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This Republican Congressman Wants to Change How His Party Views Climate Change

Emily Dao

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The GOP has long denied the effects of global warming, with President Donald Trump at the helm of its anti-climate change platform. However, after major pushes against the crisis from crucial voting groups, some Republicans have been switching positions on the issue. Republican consultant Whit Ayers said, “Denying the basic existence of climate change is no longer a credible position.”  More notably, Louisiana Congressman Garret Graves believes that the Republican outlook on the climate crisis needs to change. Most have likely never heard of him, so let’s dive into who he is.

Who is Garret Graves?

Graves currently serves as the top Republican on a Democrat-led select panel on climate change. The committee was created last winter after a group of 150 teenage activists staged a sit-in at Nancy Pelosi’s office. 

Backed with a detailed PowerPoint presentation, Graves urged Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy to take advantage of the panel. Specifically, he insisted there was “a better way to apply Republican principles to this issue of climate change.” 

Considering Graves’ home state, his care for the matter makes sense. According to the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), a football field of land is lost to the Gulf of Mexico every 100 minutes in coastal Louisiana. Devastating floods and hurricanes have caused mass destruction to the state, not to mention rising sea levels have also caused crippling damage to the state’s economy. 

“We’ve lost 2,000 square miles of our coast,” Graves said. “If the state of Rhode Island lost 2,000 square miles, we’d have 49 states today.” 

The EDF supported Graves’ selection on the climate committee. An outdoorsman with a deep love for nature, Graves rides an eco-friendly electric motorbike and loves climbing mountains. He even named his three children after his favorite peaks. 

During his career, Graves co-sponsored a wetlands conservation bill and called for recognition of Louisiana Cajuns as an endangered species. Additionally, he implored the Trump administration to grant Louisiana flooding victims with relief aid, among other efforts. 

Though Graves seemingly looks like a man with a passion for environmentalism, some are skeptical about his intentions.

Graves’ Track Record Calls For Skepticism

Years ago, Graves told The Guardian: “Years ago I said that I thought the Republican position on climate change is unsustainable.”

He adds: “Just sitting around totally denying science is an unsustainable position.” 

But even still, Democrats and environmentalists are still skeptical of Graves’ motives. The third-term representative only received a three percent lifetime rating by the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) on his environmental record. In 2018, the LCV scored Graves a 0%. This means of all 2018 legislation the LCV believed to be vital in environmental conservation, Graves voted in opposition. 

The New Yorker reported Graves accepted twice as many donations from contributors in the oil and gas industry than any other in the last election cycle. In total, the congressman has received upwards of $515,600 of contributions from the industry over the last 5 years, as found by nonpartisan, nonprofit research team Open Secrets.

Garret Graves' Fundraising Data. Source: OpenSecrets.org
Garret Graves’ Fundraising Data. Source: OpenSecrets.org

It’s also important to know Louisiana’s huge contributions to the fossil fuel industry. An analysis by the federal government cited Louisiana as one of the top 10 states in crude oil reserves and annual crude oil production. The profile also recognized the state’s total energy consumption and per capita energy consumption as one of the highest in the country, due to its booming petroleum, chemical, and natural gas industry. 

Conclusions

So, although Graves has been the GOP’s advocate for climate change, he hasn’t held the fossil fuel industry accountable. Though several other party members hold a similar view, chances of stifling Trump’s push to become the most energy dominant nation are slim. 

While Graves isn’t jumping on board with any left-wing climate policies any time soon, his recognition of climate change and still guides many conservative politicians out of the dark on this issue. Now, there’s just hope his voting record will start aligning more with his call for action. 

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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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