Category Archives: #SaveMiami

Sleight of Hand: Florida’s Magician Governor Rick Scott

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I love a good magic show and have been fooled by some of the best. When street magician extraordinaire David Blaine made ¾ of a deck of cards disappear in front of my eyes just prior his show here in Miami last year, I was stunned. By any measure, David is an amazing artist and makes his craft look, well, like real magic.

But as wonderful as he is, you know that he’s an expert at deception, at sleight of hand, of making uncomfortable, often impossible things appear normal. Right before your eyes.

Carter The Great

The longer I follow Florida’s Governor Rick Scott the more I become convinced that he’s also a world class necromancer, a magician of sorts (apologies to real magicians). In fact, David Blaine has nothing on our Governor and if you were to wonder why I think this, you need only to consider a few of the tricks he’s pulled on Floridians and our environment in recent years.

Alakazam: Making “Climate Change” Disappear

Houdini

Houdini would blush at how Governor Rick Scott made our climate crisis and phrases like “climate change”, “sea level rise” and “global warming” disappear from state records and reports during his terms in office as was widely reported in the media and press (click here to learn more).

Rather than deal with the issue in a direct, decent way, the Governor has insisted that those who work for him should avoid using these terms and others as if the problem does not exist. You can learn more about his tricks and even see him perform by watching the short video produced by Ahead of the Tide entitled Chapter Three: The Political Climate.

The Amazing Power Plant Vote Vanish

Thurston

Conjurer, I mean Governor, Scott pulled an especially big rabbit out of his hat in Broward County last month by making a long-expected vote in support of a gigantic new power plant disappear. Scott’s largest corporate donor (giving a reported $ 500,000 to his U.S. Senate campaign), Next Era Energy’s Florida Power & Light (FPL) plans to build the new power plant in Dania, a facility it describes as world class. Unfortunately, we’ve also learned that the planned “Dania Beach Clean Energy Center” plant will produce a “net increase from some pollutants”.

The Governor did not, of course, use his magic to require his friends at FPL make the pollution disappear. Doing that would have been rude considering the price they’ve paid ($ 500,000) for tickets to his “show”.

No, what he did was postpone the long-planned September 11th hearing to approve the plant until after the upcoming election, likely deciding it better that news of the plant, its vote, his support and especially the news that it will actually increase pollution disappear until after the polls close. It’s like watching that age-old trick where the magician asks you to find where the ball is hidden under a set of cups, reliant upon the notion that the hand is quicker than the eye.

Florida’s Climate Change Litigation Levitation

Kellar

And that leads me to this week’s long planned legal Hearing in Tallahassee for the climate change lawsuit that seven other Florida children and I have brought against the State, our Governor and others. We filed our case (Reynolds v. State of Florida) in April (you can read about it here).

Late Monday, just three days before the October 4th Hearing and many months after the Judge was assigned the case, Judge Cooper announced that he was recusing himself due to a conflict of interest, turning the case back over to the Chief Justice and, thus, requiring that a new Judge and Hearing date be set. You can read about the Judge’s recent decision in the article from Politico below:

Key hearing in climate change lawsuit delayed after judge steps aside

By Bruce Ritchie

10/01/2018 05:49 PM EDT

A state judge today removed himself from a lawsuit challenging Florida’s inaction on climate change, indefinitely delaying a key hearing that had been scheduled for Thursday.

Circuit Court Judge John C. Cooper, in an order recusing himself from the case, said he had a conflict of interest and asked the chief judge to assign one of his colleagues to the matter.

Cooper provided no details about led to the decision and did not respond to requests for comment. He had scheduled the Thursday hearing to consider the state’s motion to dismiss the case.

The lawsuit, filed in April, alleges state officials ignored a constitutional policy requiring Florida “to conserve and protect its natural resources and scenic beauty.”

Briefs filed in July on behalf of Gov. Rick Scott several state agencies argue the state constitution is not self-executing and that the court is being asked to involve itself in policy decisions and executive branch functions.

The lawsuit was filed by eight Florida residents ranging in age from 10 to 20 and is supported by the Oregon-based nonprofit Our Children’s Trust, which has been involved in similar lawsuits in other states.

A copy of Cooper’s request can be viewed by clicking here.

 

 

The immediate reaction by many was to ask whether the Governor and politics have played a role in this surprise news just days before the Hearing. Lawyers tell me this type of decision this close to a planned Hearing is unusual but not unprecedented. And, of course, there is supposed to be a separation between our Executive and Judicial branches of government but the recent Supreme Court deliberations in Washington illustrate that that politics and the courts interact in strange and mysterious ways.

Whether the Governor performed some sort of sleight of hand to not face our concerns (and us) just before the election, I can’t say, but as a well-known climate change denier and someone who has spent two terms avoiding the topic he’s likely not unhappy with the news. Having to publicly answer tough questions about his total lack of action on an issue impacting millions of Floridians, one that local communities are already spending hundreds of millions of dollars on to mitigate could and should hurt his chances on November 6th, so the postponement could be seen as welcome news the same way delaying the polluting power plant vote might help.

Political hocus pocus?

Perhaps.

But you can rest assured that our Hearing will be rescheduled and that we will have our day, likely many days, in Court. My young friends and I are resilient, we will NEVER give up until we solve the climate crisis and our society shifts to sustainable energy solutions. Doing that will not require magic but hard work and perseverance to break through established politics and special interests.

Until then, please keep in mind that the real magic this Fall takes place in the voting booth where the Governor can be made to vanish from office and, I hope, disappear from politics all together faster than you can say Sim Sala Bim. The magic wand to make that happen is in your hands and appears on November 6th. I sure hope you use it wisely. Florida’s future depends on it.

“When the History of This Era is Written, Who’ll Be to Blame?”

Most people would agree that when you visit your doctor, someone who is a scientist by education of course, and she tells you that she’s 98% sure of one thing or another you don’t hesitate to follow her advice. That percentage is so high it speaks for itself and leaves little to no doubt that you don’t even question it and, instead, you take action.

And yet when it comes to climate change and our dire need to begin to materially fix the problem by shifting to sustainable energy something is different.

We know that 98% of scientists that have studied the issue have concluded that climate change is not only real but substantially made by man. And mind you, that overwhelming percentage of climate scientists that have come to that conclusion did so after being subjected to rigorous, peer reviewed, expert professional analysis from folks who are skeptical by nature and spend their days asking questions so as to seek the factual truth to support their answers and views.

So if 98% of scientists have the same view, have drawn the same conclusion, then why are we so slow to change our ways and move into the future by doing what’s right?

And speaking of percentages, if you live in a place like South Florida for any length of time as I have then you are 100% certain that we have a problem, that things are changing, that the temperature and water all around us are rising. You don’t need someone to tell you what your eyes and brain make clear and yet many in Washington and elsewhere spend a significant amount of their time working on ways to either keep things the way they are or make them worse rather than better, when better is so obviously achievable.

Why are we not taking more decisive action to address our warming planet?

Why do we pander to those who question the science when those who have spent careers studying it have nearly no doubt and, even if they are slightly off in their projections, would making our world cleaner, safer and cooler not be the wise and decent thing to do anyway?

The answer to our collective lack of sufficient action can often be found in our mass media. When the media runs a piece on what is so obviously happening and has expert opinion explaining the science and solutions it often feels compelled to have a dissenting voice express their opinion even though the facts, and the truth, is so single sided. The moment the media places someone who suggests that earth is not warming, that man is not at fault, that one thing or another is “normal” they provide the stage for that person to be seen as a 50/50 equal to their counterpart on that same screen and that, for the public, can be terribly misleading.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is most certainly a member of the mass media. He is a long time, magnificent, opinion writer for the Miami Herald who eloquently describes much of what people call the human condition but he does so with a heart and soul that often brings tears to my eyes. His work on race relations, gun control and any number of other important topics is nothing short of brilliant and I am so very pleased that he’s written about a change at the British Broadcasting Corp (BBC) than you need to consider and then, please, share.

In his wonderful piece entitled When the history of this era is written, who’ll be to blame?, Mr. Pitts thankfully shares his concerns by using this recent BBC memo, which itself uses climate change to illustrate its point, to explain why the new BBC policy is so important to all of us receiving the truth and to then taking action before it’s too late.  In fact, the BBC explains that it “gets climate change wrong too often” and concludes that “you don’t need a denier to balance the debate.”

Mr. Pitts explains what he calls “bothsiderism” and describes how the BBC warns its employees to “be aware of a false balance.”  I hope that he and the Herald don’t mind but it’s so important, and his voice so important, that I had to share it with you today:

Shared from the 2018-09-12 The Miami Herald eEdition

When the history of this era is written, who’ll be to blame?

BY LEONARD PITTS JR. lpitts@miamiherald.com

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A prediction.

When the history of this era is written, when future generations wonder how a mostly-educated and largely-literate nation became mired in “truthiness,” when they ask how we became so mentally muddled that we lost the ability to identify facts and the capacity to care, they’ll find many culprits.

They’ll blame Fox “News” for feeding the fearful a steady diet of hogwash designed to make them feel beset, encircled and put upon.

They’ll blame Alex Jones for spinning webs of conspiracy so bizarre and convoluted as to shame Fox Mulder.

They’ll blame schools for failing to teach young people to think critically.

They’ll blame Donald Trump for being Donald Trump.

But they will also blame many of us in the non-Fox news media for our failure to be energetic advocates for, and defenders of, the actual, factual truth. They will blame us for surrendering to a boneless “bothsideism” that simulates professional impartiality at the cost of clarity and fact.

Which is what makes a new memo from the BBC such bracing reading. The subject is relatively narrow — climate change — and the intended audience is only the company’s own troops. But the point the memo makes should give pause to all of us who consume or report the news.

“Be aware of ‘false balance,’” it warns. “…To achieve impartiality, you do not need to include outright deniers of climate change in BBC coverage, in the same way you would not have someone denying that Manchester United won 2-0 last Saturday.”

And isn’t that a novel idea? BBC reporters are henceforth free to report on climate change without feeling bound to include those who insist it doesn’t exist. They are free to treat facts as factual.

Sadly, that notion would be resisted here. In the first place, climate change deniers would raise a squall. But journalists, addicted to conflict and confrontation and to a misguided idea of what it takes to be “fair and balanced” would likely also be up in arms.

Never mind that neither fairness nor balance require us to report discredited and disreputable information. Never mind, either, that winning the debate is not the point for climate change deniers anyway. No, they win simply by being included, thus wringing from us an implicit concession that they represent a point of view worth hearing. Even when they do not.

As deniers of tragedies from the Holocaust to the Civil War to the Parkland shooting prove, both-side-ism isn’t just a journalistic problem. But it is in journalism that it is arguably most consequential.

One recalls with a grimace how reporters treated Hillary Clinton’s sloppy handling of emails as an object of concern equivalent to the racism, misogyny, mendacity, ineptitude, ignorance and corruption that trail Trump like an odor. Indeed, a survey by the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center found that over the course of the full campaign, Clinton actually received more negative media coverage than he did.

More.

Two years later, most of us would likely agree there was no comparison between the two. Too bad more of us did not come to that obvious conclusion back when it mattered.

Yes, reporters should strive for impartiality. They should strive to be open-minded. But they should also strive to cover the world as fully and factually as they can.

The BBC seems to have reached a moment of, well…truth in that regard. American journalists would be well advised to emulate them. Tomorrow’s historians will record that we helped lead the country into this mess.

The least we can do is to help lead it out.

To read the new BBC Memo, click here. And once done please consider sharing it with every media outlet you can find in hopes we can stop trying to turn the science of climate change into reality television.  And to read Mr. Pitts article on the Herald’s website, or to order a subscription and to continue to enjoy his amazing work please visit https://www.carbonbrief.org/exclusive-bbc-issues-internal-guidance-on-how-to-report-climate-change

Who’ll be to blame? Let us put a stop to the political madness by agreeing that the debate over whether climate change is real has ended and that the time to begin solving the problem by shifting away from fossil fuels and to sustainable energy has begun.

To do that we must demand far more of our leaders (read more about that by clicking here) and each other or else there will be an infinite amount of blame to go around as we watch our South Florida sink into extinction.

Why October 2018 Is Critical To Climate Change Cases

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I am pleased to share two important legal updates with everyone related to both the historic Florida and Federal climate change lawsuits that youth are bringing against our State and Federal government and that are progressing through the courts.

Here in Florida the case Reynolds v. Florida, in which I am involved in suing Governor Rick Scott, Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam and the State of Florida along with seven other children, we seek that the State uphold its legal duties outlined in the Florida Constitution and Public Trust Doctrine to protect our environment and current and future generations from the impacts of climate change.

As expected, the State responded to the lawsuit we filed in April by asking that the Court dismiss the case and on October 4th we will have a hearing in Judge Cooper’s courtroom in Tallahassee. You can read our lawsuit by clicking here and the Governor/State’s initial responses by clicking here.

We look forward to our day in Court and all of the children are excited about the opportunity to continue to seek justice here in Florida so as to protect our State and planet for future generations.

“The breadth of (the youth’s) claims is striking”

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The folks at Our Children’s Trust, the people helping with my Florida case, are making fantastic progress with their Federal case: Juliana v. United States. President Trump and his Administration have been aggressively trying to stop that case but the Federal Courts, and most recently the Supreme Court, have sided with the children (and our environment) time and time again. Most recently, here’s what’s been happening in this critically important case:

  • On May 25th, U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin issued an order denying the Trump Administration’s motion for protective order and a stay of all discovery.
  • On July 18th, U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken heard oral arguments and considered the Trump Administration’s attempt to avoid a trial, something called Motion for Judgement on the Pleadings (MJP) and a Motion for Summary Judgement (MSJ). I am pleased to report that supporters of the children’s case filled the Wayne Morse Federal Courthouse and three overflow rooms in Eugene, Oregon.
  • On July 20th, Chief Judge Sidney R. Thomas and Circuit Judges Marsha Berzon and Michelle Friedland of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the Trump Administration’s second petition for Writ of Mandamus.
  • And most recently I am pleased to share that just this past Monday, July 30th, the United States Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of the 21 youth plaintiffs. The Court denied the Trump Administrations application for a stay and, thus, preserved the U.S. District Court’s trial start date of October 29th, 2018. The Supreme Court also denied the government’s “premature”, that’s the word the Court used, request that it review the case before the district court hears all of the facts that support the children’s claims.

The Supreme Court wrote, in part, in rendering its judgement on MondayThe breadth of (the youth’s) claims is strikingThe Court then went on to order the District Court to take the federal government’s “concerns into account in assessing the burdens of discovery and trial, as well as the desirability of a promote ruling on the Government’s pending dispositive motions.” To read more about the Supreme Court’s recently ruling please consider reading an article in the July 31st American Bar Journal that you can find here of from the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) Blog of July 30th that you can read here.

And speaking of Our Children’s Trust, October is also an important month for another landmark case, Martinez v. COGCC, a case that seven young plaintiffs have brought against the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission including intervenors the American Petroleum Association and the Colorado Petroleum Association. I am pleased to advise that on October 16th, their attorneys will be arguing before the Colorado Supreme Court. Colorado’s youth are asking the Colorado Supreme Court to affirm a Court of Appeals ruling in their favor from March 2017 and to agree with their view that the Commission has an obligation to protect public health, safety and welfare from the oil and gas development and operations.

It is, I believe, unfortunate that anyone has to sue another entity, much less children having to sue our government, to protect our natural resources but I am incredibly proud of my brave co-plaintiff’s here in Florida, as well as the children all over America involved in the Federal case and other state cases such as Colorado and elsewhere. There is no more important issue to my generation, much less future generations, than the health and safety of our environment, starting with our climate change crisis.

Our concerns related to the global climate change crisis grows by the day and, while broad in their impact to the health and well-being of people, economies and our environment, it is critical that our society significantly evolve in sustainable ways before it’s too late.

The children and I humbly place our concerns into the hands of the American legal system in hopes that the Judges will have the wisdom to remove politics and special interests from the discussion, to focus on the overwhelming facts that support that human use of carbon emitting products such as fossil fuels is causing our climate to warm and to take action before it’s too late.

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