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2020 Democratic Presidential Candidates: Where They Stand On Climate Policy

Emily Dao

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A CNN poll discovered 82% of registered Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents cared about enacting aggressive policies to tackle climate change. With twenty-four Democrats currently running for office, it’s important for voters to know where the 2020 candidates stand on climate policy.

Despite voters’ concern for the nation’s approach to climate, few have announced detailed policy proposals to stop this crisis.

Joe Biden

What do we know about Joe Biden’s stance on climate change? | The Rising

Joe Biden has faced criticism by many Democrats for being too moderate on climate. However, Biden’s new $5 trillion climate proposal is a lot more expansive and progressive than critics expected.

Biden’s campaign said, “On day one, Biden will sign a series of new executive orders with an unprecedented reach that goes well beyond the Obama-Biden Administration platform and put us on the right track.”

In Biden’s plan, he promised to rejoin the Paris Agreement and pressure and assist other foreign powers in committing to climate targets. Further, he hopes to invest in clean energy research and reach net zero emissions by 2050.

Biden plans to finance $1.7 trillion of the project from federal spending by undoing President Trump’s corporate tax cuts. The campaign says the rest will be funded by state and local governments, as well as private companies.

“Science tells us that how we act or fail to act in the next 12 years will determine the very livability of our planet,” Biden said in a statement. “That’s why I’m calling for a clean energy revolution to confront this crisis and do what America does best—solve big problems with big ideas.”

Bernie Sanders

Bernie labeled climate change as the "single greatest threat facing our planet" in the 2016 elections.
Bernie labeled climate change as the “single greatest threat facing our planet” in the 2016 elections.

Only recently has climate change become a priority among presidential candidates and a concern among voters. When Bernie labeled climate change as the “single greatest threat facing our planet” last election, few took him seriously.

Sanders’s view on the urgency of climate change

However, after growing concerns for climate change, what once seemed like an overly dramatic stance has become standard for many 2020 candidates. In fact, many 2020 contenders have echoed Sanders’ sentiment, declaring climate change as the nation’s most pressing threat today.

Candidates’ stance on the Green New Deal may also contribute to their popularity among voters. The bold non-binding resolution, introduced by AOC and Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey, aimed to address climate change and economic inequality. Although the resolution expectantly didn’t pass in the Republican-controlled Senate, conversation on climate change didn’t stop there. If anything, it only gave more attention to the call for environmental change.

Almost all of the Democratic candidates have either expressed support for the Green New Deal or proposed alternative plans. Six presidential candidates even co-sponsored the Green New Deal: Sanders, Warren, Booker, Harris, Klobuchar, and Gillibrand.

Elizabeth Warren

Senator Elizabeth Warren calls for a $2 trillion climate plan spread over 10 years.
Senator Elizabeth Warren calls for a $2 trillion climate plan spread over 10 years.

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren called for a $2 trillion climate plan to be spread over 10 years on clean energy research, manufacturing, and exporting in order to “achieve the ambitious targets of the Green New Deal,” according to Warren’s website.

Warren plans to invest $400 billion towards developing a National Institutes of Clean Energy modeled after the National Institutes of Health and commit the federal government to spend $150 billion annually for the next decade on products that are clean, environmentally-friendly, and American-made.

Warren’s three-part climate package would also include a $100 billion investment in the Green Marshall Plan, which would assist poorer countries expected to be most afflicted by the effects of climate change. This plan is a nod to the Marshall Plan from World War II, in which America helped fund the rebuilding of Western Europe.

An analysis by Moody’s showed Warren’s proposal would create a quarter-million jobs by 2020, with employment rising to 1.2 million come 2029.

Upon unveiling her plan at a campaign event in Detroit, Michigan, Warren said, “America has faced huge challenges before, WWII and putting a man on the moon. This environmental catastrophe bearing down on us may be the biggest challenge yet.”

Additionally, Warren proposed bicameral legislation alongside Texas Representative Veronica Escobar entitled the Defense Climate Resiliency and Readiness Act (DCRRA). This bill would focus on protecting the military by modernizing their bases to be more resilient to the threat of climate change, as well as making military operations and infrastructure more energy-efficient to create, in Warren’s words, a “green military.”

Kamala Harris

California Senator Kamala Harris released a proposal aimed to alleviate damages created by climate change on low-income communities.
California Senator Kamala Harris released a proposal aimed to alleviate damages created by climate change on low-income communities.

The California Senator released a proposal aimed to alleviate damages created by climate change on low-income communities. Harris teamed up with Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for what she’s called The Climate Equity Act, to ensure that all measures taken to fight climate change would also benefit vulnerable communities and groups. This newly unveiled plan would also include the establishment of an Office of Climate and Environmental Justice Accountability.

Pete Buttigieg

Mayor Pete wants every American household to be a so-called "net-zero" consumer.
Mayor Pete wants every American household to be a so-called “net-zero” consumer.

Buttigieg and has voiced his thoughts on what he believes needs to be done. Mayor Pete wants every American household to be a so-called “net-zero” consumer, according to Grist. The mayor has also called for quadrupled funding for government research on renewable energy and energy storage, and vowed to ban all fossil fuel development on public lands.

Like Warren, though, Buttigieg doesn’t necessarily make climate policy a crucial part of his campaign. However, he agrees with the likes of AOC and others who are very passionate about sustainability and the environment.

Beto O’Rourke

O'Rourke proposed a $5 trillion climate plan.
O’Rourke proposed a $5 trillion climate plan.

Along with Inslee, former Texas representative Beto O’Rourke and Colorado Senator Michael Bennet are among the sole presidential candidates with clear-cut proposals to fight against climate change. O’Rourke proposed a $5 trillion plan emphasizing the need for improved innovation and green infrastructure, while Bennet unveiled his own plan to allocate $1 trillion towards climate change funding. Bennet’s proposal also aims to develop greener technology and infrastructure. Both candidates’ proposals strive to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

Andrew Yang

Andrew Yang has a number of ideas a part of his climate policy.
Andrew Yang has a number of ideas a part of his climate policy.

Although Andrew Yang’s flagship policy is Universal Basic Income, he does indeed have a page dedicated to climate policy. On that page, he cites ambitions to invest in carbon capture and geoengineering. Further, Yang looks to revitalize the EPA, invest in urban development, and promote renewable energy adoption.

Recently, we reported that according to a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything), Yang said that as president, he would dramatically improve the appeal of renewable energy, rejoin the Paris Agreement, implement a carbon fee and dividend, plant a lot of trees, and look towards geoengineering.

Jay Inslee

Governor Inslee is running on a climate platform.
Governor Inslee is running on a climate platform.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee currently leads the fight against climate change among his contenders, largely building his platform around the problem. Inslee has addressed the issue of climate change more thoroughly and frequently than any other candidate, proposing the most ambitious, detailed, and swiftest plan to combat climate change.

Inslee’s $9 trillion climate reform plan, which he calls “The Climate Mission,” has the hopes of achieving 100% clean energy by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2045. Funding would be allocated throughout the course of 10 years, and be used to invest in a cleaner manufacturing economy, modernized infrastructure, more scientific research, and increased jobs with benefits for citizens affected by the weakening of the fossil fuel industry, among others.

To say Inslee’s proposal is detail-oriented would be somewhat of an understatement. Inslee’s second climate change agenda was some 38 pages long, and Inslee plans on releasing three or four more packages addressing the issue.

Inslee also has proposed an environmental justice office, an agency dedicated towards helping low-income communities suffering from the effects of climate change. To do this, the governor said he would convert the White House Council on Environmental Quality into the Council on Environmental Justice.

Additionally, the 2020 election’s most aggressive candidate on climate proposed a ban on “forever chemicals” that pollute the drinking water for millions of Americans. Along with this, just before the second round of primary debates, Inslee released a 36-page climate justice plan. This acts as the fifth addition to Inslee’s otherwise 170-page plan.

However, despite Inslee’s assertive approach towards a cleaner planet, polling data indicates Inslee is barely on the majority of American citizens’ radar for the Democratic nomination.

Amy Klobuchar

Klobuchar will put forth "sweeping legislation" to invest more money in clean, renewable energy and infrastructure among others.
Klobuchar will put forth “sweeping legislation” to invest more money in clean, renewable energy and infrastructure among others.

While Klobuchar endorsed the Green New Deal, she has stated it was more of an “aspirational” layout for actual legislation. On Klobuchar’s website, her priorities include reentering the Paris Agreement on day one of her presidency and reinstating the Obama administration’s clean power rules and fuel standards on day two and three.

It also states online that Klobuchar will put forth “sweeping legislation” to invest more money in clean, renewable energy and infrastructure among others.

John Hickenlooper

Governor Hickenlooper believes that the Green New Deal is unachievable.
Governor Hickenlooper believes that the Green New Deal is unachievable.

Thus far, the only Democratic candidate who has opposed the plan is former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. In an op-ed for The Washington Post, Hickenlooper said that the Green New Deal was unachievable. His comments weren’t immune from criticism. Many on the left believe his comments come from his close relations with the gas and oil industry. On the other hand, Hickenlooper looks to encourage the government to work with the private sector rather than oppose it.

Bill de Blasio

Mayor de Blasio joins the fight against climate change.
Mayor de Blasio joins the fight against climate change.

New York City’s Mayor de Blasio is one of the greatest proponents for fighting climate change in the Democratic field. In his words, “We don’t debate climate change in New York City.”

He believes that the implications of climate change are clear. In his plan, de Blasio hopes to elevate parks and building flood barriers to tackle rising sea levels.

Recently, de Blasio also contributed to New York City’s styrofoam ban. As mayor, he made NYC the largest city to institute such a ban.

John Delaney

Delaney looks to implement a carbon tax and invest in greener technologies.
Delaney looks to implement a carbon tax and invest in greener technologies.

Former Maryland Representative John Delaney is one of the latest candidates to put forth a climate reform proposal. Delaney plans to implement a carbon tax and devote $4 trillion towards increased funding for the Department of Energy, specifically to invest in greener technology. Delaney hopes to eliminate 90% of the nation’s carbon emissions by 2050.

What’s Next?

The elections are well underway and the crisis of climate change only continues to become more pressing. Now, it’s just a waiting game to see which candidates choose to enact more aggressive policies to fight climate change.

Last updated: 29 July 2019. This is a developing story that will be updated as more candidates develop their own proposals to combat climate change. If we missed something, let us know at tips@mediusventures.com.

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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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