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Bernie Sanders: GOP Candidates Care More About Koch Money Than 'Preserving the Planet for Our Children'
Science-denying Republicans—intent on derailing local, national and global attempts to avert a looming climate crisis—have their priorities all wrong, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said on Tuesday.
"I find it unacceptable that many of my Republican colleagues are more worried about campaign contributions they're getting from the Koch brothers and others in the fossil fuel industry than they are about preserving the planet for our children and grandchildren," Sen. Sanders (I-Vt.) said in a statement urging the U.S. to take the lead in stopping global warming.
The U.S. senator made his remarks just hours after President Barack Obama, upon leaving the COP21 climate summit taking place in Paris, called for certain aspects of a climate change agreement to be legally binding—a demand that is sure to raise the ire of Republicans in Congress and beyond.
As the Guardian noted in its reporting on the president's press conference, "a majority of Republicans in Congress deny the existence of climate change or oppose action on it. In the run-up to Paris and while Obama has been at the summit, Republicans in Congress have repeatedly threatened to block climate aid to developing countries."
Meanwhile, the newspaper reported separately on Tuesday, "Republican presidential candidates have poured scorn on Barack Obama for his comments at the Paris climate talks."
Presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), for example, told a gathering in Iowa that Obama "apparently thinks having an SUV in your driveway is more dangerous than a bunch of terrorists trying to blow up the world." And Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, tweeted along similar lines, calling Obama "clueless" and mocking him as "meteorologist-in-chief."
Indeed, even Obama's call on Tuesday for the agreement to have some legally enforceable elements is a step back from what the European Union and developing countries have pushed for: a legally binding agreement, such as the Kyoto protocol. But such a treaty would be a non-starter in the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress.
Obama decried Republican climate denial in his press conference, noting that "there's a reason why you have the largest gathering of world leaders probably in human history here in Paris. Everybody else is taking climate change really seriously. They think it's a really big problem."
"It spans political parties," he continued. "I mean, you travel around Europe and you talk to leaders of governments and the opposition and they are arguing about a whole bunch of things. One thing they're not arguing about is whether the science of climate change is real and whether or not we're going to have to do something about it."
Recent studies have shown how corporations, led by ExxonMobil and the Koch family foundations, drive such anti-science ideology through the creation of climate disinformation think tanks and dissemination of coordinated contrarian messaging in mainstream media and public discourse.
Still, with a new poll showing that 63 percent of Americans support the U.S. signing onto a binding international agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions, one can only hope the tide is shifting.
"The evidence is overwhelming," Sanders declared. "Droughts, floods and severe storms already are impacting the planet and the situation will only become worse in years to come."
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As a growing number of states move to pass laws that would criminalize pipeline protests and hit demonstrators with years in prison, an audio recording obtained by The Intercept showed a representative of a powerful oil and gas lobbying group bragging about the industry's success in crafting anti-protest legislation behind closed doors.
Speaking during a conference in Washington, DC in June, Derrick Morgan, senior vice president for federal and regulatory affairs at the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), touted "model legislation" that states across the nation have passed in recent months.
AFPM represents a number of major fossil fuel giants, including Chevron, Koch Industries and ExxonMobil.
"We've seen a lot of success at the state level, particularly starting with Oklahoma in 2017," said Morgan, citing Dakota Access Pipeline protests as the motivation behind the aggressive lobbying effort. "We're up to nine states that have passed laws that are substantially close to the model policy that you have in your packet."
Big Oil is now using its political power to try and criminalize protests of oil & gas infrastructure.— Friends of the Earth (@foe_us) August 19, 2019
"This legislation has potential to punish public participation and mischaracterize advocacy protected by the First Amendment."https://t.co/bmiHjONEhy
The audio recording comes just months after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law legislation that would punish anti-pipeline demonstrators with up to 10 years in prison, a move environmentalists condemned as a flagrant attack on free expression.
"Big Oil is hijacking our legislative system," Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network said after the Texas Senate passed the bill in May.
As The Intercept's Lee Fang reported Monday, the model legislation Morgan cited in his remarks "has been introduced in various forms in 22 states and passed in ... Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota."
"The AFPM lobbyist also boasted that the template legislation has enjoyed bipartisan support," according to Fang. "In Louisiana, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the version of the bill there, which is being challenged by the Center for Constitutional Rights. Even in Illinois, Morgan noted, 'We almost got that across the finish line in a very Democratic-dominated legislature.' The bill did not pass as it got pushed aside over time constraints at the end of the legislative session."
Many of the state bills restricting the right to protest have been "drafted by companies and passed through groups like ALEC, the secretive group of corporate lobbyists trying to rewrite state laws to benefit corporations over people." @greenpeaceusa https://t.co/ZxpTjWdrwT— Stand Up To ALEC (@StandUpToALEC) May 6, 2019
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.