The scoop: The world witnessed the first ever climate change question in a US presidential debate. They spent 10 minutes on the topic.
Why it matters: Recent polls revealed 12% of likely voters considered climate change to be their #1 issue behind the economy and coronavirus.
Stuff to know: Biden suggested that foreign countries should give Brazil $20 billion to stop Amazon deforestation. The Amazon rainforest is made up of 300 billion trees and 1/5 of the world's species. Trump acknowledge anthropogenic climate change (sort of) for the first time.
Bottom line: The world is suffering from a public health disaster that has leaked into the global economy, yet voters still consider climate change a centerpiece issue. That is a sign of things to come.
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Big picture With social distancing mandates and divisive partisanship on the Hill, experts speculate as much as a week’s delay on election results. They need to manually count millions of mail-in ballots. And the side-effects of a delayed election are enormous. Who would act as President while we counted the winner?
- As the law currently states, the Speaker of the House, followed by the President Pro Tempore, would fall in succession to serve in the case of a disputed presidency. President Pelosi?
- BUT, Congressional elections occur every two years. That means that every single House seat will expire on Jan 3. That means if the House majority is unclear, the Speaker of the House may be disputed also.
- Section 3 of the 20th Amendment, ratified in 1933, outlined an alternative for undecided presidential elections. Basically, Congress can dub any "Person" deemed suitable for office to serve as president in the interim. That list would stretch out to Former Presidents, Secretaries of State, etc.
What it all means I know it’s become quite a partisan issue, but I truly believe our best bet is to vote at the booth and minimize mail-in ballots. It’s in the best interest of our safety, integrity and ensured continuity as a nation. Enact whatever social distancing policies we need, designate specific time slots for seniors, but make it happen. If Costco can do it, so can we.
Bottom line Given the current political climate, an election dependent on mail votes could be catastrophic.
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The scoop The 2020 election is just around the corner. Where do Biden and Trump stand on sustainability?
Biden's campaign website highlights that he plans to implement the key foundational elements for building a sustainable future –
- Comprehensive climate plan w/ emphasis on clean energy and international cooperation.
- Racial equity as a centerpiece for environmental justice.
Trump's campaign focuses on a short-term growth mindset of maximizing existing industries and economic growth.
- The decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement, slashing federal funding for environmental initiatives, and weakening environmental protection acts to prop up corporations.
- America-first policy
- Lower corporate/individual taxes
Bottom line Biden’s plan for a sustainable future is pretty on point – better/more affordable housing plans, a massive Green Deal, and of course working on racial reform. Trump’s plan is to “go, go, go!”.
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What’s happening On Monday, the Trump administration approved drilling plans for an oil and gas leasing program in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).
Energy vs. Environment This is a big policy win for Republicans in a decades-long fight for energy independence. However, the South Carolina-sized refuge has never been used for oil extraction and for good reason.
The pristine land, made up of a biodiverse plant and wildlife population, deserves protection now more than ever. America is already oil-abundant. We don't need more drilling.
So we are oil rich, why the move? Short answer: $$$$. Oil companies drilling on federal lands get a break on royalties.
Threat to Gwich’in people Gwich’in leaders are vocal about their fight against drilling in the coastal plains of ANWR. The Gwich’in people have lived in the ANWR for over a millenia.
What can you do
- You can sign a petition, available at the bottom of this article.
- Alaskans can vote in the upcoming Senatorial race; the incumbent candidate supports ANWR drilling.
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Veep nominee Harris Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden announced Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate this week. She is the first woman of color to sit on a national ticket.
What to know After dropping out before the first primary, Kamala Harris has been working with other prominent Democrats to push several new climate bills with a concentration on matters of justice.
Call it what you want, but most political pundits point to Kamala's identity as a woman of color as the main reason for the Democratic Party's, I mean, Biden's strategic selection.
One big thing One of the more interesting prospects of a Biden-Harris ticket is the reemergence of 2015 Paris Agreement. As it stands today, the US will formally quit the Paris Agreement on 4 November, 2020, the day after the election.
My take on Paris I'm not convinced (and neither are some experts) that an international agreement is the answer to climate action without true compliance. What holds nations accountable for these commitments?
As the US-China economic race continues, the Paris Agreement would become more of a cat-and-mouse due to the associated costs of energy reduction than an actual solution.
A Biden-Harris ticket through the lens of climate:
- New legislation committed to environmental justice
- A series of executive orders designed to build a clean economy; there will be ambitious targets for 2025.
- A proposal to make a $1.7 trillion federal investment into climate resilience over the next 10 years.
- New efforts toward climate diplomacy/increased cooperation with other nations, traditional allies.
- More stringent environmental regulation, increase environmental standards for infrastructure projects.
Bottom line Neither Biden or Harris are climate experts. Their careers were not built on climate activism. However, they are concerned about these critical issues and will hire a team of dedicated experts.
Americans want purpose not perfection. In a candidate, I think everyday voters are looking for public consideration, personal accountability, and the ability to get shit done.
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Good stuff to know Under normal circumstances, NEPA sets a hard, but simple line for federal action on construction projects. Before the government can move ahead with a proposed project, it must:
- Determine the future environmental impact of the project
- Alert the public of its plans
- Consult other alternatives to the proposal
- Invite public commentary
The court ruling NEPA applies to 'major federal actions,' and courts have recently interpreted this term broadly.
What it means The Trump administration may pick and choose which of its projects count as 'major federal actions'. Discretion on a project’s classification lies with the agencies overseeing its completion.
Now, 'cumulative” and “indirect' effects are no longer required for agencies’ consideration. With that, NEPA maintains that decisions must “make sense for tomorrow as well as today.”
Bottom line This broad interpretation of NEPA eviscerates two of the most important protections of the act.
Civil rights lawyers and community activists are now joining forces to defeat the deafening blow to communities of color in the latest series of Trumpian environmental rollbacks.
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What to Know
- The House and Senate passed the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) in a bipartisan agreement
- The GAOA accomplishes two goals.
- $9 billion for deferred maintenance
- Guaranteed $900 million annually in perpetuity for the Land and Water Conservation Fund
- The fund also supports the National Parks Service, Forest Service, U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Indian Education
Why it Matters
- The GAOA will help maintain NPS lands that have been loved to death with a 50% increase in visitor rate since the 1980’s
- Conservation does not have to be a partisan issue. The passing of GAOA demonstrates room for common ground when it comes to environmental protection
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Big picture Two-thirds of Americans believe the US government must act more urgently to slow global warming. As November's presidential election nears, climate change policy will likely earn a top-ten spot in debate topics.
What to know
- 63% of Americans feel as if climate change is directly or indirectly affecting their communities and livelihoods.
- 65% believe the federal government is not doing enough to combat climate change.
- 79% of respondents advise federal investment in alternative energy sources such as solar panels and wind farms.
Politics politics politics
- Democrats have increased their awareness of the dangers of climate change by 27% since 2009.
- Republicans and Republican-leaning voters developed only a 6% greater consciousness of climate change.
- Partisanship seems to color most people's views about local climate change effects more than anything else.
- Democrats are more than twice as likely as Republicans to say climate change impacts their local community.
- Moderate-liberal Republican and Republican-leaning voters acknowledge the local impacts of climate change more frequently than their more conservative counterparts.
Bottom line Come November, policy differences between the presidential candidates on climate change will become abundantly clear. Political analysts will have to examine what level of influence climate will have over election results.
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What to know Congress passed the Air Pollution Control Act (APCA) in 1955, which funded federal air pollution research but did not require or give power to the federal government to regulate air pollution.
The Clear Air Act of 1963 permitted the government to control air pollution in certain capacities. In 1999, several citizens, conservation, and environmental groups filed a petition for the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate air pollution under this act.
The EPA denied the petition, and Massachusetts and several other states filed a class action lawsuit against the EPA to fight for the American people’s right to live in safe environments with clear air.
After a lengthy debate over the ambiguity of the Clean Air Act’s language, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Massachusetts in a 5-4 decision.
Key Takeaways The EPA cannot decline to issue emission standards for motor vehicles based on policy considerations not specifically enumerated in the Clean Air Act.
The Clean Air Act gives the EPA authority to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
Some of the progressive rules that resulted from this case, such as the Clean Car and Clean Truck Standards, were recently minimized by the Trump administration in the beginning stages of the pandemic.
Bottom line The government will continue its ableism (discrimination in favor of able-bodied people) without public pressure and scrutiny, so we must come together to vote and advocate for accelerated climate change action.
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The Scoop Two new cases in Minnesota and Washington, D.C. add to the growing body of lawsuits trying to hold Big Oil accountable for deliberately concealing their role in harming environmental and human health.
Breaking down the lawsuits
- Minnesota’s Attorney General (AG) is suing Exxon Mobil Corporation, Koch Industries and the American Petroleum Institute for violating Minnesota laws against consumer fraud, deceptive trade practices, and false advertising. The lawsuit claims that oil and gas companies were aware of the environmental and health effects of their products as far back as the 1970s and 80s, but launched a “campaign of deception.”
- Washington D.C.’s AG similarly is suing ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP and Shell for “systematically and intentionally misl[eading] consumers in Washington, D.C. about the central role their products play in causing climate change.” in violation of Washington D.C.’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act.
Why it matters By charging Big Oil with consumer fraud, Minnesota and Washington D.C.’s cases closely resemble lawsuits against Big Tobacco in the 1990s which charged Big Tobacco with suppressing evidence for the dangers of smoking and misleading the public. With the clear similarities between these cases, there is hope for similar verdicts; including, heavy penalties (up to $6.5 billion) that could fund climate change resiliency programs.
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