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Kamala Harris’s climate plan: How does it hold up against the competition?

Maddie Blaauw

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Kamala Harris

In the third Democratic debate last Sunday, 2020 presidential candidates did not spend much time on climate change. However, candidate Kamala Harris made sure to use her time to make a strong stance about acting on climate change now. Harris also released a climate plan earlier this month, her own version of the Green New Deals many other candidates have released. 

During her allotted 45 seconds to summarize her stance on climate policy, Harris focused on the effect of inaction on future generations. In reference to the Republican stance on denying or minimizing the topic, Harris accused them of having a “lack of courage.” She also stated that as president she would “lead as president on this issue because we have no time, the clock is ticking.” However, during the debate time, Harris did not mention many specific details about her plan to take on climate change, besides her history of “[taking] on the big oil companies.” So what specific actions would Harris take as president to fight rising temperatures?

Kamala Harris has a history of advocating for the environment

Harris released a plan detailing her goals as president to act on climate change earlier this month, but even before that, she has backed several pieces of legislation to not only act on the emissions of big companies, but also to protect the Americans who suffer the most from pollution. In July, she joined forces with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to create the “Climate Equity Act.” Covered at length in this article from The Rising, this piece of legislation aimed to first identify and then give assistance to the communities which would suffer climate-related consequences. 

Harris has also referenced taking on big oil companies in her previous job as the attorney general of California. She held this role from 2011 through 2016. While the claim that she has sued oil companies herself is controversial, statements from her campaign spokesman Ian Sams support her claims of more general action against them. Sams stated that she “obtained $50 million in settlements from oil companies she took on like BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Phillips 66. She also announced criminal indictments against Plains Pipeline for the massive oil spill they caused off the coast (of) Santa Barbara. The case continued after Harris left the AG’s office and resulted in conviction.”

The 2020 presidential candidate also supported a carbon tax at a CNN forum on climate change. As this was common among the other democrats who attended the event, Harris took a step to set herself apart even further and voiced support for even more aggressive policy, including an outright ban on offshore drilling for oil and hydraulic fracturing (also known as fracking). 

Harris’s $10 trillion plan

Following the trend of other presidential candidates like Bernie Sanders releasing plans of action for a presidential term specifically pertaining to environmental policy, Harris also released her own, right before the climate forum. While the general ideas of her plan was similar to those in Green New Deals already released, there are certainly notable differences. 

First, the presidential candidate sets a goal of achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2045, five years faster than the United Nation’s recommended date of 2050. She would invest $10 trillion into reviving and overhauling infrastructure to achieve this. Possible methods of raising this money could come from the carbon tax backed by nearly all democratic candidates and even some of the republican candidates. 

Other goals from Kamala Harris that are less common among the Green New Deals currently circulating are to pass new fuel economy standards by 2035 to ensure that all new passenger vehicles would emit zero emissions. She would also expand the clean energy tax credit program beyond its current reaches to achieve total carbon-neutral electricity in 10 years. 

Perhaps the thing that Kamala Harris stresses most in her plan, though is that it is for the people of the world, not against big companies. While it certainly does aim to put legislation in place against these companies to achieve set goals, the focus is always brought back to protecting those that cannot protect themselves from big company carbon emissions. Harris frequently references her Climate Equity Act in the plan, making it a central component. Many believe that this feature allows her plan to be more well-rounded; it is not just about punishing the companies who hurt the environment, but also about supporting those who are and will suffer the most from the pollution. 

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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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