'America Is Not a Planet': The Only Accurate Thing Said About Climate Change at GOP Debate
Unlike last month's GOP primary debate, where climate change was not mentioned at all during the prime time debate and only briefly mentioned in the so-called "happy hour" debate, the topic finally received some airtime at last night's debate. Held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, the debate was hosted by CNN. Over the course of the three-hour debate, there was one question on climate change. It lasted about four minutes, which is only slightly longer than the amount of time devoted to candidates picking out their secret service names.
Same number of questions about climate change as Secret Service code names— ThinkProgress (@ThinkProgress)1442458705.0
Really glad we spent ~2 minutes on the biggest global problem of our time.— Emily Atkin (@Emily Atkin)1442458028.0
"We received a lot of questions from social media about climate change," says CNN moderator Jake Tapper. One group, NextGen Climate pushed very hard ahead of the debate for the candidates to talk about climate change. They rolled out a three-figure ad campaign ahead of the debate, invoking Ronald Reagan's "Common Sense" speech to urge CNN moderator Jake Tapper to ask candidates how they would address climate change—specifically what their plans are to get the country to 50 percent renewables by 2030.
While Tapper failed to ask them about their renewable energy plan, he did quote Ronald Reagan's Sec. of State George Schultz in asking the candidates the following question:
Schultz reminds us that when Ronald Reagan was president, he faced a similar situation to the one we're facing now. There were dire warnings from the mass consensus of the scientific community about the ozone layer shrinking. Schultz says Ronald Reagan urged skeptics in industry to come up with a plan. He said do it as an insurance policy in case the scientists are right. The scientists were right. Reagan and his approach worked. Sec. Schultz asks why not take out an insurance policy and approach climate change the Reagan way?
Rubio responded first saying, "Because we're not going to destroy our economy the way the left-wing government that we are under now wants us to do." Tapper reminded Rubio he's citing George Schultz, a conservative in the Reagan administration. To which Rubio responded, Schultz "may have lined up with them on this position, but here's the bottom line: Every proposal they put forward are proposals that will make it harder to do business in America—that will make it harder to create jobs in America.
"Single parents are already struggling across this country to provide for their families. Maybe a billionaire here in California can afford an increase in their utility rates, but a working family in Tampa, Florida or anywhere across this country cannot afford it. So, we are not going to destroy our economy, we are not going to make America a harder place to create jobs in order to pursue policies that will do absolutely nothing—nothing—to change our climate, to change our weather because America is a lot of things—the greatest country in the world, absolutely. But America is not a planet. And we are not even the largest carbon producer anymore—China is. And they are drilling a hole and digging anywhere in the world that they can get a hold of. So the bottom line is, I am not in favor of any policies that make America a harder place to live or to work or to raise their families."
CNN finally found a way to get the GOP candidates to disagree with Reagan: point out that he cared about the environment.— Will Oremus (@Will Oremus)1442457891.0
Tapper then turns to Gov. Chris Christie, saying "You have admitted that climate change is real and humans help contribute to it ... What do you make of skeptics of climate change such as Sen. Rubio?"
"I don't think Sen. Rubio is a skeptic of climate change. What Sen. Rubio said I agree with," said Gov. Christie. "That, in fact, we don't need this massive government intervention to deal with the problem. Look at what we've done in New Jersey. We've already met our clean air goals for 2020. When I was governor, I pulled out of the regional cap-and-trade deal—the only state in the northeast that did that. And we still reached our goals. Why? Because 53 percent of our electricity comes from nuclear. We use natural gas. We use solar power. We're the highest using solar power state. You know why? Because we made all of those things economically feasible. I agree with Marco. We shouldn't be destroying our economy in order to chase some wild left-wing idea that somehow [we] by ourselves [are] going to fix the climate. We can contribute to that and be economically sound. We can do that in New Jersey. Nuclear needs to be back on the table in a significant way if we want to go after this problem."
Tapper reiterated that he was citing Sec. of State George Schultz. "I don't think anyone would call him left wing," said Tapper. Christie rebutted saying, "Listen, everybody makes a mistake once in a while, Jake. Even George Schultz. And if that's truly a representation of what he believes we should be doing, then with all due respect to the former secretary of state, I disagree with him."
At that point, Sen. Rubio interjected to take issue with being called a "denier" by Tapper, but Tapper clarifies that he used the term "skeptic." Rubio said, "You know you can measure the climate. You can measure it. That's the not issue we're discussing. I'm skeptical of the decisions that the Left wants us to make because I know the impact that those will have on the economy. They will not do a thing to lower the rise of the sea. They will not do a thing to cure California of the drought. But what they will do is make America a more expensive place to create jobs and today with millions of Americans watching this broadcast struggling from paycheck to paycheck that do not know how they are going to pay their bills at the end of this month, I am not in favor of anything that is going to make it harder for them to raise their family."
Then, Gov. Scott Walker chimed in, disparaging U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's rules to address climate change. He said the rules would result in the loss of thousands of manufacturing jobs in his state, as well as other states to enforce and would only "have a marginal effect on climate change."
While Rubio at least acknowledges that California is in a drought, he clearly doesn't take the issue very seriously. At the beginning of the debate, he made light of his "water-bottle-gate moment" in 2013 when his drinking a glass of water became an instant Internet meme. Last night, he joked “I’m aware California has a drought. That’s why I brought my own water bottle.” Nobody appeared to laughed, though.
The candidates basically acknowledged that the climate is changing, but they all "objected to federal action to address it," says ClimateTruth.org. And Rubio and Christie both argue that it's foolish to think humans can change the climate. Rubio awkwardly declared that "America is not a planet," which Slate's Eric Holthaus quips is "the only thing Marco Rubio got right on climate change." And Christie believes it's "some wild left-wing idea" to "fix the climate" by ourselves.
Needless to say, many were not pleased with the Republican candidates' responses. "Tonight, Republican presidential candidates got a question on the most critical challenge facing our country and the world—climate change," said Tom Steyer of NextGen Climate.
"But the candidates got it all wrong: left unchecked, climate change will devastate our economy. Citigroup estimates climate change could cost the global economy as much as $44 trillion. We already have the clean energy solutions at hand. Now we need candidates with a plan to accelerate the transition to clean energy, creating millions of jobs and ensuring economic prosperity while preventing climate disaster. It’s irresponsible to do anything less."
Many people are having a field day with Rubio's "America is not a planet" gaffe. "So, Rubio's logic seems to say that since America isn't a planet, it shouldn't have to address the global crisis that is climate change," said Bustle's Josephine Yurcaba. "The U.S. is actually second in carbon-producing countries, according to Statista, but for some reason Rubio thinks that not being first should mean that we aren't responsible at all, which just doesn't make sense."
As for Rubio's claim that federal action will do "nothing to change our climate," FactCheck.org takes issue:
Rubio is correct that “America is not a planet,” of course, but that does not mean that policies at the national level will have absolutely no effect on the climate. When we covered this issue in January, an expert told us that U.S. emissions alone, if left unchanged, would cause about half a degree Celsius of warming by the end of the century. Efforts to cut these emissions, including the recently released Clean Power Plan, which would limit emissions from power plants, and other policies such as fuel efficiency standards, will have a small but non-zero effect on that temperature change, and related sea level rise.
Furthermore, many experts say that U.S. leadership on climate is important in convincing other nations to also cut their carbon pollution. In both senses, Rubio is wrong that cutting emissions will do “absolutely nothing” to fight climate change.
Many voiced their outrage over the remarks on Twitter, as well:
.@MarcoRubio is dead wrong. #Climate change costs trillions in health costs, property damage. #Clean energy creates jobs #50by30— Ben Wessel (@Ben Wessel)1442459728.0
so @marcorubio's view is that America must lead world in every way but shouldn't do anything on climate change cause "we're not a planet"— Peter Beinart (@Peter Beinart)1442457854.0
Someone should remind FL Sen. @marcorubio that his position on climate change would let Miami go underwater.— Karthik Ganapathy (@Karthik Ganapathy)1442457940.0
Denier or skeptic? There has been no drought on that sweaty California debate stage...#nbc2016 #CNNDebate— Kelly O'Donnell (@Kelly O'Donnell)1442458025.0
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By Tara Lohan
Our plastic pollution problem has reached new heights and new depths.
Scientists have found bits of plastic on the seafloor, thousands of feet below the ocean's surface. Plastic debris has also washed ashore on remote islands; traveled to the top of pristine mountains; and been found inside the bodies of whales, turtles, seabirds and people, too.
1. There’s a lot of it.<p>In a September study published in <em>Science </em>about the growth of plastic waste, an international team of researchers estimated that 19 to 23 million metric tons — or 11% of plastic waste generated — ended up in aquatic ecosystems in 2016. And even with countries pledging to help cut waste or better manage it, the amount of plastic pollution is <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/369/6510/1515" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">likely to double</a> in the next 10 years.</p><p>A <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/369/6510/1455" target="_blank">study</a> about solutions to plastic waste, published in the same issue, attributed the plastic pollution epidemic to a rise in single-use plastic and "an expanding 'throw-away' culture." The researchers also found that waste-management systems simply can't deal with the onslaught of plastic, which is why so much of it ends up in the environment. We now know that only <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.org/article/whopping-91-percent-plastic-isnt-recycled/" target="_blank">9% of the plastic products</a> we use actually get recycled.</p>
2. The United States is a big culprit.<p>Plastic pollution is a global problem, but the United States plays an outsized role. In 2016 the United States was responsible for more plastic waste than any other country, a <a href="https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/6/44/eabd0288" target="_blank">new study</a> in <em>Science Advances</em> found. Some of that waste was dumped illegally within the country and some was shipped to other countries that lacked the necessary infrastructure to handle it.</p><p>"The amount of plastic waste generated in the United States estimated to enter the coastal environment in 2016 was up to five times larger than that estimated for 2010, rendering the United States' contribution among the highest in the world," the researchers concluded. Part of that is because the United States ranks second in exporting plastic scrap.</p>
3. It threatens wildlife and ecosystems.<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg3MTUwMi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMzE1MzM2MH0.YL5C-5GF2mq9OZBLSkcAnreq2Mai20DweKSNqeUSWM4/img.jpg?width=980" id="20233" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3db4a05d5d417d925a770cf309db1db1" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
A giant otter plays with a plastic bottle. Paul Williams / CC BY-NC 2.0<p>Out of sight (for Americans) is <em>not </em>out of mind — and definitely not out of our waterways. An estimated 700 marine species and 50 freshwater species have either ingested plastic or been entangled in it.</p><p>"If we don't get the plastic pollution problem in the ocean under control, we threaten contaminating the entire marine food web, from phytoplankton to whales," George Leonard, the Ocean Conservancy's chief scientist and coauthor of the September <em>Science </em>study about plastic waste's increase, <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2020/10/plastic-pollution-huge-problem-not-too-late-to-fix-it/" target="_blank">told <em>National Geographic</em></a>. "And by the time the science catches up to this, perhaps definitively concluding that this is problematic, it will be too late. We will not be able to go back. That massive amount of plastic will be embedded in the ocean's wildlife essentially forever."</p><p>Microplastics have also been found in terrestrial animals, soil, drinking water and, not surprisingly, <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/victoriaforster/2020/08/18/microplastics-found-in-human-organs-for-the-first-time/?sh=42994a4e16f2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">in our own bodies</a>, although it's not clear yet just how dangerous that is for people.</p>
4. The fracking boom is producing a plastic boom.<p>Despite the known risks of plastic pollution and concern over its mounting presence in the environment, plastic production — driven by fossil fuels like fracked gas and its component chemicals — is on pace to increase by 40% in the next 10 years.</p><p>The American Chemistry Council <a href="https://www.americanchemistry.com/Shale-Infographic/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">boasted that shale gas drilling is driving a surge</a> in plastic production, including the investment of more than $200 billion to fund new and expanded operations at 343 production plants in the United States.</p><p>On the ground this means more harmful pollution along the Gulf Coast's "Cancer Alley," where petrochemicals have been manufactured for decades in low-wealth communities of color. And it means the build-out of new facilities in Rust Belt states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.</p><p>Fracking also causes harmful greenhouse gas emissions, like methane, to be released into the atmosphere — amplifying the climate crisis. The refining process and the incineration of plastic waste also further drives greenhouse emissions and hazardous pollution.</p>
A petrochemical plant in Houston's ship channel. Louis Vest / CC BY-NC 2.0
5. Solutions are multifaceted.<p><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/plastic-pollution-do-beach-cleanups-really-make-a-difference/a-46196975" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Beach cleanups</a> tend to make headlines, but it's a losing battle as long as petrochemical companies keep producing so much plastic and we keep using plastic for products we're meant to toss after a single use.</p><p>The September study in <em><a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/369/6510/1455" target="_blank">Science</a></em> on plastic solutions found that it's possible to cut plastic pollution — perhaps as much as 80% by 2040 — but it will take systemic change both in reducing the amount of plastic produced and in better managing the waste stream.</p><p>Regulatory efforts can help this process, including by regulating plastic as a pollution source under the Clean Water Act.</p><p>Efforts to ban single-use plastics, as the European Union aims to do by 2021, are another positive step. So too are "<a href="https://therevelator.org/california-plastic-legislation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">circular economy laws</a>," which have been <a href="https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/5845?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22H.R.5%22%5D%7D&s=1&r=5" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">introduced, but not yet passed</a>, in the United States.</p><p>These laws would halt the production of new petrochemical facilities and encourage businesses to take responsibility for the full lifecycle of the products they produce by requiring them to be reused, adequately recycled or composted.</p><p>Getting circular economy laws enacted, though, will mean enough public and political will to counter the petrochemical, fossil fuel and plastic industries.</p><p>At <em>The Revelator</em>, we'll keep covering the push for solutions to the plastic problem and new science to better understand the threats. And if you want to know more about how wildlife has already been affected, what laws could help, whether industry will be held accountable and more, check out these stories from our archives:</p><p><strong>Laws and Regulations</strong></p><p><strong></strong><a href="https://therevelator.org/plastic-pollution-warnings/" target="_blank">Plastic Pollution: Could We Have Solved the Problem Nearly 50 Years Ago?</a></p><p><a href="https://therevelator.org/clean-water-plastic/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">How an Old Law Is Helping Fight New Plastic Problems</a></p><p><a href="https://therevelator.org/california-plastic-legislation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">New California Bill Could Revolutionize How the U.S. Tackles Plastic Pollution</a></p><p><a href="https://therevelator.org/plastic-pollution-laws/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">What Laws Work Best to Cut Plastic Pollution?</a></p><p><a href="https://therevelator.org/plastic-illegal/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Can Plastic Ever Be Made Illegal?</a></p><p><strong>Impacts</strong></p><p><a href="https://therevelator.org/toxic-plastic-pollution-food-chain/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Something Fishy: Toxic Plastic Pollution Is Traveling Up the Food Chain</a></p><p><a href="https://therevelator.org/plastic-pollution-ship-shore/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Plastic Pollution: From Ship to Shore</a></p><p><a href="https://therevelator.org/plastics-fracking-climate/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Plans to Turn America's Rust Belt Into a New Plastics Belt Are Bad News for the Climate</a></p><p><a href="https://therevelator.org/trash-galapagos-ecotourism/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Trash in the Galápagos Reveals the Dark Side of Ecotourism</a></p><p><a href="https://therevelator.org/elephant-seals-diving-garbage/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Elephant Seals: Diving Through Garbage</a></p><p><strong>Taking Action</strong></p><p><em><a href="https://therevelator.org/story-plastic-review/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Story of Plastic: </a></em><a href="https://therevelator.org/story-plastic-review/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">New Film Exposes the Source of Our Plastic Crisis</a></p><p><a href="https://therevelator.org/plastic-movie-stuff/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">How to Win the Fight Against Plastic</a></p><p><a href="https://therevelator.org/cities-zero-waste/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Can Cities Go Zero-waste? One Japanese Town Tried</a></p><p><a href="https://therevelator.org/secret-value-trash/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Secret Value of Trash</a></p><p><a href="https://therevelator.org/junk-raft-polluted-ocean/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Junk Raft: A Journey Through a Polluted Ocean</a></p><p><a href="https://therevelator.org/bioplastics-environment/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Are Bioplastics a Better Environmental Choice?</a></p><p><a href="https://therevelator.org/plastic-straws-problem-solution/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Plastic Pollution Is a Problem — These Kids Are Working for a Solution</a></p><p><a href="https://therevelator.org/thai-activists-fight-trash-taboo/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Thai Activists Fight Trash Taboo</a></p><p><em><a href="https://therevelator.org/author/taralohan/" target="_blank">Tara Lohan</a> is deputy editor of The Revelator and has worked for more than a decade as a digital editor and environmental journalist focused on the intersections of energy, water and climate. Her work has been published by The Nation, American Prospect, High Country News, Grist, Pacific Standard and others. She is the editor of two books on the global water crisis.</em></p><p><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://therevelator.org/plastic-pollution-archives/" target="_blank">The Revelator</a>. </em></p>
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Hundreds of endangered sea turtles were stranded on beaches after suffering "cold stunning" in the waters off Cape Cod, Mass. Local rescuers and wildlife rehabilitators stabilized the turtles at the New England Aquarium (NEAQ) and National Marine Life Center and began treatment. Many of the sea turtles were transported by land or air to partner facilities around the Eastern Seaboard for longer-term care to make room for more incoming, cold-stunned animals.
Rehabilitators at The Turtle Hospital in the Florida Keys assess critically endangered, cold-stunned Kemp's ridley sea turtles flown in after rescue in New England. The Turtle Hospital<p>NEAQ and local rescuers begin seeing turtles every fall when water temperatures drop to that 50 degrees F threshold, and typically expect to find them into early January. After that, <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/sea-turtle-cape-cod-weather-2621527394.html" target="_self">temperatures are so cold that any animals found are usually no longer alive</a>.</p><p>Merigo estimated that this year's cold season "looks very busy" and noted that local rescue efforts had already surpassed 400 turtles.</p><p>"It is a lot of animals. They're still coming in," she told EcoWatch as she surveyed 39 rescued turtles that day and 20 the day prior. "So far, this is a huge year."</p><p>At NEAQ, the turtles are gradually warmed up about five to 10 degrees F a day. More aggressive warming can cause serious damage and the turtle might not survive, Merigo said. Emergency treatments also include providing replacement fluids, balancing electrolytes and addressing pneumonia. Assessments take place for other serious problems too, such as shell or limb fractures, frostbite, emaciation and eye damage.<span></span></p><p>As local aquariums don't have the capacity to care for all the injured turtles, a group of private pilots called <a href="https://www.turtlesflytoo.org/" target="_blank">"Turtles Fly Too"</a> donated planes, fuel and time to transport some to various partner facilities around the country. Other turtles were driven to closer care facilities.</p><p>"We have a huge network of really great partners working with us, so if we can spread out the care, we can give better care to all the animals," Merigo said.</p><p>The 40 Kemp's ridley sea turtles recovering in The Turtle Hospital will continue to be treated and rehabilitated anywhere from 30 days to a year, depending on the severity of injuries, Zirkelbach said.</p><p>The turtle expert noted that while she's treated cold-stunned turtles from the north before, the newest arrivals were the most cold-stunned Kemp's ridleys ever received at one time.</p>
After rescue, cold-stunned sea turtles received immediate emergency care and assessments at the New England Aquarium. Caitlin Cunningham / New England Aquarium<p>In the past decade, the Gulf of Maine, which spans from Cape Cod to Nova Scotia, has warmed 99 percent faster than the rest of the ocean, Zirkelbach said. The warm water encourages turtles that migrate north along the Gulf Stream in warmer months to stay in the bay longer.</p><p>"Turtles that fail to migrate south get stuck in the unique horseshoe-shaped topography of the Cape Cod peninsula, and when temperatures drop, the bay becomes a death trap," she added.</p><p>Before ocean temperatures warmed, the waters of Maine were too cold for many of these sea turtles, Merigo echoed. Now, with warming sea surface temperatures, Maine can reach the high 70s to low 80s, which is "perfect turtle temperature," she said. The potential for more turtles getting trapped in the bay and then cold-stunned is nerve-racking for Merigo.</p><p>In addition to shifting habitats as waters warm, warming global temperatures also disrupt natural gender balance in sea turtles, Merigo warned. Gender is determined by the temperature of eggs in nests, and as the planet warms, it will result in all females at some point, she said.</p><p>"The turtles we work with are all endangered and threatened," Merigo said. "For sea turtles in general, the future is a little grim. Climate change is real; it does impact them."</p>
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