5 Reasons Environmentalists Distrust Hillary Clinton
Dear Secretary Clinton,
In your husband’s years in office, the greenhouse effect was still fairly novel science; even eight years ago, when you were first running for president, climate change was not yet really a top-tier issue. In a sense, then, this summer marks the first chance most Americans have to really find out what and how you think about global warming—the challenge that more than any other will color the economic and foreign policy landscape for the years ahead. In hopes you might seize the moment, I offer a few suggestions.
So far your rhetoric has been correct but eye-glazing, dominated by phrases like “urgent” and “moral” and “grandchildren”—the words skillful politicians use to signal interest without committing themselves to actual policies. (Because policies come with opponents.)
But that rhetorical luxury will soon disappear. There’s a mature climate movement, big enough, like the immigration movement, to demand answers. Oh, and 2015 looks like it will replace 2014 as the hottest year ever recorded; the U.S. has just come through the rainiest month since we began keeping track; our biggest state is mired in its deepest drought. Mother Nature may not have a super PAC, but she has her own ways of focusing attention.
In the end, if you’re the Democratic candidate in the general election, environmentalists may vote for you no matter what, on the general theory of: Republicans don’t believe in physics. But that’s different from building the kind of enthusiasm that makes elections easier to win, an enthusiasm that would be essential if you actually planned to change things once taking office.
So with that in mind, it’s worth thinking about why many serious environmentalists currently distrust you, what it would take at a minimum to build trust, and what might ignite deep support.
Five reasons environmentalists distrust you
The mistrust comes from several directions:
- Climate change has not been your issue. You’ve focused your greatest attention on issues you came to early in life—things like education and health care—all of which are crucial. But climate change feels like a late add-on. You know the topic because you’re whip-smart, but only as a topic; if you really felt it, then the obvious connections with the things you do care about would be apparent. One sees a glimmer of it sometimes: the campaign for better cookstoves in developing nations combines all your deepest cares with important environmental issues. But you could go much deeper. Study after study shows that climate change is hitting vulnerable communities the hardest—just look at asthma rates in the U.S. and superimpose that on a map of where the coal plants are.
- You were terrible on Keystone. Even before the State Department began its review of the project, you said you were “inclined” to approve it. That’s been your last public word on the project, but your team performed an intellectually corrupt review of the plans, your campaign bundlers landed rich lobbying contracts, and your former advisers took jobs with Transcanada.It was and is a huge mess—and I’m sure you hate the whole topic because at the start you couldn’t have known that it would become the iconic environmental issue of our era. Since pipelines until Keystone were routinely approved, it probably seemed like just a chance to please the Canadians. Had you known it would become a hornet’s nest, you would doubtless have proceeded more carefully—and in fairness it wasn’t until the process was underway that climate scientists raised their most forceful concerns. Still, ugh.
- You took the Obama administration’s affection for fracking and ran with it. Working with a deep team of oil company advisers, you set up a whole office at the State Department whose job it was to push fracking all over the world (Cambodia, China, New Guinea); you gave speech after speech in country after country. This was bad policy in the extreme: America, at best, struggles to keep fracking from poisoning its water, and even with our regulations on drilling, massive quantities of methane leak out. So now imagine how well it’s going to work in, say, Romania, where your ambassador pressured the government to turn over millions of acres for shale gas development (before returning to work for Chevron’s law firm).
- As the world’s top diplomat, you presided over the monumental failure that was the Copenhagen climate conference in 2009. Six crucial years were lost as a result. Enough said.
- All that endless money. The right-wing attacks on the endless speaking fees and foundation gifts aren’t actually just a concern to the right wing. The banks backing Keystone, just to give one small example, have been regular and enormous patrons. It’s not illegal, any of it, and it’s not quite the same as the way the Koch brothers simply purchased the GOP, but it’s not far enough away, either. Influence is … influence.
Seven ways you could win some green stripes
So given that dreary backdrop, what’s the minimum bar for being taken seriously? It’s clearly not enough any more to say that “climate science is real,” and we take it for granted that you’ll back the Obama administration’s initiatives on things like coal-fired power plants. But climate is a moving target: The science has gotten steadily darker, and we’ve seen all the places where Obama’s policy turned out to be a sham. So:
- Stop talking about an “all-of-the-above” energy policy. You were secretary of state: would you have had an “all-of-the-above” foreign policy, where North Korea and England were equally beloved? In climate terms, coal is Pyongyang and solar is London.
- Stop hiding behind “process” and say what you think about Keystone. Yes, the State Department is still considering it, but the State Department is still considering every other foreign policy issue on earth and you’ve commented on those—even going so far as to disagree with the president on live foreign policy questions. We need to know: Have you paid attention to the climate scientists who have emerged to explain what a disaster KXL will be, or to the Native Americans and farmers along the route, or to the plurality of Democrats who oppose it? Have you figured out that the Koch brothers are the biggest leaseholders in the tar sands, and that this would be a gift worth billions to them? Neither you nor President Obama think it’s the most important climate issue, but millions of climate activists do—because we understand it represents, finally, a line in the sand.
- In a larger sense, make it clear that you get that this is a problem of supply as well as one of demand. It’s important to encourage people to turn off their lights and to mandate better cars, and President Obama has focused on that for his term in office. But it’s at best half the question. If the federal government goes ahead and approves new leases for coal mining on public land in the Powder River Basin, that will release three times as much carbon as Obama’s coal regulations save. If the federal government keeps giving Shell the OK to drill in the Arctic, it implies a decades-long continued reliance on oil. You’ve voted for offshore oil drilling in the past, but do you really want to see millions of tons more carbon dumped into the atmosphere from the Chukchi Sea or the Atlantic seaboard? None of these require congressional backing: they are presidential decisions, and we need to know what you’d do.
- Fall out of love with fracking. You backed it to the hilt, obviously—but you could argue you weren’t alone, that the former executive director of the Sierra Club used to tour the country touting its virtues. Now that the science is in, the Sierra Club, and the rest of the environmental community, are staunch opponents. That’s because everybody now understands that it represents not a bridge to the future but a bridge to nowhere—it’s a way to tie ourselves into our fossil fuel infrastructure for decades to come, instead of moving with vigor toward renewables.
- As Paris approaches, make sure you’re doing something to back up your Copenhagen pledge of $100 billion in annual global financing for moving developing countries straight to renewables. If all those Clinton Foundation ties mean anything, now’s the time to put them seriously to work.
- Do your part in pushing back against tired attacks that solving climate change is going to cost jobs or hurt our economy or hurt workers in coal plants. You know the truth: that what’s really hurting workers, whether they’re at Peabody or Whole Foods, are the effects of rapid climate change—and that Exxon’s CEO’s stranglehold on policymakers is actively making it worse. Instead of that, you could talk up how leaning into solar and wind energy will create jobs across the country, pull profits out of the Swiss bank accounts of fossil fuel barons, and alleviate income inequality across the board. This isn’t a siloed problem—which is exactly why we’ve strengthened our movement’s alliance with labor unions and workers in recent years.
- And finally—given everyone’s perception of your deep ties to Wall Street—it’s time to signal your support for divestment from fossil fuels. The Rockefellers have done it. Ban Ki-moon has done it. The head of the World Bank has done it. Prince Charles has done it. So we’ll be watching for the tweet saying you back the divestment campaign at Wellesley.
How you could shift the climate tide
And now let’s say that you didn’t simply want to win the support of environmentalists in a general election. Let’s say you wanted to change the world. What would you do? We’re stuck in a business-as-usual framework, where the leaders of the G7 said last week that they’d phase out fossil fuel use by the end of the century; that’s far more time than the physics actually allows. How could you be truly transformative?
More than anything, I think, you’d take notice of the opportunity you’ve been given. Every other president of the global warming age has been forced by stark science to face choices among difficult, expensive alternatives. If you’re elected, that won’t be your problem. The price of a solar panel has fallen 75 percent in the years since Barack Obama was elected. That means you would come to power as the first American president really poised to change the way the country and the world looks.
To be specific: You could use your political capital to overturn America’s energy paradigm—not slowly, around the margins, but quickly and at the core. The two great presidential technology initiatives of the 20th century came from Democratic heroes: FDR turned our industrial might into a Nazi-killing machine, and JFK galvanized your generation with a decade-long flight to the moon. As it happens, a team of the world’s best scientists and economists said earlier this month that an Apollo-scale effort could put the world on renewable energy by 2025. If we did that, HRC would join those other initials.
Yes, it’s a heavy political lift, and the GOP won’t make it easy—but liberals and conservatives alike love solar panels, and organized labor could and should be in the forefront of this energy transition. Where there are jobs, so there are political openings. Barack Obama used his one wish to address the last great problem of the 20th century (health care); you could use yours to solve the first great challenge of the 21st.
And you—living in a globalized world your predecessors could barely have imagined—could play a key role in taking that revolution around the world. Want a foreign policy that attracts instead of repels? What about working single-mindedly to make sure that before you leave office, every hut and hovel, every shack and shanty on Earth has a solar panel sitting on the roof, even if that roof is a sheet of tin? That’s a goal that makes putting a man on the moon seem almost insignificant, and it’s entirely possible. It wouldn’t solve world poverty, but it would make a huge dent.
I’m not hugely hopeful you’ll do these things. The Clinton brand has always been small-bore, play-it-safe, incremental. I’d guess you’ll play your campaign, and your presidency, the same way that Obama has played his: to move the ball forward, to make some progress so that your successors can make some more.
Normally that’s smart policy, but this is an unusual question. The underlying physics makes clear that either we make massive progress very soon, or our window disappears. Winning a little is the same as losing. We need you to think bigger.
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One of the silver linings of the coronavirus pandemic was the record drop in greenhouse gas emissions following national lockdowns. But that drop is set to all but reverse as economies begin to recover, the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned Tuesday.
Overall energy demand is expected to rise 4.6 percent this year compared to 2020 and 0.5 percent compared to 2019, according to the IEA's Global Energy Review 2021. Demand for fossil fuels is expected to jump to such an extent that emissions will rise by nearly five percent in 2021. This will reverse 80 percent of the emissions decline reported in 2020, to end emissions just 1.2 percent below 2019 emissions levels. Because the lockdown saw the biggest drop in energy demand since World War II, the projected increase in carbon dioxide emissions will still be the second-highest on record, BBC News pointed out.
"This is a dire warning that the economic recovery from the COVID crisis is currently anything but sustainable for our climate," IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said in a statement reported by AFP.
Birol said much of that increase was being driven by the resurgence of coal use. In fact, coal demand is expected to increase by 60 percent more than all forms of renewable energy, according to the report. Overall coal demand is expected to increase by 4.5 percent in 2021. More than 80 percent of that growth is in Asia, and more than 50 percent is in China. While coal use is expected to increase in the U.S. and Europe as well, it will remain far below pre-pandemic levels. Still, global coal use is expected to rise to nearly its 2014 peak, BBC News reported.
Natural gas demand is also expected to rise by 3.2 percent in 2021, to put it more than one percent above 2019 levels, according to the report.
There are, however, two bright spots in the report from a climate perspective. The first is that oil demand, while up 6.2 percent from 2020, is still expected to remain around 3 percent below 2019 levels. This is because oil use for ground transportation is not expected to recover until the end of 2021, and oil use for air travel is expected to remain at 20 percent below 2019 levels by December of 2021.
"A full return to pre-crisis oil demand levels would have pushed up CO2 emissions a further 1.5%, putting them well above 2019 levels," the report authors wrote.
The second bright spot is that renewable energy demand is set to rise in all sectors in 2021. In power, where its rise is the greatest, it is set to increase by more than eight percent. This is "the largest year-on-year growth on record in absolute terms," the report authors wrote.
Renewable energy will provide 30 percent of electricity overall, BBC News reported, which is the highest percentage since the industrial revolution. The problem is that the increase in renewables is running parallel to an increase in fossil fuels in some places. China, for example, is also expected to account for almost half of the rise in renewable electricity.
"As we have seen at the country-level in the past 15 years, the countries that succeed to cut their emissions are those where renewable energy replaces fossil energy," energy expert and University of East Anglia professor Corinne Le Quéré told BBC News. "What seems to be happening now is that we have a massive deployment of renewable energy, which is good for tackling climate change, but this is occurring alongside massive investments in coal and gas. Stimulus spending post-Covid-19 worldwide is still largely funding activities that lock us into high CO2 emissions for decades."
To address this issue, Birol called on the world leaders gathering for U.S. President Joe Biden's climate summit Thursday and Friday to pledge additional action before November's UN Climate Change Conference, according to AFP.
"Unless governments around the world move rapidly to start cutting emissions, we are likely to face an even worse situation in 2022," said Birol.
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The guide, 40-year-old Charles "Carl" Mock, was attacked Thursday while fishing alone in a forested area near West Yellowstone, Montana, The AP reported. He died in the hospital two days later. Wildlife officials killed the bear on Friday when it charged while they were investigating the attack.
"They yelled and made continuous noise as they walked toward the site to haze away any bears in the area," Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks wrote in a press release. "Before they reached the site, a bear began charging the group. Despite multiple attempts by all seven people to haze away the bear, it continued its charge. Due to this immediate safety risk, the bear was shot and died about 20 yards from the group."
The AP reported the bear to be an older male that weighed at least 420 pounds. Wildlife workers later found a moose carcass about 50 yards from the site of the attack.
"This indicates the bear was defending a food source during the attack," Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks wrote.
Mock was an experienced guide who worked for Backcountry Adventure, which provides snowmobile rentals and tours in Yellowstone National Park, according to The AP. His friend Scott Riley said Mock knew the risks of working around grizzly bears.
"He was the best guide around," Riley told The AP. "He had sight like an eagle and hearing like an owl... Carl was a great guy."
Mock carried bear spray, but investigators don't know if he had a chance to use it before the attack. Grizzly attacks are relatively rare in the Yellowstone area, CNN reported.
Since 1979, the park has welcomed more than 118 million visitors and recorded only 44 bear attacks. The odds of a grizzly attack in Yellowstone are about one in 2.7 million visits. The risk is lower in more developed areas and higher for those doing backcountry hikes.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks advises being aware of surroundings, staying on trails, traveling in groups, making noise, avoiding animal remains, following food storage instructions and carrying bear spray and knowing how to use it. Above all, it's important to back away slowly if a bear encounter occurs.
It's also important to pay attention to the time of year.
"Now is the time to remember to be conscientious in the backcountry as the bears are coming out of hibernation and looking for food sources," the sheriff's office of Gallatin County, Montana, wrote in a statement about the attack.
Historically, people pose more of a threat to grizzly bears than the reverse.
"When Lewis and Clark explored the West in the early 1800s, grizzly bears roamed across vast stretches of open and unpopulated land between the Pacific Ocean and the Great Plains," the U.S Fish and Wildlife service wrote. "But when pioneers moved in, bears were persecuted and their numbers and range declined. As European settlement expanded over the next hundred years, towns and cities sprung up, and habitat for these large omnivores — along with their numbers — shrunk drastically. Of the many grizzly populations that were present in 1922, only six remained when they were listed by the Service in 1975 as a threatened species in the lower-48 states."
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By Brett Wilkins
In the latest of a flurry of proposed Green New Deal legislation, Reps. Cori Bush and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Monday introduced the Green New Deal for Cities Act of 2021, a $1 trillion plan to "tackle the environmental injustices that are making us and our children sick, costing us our homes, and destroying our planet."
If approved, the bill would provide federal funding for state, local, tribal, and territorial governments to respond to the climate crisis, while creating hundreds of thousands of jobs in communities disproportionately affected by economic inequality.
"St. Louis and communities across the nation need the Green New Deal for Cities," Bush (D-Mo.) said in a statement introducing the bill. The St. Louis native added that Black children in her city "are 2.4 times more likely than white children to test positive for lead in their blood, and are 10 times more likely to visit the emergency room for asthma each year than white children."
"Black neighborhoods host the majority of the city's air pollution sources," Bush continued. "And there is a nuclear waste site—the West Lake Landfill, which is a catastrophe-in-progress."
"This legislation would make sure every city, town, county, and tribe can have a federally funded Green New Deal," she added. "This is a $1 trillion investment to tackle the environmental injustices that are making us and our children sick, costing us our homes, and destroying our planet."
We're introducing the Green New Deal for Cities. Here's what it means for you: ☀️ $1 trillion investment in our c… https://t.co/uJnnbM5NNx— Congresswoman Cori Bush (@Congresswoman Cori Bush)1618852007.0
Specifically, the GND4Cities would:
- Authorize $1 trillion, with a minimum of 50% of all investments going each to frontline communities and climate mitigation;
- Fund an expansive array of climate and environmental justice projects including wind power procurement, clean water infrastructure, and air quality monitoring;
- Support housing stability by conditioning funding to local governments to ensure they work with tenant and community groups to prevent displacement in communities receiving investment; and
- Support workers by including prevailing wage requirements, equitable and local hiring provisions, apprenticeship and workforce development requirements, project labor agreements, and "Buy America" provisions.
In an interview with St. Louis Public Radio, Bush explained that the Green New Deal for Cities is personal for her.
"I remember talking about lead paint as a child, hearing about it on the television and showing up at parks and people testing us for lead," she recalled. "It was like this thing when I was a kid, and it just went away."
Tune in to @STLonAir at noon to hear @RepCori discuss her and her colleagues' proposal for a Green New Deal for Cit… https://t.co/q3N0hmJndg— St. Louis Public Radio (@St. Louis Public Radio)1618845961.0
Bush said that "this whole thing is about saving lives," adding that "there are labor provisions in this bill to make sure that the workers are well-paid and well-treated for work."
"The urgency of this climate crisis and environmental racism demands that we equip our cities and our local governments with this funding," she added.
In her statement introducing the measure, Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said that "the GND4Cities would provide local governments the funding to create good-paying, union jobs repairing their infrastructure, improving water quality, reducing air pollution, cleaning up parks, creating new green spaces, and eliminating blight."
"The desire for these investments is there," Ocasio-Cortez added. "We need to give our local communities the funding and support to act."
Although only Monday, it's already been a busy week for Ocasio-Cortez and the Green New Deal. Earlier in the day, she and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) reintroduced the Green New Deal for Public Housing, which they said would significantly improve living conditions and costs for nearly two million people who reside in public housing units, while creating more than 240,000 new jobs.
It’s Green New Deal week!👷🏽♂️🌎 This week we’re highlighting: ✅ Green New Deal reintro tomorrow w/ new Congression… https://t.co/3kEllAc40y— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez)1618878563.0
Later on Monday, Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) announced they will reintroduce their landmark 2019 Green New Deal bill on Tuesday. In a Spanish-language statement previewing the bill's introduction, Ocasio-Cortez said the measure "aims to create a national mobilization over the next 10 years that fights against economic, social, racial crises, as well as the interconnected climatic conditions affecting our country."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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Offshore oil and gas drillers have discarded and abandoned more than 18,000 miles of pipelines on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico since the 1960s, a report from the Government Accountability Office says.
The industry has essentially recovered none of the pipelines laid in the Gulf in the last six decades; the abandoned infrastructure accounts for more than 97% of all of the decommissioned pipelines in the Gulf.
The pipelines pose a threat to the habitat around them, as maritime commerce and hurricanes and erosion can move sections of pipeline.
The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement does not conduct undersea inspections even though surface monitoring is "not always reliable for detecting ruptures," according to the GAO.
For a deeper dive:
The survey compared six environmental concerns: drinking water pollution; pollution in rivers, lakes and reservoirs; tropical rainforest loss; climate change; air pollution; and plant and animal species extinction. While most Americans showed concern for all of these threats, the majority were most worried about polluted drinking water (56 percent), followed by polluted rivers, lakes and reservoirs (53 percent), Gallup reported.
"When it comes to environmental problems, Americans remain most concerned about two that have immediate and personal potential effects," Gallup noted. "For the past 20 years, worries about water pollution – both drinking water and bodies of water — have ranked at the top of the list. The water crisis in Flint, Michigan, laid bare the dangers of contaminated drinking water and no doubt sticks in the public's minds."
According to a new study, 61.4 million people in the U.S. did not drink their tap water as of 2018, Asher Rosinger, an assistant professor of biobehavioral health, anthropology and demography at Penn State, wrote in The Conversation.
"It's important not to blame people for distrusting what comes out of their tap, because those fears are rooted in history," Rosinger explained.
Meanwhile, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency surveys found that almost 50 percent of rivers and streams and more than one-third of lakes are polluted and unfit for swimming, fishing and drinking, the Natural Resources Defense Council reported. Without action, concerns over water quality will become increasingly relevant as the demand for fresh water is expected to be one-third greater by 2050 than it is today.
Gallup researchers have tracked environmental concerns among Americans since 2000, and water quality worries have consistently ranked high, Gallup noted.
The survey also revealed an environmental partisan divide between Democrats and Republicans. For example, 68 percent of Democrats were highly concerned about global warming compared to 14 percent of Republicans.
Another recent Gallup survey found that 82 percent of Democrats believed that global warming effects had already started compared to 29 percent of Republicans. "That's a gap of 53 points; for comparison, in 2001, the gap was a mere 13 points," Grist reported.
Similarly, a 2020 Pew Research Center report revealed the widest partisan gap to date concerning whether or not climate change should be a top policy priority. Protecting air and water quality ranked as the second most divisive issue among Republicans and Democrats, The New York Times reported.
"Intense partisan polarization over these two issues in particular" has been growing for decades, Riley Dunlap, a professor emeritus at Oklahoma State University, told The New York Times last February. "Voters take cues on their policy preferences and overall positions," he added. "President Trump has, in the past, called climate change a hoax and all that. You get a similar message from many members of Congress on the Republican side. And most importantly, it's the message you get from the conservative media."
Gallup's latest figures also showed that concern about environmental threats either increased or remained the same between 2019 and 2020.
"The fluctuations in worry levels since 2019 are largely driven by Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, who became more worried, on average, about the six environmental problems in 2020 during the presidential campaign and are now less worried with Joe Biden as president," Gallup reported.
While surveys like these are "not a full-blown diagnostic rundown of the nation's psyche," they are informative tools for understanding how and what Americans are feeling and thinking, Grist reported.