Where Does 2020 Presidential Candidate Joe Biden Stand on the Environment?
On Thursday Former Vice President Joe Biden announced he will enter the crowded 2020 Democratic Primary, NPR reported, focusing his announcement video on the threat posed to America's identity and values by President Donald Trump.
"I believe history will look back on four years of this president and all he embraces as an aberrant moment in time," Biden said in his announcement video. "But if we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation — who we are — and I cannot stand by and watch that happen."
The core values of this nation… our standing in the world… our very democracy...everything that has made America --… https://t.co/1a3Gvi2tBY— Joe Biden (@Joe Biden)1556186425.0
Biden didn't mention climate change or the environment in his video, which focused on the 2017 white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that led to the murder of counter-protester Heather Heyer, and on Trump's statement after the event that there were "very fine people on both sides."
So how does his environmental record and platform compare to other 2020 Democrats? Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has made climate change the focus of his campaign. Inslee, as well as fellow candidates and U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Kirsten Gillibrand, are all far ahead of him on 350 Action's 2020 Climate Test. The test grades candidates on three criteria: their support for a Green New Deal, their commitment to keeping fossil fuels in the ground and their signing of the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge. Gillibrand, Sanders, Warren and Inslee meet all three criteria; Biden has not signed the pledge, and his specific stand on the Green New Deal and new fossil fuel infrastructure is unknown.
On his campaign website, Biden promises action on environmental issues, but does not give many details.
"Climate change threatens communities across the country, from beachfront coastal towns to rural farms in the heartland. We must turbocharge our efforts to address climate change and ensure that every American has access to clean drinking water, clean air, and an environment free from pollutants," his website reads.
Biden has neither endorsed the Green New Deal, nor the idea of a carbon tax more favored by political moderates, Grist pointed out. However, as a politician with a long career, he does have an important record on environmental and climate issues, as The New York Times summarized:
Mr. Biden's advocacy for government action on climate change goes back more than 30 years: He introduced the Senate's first climate change bill in 1986. He has been outspoken about the urgency of action, including at a rally last year in Florida where he described climate change as "the greatest threat to our security," citing briefings by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Biden has a lifetime score of 83 percent from the League of Conservation Voters. He also helped to orchestrate the Paris agreement as Vice President, PBS reported. He, like the rest of his Democratic competitors, want the U.S. to stay in the agreement following Trump's promise to withdraw, according to The New York Times. In 2008, Biden gave $90 billion to renewable energy programs and called the act "the thing I'm proudest of" from Obama's first term, Grist reported.
His record aside, his is facing opponents who have made much more specific commitments. Greenpeace told Newseek in a statement that he needed to step up his game if he wanted the organization's support:
"Joe Biden has some catching up to do if he wants to show voters he'll be a champion for confronting the fossil fuel industry. Joe will have to prove it if he wants the climate vote," Greenpeace climate campaign specialist Charlie Jiang said in a statement to Newsweek on behalf of Greenpeace USA.
"It's easy for politicians to simply acknowledge that climate change exists. What's harder is a real plan that measures up to the urgency of the crisis, including a detailed vision for ending fossil fuel expansion and protecting workers in a rapid transition to a 100% clean energy economy. We hope to see that from Vice President Biden and every serious candidate in the coming weeks," Jiang said.
Biden faced controversy before he entered the race when former Nevada Democratic candidate Lucy Flores said he had grabbed her shoulders, sniffed her hair and kissed her head at a 2014 campaign event, NPR reported. Biden responded with a video acknowledging that social norms were changing. Later, he told reporters he was sorry for not understanding but was not "sorry for anything I've ever done."
Yet another former Trump administration staffer has come out with an endorsement for former Vice President Joe Biden, this time in response to President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.