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2020 Republican Presidential Candidates: Where They Stand On Climate Policy

Steven Li

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William Weld

The Rising staff writer Emily Dao recently covered where all of the 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidates stand on climate policy. Some Democrats do seem to be focused on releasing detailed policy proposals to combat climate change. But where do the Republicans stand?

So far, there are two Republican candidates for president: the incumbent, President Donald Trump, and businessman William Weld, who also happens to be a former Governor of Massachusetts and VP candidate on the Gary Johnson ballot in 2016.

Donald Trump

donald trump

Starting with Trump’s most recent statements, it is clear that he doesn’t really believe that there is a climate crisis. This is a clear a point of contention he would have with Democrats including Inslee and O’Rourke. Specifically, during an interview with Piers Morgan, when asked if he believed in climate change, Trump responded: “I believe there’s a change in weather, and I think it changes both ways.”

VICE News climate change contributor Alex Lubben was critical on this idea of the weather changing both ways. Evidence published by NASA seems to support Lubben’s criticism. It seems unequivocal that carbon emissions levels are rising and global warming is happening.

Knowing where Trump stands on climate makes evaluating his policy a lot easier. Because Trump has rolled back some 84 environmental rules, it’s most feasible to cover the more critical ones. Here are some of the key rollbacks he’s made:

  • In June of 2017, Trump announced that he would have the United States stop its participation in the Paris Agreement. The withdrawal would be finalized in 2020, at the earliest.
  • Make it unnecessary for oil and gas corporations to report methane emissions statistics.
  • Un-ban the use of chlorofluorocarbons in ACs and refrigerators.
  • Stop using Obama-era “social cost of carbon” calculations that let legislators effectively predict the ramifications of emissions.
  • Reduce water pollution regulations pertaining to lands belonging to Indians.
  • Completely roll back regulations passed in the Obama administration to mandate governments to make infrastructural considerations to account for rises in sea level.
  • Open new land in habitats of endangered species for drilling purposes.
  • Repeal rules for coal companies to dump rubbish into rivers.
  • Reduce American funding to the United Nations’s Green Climate Fund, an initiative looking to help poorer countries mitigate the ramifications of carbon emissions.

To get a fuller picture, feel free to check out the New York Times’s coverage on all 84 rollbacks.

Altogether though, Trump clearly doesn’t see climate change as a mainstream problem, at least not one his administration looks to solve. It will be interesting to see if he will introduce ‘cleaner’ policy proposals for the 2020 elections as voter concern about climate change continues to mount.

William Weld

William Weld

Unlike Trump, Weld agrees with 70% of Americans who believe the United States should participate in the Paris Agreement. Based on Axios’s reporting, Weld has promised to have the United States rejoin the Paris Agreement.

Additionally, he told reporters at Hill.TV that “The burden of climate change is going to fall on you all if nothing is done.” A step further, Weld cited climate change as one of the two crucial reasons he’s running for President in 2020.

On a separate occasion, Weld told NHPR radio host that he disagreed with Trump’s sentiment on oil and gas. “You know fossil fuels are the past…not the future,” said Weld. Currently, there is no reason to believe he would support renewable energy. At the same time, it is too early to rule that possibility out either.

There is, so far, no evidence to suggest Weld would help big oil and gas legislatively if elected President. But some would argue that being moderate on climate isn’t enough.

Weld has yet to release climate policy on his campaign website. What he would do for the environment as President remains to be seen. What we can expect though is something between AOC and Trump, to cast a wide net.

Conclusions

The Republican field isn’t homogenous across the board. Not every politician lets lobbyists of big oil and gas firms buy them out. And that’s exactly why it’s important to follow the money.

We’ll be sure to let you know who’s who when it comes to climate in 2020 so you can make your own informed decision.

The Rising staff will update this developing story as more candidates develop their own climate policy or existing candidates add to theirs.

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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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