By Dolf Gielen and Morgan Bazilian
John Kerry helped bring the world into the Paris climate agreement and expanded America's reputation as a climate leader. That reputation is now in tatters, and President-elect Joe Biden is asking Kerry to rebuild it again – this time as U.S. climate envoy.
Energy Is at the Center of the Climate Challenge<p>The <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/1/" target="_blank">effects of climate change</a> are already evident across the globe, from <a href="https://theconversation.com/100-degrees-in-siberia-5-ways-the-extreme-arctic-heat-wave-follows-a-disturbing-pattern-141442" target="_blank">extreme heat waves</a> to <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/12/" target="_blank">sea level rise</a>. But while the challenge is daunting, there is hope. Solar and wind power have become the <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2020/Jun/Renewable-Power-Costs-in-2019" target="_blank">cheapest forms of power generation globally</a>, and technology progress and innovation continue apace to support a transition to clean energy.</p><p>In the U.S. under a Biden administration, long-term national climate legislation will depend on who controls the Senate, and that won't be clear until after two run-off elections in Georgia in January.</p><p>But there is no shortage of <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2020-biden-climate-change-advice/" target="_blank">ideas for ways Biden</a> could still take action even if his proposals are blocked in Congress. For example, he could use executive orders and direct government agencies to tighten regulations on greenhouse gas emissions; increase research and development in clean energy technologies; and empower states to exceed national standards, <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-autos-emissions-california/defying-trump-california-locks-in-vehicle-emission-deals-with-major-automakers-idUSKCN25D2CH" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">as California did in the past with auto emission standards</a>. A focus on a just and equitable transition for communities and people affected by the decline of fossil fuels will also be key to creating a sustainable transition.</p><p>The U.S. position as the world's largest oil and gas producer and consumer creates political challenges for any administration. U.S. forays into European energy security are often treated with suspicion. Recently, France blocked <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/frances-engie-backs-out-of-u-s-lng-deal-11604435609" target="_blank">a multi-billion dollar contract</a> to buy U.S. liquefied natural gas because of concerns about limited emissions regulations in Texas.</p><p>Strengthening cooperation and partnerships with like-minded countries will be critical to bring about a transition to cleaner energy as well as sustainability in agriculture, forestry, water and other sectors of the global economy.</p>
Creating a Global Sustainable Transition<p>How the world recovers from COVID-19's economic damage could help drive a lasting shift in the global energy mix.</p><p>Nearly one-third of Europe's US$2 trillion economic relief package <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-07-21/eu-approves-biggest-green-stimulus-in-history-with-572-billion-plan" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">involves investments that are also good for the climate</a>. The European Union is also strengthening its 2030 climate targets, though each country's energy and climate plans will be critical for successfully implementing them. The <a href="https://joebiden.com/clean-energy/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Biden plan</a> – including a $2 trillion commitment to developing sustainable energy and infrastructure – is aligned with a global energy transition, but its implementation is also uncertain.</p><p>Once Biden takes office, Kerry will be joining ongoing <a href="https://www.un.org/en/conferences/energy2021/about#:%7E:text=The%20overarching%20goal%20of%20the,2030%20Agenda%20for%20Sustainable%20Development.&text=Accelerate%20delivery%20of%20United%20Nations,related%20issues%20at%20all%20levels." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high-level discussions on the energy transition</a> at the U.N. General Assembly and other gatherings of international leaders. With the U.S. no longer obstructing work on climate issues, the G-7 and G-20 have more potential for progress on energy and climate.</p><p>Lots of technical details still need to be worked out, including international trade frameworks and standards that can help countries lower greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep global warming in check. <a href="https://www.carbonpricingleadership.org/what" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Carbon pricing</a> and <a href="https://www.csis.org/analysis/how-can-europe-get-carbon-border-adjustment-right" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">carbon border adjustment taxes</a>, which create incentive for companies to reduce emissions, may be part of it. A consistent and comprehensive set of national energy transition plans will also be needed.</p><p>The global shift to <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2019/Jan/A-New-World-The-Geopolitics-of-the-Energy-Transformation" target="_blank">clean energy will also have geopolitical implications for countries and regions</a>, and this will have a profound impact on wider international relations. Kerry, with his experience as secretary of state in the Obama administration, and Biden's plan to make the climate envoy position part of the National Security Council, may help mend these relations. In doing so, the U.S. may again join the wider community of countries willing to lead.</p>
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Maria Caffrey
As we approach the holidays I, like most people, have been reflecting on everything 2020 has given us (or taken away) while starting to look ahead to 2021.
We Need More Than Listening<p>By now we have all become sadly accustomed to the current administration sidelining scientists, most prominently Dr. Anthony Fauci, because the facts they provide do not fit with the political rhetoric of the moment.</p><p>I have <a href="https://www.csldf.org/2019/08/22/csldf-helps-climate-scientist-maria-caffrey-fight-for-scientific-integrity/" target="_blank">my own history</a> of filing a scientific integrity complaint with the National Park Service (which falls under the Department of the Interior) after senior ranking employees attempted to censor one of my scientific reports. I know all too well the damage and pain that these actions cause, not just for the individual scientist, but also because these <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/attacks-on-science" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">attacks on science</a> over the last few years have undermined sound, evidence-based decision making.</p><p>President-elect Biden has repeatedly said that he will <a href="https://thehill.com/homenews/521638-trump-biden-will-listen-to-the-scientists-if-elected" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">listen to the scientists</a>. While this is certainly a welcome change, listening can only take us so far. This past week Lauren Kurtz from the <a href="https://www.csldf.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Climate Science Legal Defense Fund</a> and my colleague <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/about/people/gretchen-goldman" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Gretchen Goldman</a> published <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/ten-steps-that-can-restore-scientific-integrity-in-government/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an article</a> listing 10 actions the new administration should implement to show their commitment to strengthening government science:</p><ol><li>Clearly prohibit political interference and censorship.</li><li>Protect scientists' communication rights.</li><li>Acknowledge that attempts to violate scientific integrity, even if ultimately not fruitful, are still violations.</li><li>Protect federal scientists' right to provide information to Congress and other lawmakers.</li><li>Commit to incorporating the best science as part of agency decisions.</li><li>Elevate agency scientific integrity policies to have the full force of law.</li><li>Publicly release anonymized information about scientific integrity complaints and their resolutions at every agency.</li><li>Institute an intra-agency workforce, potentially under the White House <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/2020-09/strengthening-science-and-si-at-ostp.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Office of Science and Technology Policy</a>, to coordinate scientific integrity efforts across agencies, foster discussion of policy improvements, and standardize criteria for policies across agencies.</li><li>Strengthen whistleblower protections.</li><li>Ensure that policies cover all actors who will be dealing with science.</li></ol>
Time for Action<p>I have spoken to many scientists, particularly federal scientists, who are eager to turn the page so they can hurry back to the work they had been doing before this administration, but I urge caution in assuming that things can be "normal" again.</p><p>Before Trump, I naively thought the scientific integrity policies established during the <a href="https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2016/12/19/scientific-integrity-policies-update" target="_blank">Obama administration</a> would be sufficient. I never imagined that any administration could so willfully ignore and attack expert advice and evidence that is intended to protect us and our public lands.</p><p>I have personally witnessed how hard our federal scientists work. They put in long hours with minimal pay (far less that what they could get if they worked in private industry) to pursue one simple goal: to make things better for the nation.</p><p>We need stronger scientific integrity policies to protect these people and their work. But more than that, we need stronger scientific integrity laws because they also benefit society.</p>
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Charlotte's Web<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDcwMjk3NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MzQ0NjM4N30.SaQ85SK10-MWjN3PwHo2RqpiUBdjhD0IRnHKTqKaU7Q/img.jpg?width=980" id="84700" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a2174067dcc0c4094be25b3472ce08c8" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="charlottes web cbd oil" /><p>Perhaps one of the most well-known brands in the CBD landscape, Charlotte's Web has been growing sustainable hemp plants for several years. The company is currently in the process of achieving official USDA Organic Certification, but it already practices organic and sustainable cultivation techniques to enhance the overall health of the soil and the hemp plants themselves, which creates some of the highest quality CBD extracts. Charlotte's Web offers CBD oils in a range of different concentration options, and some even come in a few flavor options such as chocolate mint, orange blossom, and lemon twist.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
A leading environmental advocacy group marked Native American Heritage Month on Wednesday by urging President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Kamala Harris, and the entire incoming administration "to honor Indigenous sovereignty and immediately halt the Keystone XL, Dakota Access, and Line 3 pipelines."
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By Jake Johnson
Amid reports that oil industry-friendly former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz remains under consideration to return to his old post in the incoming Biden administration, a diverse coalition of environmental groups is mobilizing for an "all-out push" to keep Moniz away from the White House and demand a cabinet willing to boldly confront the corporations responsible for the climate emergency.
By Richard Thomas
Joseph Biden was elected to office as the world continues to struggle with a global pandemic that has killed more than a million people and wreaked devastating economic havoc. The pandemic has highlighted how humankind's abuse of our planet and the irreversible loss of the biodiversity and ecosystem services upon which we all rely for our very existence simply can't go on.
Centers for Disease Control staff inspect bushmeat being imported into the U.S. CDC<p>How do we move forward? First, I would argue that allocating resources to understanding the risks associated with trade in animals — from any source — and how to lessen the danger of disease spillover events is a wise investment. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, USAID gave the go-ahead to activities under a second phase of a Wildlife Trafficking Response, Assessment and Priority Setting (Wildlife TRAPS) Project implemented by TRAFFIC, with a renewed zoonotic disease risk focus. TRAFFIC will endeavor to ensure it's money well spent.</p><p>Meanwhile welcome global attention has been paid to addressing the wildlife crime that undermines society and threatens the future of many of the world's wild plants and animals. But we're still not there in curbing these crimes. More resources will help get us over the line.</p><p>These include better equipment, training and working conditions for the rangers on the front lines; enhanced use of wildlife forensics; training of detector dogs; and even access to skilled translators to assist enforcement agencies with interpreting transactions involving foreign nationals. We also need to see renewed efforts by governments, helped by nongovernmental organizations and others, to reduce the consumer demand that fuels such trade.</p>
Rangers on patrol in Kruger National Park, South Africa. Bernard DuPont / CC BY-SA 2.0<p>Finally, the Biden era must go down in history as the turning point when world governments came together in a united front to address the conservation crisis and start down the long road to repair. Next year the delayed <a href="https://www.cbd.int/cop/" target="_blank">15th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity</a> will take place, when world governments will finalize the goals and policies of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework that will guide humankind to a biodiverse and sustainable future. The current draft of the Framework features, for the first time, a target on wildlife trade. It calls on governments to ensure that the harvesting, trade and use of wild species of fauna and flora are legal, at sustainable levels, and safe by 2030. It would be entirely appropriate if the Biden administration were at center stage throughout the negotiations. Given the role of the United States on the world stage, if Biden takes strong action, other countries will doubtless follow his lead.</p><p>Already the U.S. intention to rejoin the Paris Climate agreement has been a major symbolic step, signaling the country's aim to be at the forefront of global efforts to begin the healing process. Make no mistake: Building a green future is an enormous opportunity for businesses in the United States and beyond to meet the challenges of, and profit from, achieving the goal of a zero-carbon economy. Biden's policies should encourage achievement of that goal on every level. The future is bright, but only if it's green.</p><p>With the world's climate, forests and other natural resources under ever-increasing pressure, there has never been a more urgent need for the robust guidance, sound policies and strong leadership needed to protect our planet. The next four years could be the make-or-break moment.</p><p><em>The opinions expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of</em> The Revelator, <em>the Center for Biological Diversity or their employees.</em></p><p><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://therevelator.org/biden-leadership-wildlife-crime/" target="_blank">The Revelator</a>. </em></p>
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By Genna Reed
In his first week as president-elect, Joe Biden instituted an advisory board of experts to provide science-based recommendations to respond to COVID-19. This could be a signal that independent science advice under a Biden administration is valued. After four years of watching the norms of science advisory structures eroded and undermined, especially at the EPA, it is hard to visualize the possibilities of a government informed by experts. Once Biden takes office in January, here are the actions I hope his administration will take to shore up the government's fifth arm of external expert advice:
1. Rescind EO 13875 and Reinstate Disbanded Committees<p>In Executive Order 13875, titled "Evaluating and Improving the Utility of Federal Advisory Committees," issued in June 2019<strong>, </strong>President Trump mandated the elimination of one-third of federal advisory committees with an aim of <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/genna-reed/trump-executive-order-advisory-committee" target="_blank">reaching the arbitrary total of 350</a>. Some agencies followed the order, cutting committees like <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/genna-reed/the-first-cut-of-epa-advisory-committees-is-the-deepest" target="_blank">EPA's Environmental Laboratory Advisory Board (ELAB) and the National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology (NACEPT)</a>, <a href="https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/465001-trump-officials-eliminate-board-that-advised-on-smart-grid" target="_blank">The Department of Commerce's Smart Grid Advisory Committee</a> and <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/genna-reed/science-advice-shouldnt-be-at-the-whim-of-a-president-and-his-appointees" target="_blank">Marine Protected Areas Advisory Committee, and DOI's Invasive Species Advisory Committee</a> and CDC's <a href="https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/science/" target="_blank">Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry's Board of Scientific Counselors</a> and its <a href="https://www.facadatabase.gov/FACA/apex/FACAPublicCommittee?id=a10t0000001gzkCAAQ" target="_blank">Advisory Committee to the Director</a>. Yes, you read that right. As the CDC director responded to a national public health crisis, he did not have a sounding board of leading public health experts to help guide a federal response, as <a href="https://www.facadatabase.gov/FACA/apex/FACAPublicCommittee?id=a10t0000001gzkCAAQ" target="_blank">had been readily available since 1962</a>.</p><p>Neither the White House nor federal agencies released criteria or a full justification for disbanding these committees to the public. This is likely not an exhaustive list. Thus, the Biden administration should allow agencies to bring back disbanded committees quickly so that they can get back to work on projects left unfinished and take on new ones, especially those with direct relevance to providing expertise to the government on responding to COVID-19.</p>
2. Issue a Proactive Executive Order to Affirm the Value of Advisory Committees<p>The president-elect should issue an executive order affirming the value of advisory committees and direct agencies to improve the integrity and transparency of processes to ensure committees meet their chartered objectives. <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/2020-09/si-of-federal-advisory-committees.pdf" target="_blank">Our fact sheet</a> includes a long list of measures that should be included in that order, but the goal of the executive order should be threefold:</p><ul><li>address committee membership by requiring agencies to be more transparent and make decisions based solely on experience and technical qualifications in the topic the committees address, and not based on inappropriate criteria (e.g., party affiliation, political opinions, <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/michael-halpern/the-epa-science-advisory-board-is-being-compromised-heres-why-that-matters" target="_blank">having received a government grant</a>);</li><li>protect the independence and integrity of advisory committees by protecting against <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/2020-09/conflicts-of-interest-at-federal-agencies.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">conflicts of interest</a>;</li><li>ensure that the processes used to establish and terminate advisory committees are clear and transparent and that the government seeks out the advice it needs.</li></ul><p>An order that sets a high ethical bar for external advice can help protect against some of the more egregious violations we saw under the Trump administration, like the appointment of a majority of members with <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/genna-reed/biased-science-board-threatens-fetal-tissue-research" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">clear issues of impartiality to the HHS's Human Fetal Tissue Ethics Advisory Board,</a> which then issued sweeping rejections of grant proposals for critical research using fetal tissue.</p>
3. Go Back to the Drawing Board at the EPA<p>The Biden administration should begin to reverse the damage done by former Administrator Pruitt and Administrator Wheeler to <a href="https://thehill.com/opinion/energy-environment/512063-americans-need-the-best-science-more-than-ever-from-government" target="_blank">gerrymander science at EPA</a> and signal a commitment to balanced, independent advice by instituting a new nominations process for all EPA committees, while promoting transparency and public input and listening to its own staff recommendations. The administration should begin by scrapping the <a href="https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/521044-shuffle-of-epas-science-advisors-elevates-those-with-industry-tries" target="_blank">Science Advisory Board</a> and <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/gretchen-goldman/the-epa-cut-science-out-of-air-pollution-standard-setting-were-putting-it-back" target="_blank">the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee</a> and start over. Here's why.</p><p>There are still qualified experts on EPA's advisory committees, but since the <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/genna-reed/epas-chance-to-get-science-advice-right" target="_blank">process barred EPA-funded scientists from applying from fall 2017 to 2020</a>, the expertise is not balanced and not the most relevant for the issues currently facing EPA. Further, it is unclear whether membership was adequately vetted for conflicts of interest. These are all fair questions, since <a href="https://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-19-280" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">we know Wheeler's administration failed to provide documentation on its selection process</a>.</p><p>The only way to fix a broken process is to start from scratch, instituting some of the norms and processes that were in place before the Trump administration came in, but also updating them to ensure even more transparency. For example, <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/2020-09/si-of-federal-advisory-committees.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">we recommend</a> that all agencies, including EPA, publish relevant basic information about each committee member on a public online portal (e.g., integrity.gov), including qualifications, background, employers, and funding sources for the previous five years, along with any conflict-of-interest waivers granted. Additionally, the decisionmaking processes used for committee formation, including how agencies screen members, how they assess committees for balance, and which political officials are involved, should be made public.</p><p>All members of committees re-formed could reapply if they wished to remain. But importantly, a new vetting process would ensure that expertise was prioritized and that conflicts of interest or appearance of impartiality was avoided.</p>
4. Work With Congress on Bipartisan Legislation That Would Increase Transparency and Public Input<p>The <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/andrew-rosenberg/improving-transparency-and-disclosure-of-conflicts-of-interest-for-science-advisory-committees" target="_blank">Federal Advisory Committee Act Amendments of 2019</a> would require agencies to open nominations for committee positions, select and publicize from those nominations, and clearly distinguish independent scientists from those representing a particular interest group. The bill would also require disclosure of conflicts of interest to the agency and the public and greater transparency of the meetings themselves. Also, political party affiliation cannot be used as a criterion for selection for a committee, which is important as such political litmus tests have been used in the past to <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/center-for-science-and-democracy/scientific_integrity/abuses_of_science/a-to-z/fogarty-international-center.html" target="_blank">distort and stack</a> advisory committees under previous administrations.</p><p>Congress could also consider legislation that would institute a formal petition process for the public to request an agency assemble a federal advisory committee for an issue based on a set of criteria. This could ensure a more inclusive and equitable approach to deciding what issues get paid adequate attention by agencies.</p>
Making a Sound Investment in Science Advice<p>We have studied the ways in which science advisory committees have been sidelined or hijacked and over the past four years saw very clearly how changes to norms and the erosion of processes built to uphold integrity can wreak havoc on environmental and public health policy decisions.</p><p>As a new administration takes office, I hope that it takes advantage of this hindsight and sees the opportunities I see: not just bringing back old policies and signaling the importance of government science advice, but finding new ways to make it more responsive to the public than to special interests, and more inclusive of a diverse set of scientists and experts whose voices need to be heard right now. There's no time like the present to modernize our government advisory infrastructure, and <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/2020-09/si-of-federal-advisory-committees.pdf" target="_blank">our recommendations feature actions that can help get us there.</a></p>
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By Scott Faber
The staggering number of food and farm workers who have died from Covid-19 has laid bare the Trump administration's disastrous policies on food and farm issues.
By Dan Farber
With the next president of the United States finally decided, we can now begin moving on to the work at hand.
Wind turbines. Photo: Shawn Meng, Oregon Department of Agriculture (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)<p>The second prong is legislative.</p><p>Although a GOP or 50-50 Senate will be a challenge, some kinds of legislation may have a chance of sneaking through.</p><p>Sen. Lisa Murkowski has an <a href="https://www.utilitydive.com/news/comprehensive-senate-energy-bill-draws-industry-bipartisan-support-but-la/573326/" target="_blank">energy bill</a> she has been trying to get to the floor that seems to have bipartisan support. The bill focuses on spending for research and demonstration projects. Even when the GOP controlled Congress during the first two years of Trump's presidency, Congress voted to increase funding for renewable energy for the Defense Department and to increase funding for research into innovative new energy technologies.</p><p>If Murkowski and fellow Republican Sen. Susan Collins can be brought on board, it may also be possible to adopt energy-related amendments to must-pass bills.</p><p>Finally, increased funding for adaptation-related spending by FEMA, the Defense Department and the Army Corps of Engineers may also be feasible.</p><p>The third prong involves climate efforts outside the federal government.</p>
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By Scott Faber
No candidate for president has ever pledged to make the toxic "forever chemicals" known as PFAS a priority – until now.
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