By Ilana Cohen
Four years ago, Jacob Abel cast his first presidential vote for Donald Trump. As a young conservative from Concord, North Carolina, the choice felt natural.
But this November, he plans to cast a "protest vote" for a write-in candidate or abstain from casting a ballot for president. A determining factor in his 180-degree turn? Climate change.
Fractures Among Young Climate Conservatives<p>While young conservatives have united around the urgency of climate change, they remain divided over how to bring their concerns to the ballot box. Some embrace right-wing <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/biden-attacks-republican-convention/2020/08/24/434e5b46-e66d-11ea-970a-64c73a1c2392_story.html" target="_blank">attacks</a> painting Biden as a "tool of the left" and find his climate agenda "radical." Others can't find a way to justify voting for Trump, even if it means breaking with their party.</p><p>Patrick Mann from Orange County, California, voted for Trump in 2016. But today, he's leading Aggies for Joe at Texas A&M University and is co-founder of Texas Students for Biden. </p><p>Mann grew up watching wildfires ravage his home state, nearly forcing his family to evacuate in 2017. The GOP is failing to "meet the moment" for climate action, Mann said. He's hoping Biden will deliver on a promise to "<a href="https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/caucus/2020/01/06/joe-biden-democrat-president-iowa-caucus-restore-soul-our-nation/2806422001/" target="_blank">restore the soul of our nation</a>." </p><p>Taylor Walker from Pensacola, Florida, is also determined to make her voice heard on climate, including by casting her first-ever vote for president—but not for Biden.</p>
A False Equivalency<p>Young climate conservatives may fear climate denial and delayed climate action, but more than that, they fear the growing political momentum around the Green New Deal, the massive spending it entails and <a href="https://joebiden.com/climate-plan/" target="_blank">Biden's citing of it</a> as a "crucial framing for meeting the climate challenges we face."</p><p>Many don't want to split with their party to support a Democrat whose <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/09/03/757220130/joe-biden-on-bipartisanship-gun-control-and-regrets-over-inaction-after-a-traged" target="_blank">allegedly bipartisan intentions</a> they doubt. If stymieing what they consider a radical green agenda means re-electing a climate change denying president, so be it. </p><p>"I'm scared of climate change, but I'm also scared of the Green New Deal and what it means for America," said Ben Mutolo, a republicEN spokesperson and junior at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. </p><p>Mutolo felt encouraged by former Ohio Governor John Kasich's <a href="https://www.rollcall.com/2020/08/17/kasich-speech-to-democratic-convention-follows-years-of-building-conservative-credentials/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">appearance</a> at the Democratic National Convention, but he still struggles to see himself voting for Biden. Though the candidate paints himself as a <a href="https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2020-08-12/harris-biden-different-generation-similar-political-instinct" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">centrist,</a> Mutolo believes he's "cozying up to the ultra-progressive left." </p><p>Mutolo, who wants to see market-based climate solutions like a carbon tax, feels torn between a candidate whose climate plan relies on taking an "<a href="https://joebiden.com/environmental-justice-plan/#" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">All-of-Government approach</a>," and one with no efforts to reign in global warming at all. <span></span></p><p>Leiserowitz said he appreciated how a conservative might feel Biden's climate plan "doesn't jive with their limited government, free-market approach."</p><p>But he sees a strong distinction between voting for a presidential candidate with a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/14/us/politics/biden-climate-plan.html" target="_blank">$2 trillion climate plan</a> that includes large renewable energy investments, which have <a href="https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/publications/politics-global-warming-april-2020/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">bipartisan support</a>, and a candidate trying "to take the country in the opposite direction, towards more fossil fuels."</p>
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By James Bruggers
In Maine, state officials are working to help residents install 100,000 high efficiency heat pumps in their homes, part of a strategy for electrifying the state. In California, an in-demand grant program helps the state's largest industry—agriculture, not technology—to pursue a greener, more sustainable future. Across Appalachia, solar panels are appearing on rooftops of community centers in what used to be coal towns.
In Maine, Federal Funding 'Would Make a Big Difference'<p>The fingerprints of climate change are all over the state of Maine, from the invasion of temperate species into the rapidly warming Gulf of Maine to summers that are now two weeks longer than they were a century ago. But despite all this change, one thing will stay the same: Winter in Maine will still be cold.</p><p>In a state that uses more home heating oil per capita than anywhere in the nation, Maine's climate hawks are looking to make a major change in the way people heat their homes, and help mitigate climate change at the same time.</p><p>In 2019, Gov. Janet Mills signed a bill with the goal of installing 100,000 heat pumps into homes in Maine by 2025. This would represent nearly a fifth of the homes in the state. </p><p>"It's clearly the electrification strategy," said Hannah Pingree, the state's director of the Governor's Office of Policy Innovation and the Future. "Electrify homes, electrify transportation. That's a strong theme of the Climate Council."</p><p>Maine's Climate Council—a group of scientists, industry leaders, local and state officials and residents—is charged with figuring out how Maine will meet a <a href="https://www.maine.gov/governor/mills/news/governor-mills-signs-major-renewable-energy-and-climate-change-bills-law-2019-06-26" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">trio of ambitious goals</a>: reducing emissions by 45 percent by 2030 and at least 80 percent by 2050; increasing the state's renewable energy portfolio standard to 80 percent by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050; and making the state carbon neutral by 2045. </p><p>Heat pumps—which also cool homes—draw in air from outside and use the difference in temperature between inside and outside air to keep a home comfortable. They are run on electricity, and can be paired with clean energy sources like solar or wind power to eliminate the carbon footprint of home heating.</p><p>Mills' plan offers incentives for installing the pumps, thanks to state funding that's being supplemented by some federal low-income housing funds. The program is up and running, but it's something that Pingree said could benefit from an infusion of federal funds.</p><p>"The governor's heat pump program is already ambitious and innovative, but to really get to the full scale and take it even further, federal investment would make a big difference," said Pingree, who co-chairs the Climate Council. "Especially when it comes to people's homes, investments in transportation and housing stock, the federal government's participation is extremely helpful and it helps put people to work."</p><p>The heat pump program is part of a bigger picture of state and local governments working to get consumers to move away from using fossil fuels for heating. <a href="https://insideclimatenews.org/news/12122019/natural-gas-ban-cities-legal-cambridge-brookline-massachusetts-state-law-berkeley-california" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Some local governments</a> in other states are banning natural gas hookups for new construction, and some electric utilities and clean energy advocates are asking California regulators to enact a <a href="https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/california-nears-tipping-point-on-all-electric-building-regulations" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">statewide ban</a> as part of the next update of the state's building code.</p><p>Heat pumps are just one part of Maines's strategy, which will likely include a massive expansion of offshore wind and community solar projects and a push to electrify the transportation sector. At a meeting earlier this summer, more than 230 people from six working groups presented ideas to the council—more than 300 actions in all—which are being weighed now.</p><p>"If you look at the recommendations from the working groups, one of the cross-cutting ones is finance. We do need to raise revenue, and we also need the federal government to step up," said David Costello, the clean energy director of the Natural Resource Council of Maine. "It's going to be hard for Maine to implement many of the actions that we'd like to implement without increased funding."</p>
California's Grants for 'Climate Smart Agriculture' Are Successful—and Threatened<p>To say California farm country is central to its ambitious plans to combat climate change seems redundant. The $50 billion agricultural sector is a pillar of the state's economy, the world's fifth largest, encompassing 70,000 farms and ranches. </p><p>With such a vast and vital industry (which includes parts of every county in the state), California has created a suite of "climate smart agriculture" programs. The first-of-their-kind programs, launched in 2014 and expanded in 2017, are <a href="https://insideclimatenews.org/news/25062020/california-farmers-coronavirus-emissions-climate-change" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">helping farms become more resilient </a>to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, conserve land and protect ecosystems and communities. </p><p>The programs provide grant funds and technical assistance to farms in four key areas: conserving agricultural land against non-farm development; increasing on-farm water efficiency; improving soil health and managing manure to mitigate its climate impacts. The programs, popular with farmers, are receiving at least twice as many applications as there are grants.</p><p>They are also popular with nonprofit environmental and agricultural advocacy organizations. The California Climate and Agriculture Network (CalCAN), evaluated the programs' climate benefits and found impressive results. To date, the programs collectively have funded more than 1,250 climate smart agriculture projects and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by more than 1.1 million metric tons of CO2 e (carbon dioxide equivalent) over the life of the projects, the equivalent of removing 67,000 passenger vehicles from the road for a year. The water efficiency programs have saved more than 110,000 acre feet of water (the equivalent of more than 50,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools).</p><p>They are also affordable, costing between $43 and $100 per metric ton of CO2 reductions. In a pre-pandemic California, one with a budget surplus and climate policy priorities, the programs would be expanding. Instead, climate smart agriculture funding is in jeopardy. The state, still partially wracked by the coronavirus, is in a worsening recession. Supporters of climate smart agriculture programs worry the state will spend its funding on other priorities.</p><p>This at a time when the coronavirus has exposed the need for greater investment in farm country, said Jeanne Merrill, CalCAN's policy director. "We're seeing the pandemic impacts on farmers is clearly a major disruption," she said, "and it's a disruption that can point to weaknesses in our current system. We're taking the lessons learned from the pandemic and applying that to how we can prepare for greater climate extremes. Investing in resilient farming is key."</p>
Across Appalachia, a New Post-Coal Economy Beckons<p>Coal mining jobs have been crashing for decades in eastern Kentucky, from roughly 30,000 in 1984 to about 3,000 now, undercutting what has long been among the most impoverished regions of the country.</p><p>For a long time, elected leaders <a href="https://insideclimatenews.org/news/24092019/mitch-mcconnell-coal-miners-pensions-fund-appalachia-senate-campaign" target="_blank">held</a> what turned out to be false hope that the coal industry would come back.</p><p>But a nonprofit based in Berea, Kentucky, the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development, has been working toward a post-coal economy since 1976. </p><p>Among its programs: training entrepreneurs and providing low-interest loans to small businesses. In the past dozen years, MACED added energy efficiency and solar power to its mix of programs, saving clients money and cutting carbon emissions at the same time.</p><p>It's an ironic twist that rural Appalachian counties that helped power the nation with cheap—though dirty and climate warming—coal have seen residents' electricity bills <a href="https://insideclimatenews.org/news/14082018/coal-energy-prices-appalachia-mining-electric-bill-kentucky-economy-aep-rates" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">skyrocket</a> as coal has given way to cheaper natural gas and increasingly competitive wind and solar. Utility customers have been shouldering the costs of shuttering old coal-burning power plants and cleaning up the toxic messes they leave behind, while the power companies doubled down on more expensive coal.</p><p>Since May 2015, <a href="https://maced.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">MACED</a> has helped with 30 solar installations, saving almost $400,000 in energy costs, said Ivy Brashear, MACED's Appalachian transition director. And since 2008, MACED has helped hundreds of homes and businesses reduce their energy bills by scrutinizing them for errors and helping to pay for energy efficiency retrofits, she said. She added that it included, for example, helping a grocery store stay in business to prevent a rural area from becoming a food desert.</p><p>"We listen and collaborate with people who are living and working in these communities, and help advance that new economy in ways that are really just and really equitable," Brashear said.</p><p>In solar work, MACED has focused on Letcher County, with a population of about 22,000, where businesses, faith communities and nonprofits are <a href="https://www.letcherculture.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">tapping</a> their cultural strengths to create a new economy. </p><p>Whitesburg-based Appalshop, the 50-year-old arts and education nonprofit, for example, partnered with MACED to put solar panels on its new outdoor performance <a href="https://appalshop.org/solar" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pavilion</a>, which opened a year ago, to power its headquarters building and reduce electricity bills.</p><p>"In the last decade, our energy costs have gone up by 50 percent and were expected to keep rising," said Alexandra Werner-Winslow, Appalshop communications director. "That was not sustainable."</p><p>MACED, she said, "was tremendously helpful with our construction," and with the low-interest loan. At the same time, Appalshop sees solar development and energy efficiency as an important economic engine for eastern Kentucky.</p><p>MACED's funding includes grants from government and philanthropic foundations. With Congress weighing further ways to help the nation recover from an economic recession caused by the novel coronavirus, it could further a transition to cleaner energy and energy savings in rural areas through targeted investments and tax rebates, said Peter Hille, president of MACED.</p><p>"Anything that can (bring) down the front-end cost makes a big difference since that also reduces interest cost on financing over the life of the loan," he said.</p>
Mountain Towns in the West Hope for a 'Green Pathway' Stimulus<p>Jessie Burley is the sustainability director for the town of Breckenridge, Colorado, a posh, outdoorsy community in the Tenmile Range. Not only is Breckenridge a member of the statewide Colorado Communities for Climate Action but the town is also part of a national organization, Mountain Towns 2030, that's swapping ideas about how to meet a goal of net-zero carbon emissions within a decade, and one of many tourist towns focused on clean energy long before the coronavirus pandemic.</p><p>And the resulting economic downturn hasn't changed the goal, said Burley. Sustainability-minded communities recognize that jobs and businesses ought to be a focus of the Covid-19 recovery, since the pandemic has revealed how exposed existing economic systems are, she said.</p><p>"Whether it's a virus or whether it's global warming or whether it's some other kind of disaster, we are more susceptible," she said. "We also can't lose sight of the fact that going back to business as usual is not going to be enough."</p><p>Members of a Mountain Towns 2030 task force on Covid-19 are pressing for any new stimulus package to include provisions supporting "green pathway" programs, such as green infrastructure, electric vehicle charging or renewable energy jobs. In that spirit, although Breckenridge has suffered steep, pandemic-related revenue losses, a community solar program is pressing forward this year, its grants scaled back from 25 to 20.</p><p>Similarly, in Montana, where revenue from natural resource industries makes up 12 percent of the state's general fund and paychecks for 1.2 percent of the workforce, a task force is finalizing a statewide climate change plan this month, said Mark Haggerty, an economist with Bozeman-based Headwaters Economics and a member of the governor's climate task force. Planning is still underway to decarbonize Montana's electricity sector by 2035 and to decarbonize Montana's economy by 2050, he said.</p><p>"A lot of this needs to be done in recognition of the fact that [the energy transition] is already happening," said Haggerty, noting that the task force is diverse, including everyone from conservationists to energy officials.</p><p>"It is a broad-based challenge, and everyone is affected regardless of where you live or what your political affiliation is," he said of the new climate goals in a world also dealing with Covid-19's economic fallout. "But, also, we need everyone to buy into and ultimately benefit from the changes that we can enact and that will benefit the entire state."</p>
Virginia is the South's First State to Commit to Carbon-Free Energy<p>In the wake of a political upheaval that put Democrats firmly in control of state government, Virginia in 2020 became the <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-solutions/virginia-becomes-the-first-southern-state-with-a-goal-of-carbon-free-energy/2020/04/13/4ef22dd6-7db5-11ea-8013-1b6da0e4a2b7_story.html" target="_blank">first state in the South</a> to commit to 100 percent carbon-free energy and to join the northeast's <a href="https://www.rggi.org/sites/default/files/Uploads/Press-Releases/2020_07_08_VA_Announcement_Release.pdf" target="_blank">Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.</a></p><p>Most of the state's coal power would have to shut down by 2024 under the Virginia Clean Economy Act, which also lays the groundwork for a burst of new renewable energy construction. Lawmakers declared large amounts of solar and wind energy and energy storage to be "in the public interest," sweeping aside the regulatory barriers to new renewable energy projects.</p><p>This transition to renewable energy already has a footprint in the Hamptons Roads area, where the state plans to develop a wind industry hub to be overseen by a newly created state agency aimed at fostering offshore wind farms. The bill that created the agency stated Virginia's opposition to offshore drilling. </p><p>About 25 miles east, Virginia Beach is considering an array of plans to protect homes and businesses from increased climate-related flooding, storm surges and sea level rise, hoping for either state or federal funds to do everything from buying out flood prone homes to possibly building large floodgates to protect its shoreline. </p><p>In Norfolk, the state is supporting construction of new reefs using crushed concrete and granite that can serve as a habitat for the eastern oyster and also help shield the city against storm surges and erosion. The effort enabled state officials last year to declare the Lafayette River fully restored under the Chesapeake Bay Watershed agreement. </p><p>The Legislature, meanwhile, considered, but rejected, the idea of a Virginia "Green New Deal" public works-style program. Instead, lawmakers opted for a business-friendly approach that had the support of the state's big utilities, Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power, by the time the legislation was<a href="https://www.governor.virginia.gov/newsroom/all-releases/2020/april/headline-856056-en.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> signed into law</a> by Gov. Ralph Northam on April 11. </p><p>The new Clean Economy Act makes it easier for rooftop solar to spread across Virginia, by expanding "net metering" for households—giving electricity customers credit for the excess solar energy they produce and sell back to the grid. It enables Virginians for the first time to save money on their monthly electric bills by going solar.</p><p>If utilities fall short on their obligations to cut carbon energy and expand renewables, they will be subject to penalties that will go into an account to fund job training, with priority given to historically disadvantaged communities, veterans and individuals in Virginia's coalfield regions. Some critics note that this set-up means there is no assured funding for worker transition programs, which could be provided by stimulus programs from the federal government.</p><p>Virginia already has more solar jobs (<a href="https://www.thesolarfoundation.org/solar-jobs-census/factsheet-2019-va/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">4,489</a>) than coal jobs (<a href="https://www.eia.gov/coal/annual/pdf/table18.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2,730)</a>, and the latter are concentrated in the rural southwestern part of the state, a Republican stronghold which has lost political power to the state's burgeoning northern suburbs. Diverse, highly educated and tech-heavy communities in the northern part of the state helped Democrats take full control of Virginia's Legislature in 2019, paving the way for passage of Northam's clean energy agenda. A chief challenge in implementing the law will be ensuring that the Republican-dominated, fossil fuel-dependent rural regions that have been resistant to change don't get left behind.</p>
By Julia Mahncke
U.S. President Donald Trump has undone many major pieces of climate policy during his term, walking out on the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit global warming and eliminating numerous Obama-era environmental regulations.
Biden a Climate Disappointment?<p>Biden, Barack Obama's former vice president, plans to recommit to the Paris Accord and ensure that the U.S. achieves a 100% clean energy economy and reaches net-zero emissions by 2050. Biden has also promised a halt to fossil fuel subsidies, going further than the Democratic National Committee, the governing body of the Democrats, which dropped that demand from its platform earlier this month.</p><p>Prior to <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/kamala-harris-formally-accepts-us-vice-president-nomination/a-54629507" target="_blank">Kamala Harris' announcement as Biden's running mate</a>, the California senator had been vocal in her support for bold climate action. Harris co-sponsored the New Green Deal, calling on Congress to implement a 10-year government-driven mobilization to decarbonize the economy, while also backing job retraining and social and environmental justice. </p><p>But some Democratic voters are disappointed with the Biden/Harris ticket, believing <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/us-bernie-sanders-halts-bid-for-democratic-presidential-nomination/a-53065293" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sanders, who dropped out of the Democratic race for president in April</a>, would have been the better candidate. </p><p>"I have two kids, so I have to be mindful and hopeful, but I lost a lot of hope since Bernie Sanders didn't get the bid," said Karen Antunes, as she wrapped up a picnic with her kids and little dog in Peninsula Park in Portland Oregon. </p><p>That won't stop her voting Democrat though.</p><p>"We have to. The Trump thing has got to end," added Antunes. "But I'm not excited."</p><p>Most progressive voters like Antunes might prefer to unite behind <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/opinion-biden-isnt-trump-but-thats-not-enough/a-54644348" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Biden against Trump's reelection</a> even if they don't feel his commitment to climate change action goes far enough.</p><p>"I don't think the differences between Biden and Sanders on the environment — or any other issues — will matter much to Democratic voters compared to the difference between Biden and Trump," said Stephen Ansolabehere, director of the Center for American Political Studies at Harvard University. </p>
Republicans: Economy Trumps Climate Change<p>Over the last few years, Trump has <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/trump-climate-change-denial-emissions-environment-germany-fake-heartland-seibt/a-52688933" target="_blank">dismissed climate change as a "hoax,"</a> not human-caused, and called environmental activists "perennial prophets of doom."</p><p>The U.S. president's 63 bullet-point election agenda, which is divided into categories like "Jobs," "Eradicate COVID-19" and "End our reliance on China," makes no direct mention of climate change or the environment. </p><p>Instead, tucked away under the heading "Innovate for the future" toward the bottom of the list, there are two promises: "Continue to Lead the World in Access to the Cleanest Drinking Water and Cleanest Air" and "Partner with Other Nations to Clean Up our Planet's Oceans." </p><p>The plan outlines no path to clean water or air.</p><p>The lack of climate change mentions in Trump's agenda might please many Republican voters since they are "obviously less supportive of regulations," said Daron Shaw, a professor specializing in voting behavior at the University of Texas at Austin and co-director of the Fox News Poll.</p><p>"Democrats are much more willing to take stronger measures," said Shaw, adding that few Republicans support policies such as a significant carbon or fossil fuel tax. "But if you ask Republicans about recycling, if you ask about fuel efficiency standards, they're very supportive of those sorts of smallish behaviors."</p>
Growing Impatience Among Young Republicans<p>Some younger Republicans are starting to become critical of their party's inattention to climate change. During the recent Republican National Convention, a small group turned to Twitter during the online event, to ask "#WhatAboutClimate"?</p><p>Another Pew study from June 2020 found that millennial and Gen Z Republicans, currently aged 18 to 39, are more likely than older GOP voters to think humans have a significant impact on the climate and that the federal government is doing too little to tackle the problem.</p><p>That doesn't mean they're ready to switch allegiance to the Democrats, though. </p><p>"Being a Republican is very much rooted in my upbringing," said Kiera O'Brien, who founded the group Young Conservatives for Carbon Dividends (YCCD). "Conservatism at home in Ketchikan, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/alaska-climate-change-threatens-indigenous-traditions/a-50722471" target="_blank">Alaska</a>, has a focus on community and nature." </p><p>O'Brien dislikes the Democrat's "regulatory approach to climate" and is instead lobbying for free market solutions to climate change through YCCD.</p>
Reframing Climate Action<p>Environmental policies can be a complicated issue when it comes to federal elections and hard to address for presidential candidates. Many regions in the U.S. have unique challenges: from wildfires in California and storms wiping out harvests in Iowa to <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/speaking-truth-to-power-female-activists-dominate-top-environmental-prize/a-43499770" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">water pollution in Flint, Michigan</a>.</p><p>Harvard's Ansolabehere also pointed out that opposition to climate policies in the past were typically connected to the fear of losing jobs and that prohibiting coal or retooling the auto industry will "adversely affect employment" in places like Kentucky and Michigan.</p><p>Daron Shaw added that Republicans typically "try to frame environmental issues as a matter of high taxation and job killing proposals with the hope that they can peel off Democrats."</p><p>Biden might be trying to assuage fears that tackling climate change means job losses by framing his plan as an opportunity for employment in new industries and a reinvigorated green manufacturing sector.</p><p>But when it comes to the swing states of Pennsylvania, Virginia and Ohio, Trump's climate record and support for jobs in the fossil fuel sector might give him the upper hand. His backing for <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/we-need-to-talk-about-virgin-plastics/a-48458223" target="_blank">ethane cracker plants, which take natural gas</a> and converts it into the basis for making plastics, has received a lot of support, said Ansolabehere, especially from local unions. </p>
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By Jake Johnson
Bolstered by an energized climate movement, small-dollar donors, and support from prominent progressive lawmakers like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Green New Deal champion Sen. Ed Markey on Tuesday fended off a Democratic primary challenge from Rep. Joe Kennedy III, whose name recognition and late endorsement from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were ultimately insufficient to topple the popular Massachusetts incumbent.
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By Melanie Benesh, Legislative Attorney
From the beginning, the Trump administration has aggressively slashed environmental regulations. A New York Times analysis identified 100 environmental protections that have been reversed or are in the process of getting rolled back. The administration's record on chemical safety has been especially hazardous for the health of Americans, especially children.
1. Failed to Aggressively Regulate Toxic ‘Forever Chemicals’<p>The toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS contaminate <a href="https://www.ewg.org/interactive-maps/pfas_contamination/" target="_blank">more than 2,200 sites</a> across the nation. Because they never break down in the environment, PFAS are often called "<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/these-toxic-chemicals-are-everywhere-and-they-wont-ever-go-away/2018/01/02/82e7e48a-e4ee-11e7-a65d-1ac0fd7f097e_story.html" target="_blank">forever chemicals</a>." They build up in our bodies and are linked to cancer, reproductive and developmental harms and reduced effectiveness of vaccines. Even though the EPA has known about the risks from PFAS chemicals <a href="https://www.ewg.org/epa-pfas-timeline/" target="_blank">since at least 1998</a>, they remain virtually unregulated.</p><p>In February 2019, the EPA released a toothless PFAS "action plan" that lacked deadlines for action and failed to address the use of PFAS in everyday products, contamination from PFAS air emissions or disposal of PFAS waste, among other concerns. A year and a half later, key goals from the plan, including regulating PFAS under the Superfund law and setting drinking water standards, remain unfulfilled.</p><p>When Congress stepped in and sought to designate PFOA and PFOS – the two most notorious and well-studied PFAS – as "hazardous substances" and to set deadlines for agency action, Trump <a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/SAP_HR-535.pdf" target="_blank">threatened a veto</a>. Trump's EPA also <a href="https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/07/27/2020-13738/long-chain-perfluoroalkyl-carboxylate-and-perfluoroalkyl-sulfonate-chemical-substances-significant" target="_blank">weakened a rule</a> designed to regulate <a href="https://www.ewg.org/news-and-analysis/2020/06/final-decision-epa-fails-protect-public-toxic-forever-chemicals-consumer" target="_blank">PFAS in consumer products</a>.</p>
2. Allowed a Rocket Fuel Chemical to Stay in Drinking Water<p>Perchlorate is a component of rocket fuel that also frequently contaminates drinking water sources. Perchlorate can interfere with thyroid function, which can also harm <a href="https://www.ewg.org/news-and-analysis/2017/11/kids-still-risk-rocket-fuel-chemical-food-and-water" target="_blank">childhood brain development</a>.</p><p><a href="https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-02-11/html/2011-2603.htm" target="_blank">Almost a decade ago,</a> the EPA determined that these harms warranted regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The agency then dragged its feet for years. In 2016, the <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/media/2016/160218" target="_blank">Natural Resources Defense Council sued</a> to force the EPA to finally set a legal limit for perchlorate in drinking water. In a <a href="https://www.freshlawblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/15/2016/12/Doc-38-Consent-Decree.pdf" target="_blank">court-approved consent decree</a>, the EPA agreed to propose a standard by October 2018 and finalize it by 2019. However, the EPA sought extensions and failed to meet these deadlines.</p><p>The <a href="https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/06/26/2019-12773/national-primary-drinking-water-regulations-perchlorate" target="_blank">EPA finally proposed a drinking water standard</a> in June 2019 but also suggested that it might not regulate perchlorate after all. <a href="https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/07/21/2020-13462/drinking-water-final-action-on-perchlorate" target="_blank">A year later, </a>the EPA withdrew its decision to regulate perchlorate in drinking water.</p>
3. Allowed Scores of New Chemicals, Including New Toxic PFAS, Onto the Market Without Adequate Oversight<p>In 2016, Congress substantially changed the way new chemicals are approved under the <a href="https://www.ewg.org/enviroblog/2016/05/new-tsca-bill-falls-short-protecting-americans-toxic-chemicals#.WwLUddMvwWo" target="_blank">Toxic Substances Control Act</a>, or TSCA.</p><p>Under the old law, chemicals were frequently approved by default, often <a href="https://www.ewg.org/research/off-the-books-ii-more-secret-chemicals/new-chemicals" target="_blank">without any health and safety information</a>. As a result, unsafe chemicals were allowed to be used for years or decades before the health and environmental hazards came to light. Inadequate oversight of new chemicals can also lead to <a href="https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/hsph-in-the-news/harmful-chemicals-removed-from-products-often-replaced-with-something-as-bad-or-worse/" target="_blank">regrettable substitution</a> – when chemicals are finally found to be unsafe, they are often replaced by unstudied chemicals that may be just as or even more toxic.</p><p>The 2016 update was supposed to fix the new chemicals program by requiring the EPA to make an affirmative safety finding on new chemicals and restrict use if industry failed to provide sufficient safety data. Nonetheless, the Trump EPA has approved scores of new chemicals in a process that <a href="http://blogs.edf.org/health/2019/12/09/when-will-epa-fully-explain-and-legally-justify-its-reviews-of-new-chemicals-under-tsca/" target="_blank">lacks transparency</a> and <a href="https://earthjustice.org/sites/default/files/files/20200317_comms_pc_tsca_english_final.pdf" target="_blank">contravenes the 2016 law</a>. The EPA has also <a href="https://www.edf.org/blog/2018/09/05/trumps-epa-flouting-law-when-approving-new-chemicals-here-are-3-examples" target="_blank">ignored known health concerns</a>, <a href="http://blogs.edf.org/health/2019/02/21/the-trump-epa-is-throwing-workers-facing-risks-from-new-tsca-chemicals-under-the-bus/" target="_blank">limited its consideration of worker risks</a> and <a href="http://blogs.edf.org/health/2019/06/03/the-trump-epa-is-illegally-denying-requests-for-public-files-on-new-chemicals/" target="_blank">denied requests for public files</a> in the new chemicals program.</p><p>The EPA has also exploited loopholes in the new law to quickly approve new chemicals, including toxic PFAS. <a href="http://blogs.edf.org/health/2020/07/28/greasing-the-skids-the-trump-epa-is-green-lighting-dozens-of-new-pfas-under-tsca/" target="_blank">A recent investigation</a> found that the EPA has been quietly approving new PFAS chemicals, through a provision known as the low volume exemption in the new chemicals program. As a result, the EPA is greenlighting new PFAS chemicals on an expedited basis, without public scrutiny. One PFAS, <a href="http://blogs.edf.org/health/2020/01/27/what-connects-cross-country-skiing-and-chemical-safety/" target="_blank">used in ski wax</a>, was approved despite a finding that the chemical could "waterproof the lungs," resulting in severe health impacts.</p><p>Since the law was updated in 2016, the EPA has reviewed more than <a href="https://www.epa.gov/reviewing-new-chemicals-under-toxic-substances-control-act-tsca/statistics-new-chemicals-review" target="_blank">3,000 new chemicals</a> submissions. More than 1,000 of these chemicals have been approved through the low volume exemption, and since 2016, manufacturers have begun producing at least 900 new chemicals, many without adequate safety data. Environmental groups have <a href="https://earthjustice.org/sites/default/files/files/final_filed_complaint.pdf" target="_blank">sued the EPA</a> over its failures to protect the public and the environment from risks from new chemicals. </p>
4. Failed to Protect Workers From a Deadly Paint-Stripping Chemical<p>Methylene chloride is a highly toxic chemical used in paint strippers that is responsible for <a href="https://saferchemicals.org/us-deaths-from-methylene-chloride/" target="_blank">more than 60 deaths</a> since 1980. In the final days of the Obama administration, the <a href="https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=EPA-HQ-OPPT-2016-0231-0001" target="_blank">EPA proposed a ban</a> on "methylene chloride for consumer and most types of commercial paint and coating removal."</p><p>After significant pressure from <a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/news/epa-reconsiders-ban-on-potentially-lethal-paint-stripper-chemical-methylene-chloride/" target="_blank">families who lost loved ones</a> due to methylene chloride exposure, the Trump EPA eventually issued a final rule in 2019. However, the <a href="https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-bans-consumer-sales-methylene-chloride-paint-removers-protecting-public" target="_blank">EPA narrowed the rule</a> so that it would apply only to consumer<em> uses</em> of methylene chloride, not commercial uses. That means workers are not protected, even though a <a href="https://publicintegrity.org/inequality-poverty-opportunity/workers-rights/epa-restricts-sales-of-deadly-paint-strippers-after-years-of-delays/" target="_blank">Center for Public Integrity investigation</a> found that most deaths from methylene chloride take place at work.</p><p>A <a href="https://www.epa.gov/assessing-and-managing-chemicals-under-tsca/final-risk-evaluation-methylene-chloride" target="_blank">separate EPA evaluation</a> of methylene chloride found that manufacturing, disposal and several other uses of methylene chloride pose no "unreasonable risk." Environmental groups have filed lawsuits challenging <a href="https://earthjustice.org/news/press/2019/trump-s-epa-sued-for-leaving-workers-exposed-to-deadly-chemical-in-paint-strippers" target="_blank">the rule</a> and the <a href="https://earthjustice.org/news/press/2020/trumps-epa-sued-over-understating-risks-of-deadly-chemical" target="_blank">recent evaluation</a>.</p>
5. Cooked the Books on the “Civil Action” Chemical<p>Trichloroethylene is a chemical solvent made infamous by the book and movie "<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3PHjIly2N0" target="_blank">A Civil Action</a>." The EPA considers it to be a known carcinogen, and it is one of the primary contaminants that sickened scores of veterans who served at <a href="https://psmag.com/environment/what-happened-at-camp-lejeune" target="_blank">Camp Lejeune</a>, in North Carolina.</p><p>As with methylene chloride, in the final days of the Obama administration, the EPA proposed banning three uses of TCE: <a href="https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=EPA-HQ-OPPT-2016-0163-0001" target="_blank">spot cleaning, aerosol degreasing</a> and <a href="https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=EPA-HQ-OPPT-2016-0387-0001" target="_blank">vapor degreasing</a>. In December 2017, the Trump EPA <a href="https://www.ewg.org/release/trump-epa-indefinitely-delays-bans-deadly-chemicals" target="_blank">shelved these proposed bans</a>, claiming that it would study those uses in a separate ongoing risk evaluation of TCE.</p><p>However, the EPA dramatically rewrote the accepted science on TCE in the <a href="https://www.epa.gov/assessing-and-managing-chemicals-under-tsca/draft-risk-evaluation-trichloroethylene" target="_blank">draft risk evaluation</a> released in February. As <a href="https://www.ewg.org/news-and-analysis/2018/06/industry-s-behest-epa-caves-banning-civil-action-carcinogen-lays-ground" target="_blank">EWG warned</a> in 2018, the solvents industry aggressively lobbied the EPA to ignore a key <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1241384/" target="_blank">2003 study</a> finding that TCE causes heart deformities in developing fetuses. TCE's connection with fetal heart defects was an important basis for the Obama EPA's decision to ban three uses of TCE. An <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0890623816303240#bib0190" target="_blank">independent review</a> of the EPA's science found that "prenatal exposure to TCE can cause human cardiac defects" and that the study "remains a valid choice" for assessing risk.</p><p>The lobbyists succeeded. The EPA's draft risk evaluation questioned the study's design and minimized its significance. An <a href="https://www.revealnews.org/article/epa-scientists-found-a-toxic-chemical-damages-fetal-hearts-the-trump-white-house-rewrote-their-assessment/" target="_blank">investigation by Reveal News</a> compared the draft risk evaluation with a leaked earlier draft. It found that the earlier draft had relied extensively on the 2003 study and used it as a benchmark for the risk calculations. Reveal also reported that then-EPA chemicals safety chief Nancy Beck – "<a href="https://www.ewg.org/planet-trump/2017/05/scariest-trump-appointee-you-ve-never-heard" target="_blank">the scariest Trump appointee you've never heard of</a>" – ordered that the risk evaluation be rewritten to downplay the risks of TCE. With the EPA giving significantly less weight to risks from fetal heart deformities, it's unlikely the agency will finalize the proposed bans.</p>
6. Pressured EPA Scientists to Drop Evaluations of Toxic Chemicals – Including Formaldehyde<p>The Trump EPA is undermining the work of independent scientists within the Integrated Risk Information System program, known as IRIS. The program's work is supposed to be impartial and non-political. Its scientific assessments are intended to support the work of other EPA program offices and regional offices. IRIS is a <a href="https://theintercept.com/2018/02/03/epa-iris-toxic-chemicals/" target="_blank">frequent target of chemical industry attacks</a> because its independent safety assessments often don't align with industry objectives.</p><p>In 2018, the Trump EPA tried to <a href="https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/3534381/Combined.pdf" target="_blank">defund</a> the IRIS program. EPA leadership also pressured IRIS to drop critical health assessments. In March 2019, <a href="https://www.gao.gov/assets/700/697212.pdf" target="_blank">a Government Accountability Office report</a> disclosed that EPA leadership directed agency offices to limit the number of chemicals they wanted IRIS to review, and cut in half the number of IRIS's ongoing or upcoming assessments.</p><p>One of the halted assessments was IRIS's decades-long review of formaldehyde, a widely used chemical and <a href="https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ntp/roc/content/profiles/formaldehyde.pdf" target="_blank">known human carcinogen</a>. This is surprising because former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt indicated to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in January 2018 that the report was complete and <a href="https://www.markey.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Pruitt%20Letter%20formaldehyde%20assessment.pdf" target="_blank">ready for release</a>. However, answering <a href="https://www.eenews.net/assets/2019/01/29/document_pm_02.pdf" target="_blank">questions for the record</a> following a 2019 Senate hearing, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said formaldehyde was "not a top priority."</p><p>Instead of releasing the IRIS study on formaldehyde to the public, the EPA has instead decided that the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention – under the leadership of Nancy Beck – should <a href="https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-finalizes-list-next-20-chemicals-undergo-risk-evaluation-under-tsca" target="_blank">conduct its own assessment</a> of formaldehyde. As with TCE, this action will give the agency an opportunity to distort the science and minimize risks. Because these reviews take years, it will also significantly delay any EPA regulatory action on formaldehyde.</p>
7. Rolled Back Clean Water Protections<p>Industrial chemical pollutants are often discharged into drinking water supplies. But the Trump administration has made it a priority to roll back the<a href="https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2015/06/29/2015-13435/clean-water-rule-definition-of-waters-of-the-united-states" target="_blank"> Clean Water Rule,</a> which more clearly defined which kinds of bodies of water are subject to the Clean Water Act. EWG's analysis found that the Clean Water Rule, if implemented as proposed by the Obama administration, would have protected drinking water sources for more than <a href="https://www.ewg.org/research/trump-plan-gut-stream-protections-imperils-tap-water-117-million-americans" target="_blank">117 million Americans</a>.</p><p>The <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/12/31/politics/epa-science-board/index.html" target="_blank">EPA's own science advisors</a> have opposed the rollback of the Clean Water Rule, but the Trump administration <a href="https://www.ewg.org/release/trump-completes-repeal-clean-water-rule-imperiling-drinking-water-sources-117m-people" target="_blank">repealed</a> it in 2019, <a href="https://www.ewg.org/release/trump-administration-finalizes-repeal-pollution-rule-threatening-drinking-water-sources-117" target="_blank">proposed its own rule</a> in January and <a href="https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/04/21/2020-02500/the-navigable-waters-protection-rule-definition-of-waters-of-the-united-states" target="_blank">finalized it</a> in April. The new rule covers far fewer bodies of water and would leave 234,000 miles of small streams unprotected. EWG estimates that at least 72 million Americans draw at least half their drinking water from small streams.</p><p>Because of the repeal, those bodies of water will no longer be subject to pollution limits. Protection for small and seasonal streams and wetlands is important because they often flow into larger bodies of water, including sources of drinking water. Polluted drinking water sources <a href="https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/money/agriculture/2017/03/17/judge-dismisses-water-works-nitrates-lawsuit/99327928/" target="_blank">strain municipal water utilities</a> tasked with filtering out contaminants regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act, and risk exposing the public to more <a href="https://www.ewg.org/tapwater/state-of-american-drinking-water.php" target="_blank">contaminants that aren't regulated</a> under the act.</p>
8. Cooked the Books on Asbestos<p>Asbestos is a highly toxic, naturally occurring chemical linked to a particularly deadly form of cancer called <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mesothelioma/symptoms-causes/syc-20375022" target="_blank">mesothelioma</a>. An estimated <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/search?authors=Jukka%20Takala&orcid=0000-0001-5722-7052" target="_blank">40,000 Americans</a> die every year from asbestos-related diseases. Although the toxicity of asbestos is well understood, the EPA has never actually banned most uses. The EPA attempted a ban in 1989, but most of the rule was overturned by <a href="https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=6165892895625819539&q=corrosion+proof+fittings+v+epa&hl=en&as_sdt=20006" target="_blank">the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1991.</a></p><p>After Congress reformed TSCA in 2016, the EPA announced that asbestos would be one of the <a href="https://www.ewg.org/research/under-new-safety-law-epa-picks-first-10-chemicals-review" target="_blank">first 10 chemicals</a> reviewed under the new law. Many hoped that this time, the EPA would finally ban asbestos.</p><p>Instead, when the EPA released its <a href="https://www.epa.gov/assessing-and-managing-chemicals-under-tsca/draft-risk-evaluation-asbestos" target="_blank">draft risk evaluation</a> in May, it found that several uses of asbestos, including import of asbestos and asbestos-containing products and distribution of asbestos-containing products, did not pose an unreasonable risk. The EPA made its risk determinations by ignoring exposure from "legacy" uses of asbestos, such as old insulation and building tiles. Although in November the <a href="https://www.ewg.org/release/court-trump-epa-acted-unlawfully-refusing-consider-legacy-use-asbestos-lead" target="_blank">Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals</a> ordered the EPA to fix this error, it has yet to do so.</p><p>Instead of banning asbestos, in April 2019 the EPA <a href="https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/04/25/2019-08154/restrictions-on-discontinued-uses-of-asbestos-significant-new-use-rule" target="_blank">published a rule</a> requiring notice and approval before manufacturers could resume using it in some applications the agency considered abandoned. However, <a href="https://int.nyt.com/data/documenthelper/815-e-p-a-memos-on-asbestos/12c87a96be998db10048/optimized/full.pdf#page=1" target="_blank">leaked documents</a> show that more than a dozen EPA staffers urged an outright ban on asbestos instead.</p>
9. Proposed a Loophole for Toxic Air Pollution<p>In July 2019, the <a href="https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/07/26/2019-14252/reclassification-of-major-sources-as-area-sources-under-section-112-of-the-clean-air-act" target="_blank">Trump EPA proposed to reverse</a> a longstanding policy requiring large power plants, refineries and other industrial polluters to always meet certain strict controls, even after reducing emissions. The new rule creates a loophole in the Clean Air Act regulations that would allow large industrial facilities to <a href="https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2018-02/documents/reclassification_of_major_sources_as_area_sources_under_section_112_of_the_clean_air_act.pdf" target="_blank">reclassify themselves</a>, from "major sources" of air pollution to "area sources."</p><p>That change would allow them to opt out of strict pollution control standards, called "maximum achievable control technology," and substantially increase their emissions of dangerous air pollutants. EPA's own data shows that more than <a href="https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2019-07-26/pdf/2019-14252.pdf" target="_blank">3,900 large facilities</a> that <a href="https://www.epa.gov/haps/initial-list-hazardous-air-pollutants-modifications" target="_blank">emit pollutants like mercury and benzene</a> could take advantage of this loophole. <a href="http://blogs.edf.org/climate411/2020/02/19/epa-data-emphasizes-danger-of-trump-administrations-air-toxics-loophole/?conversion_pg=www.momscleanairforce.org%2Fthe-racism-of-the-epa-agenda%2F" target="_blank">The Environmental Defense Fund</a> estimates the loophole could increase toxic air emissions by as much as 480 percent, or almost 50 million pounds per year. </p><p>This rollback is especially alarming in the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic. Studies have found that people who live in areas with <a href="https://scopeblog.stanford.edu/2020/07/17/why-air-pollution-is-linked-to-severe-cases-of-covid-19/" target="_blank">high levels of air pollution</a> are at greater risk for severe cases of COVID-19.</p>
10. Continuing Its Quest to Censor Science<p>In 2018, the EPA <a href="https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/04/30/2018-09078/strengthening-transparency-in-regulatory-science" target="_blank">proposed a disastrous rule</a> significantly limiting the kinds of science the agency can rely on to justify environmental regulations. The rule would have prohibited the agency from using studies that don't make their underlying data publicly available or whose results can't be replicated. That change would prevent the EPA from including in its future risk assessments most <a href="https://www.aaas.org/news/scientific-medical-academic-groups-urge-epa-drop-transparency-rule" target="_blank">human health studies</a>, because personal medical data must remain confidential. The rule would undermine studies that are foundational to <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/11/climate/epa-science-trump.html" target="_blank">clean air regulations</a>.</p><p>The proposal sparked enormous opposition from scientists, academics and environmental health advocates. More than 600,000 public comments were submitted to the agency, the vast majority in opposition. In September 2019, the EPA dropped the proposal from its regulatory agenda. </p><p>But the Trump EPA is at it again. In March, the agency issued a <a href="https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2020-03/documents/supplemental_notice_of_strengthening_transparency_in_regulatory_science.pdf" target="_blank">supplemental proposal</a> that is actually <a href="https://www.ewg.org/testimony-official-correspondence/ewg-comments-epa-strengthening-transparency-regulatory-science" target="_blank">worse than</a> the original proposal. The 2018 proposal applied to all "dose response" studies, but the new proposal applies to all studies. The new proposal also applies retroactively, which means the EPA could use it to gut existing regulations.</p><p>As these actions – and dozens of others – show, the Trump EPA has aggressively worked to erode and eliminate vital environmental and public health protections. The public needs an EPA that will prioritize people and planet over polluters and profit.</p>
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By Yvette Cabrera
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By Oliver Milman
This story was originally published in The Guardian on July 27, 2020.
It was a balmy June day in 2017 when Donald Trump took to the lectern in the White House Rose Garden to announce the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, the only comprehensive global pact to tackle the spiraling crisis.
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Abandoned Climate Efforts<p>The U.S. government in practice abandoned any concern over the climate crisis some time ago, with the Trump administration so far <a href="https://www.motherjones.com/environment/2020/07/trump-is-rushing-to-slash-every-last-obama-era-environmental-rule/" target="_blank">rolling back</a> more than 100 environmental protections, including an Obama-era plan to curb emissions from coal-fired power plants, limits on pollution emitted from cars and trucks and even energy efficiency standards for lightbulbs. In an often chaotic presidency, Trump's position on climate change has been unusually consistent – American fossil fuel production must be bolstered, restrictive climate regulations must be scrapped.</p><p>Unswayed by <a href="https://news.gallup.com/poll/308876/environmental-ratings-global-warming-concern-flat-2020.aspx" target="_blank">growing alarm</a> among Americans over the climate crisis, Trump is taking this same message to the election. "Biden wants to massively re-regulate the energy economy, rejoin the Paris climate accord, which would kill our energy totally, you would have to close 25% of your businesses and kill oil and gas development," the president said this month, without citing evidence, as he announced <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jul/15/donald-trump-environmental-reviews-pipelines-highways" target="_blank">another rollback</a>, this time of environmental assessments of pipelines, highways and other infrastructure.</p><p><span></span>Despite all this, U.S. emissions have continued to fall, due in large part to the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jun/29/america-coal-mining-enery-climate-crisis" target="_blank">downfall</a> of a coal industry that Trump has attempted to prop up. The international ramifications have been telling, however – in the absence of any sort of positive cajoling from the U.S., global emissions have remained stubbornly <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/nov/25/climate-heating-greenhouse-gases-hit-new-high-un-reports" target="_blank">high</a> and most countries are lagging behind their own promised actions.</p><p>According to the <a href="https://climateactiontracker.org/" target="_blank">Climate Action Tracker</a>, only Morocco is acting consistently with the Paris agreement's goals, with the global temperature rise set to exceed 3C by the end of the century even if the current pledges are met. Paris was meant to be only the beginning – countries are supposed to continually ratchet up their ambition levels until the more extreme ravages of climate change, such as dire flooding, heatwaves, crop failures and the loss of coral reefs, are avoided.</p><p>"There's been less political will from other countries to take action to a certain extent because the U.S. isn't pushing for it," said Biniaz. "During the first four years of Trump it's easier to say it's likely to be an aberration, a short-term deviation, but if it's eight years it's harder to keep together the coalition of countries that care about this."</p>
‘Another Meteorite Is Coming’<p>Another four years of a Trump administration uninterested in the climate crisis could set back global emissions cuts by a decade, according to <a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/four-more-years-of-donald-trump-could-delay-global-emissions-cuts-by-10-years" target="_blank">one published analysis</a>, making the chances of meeting the goals of Paris near to impossible.</p><p>Hakon Saelen, an environmental economist at the University of Oslo who led the study, said the U.S. withdrawal is a "significant major blow" to the mitigation of the climate crisis. "The world cannot afford any delay if the 2C target is to be reached," he said. "Our model indicates that the chance of reaching it is very low already, but near zero with another Trump term."</p><p>But even with an engaged Biden administration that is somehow able to get Congress to agree <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jul/14/joe-biden-climate-jobs-plan" target="_blank">to a $2t</a><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jul/14/joe-biden-climate-jobs-plan" target="_blank">n plan</a> to shift the U.S. on to renewable energy, the challenge is immense. The world has dithered on cutting emissions for so long that only an unprecedented, rapid overhaul of the way we travel, generate energy and eat will keep humanity within the bounds of safety outlined in Paris.</p>The world will have to slash emissions by more than 7% a year this decade to have any hope of meeting the 1.5C target, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/nov/26/united-nations-global-effort-cut-emissions-stop-climate-chaos-2030" target="_blank">according to the United Nations</a>. This annual cut will be achievable this year only through the devastation of the coronavirus pandemic, which shuttered much of the global economy. A more sustainable path to decarbonization will need to be immediately identified and implemented.<p><br>"The warmer it gets the worse it gets and the [Paris] targets are broadly at a level where things will get really bad," said Zeke Hausfather, director of climate and energy at the <a href="https://thebreakthrough.org/" target="_blank">Breakthrough Institute</a>. "We don't want people to give up hope, the human race won't become extinct at 2C but that's an unnecessarily high bar. There are still large threats and a lot of good reasons to keep warming below that.</p><p>Stern said American voters will naturally be "supersonic focused" on coronavirus and the economic fallout. "But climate change can't be forgotten this election," he said. "The Covid crisis has shown us countries can do remarkable things in short order when they believe they have to. It shows us we need leaders who also understand what we need to do on climate change, because that is another meteorite heading our way."</p>
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At the 2019 Republican Retreat, Donald Trump promised his allies that he would make this election about climate change: "I want to bring them way down the pike," he said, "before we start criticizing the Green New Deal."
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