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Andrew Yang understands the climate crisis. Here are 5 ways he’ll tackle it as president.

Steven Li

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As climate change quickly became an important point of discussion for politicians, most presidential candidates have kept the pace and announced plans to tackle the issue. Jay Inslee is running on a climate platform, what he calls the Evergreen Economy Plan. Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke, and Cory Booker called climate change the number one geopolitical issue for the United States; the former two have extensive plans to combat the issue. But don’t forget about Andrew Yang — he gets the climate crisis and he’s a man with a plan … a couple of them too.

Yang recently did a Reddit AMA, and users wanted to know more about his climate position. Well, voters asked and he answered:

Andrew Yang voices what he'd do as president to combat the climate crisis.
Andrew Yang voices what he’d do as president to combat the climate crisis.

Andrew Yang expressed five main ways he would tackle the climate crisis as President of the United States:

1. Dramatically Improve the Appeal of Renewable Energy

Yang pledges to make it as easy as possible for communities to adopt renewables as a power source.
Yang pledges to make it as easy as possible for communities to adopt renewables as a power source.

Yang (rightfully) points out that the United States makes up only 15% of global emissions, meaning that other countries need to get involved in the fight against the climate crisis too. Specifically, as it comes to renewables, some countries aren’t as enthusiastic. For instance, China recently announced it would stop subsidizing onshore renewable energy projects. In turn, Chinese investments in renewables have dropped some 39%.

Though global investments into renewable energy dropped, it’s not all downhill. For India, Japan, Spain, and Sweden, investments went up as much as 200%. As capital costs and political stalling serve as barriers for countries to implement solar and wind farms, the appeal of renewable energy, for some reason or another, simply isn’t high enough for widespread adoption. Specific to the United States, Yang pledges to “Direct the EPA to coordinate with state and local governments to measure the impact of different policies on effecting positive impacts in the area of renewables adoption.” In other words, he’ll try to make it as easy as possible for communities to adopt renewables as a power source.

2. Rejoin the Paris Accord

Yang says he wants to have the United States rejoin the Paris Agreement, a highly-popular decision among Americans.
Yang says he wants to have the United States rejoin the Paris Agreement, a highly-popular decision among Americans.

Yang says he wants to have the United States rejoin the Paris Agreement. And that’s probably because he knows that most Americans are on board with it. In 2017, Yale found through a national poll that some 70% of Americans want the United States to remain in the agreement. Further, The Atlantic reports that the debate over the Paris Agreement isn’t as partisan as most may think. In fact, almost 50% of self-identified Trump supporters were on board with America being a part of the agreement.

The agreement would entail the United States making commitments to reducing emissions and getting involved in capping temperature increases, among other tenets. If Yang is elected, he hopes to have America join almost 200 other signatories in the fight against the climate crisis, a position antithetical to Trump’s.

3. Implement a Carbon Fee and Dividend

President Yang would implement a carbon fee and dividend-based policy that would charge companies for emissions.
President Yang would implement a carbon fee and dividend-based policy that would charge companies for emissions.

Fundamentally, a carbon fee and dividend-based policy would entail charging companies for carbon emissions resulting from burning fossil fuels. Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL), an organization that has been pushing for a carbon fee for nearly a decade now, suggests:

“The fee would start out low — $15 per metric ton — and increase by $10 each year.”

Yang has a more ambitious agenda. According to his campaign website, he’d like to start the carbon tax at $40 per metric ton and pit half of the earnings towards funding his signature UBI policy, and the other half in “enhancing [the] efficiency of fossil fuels or increasing availability of renewable resources.”

To hold other nations accountable, President Yang would “Charge a fee on imports from countries that don’t impose a similar carbon fee or some type of carbon tax.”

When it comes to consumer prices, estimates show that for every $10 per metric ton, the consumer would pay an extra 11 cents per gallon on gas and 1% for products ranging from TVs to airplane tickets, according to CCL. On the other hand, though, the fee that companies pay would go right back to the end consumer. These consumers will be able to pay for goods in the market, which will have effectively increased in cost too.

According to Forbes, a carbon tax could also create jobs, an idea central to Yang’s campaign.

4. Plant a lot of Trees

Andrew Yang believes that we should "plant hundreds of thousands of trees as fast as possible." Drones could potentially do that. Image Source: REUTERS/Feisal Omar
Andrew Yang believes that we should “plant hundreds of thousands of trees as fast as possible.” Drones could potentially do that. Image Source: REUTERS/Feisal Omar

Some organizations have long been on board with planting a lot of trees. The Nature Conservancy, for example, is on a mission to plant 1 billion trees. One Tree Planted, a Vermont-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, is solicits donations for the purpose of helping plant trees. Yang wants to encourage this kind of behavior on a larger scale.

Planting trees comes with a variety of benefits, which include but are not limited to removing and storing excess carbon dioxide, cleaning the air, preventing water pollution, and preventing soil erosion. Andrew urges that we “plant hundreds of thousands of trees as fast as possible.” In a technology-enabled society, that prospect doesn’t seem impossible anymore. Allegedly, drones can help plant over 100,000 trees every day. The environmental impact would be huge if the Yang administration could make this happen.

5. Look Towards Geoengineering

Yang seems to be bullish on the prospect of geoengineering, especially as it relates to aerosols.
Yang seems to be bullish on the prospect of geoengineering, especially as it relates to aerosols.

Geoengineering, or intervening in Earth’s inherent climate systems, has been a relatively controversial approach to tackling the climate crisis. However, Yang seems to be bullish about the prospect. On aerosols, he’s referring to the idea that they could reflect sunlight and cool the Earth, NASA finds.

On his campaign website, Yang says that as president, he will form a “new Global Geoengineering Institute and invite international participation.”

Through the institute, he hopes to increase investments into geoengineering research, including “cloud-seeding technology to increase the atmosphere’s reflectivity.”

Did we miss something about Andrew’s climate platform? Let us know at tips@mediusventures.com.

Politics

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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