who have
successfully defeated climate laws
By Adam Bichawski
July 26, 2022
Liz Truss - the current UK Foreign Secretary, and the person most likely to be the next Prime Minister - has endorsed US think tanks that have successfully opposed new laws to reduce the effects of climate change. According to a former US government adviser, these organisations made it impossible for Barack Obama to pass climate laws, and the UK should be “concerned” about their links to the Tory leadership favourite.
Liz Truss has held secretive meetings with think tanks pushing for Britain to adopt a hardline free market agenda while on a visit to the US as a treasury minister in 2018, to drum up interest for a UK-US trade deal.
Speaking to openDemocracy, Jonathan Phillips, a former Obama administration climate specialist, warned it would spell disaster if Truss sought to replicate the tactics of groups such as the Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Cato Institute and American Legislative Exchange Council.
He said: “One of the reasons that the politics around climate change in the US is different to the UK right now is because of this powerful force of right-wing think tanks funded by fossil fuel interests. You should be concerned if the tactics used by those groups are applied in the UK, because they have polarised the issue of climate change to the point that there is zero space for political debate, negotiation and compromise from the Republican Party.”
Asked if it was concerning that Britain’s next prime minister could be someone so close to these groups, he said: “Join the dots.”
The Heritage Foundation was among the groups Truss met in 2018. It had been directly involved in shaping Donald Trump’s policies to scrap environmental regulations and withdraw from the landmark Paris climate agreement.
Truss, who is the strong favourite among Conservative Party members to succeed Boris Johnson, paid a second visit to the think tank in 2019, praising it for being at “forefront of Republican thinking” in a speech given at its Washington DC headquarters – just two weeks after she was promoted to international trade secretary.
She asked senior representatives from Heritage “what can we learn from ‘Reaganomics’ on things like regulation and red tape”, according to a briefing note for the meeting obtained by the Unearthed, the Greenpeace news website.The note indicated that she was “committed to” and “personally interested in… exploring supply side reforms” . Theseh could include corporate tax cuts and slashing environmental regulations.
Truss also met with several other controversial lobby groups during her trips to the US including the American Enterprise Institute, the Cato Institute and the American Legislative Exchange Council. Between them, they have received $712m from the biggest funders of climate denial in the US. These include the billionaire industrialists David and Charles Koch, who own Koch Industries, one of the largest privately held conglomerates in the United States.
In 2018, Truss also met representatives of the Cato Institute, co-founded by Charles Koch, which climate researchers say “wrote the playbook” for anti-climate action campaigns. Riley Dunlap, a professor at the Oklahoma State University who has spent decades tracking climate denial groups, said organisations like the Cato Institute have “had a major impact on US policy-making in general, and on climate change in particular”.
He told openDemocracy: “Truss’s ties to these lobby groups are a bad omen for climate change policy making in the UK should she win election,” he told openDemocracy. “She’ll keep the Tories from doing anything helpful unless really pressured, which seems unlikely.”
Many of the think tanks that Truss met played a key role in forcing Obama to abandon what was to be his signature piece of climate policy in 2009. The American Clean Energy and Security Act would have set an overall cap on greenhouse emissions, but never made it to a final vote in the Senate – despite passing through the House – after an organised backlash against it.
Jonathan Philips, who co-authored the doomed bill, recalls that groups like Cato and Heritage, both of which have championed Truss, filled the airways with warnings that the regulations threatened the country’s freedom and prosperity. Heritage’s claim that a million jobs would be lost if it passed was regularly cited by opponents – as was Cato’s narrative that the law was an onerous tax on working Americans. No major climate legislation has made it through Congress since.
Just a month after Truss’ 2018 US tour, the lobby groups she met published an “ideal UK-US free trade deal” drafted together with several pro-Brexit UK think tanks that proposed gutting consumer and environmental regulations. The draft was organised by the Initiative for Free Trade (IFT), a think tank founded by the longtime Eurosceptic MEP Daniel Hannan, one of the leaders of Vote Leave, and included the input of several opaquely funded UK organisations including the Institute for Economic Affairs and the Adam Smith Institute.
Vote Leave co-founder Douglas Carlswell, has said: “We need to break free from [the EU’s] destructive regulatory orbits, if we are to make sure that we prosper, if our children are going to prosper… And that can only be achieved by regulatory realignment [with the US], getting rid of a lot of regulations on everything from vacuum cleaners to diesel engines.”
Truss has similarly pledged a “red tape bonfire” of EU laws as part of her leadership pitch. During her campaign said has she would scrap any rules retained after Brexit which “hinder our businesses” by the end of 2023. While she has said she would keep the UK’s commitment to reach net zero by 2050, she has also promised to cut green levies from energy bills and lift the ban on fracking.
A hidden treasure found in the twilight zone off Tahiti
A spectacular coral reef has been found between 35 and 70 metres below sea level near Tahiti, and it seems to be in good health despite the global biodiversity crisis
January 20, 2022
Laetitia Hédouin, of France’s National Centre for Scientific Research, first came across the reef by chance in late 2021. Now she and colleagues have undertaken a survey diving expedition to more fully explore her scientific discovery. The diving team came across spectacular rose-shaped coral forms which prove to be part of a reef that stretches for more than 3 kilometres and measures 70 metres across at its widest. It is one of the largest reefs found at such depths.
“It was magical to witness giant, beautiful rose corals which stretch for as far as the eye can see,” said Alexis Rosenfeld, a French underwater photographer on the Unesco-led team. “It was like a work of art.”
Laetitia Hédouin pointed out that a remarkable thing about this find is its pristine condition: “It’s a very healthy reef, like a dream come true. In the middle of the biodiversity crisis, it is very good news.”
The deep reef does not appear to have suffered the bleaching events that damaged neighbouring sites in shallower waters in 2019. During dives totalling 200 hours, researchers were able to witness the coral spawning.
"This reef is also one of very few we have found at such depths, in what is known as the twilight zone of the ocean", said Julian Barbière at UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission. “There might be many more large reefs in our ocean at such depth that require more investigation. This could be one of the largest, but the fact is that we haven’t really looked for coral reefs in deeper waters.
"As it stands, only 20 per cent of the seafloor has been mapped. By mapping more of the ocean, at even greater depths, researchers hope to understand the best ways to protect and manage these rich ecosystems."
Audrey Azoulay, Unesco’s director general added: “To date, we know the surface of the moon better than the deep ocean."
Coral reefs are believed by many scientists to have the highest biodiversity of any ecosystem on the planet, even more than tropical rainforests. Occupying less than one percent of the ocean floor, they are home to more than 25per cent of all marine life. But they are especially vulnerable in the face of increasing human-driven pressures such as climate change, and the increasingly frequent extreme weather incidents, such as tsunamis and cyclones.
Laetitia Hédouin: "Coral reefs are important for protection, management and conservation targets. Millions of people rely on the "ecosystem services" provided by reefs for their livelihoods. We need them for fisheries, for tourism, even for
“There are also benefits to coral reefs which are not always that obvious,” said Julian Barbière. “We are finding more and more potential medical solutions through some of the marine organisms that lived in those ecosystems. Those could help develop drugs to treat cancer or arthritis, for example.”
Professor Murray Roberts, a marine scientist at the University of Edinburgh, told the BBC: “As shallow waters warm faster than the deeper waters we may find these deeper reef systems are refuges for corals in the future. We need to get out there to map these
Newly discovered fish songs demonstrate
reef restoration success
Thousands of square metres of coral are being grown on previously destroyed reefs in Indonesia, but previously it was unclear whether these new corals would revive the entire reef ecosystem. Now a new study, led by researchers from the University of Bristoland the University of Exeter, finds a healthy, diverse soundscape on the restored reefs. These sounds - many of which have never been recorded before - can be used alongside visual observations to monitor these vital ecosystems.
"Some of the sounds we recorded are really bizarre and new to us as scientists," says Professor Steve Simpson of Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences. "We have a lot still to learn about what they all mean and the animals that are making them. But for now, it’s amazing to be able to hear the ecosystem come back to life."
Lead author Dr Tim Lamont, of the University of Exeter and the Mars Coral Reef Restoration Project, which is restoring the reefs in central Indonesia, adds: "Restoration projects can be successful at growing coral, but that’s only part of the ecosystem. This study provides exciting evidence that restoration really works for the other reef creatures too - by listening to the reefs, we’ve documented the return of a diverse
range of animals."
The soundscapes of the restored reefs are not identical to those of existing healthy reefs - but the diversity of sounds is similar, suggesting a healthy and functioning ecosystem.There were significantly more fish sounds recorded on both healthy and restored reefs than on
This study used acoustic recordings taken in 2018 and 2019 as part of the monitoring programme for the Mars Coral Reef Restoration Project.
The results are positive for the project's approach, in which hexagonal metal frames called ‘Reef Stars’ are seeded with coral and laid over a large area. The Reef Stars stabilise loose rubble and kickstart rapid coral growth, leading to the revival of the wider ecosystem.
Mochyudho Prasetya, of the Mars Coral Reef Restoration Project: "We have been restoring and monitoring these reefs here in Indonesia for many years. Now it is amazing to see more and more evidence that our work is helping the reefs come back to life."
Professor David Smith, Chief Marine Scientist for Mars Incorporated: "When the soundscape comes back like this, the reef has a better chance of becoming self-sustaining because those sounds attract more animals that maintain and diversify reef populations."
Asked about the multiple threats facing coral reefs, including climate change and water pollution, Dr Lamont said: "If we don't address these wider problems, conditions for reefs will get more and more hostile and eventually restoration will become impossible.
"Our study shows that reef restoration can really work, but it's only part of a solution that must also include rapid action on climate change and other threats to reefs worldwide."