Climate change politics is heating up

The tenor of the debate about climate change, like the problem itself, is changing. As the planet warms at what appears to be a faster and faster rate, environmental advocates are becoming more vocal and more pointed.

The changing dynamic was on full display at a gubernatorial forum last week hosted by many of the state’s environmental groups. Gov. Charlie Baker has taken a lot of positive steps to reduce the state’s reliance on fossil fuels, including signing legislation to launch an offshore wind industry and import more hydro-electricity from Canada.

But the governor’s refusal to say he won’t support the construction of another gas pipeline into the region put him at odds with the environmental groups and gave an opening to his Democratic challenger Jay Gonzalez, who wholeheartedly embraced their agenda. Gonzalez admitted he wasn’t sure how to leave natural gas behind and move to an all-renewable future in 30 years, but he said the state should be able to figure it out.

“I will not deal with the short-term pressures we face by pursuing a long-term solution that’s a long-term problem,” he said, referring to building more natural gas pipeline capacity.

Environmentalists have seized on the natural gas explosions and fires in the Merrimack Valley, which appear to have been caused by human error, to bolster their case against natural gas.

“The explosions in the Merrimack Valley are just the latest example of the disasters that can result from our dependence on this hazardous fossil fuel,” said Bradley Campbell, president of the Conservation Law Foundation.

Environmental activist Bill McKibben is calling for civil disobedience nationally. “Politics as usual seems not to be working to address the climate emergency, save for a few outliers like California or Norway. And a few outliers is not enough,” he said in a recent newspaper column.

Locally, McKibben’s acolytes are talking tougher and tougher. Craig Altemose claims environmental advocates played a key role in ousting House Ways and Means Chair Jeffrey Sanchez in the Democratic primary for failing to push for more aggressive climate change legislation.

“The climate movement in particular and the progressive movement in general will not long suffer fair weather friends or faux leaders,” Altemose said in an op-ed. “California is on fire. Hawaii was just hit with one hurricane while Puerto Rico is still struggling a year later to recover from another. The arctic is melting. And Massachusetts has been experiencing intense heat after witnessing multiple hundred-year floods in 2018. Half-hearted responses will be met with whole-hearted opposition in favor of politicians who understand the crisis we face and stand ready to offer the leadership we need.”

Vignesh Ramachandran, one of Altemose’s colleagues here in Massachusetts, suggested Baker and House Speaker Robert DeLeo are not all that different from President Trump when it comes to the environment. “Their Trump-lite policies are incommensurate to the scale and urgency of the crisis,” he said. “They ensure the bottom line of the utilities and corporations polluting our planet remain unharmed. Their reasonable and respectable rhetoric on climate change is just a publically appeasing form of Trumpian dogma.”

Not all members of the environmental movement are speaking out so forcefully, but the tone of the debate is clearly changing.



After months of delay, the Legislature passed and the governor signed a supplemental spending bill that wraps up fiscal 2018 and pours more money into the rainy day fund. (Associated Press) Lawmakers trimmed back Gov. Charlie Baker’s request for money for school mental health and security services. (Boston Globe)

Tim Ferris of the Massachusetts General Physicians Organization says siphoning money from teaching hospitals is not the best way to shore up struggling community hospitals. (CommonWealth)


Most city councilors say they will vote to remove Fall River mayor Jasiel Correia from office in the wake of his federal fraud indictment even though it’s unclear if they have that power under the city’s charter. Correia’s problems continue to mount as he was served an eviction notice Monday from his apartment. (Herald News)

A Lowell Sun editorial wades through the financial mess created by Superintendent Salah Khalfaoui and the city’s school committee, and says both sides must compromise as they look for a way to send Khalfaoui packing.

Worcester businesses move to create a Business Improvement District in the downtown area. (Telegram & Gazette)

At a time when violent crime is declining across Massachusetts and the nation, North Adams and Pittsfield continue to rank among the cities and towns with the highest violent crime rate in the state. (Berkshire Eagle)

Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch has delayed reopening a pedestrian gate at the Quincy Adams Red Line station to give the City Council time to draw up a neighborhood parking plan to meet residents’ concerns about commuter parking. (Patriot Ledger)


In developments that are hardly shocking, Elizabeth Warren’s disclosure of the results of a DNA test she took showing Native American ancestry generate an avalanche of news coverage — and no relief from the criticism she has faced over the issue from Republicans. (Boston Globe) President Trump, who had previously pledged to donate $1 million to a charity of Warren’s choice if she took a test and it showed Native American heritage, waved that off yesterday, saying now that it only applies if he administers the test, a comment that Warren called “a creepy physical threat.” (Boston Herald) Warren’s reelection opponent, Republican state Rep. Geoff Diehl, said the testing rollout shows Warren is focused on 2020 presidential run, not her current post, and he called for her to drop out of the Senate race. (Boston Globe)

Reports indicate Saudi Arabia may admit that dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed during an interrogation gone wrong, a concession that echoes Trump’s declaration that the murder may have been carried out by “rogue killers.” (New York Times)

A federal judge tossed a defamation lawsuit against Trump by Stephanie Clifford, the porn actress known as Stormy Daniels who was paid off to keep quiet about her sexual tryst with the billionaire. The judge said the president’s tweet that her claims were a “con job” was protected speech and ordered her to pay the president’s legal fees. (Washington Post)


US Rep. Jim McGovern and his Republican rival Tracy Lovvorn don’t find much to agree on during a debate in Worcester. (Telegram & Gazette)


Uber is eyeing an initial public offering early next year that could set the value of the company at $120 billion. (Wall Street Journal)

The  New England Revolution soccer team begins construction of a new training facility by Gillette Stadium. Bob Kraft says the next step is building a new stadium for the team. (Boston Globe)

The third installment of the Globe Spotlight series on Aaron Hernandez looks at his time with the Patriots — and the team’s indifference to his erratic and troubling behavior as long as he performed on the field.

Industrial property is in big demand in the Boston area, but there is also lots of market pressure to convert existing industrial sites closer to the city into offices or apartments. (Boston Globe)

Social Security recipients will receive a 2.8 percent cost of living increase starting in January and the income cap for paying the tax will increase by $4,500 to $132,900. (U.S. News & World Report)


Two women are nearing the end of an $8.1 million fundraising drive to buy the Ionic Avenue Boys Club in Worcester and turn it into a hub for the arts. (MassLive)


Interim Boston school superintendent Laura Perille announces in a Globe op-ed that she will not be a candidate for the permanent post, a possibility that had stirred considerable controversy.

Opening arguments are heard in the federal case brought on behalf of Asian-Americans that is challenging Harvard’s admission procedures. (Boston Globe)

MIT has received a $350 million gift from Stephen Schwarzman, CEO of the equity firm Blackstone, for computer science and artificial intelligence studies, including the ethical use of AI. (Chronicle of Philanthropy)

Two men who were students at the Fessenden School in Newton in the 1960s and 70s filed suit against the all-boys private boarding school, alleging they were sexually abused by staff while students. (Boston Herald)

Every student at Framingham’s Brophy Elementary School, where 75 percent of the children are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, received a new winter coat from the national non-profit Operation Warm. (MetroWest Daily News)


State transportation officials plan to shift traffic on to a temporary bridge as they replace the North Washington Street Bridge connecting Charlestown and Boston’s North End. The temporary bridge is expected to shave six months off the five-year construction time and cut MBTA bus delays from the north by as much as a half hour. (CommonWealth)

T notes: Another option (this time an elevated pedestrian/bike path) is tossed into the mix for the redesign of a section of the Massachusetts Turnpike between BU and the Charles River….The cost of building a subway tunnel between the Blue and Red Line has gotten significantly cheaper over the last decade….Transportation officials begin envisioning new approaches to commuter rail. (CommonWealth)

Lawmakers want the Steamship Authority to redesign the planned ferry terminal in Woods Hole to reflect community concerns that the current drawing is out of place with the character of the village. (Cape Cod Times)

The Trump administration has signaled it will take a hands-off approach to regulating driverless trucks, a move that will undercut state efforts to rein in the vehicles. (U.S. News & World Report)


With the right whale population in critical danger, regulators are considering drastic moves to save the species, but those could have big impacts on the region’s lobster industry. (Boston Globe)

A study says the town-owned turbine in Falmouth that was shut down by a judge following a suit by nearby residents could be relocated to the wastewater treatment property but at a cost of $3 million. (Cape Cod Times)


The state’s tax take from the Springfield MGM casino in September is slightly less than its take from the Plainridge slots parlor. (State House News)

Mashpee voters at Town Meeting rejected a proposal to ban recreational marijuana but did approve a motion to limit the number of retail stores. (Cape Cod Times)


Microsoft co-founder turned philanthropist Paul Allen has died from complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He was 65. (New York Times)