Too Much Hot Air at Trinity’s Climate Teach-In

Climate change is likely the most prominent global issue today, and Trinity University tried to play its part by participating in the Global Climate Strike on Friday. In what was meant to be a walkout from classes, students and faculty gathered in the Coates Student Center for a two-hour “teach-in” about the state of the climate. Professors and students presented their perspectives on the issue through lectures, poems, songs, visual art, and yelling.

The event began with physics professor Niescja Turner, who spoke about the greenhouse effect. She emphasized that this effect is a good thing, but the recent introduction of too much CO2 into the atmosphere creates too much of this good thing. The climate takes a long time to change, but the amount of CO2 is increasing too rapidly. Next, geosciences professor Glenn Kroeger spoke on the historical levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. It has been fluctuating for as long as measurement tools can take us, but it has never been above 400 ppm (0.04% of the atmosphere) as it is now. His thesis was similar to Dr Turner’s: we should be wary of how we are treating the atmosphere. 

These professors provided sound, reasonable and convincing evidence for the warming earth. They both condemned climate fear-mongering and extreme solutions. It would be hard for anyone to disagree with their data-based points. But, of course, there are two sides to every issue. In this case, there are those who make arguments that are valid and sound, and they strive for genuine conversation for the other side.

Then, there are the unreasonables, whose yelling only serves to preach to the choir and confirm their insanity to their opponents. These unreasonables proposed no solutions other than sorrow and anger for their situation.

A recent Trinity graduate and representative from the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) followed the science professors. This speaker diverged as far from science as possible, screaming about how climate change was tightly linked to capitalism and other institutions such as racism, sexism, ableism, and “speciesism.” In a perfect caricature moment, she told us in curse-laced language how she was “angry all the time,” then inviting us to feel angry and upset and anxious along with her–because, if you feel okay, you’re part of the problem. She directly called for an end to capitalism, which led to an unsettling swell of cheers throughout the room.

Crowd gathered at the Climate Teach-In in Coates Student Center.

The complete lack of awareness shown by most participants was the sharpest bit of irony at the event. The building was well-lit and air-conditioned. Every person present was handed a freshly printed sheet of paper with the lyrics to a song we sang. After the teach-in, many attendees planned on driving several cars less than three miles downtown for a citywide strike, where they likely generated loads of garbage in discarded signs. They want to limit every aspect of life, yet they refuse to change some of the most basic elements of their lives for their own cause.

Anger isn’t going to solve any problems. If everyone who spoke about climate change would do so with the same tone and reason as the science professors, perhaps more people could get on board with practical steps toward compromise. Sadly, it seems most students believe that the best solution is to become upset about everything and hope someone notices. It is simply not possible to get things done for the climate if you believe the issue of climate change must be solved in conjunction with every other so-called issue that exists.

Kroeger illustrated how seemingly utopian ideas can be impractical. Proponents of the Green New Deal, for example, plan to replace all fossil fuel-burning cars in ten years. He explained that the most fuel-efficient vehicle you could drive is a bicycle, with the second-most fuel efficient being the vehicle you drive now. While electric cars are more fuel efficient once they’re on the road, their production still generates lots of carbon, meaning it would take a long, long time to break even with regular fossil fuel models. On top of that, the earth does not even hold enough of the minerals needed to produce these electric cars.

The left has made climate change too polarizing. The more we hear about how the government plans on limiting the amount of beef we can eat and how much we can water our grass, the more regular people will stubbornly oppose any change. It is not unreasonable to fear the removal of basic rights. During this teach-in, we were told that “fashion kills,” and that as part of curbing climate change, we should never buy new clothes again. We were also told not to have kids, and that “reproductive justice has to be a part of climate justice.” It sounds like people on the left are willing to take away whatever they need in order to solve a problem many cannot even properly define.

As long as we speak practically, we will uncover more middle ground than we think. So many people cannot see past their own noses, refusing to see better ideas before them. People are so rushed to “solve” the climate crisis, but the science professors made it pretty clear that we need to take our time on these things. The idea that the world will end in twelve years is simply untrue—as it has been every decade since alarmists first started spouting it. All reason and sense has gone out the window in favor of outrage and complete absurdity. From the supporting cheers that the speakers received, it seems clear that climate extremism is no longer a strictly far-left issue, and that young people have blindly bought into environmentalist propaganda. It is truly upsetting that Trinity has legitimized this sort of nonsense.

All images by Samantha Farnsworth.

Life:Powered Educates San Antonio on Climate Action and Adaption Plan

On Thursday, Sept. 5, Life:Powered, an initiative of the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) to “raise America’s energy IQ,” hosted the event “A Bad Trade-Off: The Cost and Consequence of San Antonio’s Climate Policy.” This event was the third of a series of four events Life:Powered has been putting on throughout the summer in different parts of San Antonio. The event focused on the City of San Antonio’s proposed Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP), which will be up for voter approval on Oct 17. The goal of the CAAP, modeled after the Paris Climate Accord, is for San Antonio to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

Rafael Bejar, the Director of Outreach for TPPF, said TPPF held this event on the south side of San Antonio because it is often not addressed in political discussions. Since all of San Antonio and (all of Texas) will be affected if the CAAP becomes law, all of San Antonio must be involved in the political process.

Brent Bennet, a policy analyst for Life:Powered with a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering, explained the three goals of the CAAP. The first is that CPS Energy provides 100% carbon-free electricity. Life:Powered has done research proving that while materials costs for wind and solar energy are getting cheaper, total costs will increase because fossil fuels or expensive energy storage units will be necessary for when wind and solar energy inevitably fail. 

Bennet said the city leaders have not thoroughly addressed how they will reach carbon neutrality and how they will pay for it. He mentioned the city of Georgetown, TX, which is $30 million in debt because, in their efforts to use 100% renewable energy, they did not account for the “costs of having too much wind and solar when you don’t need it, and not enough wind and solar when you do.” Bennet says San Antonio should focus on making its electricity “affordable and reliable” instead of “spending its way out of existence.”

The second part of the plan is the city transitioning to 100% electric vehicles for public transportation. Bennet explained that while the city can not force anyone to use electric vehicles, they can spend lots of money trying to encourage the public to do so.

Life:Powered believes choices like transportation should be left to the market. “We’re going to find more efficient ways to use our energy and to get around through our own choices as individuals,” said Bennet. Bennet also stated that the CAAP’s electric transportation efforts will raise everyone’s transportation costs and will harm poor people the most. 

The final part of the CAAP is lowering buildings’ energy use and powering them with solar panels, which the city will enforce through avenues like zoning regulations and permitting. Bennet says the costs of this policy outweigh the benefits; the costs of housing will raise for “the people who can least afford it.” Bennet also mentioned CPS has already spent over $100 million on rooftop solar rebates that have “barely made a dent”. 

Bennet said Life:Powered’s philosophy is that “prosperity and environmental quality go hand-in-hand,” and that to protect the environment, we need to increase our wealth at the same time.

Chuck DeVore, TPPF’s Vice President of National Initiatives and a former California Assemblyman, spoke about California’s energy policies, which are more restrictive than Texas’. The cost of electricity in California runs 50-88% higher than in Texas. “The challenge is: how do you do this and not impoverish those Americans who are at the lower end of the economic spectrum?” asked DeVore.

DeVore spoke further on the results of the city of Georgetown’s new energy policies. Georgetown’s electrical rates are now 63% higher per kilowatt hour than San Marcos’ are. For a battery unit to power a windless winter night in Texas, the city of Georgetown would need a 20,000 ton battery farm which would cost $400 million. 

Jason Isaac, Senior Manager and Distinguished Fellow at Life:Powered, stated that believes the reason over 400 US cities have signed on to the Paris Climate Accord is political. He believes this because a Life:Powered study shows the US eliminating all carbon emissions will have only a 0.097 degree Fahrenheit difference by 2050. 

Shifting to 100% wind, solar, and battery powered energy by 2030 will cost the state of Texas $120 billion or on average about $14,000 per family annually.

Isaac also said that San Antonio has the second-highest poverty rate in the nation, and half of the people below the poverty rate — over 129,000 people in San Antonio — pay over 29% of their income on electricity bills. Isaac thinks the city should be working to lower costs instead of “forcing silly regulations on businesses and homeowners [that] will do nothing but hurt the least among us.” 

Life:Powered will host one more event on the CAAP before the vote takes place on Oct. 17. 

Editor’s Note: Julia Westwick worked as an intern for the Texas Public Policy Foundation in the Summer of 2019.

The Darsch Report: March 25 – 31

US Marshall Arrested in San Antonio

On Saturday, March 30, US Marshal Reynaldo Chavera was charged with drug possession following an arrest Saturday morning outside a San Antonio strip club. Bexar County booking records show he has been charged with possession of less than one gram of a controlled substance under “penalty group one” of the Texas Controlled Substances Act.

San Antonio police officers arrested Chavera around 5:30 am Saturday at XTC Cabaret near San Antonio International Airport after security workers detained him when he refused to leave the club. Officers then identified Chavera as a U.S. Marshal and found that he had narcotics in his possession.

U.S. Marshals Service spokesman Christopher Bozeman said the agency is aware of Chavera’s arrest and ”takes seriously any allegation of misconduct by its employees which do not reflect our core values of justice, integrity, and service.”

Possession of less than one gram of a controlled substance in that category is a state jail felony punishable by a maximum two-year prison sentence.

Attorney General and Chick-Fil-A

On Thursday, March 28, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced that he would launch an investigation into whether the city of San Antonio’s rejection of Chick-fil-A from its airport violates state law.

The San Antonio city council excluded the business from the airport after a ThinkProgress report claimed they support anti-LGBTQ+ organizations.

“The Constitution’s protection of religious liberty is somehow even better than Chick-fil-A’s chicken,” Paxton wrote in a letter to San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg. “Unfortunately, I have serious concerns that both are under assault at the San Antonio airport.”

Paxton said he is also encouraging Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao to look into whether the city broke any federal law or regulation.

“I trust the City will fully cooperate with my investigation into this matter and will abide by relevant federal and state laws in the future,” he wrote.

“The City’s Attorney’s Office is reviewing the letter. I am withholding comment until we have had adequate time to analyze it,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg stated.

Paxton also told San Antonio officials that he asked U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to investigate whether the city’s actions violated federal law and regulations prohibiting religious discrimination by federal grant recipients.

Is Joe Biden Getting #MeToo-ed?

On Friday, March 29, former Nevada Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor Lucy Flores wrote an essay in The Cut alleging that Joe Biden acted inappropriately with her and made her feel “uneasy, gross, and confused”.

“As I was taking deep breaths and preparing myself to make my case to the crowd, I felt two hands on my shoulders. I froze… I felt him get closer to me from behind. He leaned further in and inhaled my hair. I was mortified… He proceeded to plant a big slow kiss on the back of my head,” Flores wrote.

She says she was more than relieved when her name was called and she was able to get away from Biden.

Even though Biden had come to Nevada to help Flores win her election, she claims his behavior was unprofessional. “He stopped treating me like a peer the moment he touched me,” Flores stated. “Even if his behavior wasn’t violent or sexual, it was demeaning and disrespectful.”

As she points out, however, this isn’t the first time Joe Biden has gotten too close for comfort.

“Time passed and pictures started to surface of Vice President Biden getting uncomfortably close with women and young girls. Biden nuzzling the neck of the Defense secretary’s wife; Biden kissing a senator’s wife on the lips; Biden whispering in women’s ears; Biden snuggling female constituents.”

Joe Biden has brushed past the allegations. “In my many years on the campaign trail and in public life, I have offered countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support and comfort. And not once—never—did I believe I acted inappropriately. If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully. But it was never my intention,” said Biden.

If betting markets are to be trusted as charts for public approval, this allegation has seriously hurt Joe Biden’s chances of becoming the 2020 Democratic nominee. On Election Betting Odds and PredictIt, Biden plummeted from the favorite Democratic contender to the fourth and third place, respectively.

US Economy

It was a good week for US stocks. The Dow Jones increased to 25,928.68 on Friday, increasing by +426.36 points, or +1.67 percent over its March 22 close of 25,502.32. The S&P 500 increased by +33.69 points or +1.20 percent on Friday. In addition, the Nasdaq increased on Friday by +0.70 percent. With this, the stock market has overall erased the losses it suffered the previous week.

There are signs of a global economic slowdown on the horizon but if President Trump can get a favorable trade deal with China in the coming weeks then it should at least delay the slowdown as tariffs between the two largest economies are lowered.

California Magazine Ban Unconstitutional

On Friday, March 29, San Diego-based U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez ruled that California’s ban on the possession of magazines able to hold more than 10 rounds at a time is unconstitutional citing home invasions where a woman used the extra bullets in her weapon to kill an attacker while in two other cases women without additional ammunition ran out of bullets.

“Individual liberty and freedom are not outmoded concepts,” Benitez wrote as he declared the law to be unconstitutional.

California’s 2000 law and its 2016 removal of a provision made the buying, selling, and possession of magazines that can carry more than 10 rounds illegal. The California arm of the National Rifle Association sued and Benitez sided with the group’s argument that banning the magazines infringes on the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

Chuck Michel, an attorney for the NRA and the California Rifle & Pistol Association, said that the ruling may even go so far as to strike down the entire ban.

“We’re still digesting the opinion but it appears to us that he struck down both the latest ban on possessing by those who are grandfathered in, but also said that everyone has a right to acquire one,” Michel said.

Attorney General Xavier Becerra came out against the ruling. “[My office] is committed to defending California’s common sense gun laws,” Becerra said.

This ruling is a big win for gun owners throughout California. With Trump having appointed over 90 judges since the start of his presidency, this ruling could carry shockwaves across the US and act as precedent against other similar bills in the US.

Texas House Budget Bill

In the night between March 27 and 28, the Texas State House voted 149-0 to advance a budget that grows the size of government by nearly 16 percent and provides little property tax relief.

Despite many Republican lawmakers campaigning on property tax relief and adding an amendment that would slow the growth of government spending, most of the amendments were either heavily changed or surrendered in exchange for Democratic votes on other amendments, such as those proposed by State Reps. Jonathan Stickland (R–Bedford), Briscoe Cain (R–Deer Park), Matt Krause (R–Fort Worth), and Matt Schaefer (R–Tyler).

Not every bill that was cut dealt with property tax relief. According to Capitol sources, freshman State Rep. Mayes Middleton (R–Wallisville) agreed to discard his amendment, which would prevent illegal aliens from receiving state dollars set aside for Hurricane Harvey assistance, in exchange for lawmakers moving his bill to ban taxpayer-funded lobbying forward in the process.

Property tax relief is perhaps the most vital issue for Texas residents but, as it currently stands, it is in the hands of the State Senate to determine the bill’s fate.

Greenland’s Jakobshavn Glacier

In a bit of good news, a NASA study released on Monday in Nature Geoscience found that Greenland’s Jakobshavn Glacier is actually growing.

From 2003 to 2016 the Jakobshavn glacier was one of the fasting shrinking glaciers in the world and in 2016 its thickness had diminished by about 500 feet and was retreating by about 1.8 miles annually.

However, between 2016 and 2017 the glacier began to grow in thickness again. Between 2016 and 2017 parts of the glacier grew in thickness by anywhere between 65.6 to 98.4 feet (20 meters to 30 meters).

A natural cyclical cooling of North Atlantic waters likely caused the glacier to reverse course, according to the study’s lead author Ala Khazendar, a NASA glaciologist on the Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG) project. Khazendar and colleagues say this coincides with a flip of the North Atlantic Oscillation, a natural cycle of cooling and warming of parts of the ocean.

The water in Disko Bay, where Jakobshavn hits the ocean, cooled by about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit between 2014 and 2016, study authors said.

Hopefully, with the cooling of the Northern Atlantic Ocean, the Jakobshavn glacier will begin to advance back into Disko Bay and erase the losses it suffered over the past 20 years.

The Darsch Report: Feb. 11-17

SA Climate Action

Over the next week the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan, also known as SA Climate Action, is set to go to the public sphere of San Antonio as a means for the city to combat and address climate change.

The plan is already under scrutiny by environmental activists who say that the plan does not go far enough and by business leaders who say that it goes too far.

SA Climate Ready lays out a road map for the city to prepare for climate change and reach an overall objective of carbon neutrality — meaning the city, its residents and businesses would stop adding more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere — by 2050.

The 84-page plan recommends that the city switch to more renewable energy, reduce energy use in buildings and increasing the use of electric vehicles in order to address the climate of San Antonio becoming hotter and drier.

Many businesses, especially those tied to the fossil fuel industry, believe that the bill is specifically signaling them out and that they are no longer welcome in the city.

Councilman Greg Brockhouse criticized the plan stating, “I’ve heard from multiple business sources that this is a job-killing venture. We can’t be selling short the economic impacts of this plan.”

Angela Paxton

On Friday, Feb. 15, Sen. Angela Paxton filed Senate Bill 860 in the Texas State Legislature with the purpose of creating within the attorney general’s office an entirely new program — what the bill calls a “regulatory sandbox” — that would allow approved individuals “limited access to the market … without obtaining a license, registration, or other regulatory authorization.” The bill aims to cut red tape for the growing financial tech sector, allowing businesses to market new products for up to two years and to as many as 10,000 customers with scant regulation.

Angela Paxton said the bill is geared toward strengthening consumer protections in the underregulated, ever-changing financial tech industry — a sector that in Texas is largely centered in Richardson, part of her North Texas district.

But skeptics pointed to the bill’s optics problem: Ken Paxton, a statewide official accused of violating state securities law, would be empowered to decide who can skirt state securities law. And he’d get that power from a bill authored by his wife. Currently, Texas law requires investment advisers to register with the state — failing to do so is a third-degree felony punishable by a sentence of two to 10 years.

Regardless of the actions that Attorney General Paxton took, the bill should come under the same scrutiny, skepticism, review and amendment that goes into any other bill that enters the Texas State Legislature.

National Emergency

On Friday, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency regarding the US southern border and will be using funds not given to him by Congress for a border wall or barrier.

“We’re going to confront the national security crisis on our southern border, and we’re going to do it one way or the other,” Trump said in a televised statement in the Rose Garden. “It’s an invasion,” he added. “We have an invasion of drugs and criminals coming into our country.”

The emergency declaration, according to White House officials, enables the president to divert $3.6 billion from military construction projects to the wall. Trump will also use more traditional presidential discretion to tap $2.5 billion from counternarcotics programs and $600 million from a Treasury Department asset forfeiture fund.

Combined with $1.375 billion authorized for fencing in the spending package passed on Thursday night, Trump would have about $8 billion in all for barriers, more than the $5.7 billion he unsuccessfully demanded from Congress.

Although construction for the barriers hasn’t entered the planning phase yet for this declaration, Gov. Gavin Newsom of California stated that the state is planning on suing the president “to reject this foolish proposal in court the moment it touches the ground.”

The national emergency is a way for President Trump to move around Congress to receive the funding he wants for a border wall but as it currently stands, not much may come out of the lawsuits. Trump isn’t the first President to use executive action/national emergencies to move around Congress, but also much of the funding for it won’t come at the taxpayers’ expense as it is a reallocation of funds rather than an increase in spending.

US Economy

It was a good week for US stocks, with a few gains in the stock market. The Dow Jones increased to 25,883.25 on Friday, increasing by +339.06 points, or +1.33 percent over its Feb.  8 close of 25,106.33. The S&P 500 increased by +67.72 points or +2.50 percent on Friday. In addition, the Nasdaq decreased on Friday by +2.39 percent.

Trade talks between the US and China are still going well according to US and Chinese sources. This has been much of the cause of optimism in investors and the rally seen over the past week as many are hoping to see an end to the trade war.

Green New Deal Vote

Eyeing an opportunity to put Democrats on the spot, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, announced on Tuesday, Feb12, that he plans on holding a vote on Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s, D-NY, and Sen. Ed Markey’s, D-Mass, Green New Deal.

“I’ve noted with great interest, the Green New Deal,” McConnell told reporters. “And we’re going to be voting on that in the Senate, going to give everyone an opportunity to go on record, and see how they feel about the Green New Deal.”

The 14-page document released Thursday sets a goal of moving to net-zero carbon emissions by 2030 and outlines a series of broad methods to achieve it, like upgrading or replacing existing buildings to be more energy efficient, upgrading electric grids to make better use of renewable energy, and investing in electric vehicles and mass transportation. It also includes a call to guarantee a well-paying job for every American and provide universal health care and housing.

The measure is backed by many 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, including Sens. Kamala Harris of California, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

The move of Sen. McConnell is a smart one as every Republican Senator can unite in opposition to the bill but it may divide Democrats, many of whom are running for reelection or for President in 2020. It is a way to force senators to put their money where their mouth is and not just talk about support or opposition.