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The scoop: With control of Congress and the White House, the Democrats have the weight of the world take serious climate action. If they fail, perhaps government is incapable of getting the job done.
Some talking points:
- Any climate plan taken in the next few years should be targeted at institutions, not individuals.
- We're looking for stringent environmental protections laws, and harsher rules on corporate carbon emissions. Let's not damage SMB's either, please.
- ^In that light, if there was a vaccine-like waitlist for taking climate action, corporations should be at the top of the list. Let's get them out of the way.
Bottom line: The legacy of federal governance (fair or not) lies in the hands of an aging Biden. If his administration fails to bring about tangible change, the distrust of government may be irrevocable.
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Below are top 10 head-scratchers for the so-called 'COVID-19 Relief Package'.
- Despite spending 15 years and billions of dollars, American counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan are ineffective (Foreign Aid)
- The Fish and Wildlife Service is subsidizing yachting (Environment, Energy,Science)
- NIH paid to find out if hot tubbing can lower stress (Health Care)
- Using CARES Act funds, the FAA renovated a taxiway at the airport on Nantucket Island most often used by private jets (Miscellaneous)
- NIH paid researchers to interview San Franciscans about how they use edible cannabis (Health Care)
- FEMA paid for test tubes for COVID tests but received contaminated mini soda bottles (Miscellaneous)
- NIH paid researchers to develop methods to stop grown adults from binge-watching television (Health Care)
- DOD lost more than 100drones over Afghanistan (Military)
- USAID is open to creating a venture capital fund in Bosnia & Herzegovina for bad investments (Foreign Aid)
- NSF ran lizards on a treadmill (Environment, Energy, Science)
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The scoop: The World Bank projects extreme poverty to rise for the first time since the 1990s, while 270 million people are at risk of starvation (2x higher than 2019).
Lockdowns and inequality: 20+ million Americans are still unemployed. 160,000 US business have closed. Despite that, Amazon, Wal-Mart and Costco (for example) are posting record high online sales.
What can we do? Go beyond SBA loans and stimulus checks. We should like, actually be doing everything we can to keep small business owners afloat.
Local coffee shops > Starbucks, Thrift > Marshall's, Art galleries for Home Decor > Amazon.
Bottom line: We can clean up this institutional mess by creating a new structure around congressional term limits, monopoly break-ups, whistleblower support, and free speech... or we can allow the same actors to weave the world we've grown to love and hate.
Dig deeper → 3 min
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What to know: For the first three US presidential elections, the runner-up became VP. The 12th amendment rewrote the rules in 1804 so that candidates ran with a running mate. Electors are required to submit one electoral vote for a candidate, and one electoral vote for a candidate's running mate.
Picture this: A climate-focused Gore sitting in during the Bush years, or a foreign-savvy Clinton sitting at the table during the Trump circus. What could Trump do to help Biden's economic recovery bid?
One more point: Imagine if a climate-focused Gore was sitting in during the Bush years, or a foreign-savvy Clinton was sitting at the table during the Trump circus. What could Trump do to help Biden during his economic recovery bid?
Bottom line: We all know the American republic is under scrutiny. Our divisive two-party system, though highly profitable for Big tech and media, is at its breaking point. In a close race, allowing a runner-up candidate to serve as veep could help quell the American political fire.
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The scoop: Biden vowed to sign the Paris agreement in his first day in office. As an environmentalist, I think it's all hype no action.
Why Paris no bien:
- It's a pledge, not a policy. There's no binding enforcement mechanism. So a country like Russia or Mexico can agree to it, but it doesn't hold them accountable.
- It lets China off the hook. China, the #1 carbon emitter in the world, can hide behind the US if we re-join it. If the US led the world on climate policy without Paris, it would expose China's energy reality (they are slated to make up nearly half of global coal demand in 2024).
Bottom line: We get it, Trump sucks and he left the Paris agreement so the Paris agreement must be amazing. Well, the Paris agreement is ultimately not that significant in terms of climate action. Policy reform > pretty pictures
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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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