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Jay Inslee’s New $9 Trillion Climate Reform Plan

Steven Li

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jay inslee

The political arena is heating up when it comes to presidential candidates who seem to be increasingly keen on creating climate reform proposals. This phenomenon seemed to have stemmed from Beto O’Rourke‘s $5 trillion climate change reform plan. But since then, Washington Governor Jay Inslee seems to have one-upped O’Rourke with a new $9 trillion climate reform plan. What’s more important than the monetary backing of the proposal, however, are their core ideas.

In what Inslee calls the Evergreen Economy Plan, he proposes five key ideas to move America towards becoming a more sustainable nation.

Igniting America’s Clean Energy Economy

Specifically, Inslee’s plan hopes to have America be powered by 100% carbon-neutral electricity by 2030. Further, the proposal strives toward an America with “a fully clean, renewable and zero-emission electricity sector by 2035”. Now, that sounds like an incredibly ambitious goal. But if Inslee is able to pull it off, America will see an additional $600 billion invested into clean energy between 2020 and 2030. That, in turn, by generous estimates, should create millions of jobs.

To accelerate clean energy deployment, Inslee’s plan is comprised of introducing electrification upgrades in both households and businesses, supporting clean energy developments through a new federal financing authority, and improving financial incentives for clean energy deployment.

Building a Climate-Smart Infrastructure

With there being many complaints regarding our crumbling infrastructure, a crucial aspect of it is certainly the pollution it contributes. Under Inslee’s plan, he hopes to invest in sustainable transportation, clean water, affordable housing, among other initiatives. Inslee’s team estimates that the changes he hopes to implement will require an investment of $3 trillion, a hefty investment for sure but one that’s necessary to reach his ambitious goals.

Inslee hopes to have America achieve 100% zero-emission new vehicles by 2030, as an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are characteristic of the auto industry. Of course, this means that companies like Tesla are the future. As competition for market share in the EV market continues to grow, legacy companies like Ford Motors, among others, are likely to follow suit as both consumers and the government recognizes the value of electric-powered vehicles.

Smart grids are also a part of Inslee’s plan to improve American infrastructure. Of course, Tesla is innovating in this space too with its Powerpack. Micro-grids and other ways to localize power distribution networks is yet another way to put decision-making, when it comes to energy, in the hands of people.

Clean water needs no real introduction. When cities like Flint are suffering, as their citizens still suffer from the shortage of clean water, everyone loses. Innovations are already happening here, including through Jaden Smith‘s company, Just Water, but more needs to happen, without a doubt, and government action outside of private sector involvement definitely sounds like a must.

The feasibility of such an investment is definitely a question, as disagreements over the urgency of the climate change issue is definitely a point of contention that may prevent such a large amount of spending from happening.

Becoming a Leader In Clean Manufacturing

Inslee believes that it’s imperative to scale up domestic manufacturing and gives domestic manufacturers tax credits to incentivize manufacturing with sustainability goals in mind. Specifically, Inslee is interested in proposing legislation to Congress to increase investments into zero-emission vehicles.

Additional to Inslee’s focus on transportation, he also believes in what his team calls a “Buy Clean” program. Such a program would entail a federal procurement of low-carbon materials. It sounds like he’s interested in having the government become increasingly involved in aiding businesses to reduce their carbon footprints. It’s unclear how keen businesses will be in involving themselves in such a program, especially with party-line disagreements in government involvement in small business.

A less controversial plan is to crack down on companies that emit large amounts of hydrofluorocarbons, commonly referred to as HFCs. Under his plan, he’d use “executive authority to require oil and gas companies and utilities to find and stop methane leaks in pipelines delivering gas to power plants and industry”.

And Inslee hopes to take his proposal beyond the United States too. He believes that as America makes greater strides towards sustainability, that other nations are likely to follow suit, hence move our world towards a greener future. Clearly, that’s a good thing for all parties involved.

Invest in Innovation and Scientific Research

Inslee hopes to invest in STEM and climate science education at the K12 level, as well as at colleges (particularly HBCUs and other colleges that serve minorities) that are currently doing research in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Beyond funding research and science, Inslee is keen on making more people aware of the implications and ramifications of climate change. He cites President Trump’s actions “to undermine America’s climate science and its scientific community” as an important reason to make sure Americans are aware of the effects of climate change.

What he doesn’t mention explicitly is Trump‘s affinity towards the coal industry, a key point of contention between the two. But at this point, even Trump realizes he needs to prioritize climate change reform for 2020 as citizens become increasingly keen on sustainability initiatives.

Overall, Inslee hopes that America will continue to innovate in the energy sector, continue to do research into climate science, and continue to move the country towards sustainability.

Ensure Good Jobs

This is a similar idea to what AOC proposed in her Green New Deal. It definitely sounds like Inslee has more specifics in his proposal in terms of how we’re going to get there, though.

First and foremost, he hopes to introduce a G.I. Bill for impacted workers and reinvestments of resources from the coal community. Specifically, Inslee refers to how companies in the coal industry are laying off coal miners and other employees as a result of automation. Specifically, he cites some poor practices that are associated with companies in the coal space. These include reducing their pension obligations for employees, along with insurance benefits, among others. As a result, Inslee believes that America needs to provide greater support to workers working in the energy sector.

Particularly, Inslee believes that we should provide retirement benefits for impacted workers. Although Inslee’s one of the most outspoken politicians about the coal industry, it does seem like he’s interested in making sure that the employees of these industries are taken care of.

Conclusions

Inslee’s plan is likely the most specific of its kind, compared to his Democratic peers in the 2020 field. Like other proposals (e.g. O’Rourke’s), they’re wildly ambitious and so it’ll be interesting to see if they actually play out. Climate change hasn’t really been a huge focus in any other presidential election to date, but as young people continue to engage in activities like climate strikes and the like, it’s starting to look like climate change is definitely an issue young people are looking to vote on in 2020.

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Pacific allies condemn Australia over its inaction on the climate crisis

Rich Bowden

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Leaders discuss the climate emergency at the Pacific Islands Forum

The Australian delegation’s success at watering down the final communique on climate change at the Pacific Islands Forum last week has united Pacific nations against the regional power. Pacific leaders stated Australia’s pro-fossil fuel strategy at the forum, hosted by the island state of Tuvalu, will have negative consequences for the region’s future.

‘Fierce’ discussions about the climate crisis continue

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama attacked the Australian strategy in a tweet following the summit: “We came together in a nation [Tuvalu] that risks disappearing to the seas, but unfortunately, we settled for the status quo in our communique. Watered-down climate language has real consequences — like water-logged homes, schools, communities, and ancestral burial grounds.”

Bainimarama described Australia’s behavior towards the other Pacific nations as “very insulting and condescending.”

The Fiji PM was not alone in criticizing Australia’s negotiation strategy, which appeared to be to remove any reference to fossil fuels in the final communique. Vanuatu’s foreign minister Ralph Regenvanu, who was part of the negotiating process, described the discussion as “frank, fierce at times, [with] very strong positions being held.” He added that negotiations nearly broke down due to Australia’s intransigence.

Australia’s refusal to condemn fossil fuels as a major contributor to the climate emergency appeared to be the defining factor in the rancorous debate, according to sources.

Saving nations or the economy?

Speaking at a joint press conference with Australian PM Scott Morrison following the week-long forum, host Tuvalu’s PM Enele Sopoaga, said he told Morrison: “You are concerned about saving your economies, your situation in Australia, I’m concerned about saving my people in Tuvalu and likewise other leaders of small island countries,” he said.

“… we were exchanging flarey language, not swearing, but of course you know, expressing the concerns of leaders and I was very happy with the exchange of ideas, it was frank. Prime Minister Morrison, of course, stated his position and I stated my position and [that of] other leaders: we need to save these people,” he added.

However, the rancor was not limited to the forum. New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern, who said Australia needed to “answer to the Pacific” was on the receiving end of a vicious attack by Australian shock jock Alan Jones who suggested PM Morrison put a sock down the throat of the NZ PM. The derogatory comments drew criticism from Morrison.

Doors open to other regional powers

The Australian government’s lack of empathy for its Pacific neighbors, many of whom face an existential threat from rising sea levels caused by climate change, has opened the door for other countries to build influence in the region, according to commentators. The most active alternative is China which has offered Pacific nations concessional loans to help mitigate the effects of climate change.

Last week’s Pacific Islands Forum is being seen by observers as an opportunity lost by Australia to build confidence amongst its Pacific allies.

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The rise of ecofascism: a new deadly motivation for the far-right

Maddie Blaauw

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From Avengers: Endgame to China’s former one-child policy, concerns about overpopulation negatively affecting the environment are well-known. While the panic incited by the movement has passed, white nationalists and fascists are misapplying it and other environmentalist ideas to support their own violent goals. And by doing so, they’re effectively weakening the real climate activism arguments of those who don’t subscribe to extremist ideologies of ecofascism.

The far-right relates its ecofascist beliefs to environmentalist ideologies

Just look to the national parks. Their unrivaled beauty and serenity stand in stark juxtaposition with the heartless history of the history behind them; thousands of Native Americans were forced from their homes in the belief that they would destroy the land.

Moving forward half a century, the publishing of “The Population Bomb” by Paul R. Ehrlich in 1968 warned of worldwide famine and upheaval caused by overpopulation. It both coincided with and fueled additional anti-immigration sentiment in the late twentieth century. Ehrlich has said that adding to the fire of violence against minorities was not his intention. But nonetheless, his work justified the repression of minority groups worldwide, blaming them for overpopulation.

Also in the second half of the twentieth century, John Tanton, widely regarded as the father of the modern anti-immigration movement, gained a considerable following. Since the founding of the Federation for American Immigration Reform in 1979, Tanton’s ideas inspired many mainstream American conservative beliefs. To support them, he pointed to scarce resources and land in the United States. He reasoned that the country would become heavily polluted and overrun in overpopulation without anti-immigration policy. Tanton often singled out the Latinx community, arguing they should be barred from pursuing a life in the United States. Though the term ecofascism hadn’t been coined back then, this particular idea is deeply ecofascist.

The far-right claims to protect the environment

The most recent of these events was a mass shooting at a Texas Walmart on August 3. The gunman killed 22 and injured 24 others. Just before the attack, a manifesto that used environmentalist views to justify anti-immigration sentiment appeared online. Authorities are working to determine if the document is linked to the suspect. A section reads, with respect to immigrants, “[I]f we can get rid of enough people, then our way of life can be more sustainable.”

The manifesto was titled “An Inconvenient Truth”, which may be an allusion to a 2006 climate documentary of the same name by Al Gore. The manifesto also cites the Christchurch shooting as motivation.

In the Christchurch mosque shootings of May 2019, which many extremists have rallied behind, the charged gunman expressed similar sentiments, attempting to justify anti-immigration with climate change activism. He mentions several times in his manifesto that he is an ecofascist.

Ecofascism is an escalating ideology

Politicians on the left maintain that climate policy should focus on solutions, like limiting pollution and utilizing renewable energy. The extreme right, on the other hand, continues to believe that the solution to climate change is to limit immigration.

The Nation journalist Jeet Heer says:

“This combination of a white nationalism with angst about the prospects for human survival is a perfect recipe for radicalizing young right-wingers and taking Trumpian themes to a new level of extremism … The very real dangers of climate change provide race war fantasists the dystopian background they need to give urgency to their violent agenda.”

Really, the far-right subscribes to ecofascism under the guise of climate change reform, and it’s having dangerous consequences.

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With new revisions to the ESA, Trump is putting endangered species at risk

Madeline Barone

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The Endangered Species Act (ESA), signed by President Richard Nixon in 1973, protected endangered species for the last 46 years. The Act also helps conservation partnerships nationwide to protect America’s animals. However, with the newest changes to the ESA, all bets are off for endangered species, as they become more at risk than ever before.

What will these changes do?

These changes will focus on how officials decide whether a species is endangered or threatened, what kind of protections threatened species should receive, and how officials will decide which areas of habitat to protect. 

When implemented, these changes may weaken the Endangered Species Act’s protections. For example, the changes could make it easier to remove species from the endangered and threatened species lists. The wording of the act may also allow the dismissal of climate change as an irrelevant threat to species’ survival. 

Species already listed as threatened or endangered won’t have their protections changed, but for new additions, the FWS rule case-by-case.  These revisions simply reduce protections for any species that get added to the threatened species list in the future. 

How are these changes different than past revisions?

These changes are far from surprising. The Trump administration proposed some of the revisions, specifically removing the phrase “without reference to economic impact” last July. Overall, these changes make it easier for officials to consider economic factors over environmental ones. 

Also, species categorized as “threatened”, a category placed one away from “endangered”, will no longer receive the same protections as species in the “endangered” category. Instead, the Trump administration will carry out protections on a case-by-case basis. 

What are the differing perspectives on the changes?

U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt claims that “the best way to uphold the Endangered Species Act is to do everything we can to ensure it remains effective in achieving its ultimate goal –recovery of our rarest species. The Act’s effectiveness rests on clear, consistent and efficient implementation.” He continued that “an effectively administered Act ensures more resources can go where they will do the most good: on-the-ground conservation.”

Leah Gerber, professor of conservation science and founding director of the Center for Biodiversity Outcomes at Arizona State University, disagrees. “The new rules completely undermine the strength of the ESA,” Gerber told TIME. “The point of the act is to prevent extinction, this is going to do the opposite. It’s going to undermine efforts to recover species.”

It seems that these revisions are simply to fit President Trump’s economic goals. Although rollbacks to the ESA have been implemented since the Act’s founding, these changes could jeopardize species that are already at-risk. 

Thomas Lovejoy, a Senior Fellow of Biodiversity and Environmental Science at the United Nations Foundation, thinks this is a way for the administration to ignore the effects of climate change on species survival. 

“I consider that absurd since it’s an administration that doesn’t believe in climate change,” Lovejoy told TIME. “The impact of climate change and the fingerprints of climate change can be seen in nature wherever you look. It’s really egregious to ignore it.”

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