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Boris Johnson Poses Serious Threat to UK’s Environmental Future

Ari Kelo

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With Boris Johnson stepping in as Prime Minister, the race against the clock to find a Brexit deal is on. The UK has until October 31st to leave the European Union — deal or no deal. But since Johnson might pursue a hard Brexit, the UK may cut all ties with the EU, including its environmental policies. So what exactly does a hard Brexit mean for the UK’s approach to sustainability? And how else will Boris Johnson change the UK’s environmental future?

In Leaving the EU, Boris Johnson Will Also Leave Its Environmental Pacts Behind

As a member of the EU, the UK has signed onto many international environmental agreements. Two of the most significant agreements are the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and the 2015 Paris Agreement. When the UK signed the Kyoto Protocol, it pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And under the Paris Agreement, the UK agreed to set its own goals to reduce future emissions. These two agreements encourage countries to work together to fight climate change.

But under Boris Johnson, the UK might withdraw from these agreements. Although a hard Brexit is not guaranteed, it seems imminent. 85% of Boris Johnson’s supporters want a no-deal Brexit, a percentage so high that Johnson probably won’t dare to disobey them. If a hard Brexit happens, the UK will have no trade, political, or environmental agreements with the EU. It won’t even be a part of the European Economic Area. Without any ties to the EU, the UK will have no need to agree to EU politics. So, without the EU forcing the UK to participate in environmental agreements, Johnson and the majority conservative Parliament may choose to withdraw from them.

Why Boris Johnson Will Probably Choose to Withdraw from Environmental Agreements

This possibility of withdrawal seems likely. Johnson is a known ally of US President Donald Trump, who plans to formally withdraw from the Paris Agreement in November. Johnson may choose to follow Trump’s footsteps and abandon these international efforts to fight climate change. To make matters worse, 27% of the Conservative Party that voted for Johnson wants less emphasis on climate change.

Moreover, Johnson’s history in environmental policy is hardly promising. As the UK’s foreign secretary, Johnson “oversaw ‘devastating’ cuts in efforts to tackle the climate crisis … and then wanted to hush them up.” And as Mayor of London, he reduced the “congestion zone” — the area of London you must pay to drive through — which helped limit fuel emissions. His voting record as an MP also shows a lack of concern for environmental protection. In 2016, he voted against requiring the energy industry to plan carbon capture and storage.

He also voted against creating a decarbonization target for the UK. Considering these past actions, it’s more than likely that Boris Johnson’s UK will no longer cooperate with international environmental agreements.

And with the Conservative Party holding a majority in Parliament, environmental action groups like Greenpeace UK and Great British Oceans have very little political influence. Even the elected Green Party holds only a handful of seats in Parliament. Since his opposition has little political power, Boris Johnson has enough free reign to do as he pleases.

The UK’s Environmental Future is Uncertain

The UK’s future for sustainability and environmental protection isn’t all grim. Just last month, the UK signed legislation into law requiring all carbon emissions to hit net zero by 2050.

But this is a pretty hefty task. And by leaving the EU, the consequences of slipping up will become less severe. To complicate achieving this goal even more, Johnson supports deregulation and small government. This raises the question of how the UK will manage to cut its carbon emissions without much governmental support.

To add to this uncertainty, last year Johnson claimed that any Brexit deal — if one were to even happen — should allow the UK the freedom to alter existing standards and legislation. Therefore, even if the UK reaches a Brexit deal, Johnson will insist on having the power to reduce the UK’s environmental standards.

It’s too early to say how the UK will move forward in terms of its environmental policy. But as it approaches multiple political crossroads, time is running out. Once Boris Johnson solidifies Brexit, the British government will have less incentive to cooperate with other countries on environmental fronts. If the UK can force itself to uphold environmental protections without international support, that’d be quite the feat. But the ball is in Boris Johnson’s court, and he may be playing for the other team.

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Politics

Let’s Say Trump Starts A War With Iran. What Would Happen To The Environment?

Ari Kelo

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Since President Trump assassinated Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani via drone-strike on January 3rd, the world has stood still with bated breath. Will war break out between the United States and Iran? If it does, it will certainly destroy lives, properties, and economies. But how would war with Iran affect the environment?

A War With Iran Could Expedite Ecocide

One of the many tragedies of war is the environmental toll it inflicts. And this toll will only be compounded by the constantly rising threat of climate collapse. As the climate crisis becomes more and more dangerous in the 2020s, war (let alone world war) will only expedite its advance.

Much of war’s environmental consequences arise from chemical pollution. Especially in war zones with heavy military vehicle presences, the oil residue will contaminate natural resources. In addition, the uranium found in discarded ammunition rounds can cause radiation, which hurts both plant and human life.

Ramifications of Chemical Weapons

Chemical weapons can also easily produce carcinogenic environments. High radiation levels from chemical warfare can increase the risk of cancer around war zones — alongside poisoning soil, water, and crops.

Not only that, but air force bases can generate toxic fuel spills. These spills contaminate drinking water sources and pollute land and natural resources. Wartime destruction of infrastructure, oil fields, and military bases also cause widespread oil and chemical leaks.

Deforestation Becomes a Bigger Threat

Deforestation becomes a bigger threat during wartime as well. As warfare increases the number of displaced peoples, they often must resort to using timber for warmth in the winter months. Warlords can then take advantage of this demand, furthering deforestation.

To make matters worse, bases will oftentimes purposefully burn military garbage. These ‘burn pits,’ alongside causing long-term health problems, are disastrous for the environment.

And What About Nukes?

A war with Iran, in particular, may promise an added threat. The U.S. has an extensive supply of nuclear weapons at its disposal, although Iran has not pursued a nuclear arsenal. If the U.S. or any other nuclear powers choose to pursue nuclear warfare, the environmental outlook is grim.

Researchers have analyzed the environmental consequences of small-scale nuclear war. Only 100 deployed nuclear weapons would toss so much sun-blocking soot into the atmosphere that the global temperature would lower one degree Celcius.

This may sound like a possible combative to global warming, but the temperature drop would distribute unevenly, mainly targeting inland areas responsible for agriculture. This could cause food insecurity — or nuclear famine — that could reach the whole globe.

If that doesn’t sound too pleasant to you, then you probably won’t like to hear that global precipitation rates would also plummet, as would the security of many food chains.

The U.S. Department of Defense’s Carbon Footprint

All those consequences would certainly create an enormous environmental disaster. Unfortunately, another (even larger) environmental disaster must be considered. That disaster is the astronomical carbon footprint of the U.S. Department of Defense, which would only increase in the event of a war with Iran.

Since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001, the U.S. military has emitted around 1,212 million metric tons of greenhouse gases. This is a larger figure than the greenhouse gas emissions of 140 nations combined.

And, based off of 2017 estimates, the military has emitted 59 million tons of carbon dioxide. The Department of Defense is also the number one institutional user of petroleum across the globe. Even without a war with Iran, these numbers are unsustainable.

And, in comparison, the U.S.’s climate defense budget is 0.2% of the Department of Defense’s budget.

All these alarming numbers add up to one climate catastrophe. If a war with Iran is imminent, so is further climate collapse.

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“Addressing climate change” is the #1 issue for 14% of voters in the 2020 election, poll finds

Avery Maloto

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Climate Debate Survey

The last year seems to have been an environmental wake-up call for many, realizing addressing climate change should be a top priority. From company policies to green technology, more and more organizations are engaging with eco-friendly practices. But it’s not just companies — it’s also people like you and me.

It’s not just anecdotal either. Polls and studies are repeatedly finding that people are indeed dedicated to addressing climate change — especially in the 2020 elections. 

With the 2020 elections fast approaching, the public is constantly assessing the qualities of presidential candidates. A new poll finds, almost unsurprisingly, that addressing climate change and protecting the environment are top priorities for many American voters.

New Poll Shows Addressing Climate Change is a Priority

According to an Environmental Voter Project poll, environmental issues are one of the leading voter concerns.

In fact, after assessing 1,514 U.S. registered voters, the team found that 14% of the sample designated “addressing climate change and protecting the environment” as their single most important issue. Additionally, the research notes that the group is primarily composed of 18-29-year-olds, Democrats, and individuals who self-identify as “very progressive”.

Although seemingly small, these numbers show exponential growth from previous data collected 4 years ago. During the 2016 Presidential election, only 2-6% of registered voters considered addressing climate as their prioritized issue

Environmental Voters Show Outstanding Dedication

Compared to previous years, individuals show a record-breaking motivation to participate in the 2020 presidential election

In fact, some 35% of sampled voters were willing to wait over an hour to cast their ballot. 

However, out of all categories, individuals who listed addressing climate change as their most important issue seem to display the most dedication to their civic duties. In this group, voters are willing to wait an average of an hour and 13 minutes to cast their ballot. This is approximately 10 minutes more than the next longest wait time. 

Storming Polling Booths in Waves

According to Nathaniel Stinnett, the founder of the project, “There are almost 30 million climate voters who are already registered to vote. That’s a huge constituency”. He continues to note that these numbers are approximately “four times the number of NRA members”. Historically, the NRA is a group that helped influence previous elections.

These numbers can only increase. With this, the overall political advocacy for the environment should strengthen over time.

Summary (oh, and Register to Vote!)

Although other matters such as healthcare and immigration seem to play an important role in voters’ minds, it’s comforting to see a trend in environmental dedication. However, it does not stop here.

From raging bushfires in Australia to the melting of the Arctic, it is evident that more effort needs to be put into addressing climate change.

Fortunately, we are becoming rapidly weary of the implications climate change has on the planet. Despite tens of millions of individuals already committed to voting for the environment, you can still play a role.

To ensure that our planet will have the proper protection, register to vote and make sure to stay up to date with the 2020 elections.

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The Real MEAT Act Of 2019: A Vicious Political Attack On Plant-Based Meat

Brian D'Souza

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Plant-based meat has gained significant traction in the past year as companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods released their products to a mainstream audience. Using ingredients like soy, beetroot, and herbs to create a surprisingly convincing plant-based burger, these companies have received generally positive reception from consumers and critics alike.

The market is growing at a rapid pace too; in fact, some estimates show that the plant-based meat market could reach $85 billion in the next decade. Hence, it is unsurprising that the beef industry is worried about plant-based meat taking market share. But what is surprising is the way the industry is fighting back.

Introducing the Real MEAT Act, a piece of legislation supported by strong political and financial backing from some of the most prominent companies in the meat industry.

How the Fight Between Plant-based Meat and the Meat Industry Began

Though on one hand consumers have found plant-based meat to be tasty, they are also an environmentally-friendly substitute. Providing a valuable nutrition source at a fraction of the energy necessary for naturally-sourced beef, plant-based meat is giving the beef industry a run for its money.

Today, the methane that cows belch out is one of the many sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, cattle herds require wide swaths of cleared land. Land clearing has most recently allowed the Amazon fires to ensue.

These sustainability concerns have made plant-based meat all the more appealing for consumers and companies like Beyond Meat and others.

The beef industry is worried; hence, it is looking to take competitors down with legislation.

Introducing The Real MEAT Act of 2019

In October, Representatives Roger Marshall (Republican, Kentucky) and Anthony Brindisi (Democrat, New York) introduced the Real MEAT Act to the House.

MEAT stands for Marketing Edible Artificials Truthfully, which nicely caps off an obvious bow to vested interests with a succinct acronym. The bill received raucous applause from NCBA (National Cattlemen’s Beef Association) elites, their profits seemingly assured.

The bill asserts that plant-based meat products are confusing customers. Though the bill makes no specific mention of any companies, it seems to assert that companies like Beyond Meat are ruthlessly deceiving customers.

The Real MEAT Act would force these companies to stop using words like “burger”, “sausage”, and “meat” in their products. Instead, legislation would force companies that sell plant-based meat to use clinical and un-appetizing adjectives to describe their products.

That, unsurprisingly, would likely lead to decreased sales.

Understanding the Real MEAT Act and Its Interests

More recently, Nebraska Senator (Republican) and career cattle rancher Deb Fischer proposed the Real MEAT Act in the Senate. She defended her bill in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.

Deb Fisher proposed the Real Meat Act of 2019 in the Senate.
Deb Fisher proposed the Real Meat Act of 2019 in the Senate.

The article features a plethora of willfully obstinate and patently false arguments, but this is one of them: 

“Many of these fake-meat companies are running smear campaigns against actual beef, using deceptive labeling and marketing practices. This has left consumers confused about the ingredients and nutritional values of so-called beef alternatives.” — Nebraska Senator Deb Fischer

What the Real MEAT Act Means for Plant-Based Meat

The bill seems to have a nefarious motivation behind it, but there’s a chance that it still passes. On the bright side, a federal judge recently swatted down a similar bill from Arkansas state legislature.

The Real MEAT Act, however, is supported by financial and political backing on a nationwide scale.

What You Can Do Today To Help

If you are for free-market competition in the beef industry, consider calling your Congressional Representative today. Urge them to speak against the Real MEAT Act.

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