In anticipation of the first Republican presidential debate, Politico's Andrew Restuccia laid out the questions "we'd ask the candidates" if "we had it our way." Among the questions Restuccia came up with are why climate-denying GOP candidates think they "know better than most climate scientists"; what would be their "alternative" to the Clean Power Plan for meeting the Supreme Court requirement that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) limit carbon pollution; would they "support dismantling the federal EPA" like Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI); do they "believe that fossil fuels receive any subsidies in the tax code"; and do they support the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste project.
From the August 6 edition of Politico's Morning Energy (ME):
HERE'S WHAT ME WOULD ASK: ME is under no illusion that energy will take center stage at the debate. But if we had it our way, here's what we'd ask the candidates:
-- How many of you think climate change is a hoax? If so, what evidence can you point to to support that position and why do you know better than most climate scientists?
-- How specifically would you go about dismantling Obama's climate regulations? Given that the Supreme Court has compelled the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, what would your alternative be?
-- If diplomats succeed in reaching an international climate change deal later this year, would you ignore those commitments as president?
-- Would you support dismantling the federal EPA and delegating its responsibilities to individual states, as Gov. Walker has suggested?
-- If President Barack Obama rejects the Keystone XL pipeline, would you encourage its developer to resubmit an application as soon as you take office, so your administration can approve it?
-- Do you support lifting the ban on crude oil exports? How would you respond if, as some critics warn, ending the crude export ban results in a gasoline price spike?
-- Do you believe that fossil fuels receive any subsidies in the tax code? If so, how many would you support repealing? (Be specific.) If not, why not?
-- What is your position on the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste project? And if not Yucca, where should the nation put its nuclear waste?
There has been a lot of media discussion lately about the "winners and losers" from the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Clean Power Plan, which will fight climate change by placing the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants. But with all of their focus on the political, financial, and legal ramifications of the carbon pollution standards, reporters are frequently overlooking the biggest winner of all: public health, particularly that of children, seniors, low-Income communities, people of color, and anyone with heart or lung disease.
As the American Lung Association (ALA) has put it, the Clean Power Plan "will directly save lives." The EPA estimates that its plan will result in up to 3,600 fewer premature deaths every year -- not to mention 90,000 fewer asthma attacks and 1,700 fewer heart attacks -- once it is fully implemented in 2030.
But the landmark policy will be even more important for certain communities that are particularly vulnerable to air pollution and the effects of climate change. According to the ALA, those most at risk include "infants, children, older adults, people with lung disease, people with cardiovascular disease or diabetes, people with low incomes and anyone who works outdoors." These Americans face some of the greatest risks associated with unchecked climate change, such as worsened ozone and soot pollution.
People of color are also disproportionately impacted by climate change, as EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Green for All Executive Director Nikki Silvestri have explained. According to a report by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), nearly three-quarters of African-Americans live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant. The NAACP has also noted that African-Americans, who are more likely than whites to live in urban and coastal areas, are particularly at risk from climate impacts such as rising sea levels, food insecurity, and heat-related deaths. And the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reports that African-Americans are three times more likely than whites to die from asthma-related causes.
Similarly, Latinos are 60 percent more likely than whites to go to the hospital for asthma and 40 percent more likely than whites to die from asthma, according to HHS. Meanwhile, the 2014 National Climate Assessment stated that new Hispanic immigrants are particularly "vulnerable to changes in climate," due to "[l]ow wages, unstable work, language barriers, and inadequate housing," all of which are "critical obstacles to managing climate risk."
For all these reasons and more, the Clean Power Plan will help address what the Natural Resources Defense Council calls "the disproportionate health impacts of dirty, coal-fired power generation on low-income communities and people of color."
So while there will be plenty of time to discuss whether cap-and-trade programs or climate science denial are politically "toxic," there should also be room in the conversation for the role the Clean Power Plan will play in making the air we breathe cleaner and safer.
Image at top via Flickr user Mike Licht using a Creative Commons License.
Right-wing media have reacted to the unveiling of the final version of President Obama's historic Clean Power Plan with claims that it will hurt America, denials that it will benefit public health, and personal attacks on the president and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy. Here's a sampling of the conservative media's most unhinged, over-the-top reactions.
Rightwing media are echoing claims by the fossil fuel industry that the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Clean Power Plan, President Obama's landmark climate change policy, will dramatically increase electricity bills. In reality, while the Clean Power Plan may slightly increase Americans' electric bills in the short term, multiple independent analyses support the EPA's claim that the plan will result in significantly lower electric bills once it is fully implemented.
From the August 3 edition of CBS Evening News With Scott Pelley:
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Major U.S. newspapers ran front page stories about devastating California wildfires alongside reports on the Environmental Protection Agency's newly-finalized Clean Power Plan, President Obama's flagship policy to address climate change. Yet with only one exception, these newspapers' wildfire articles ignored the documented role that global warming has played in worsening wildfires.
Author and New York Sun co-founder Ira Stoll attacked Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's new climate change plan for focusing on installing solar panels instead of setting emissions limits or investing in battery storage technology. Stoll apparently didn't realize that those policies are included in Clinton's plan, too.
In a July 27 Sun op-ed, which was also published on conservative news sites NewsMax and Reason.com, Stoll lectured Clinton that her goal of installing more than half a billion solar panels by the end of her first presidential term isn't a "serious" climate change strategy. According to Stoll, if Clinton "really wants to fight climate change," she should abandon her solar panel goal and instead pursue other policies, such as "fund[ing] research and development for battery storage" or "set[ting] emissions goals and let[ting] utilities or states decide the cheapest and best ways to meet them" (emphasis added):
If Mrs. Clinton really wants to fight climate change or cut carbon emissions, there are plenty of ways to go about it. She could fund research and development for battery storage. She could set emissions goals and let utilities or states decide the cheapest and best ways to meet them. She could allow more hydrofracturing that replaces coal-fired plants with cleaner oil and natural gas. But counting solar panels? Come on, Mrs. Clinton. Get serious.
But Clinton's proposal actually includes both of those things.
In a briefing fact sheet that she released as part of her climate change plan, Clinton announced that her "Clean Energy Challenge" would include funding "clean energy [research and development], including in storage technology" (emphasis added):
As part of the Clean Energy Challenge, Clinton will ensure that every part of the federal government is working in concert to help Americans build a clean energy future. This includes:
Innovation: Increase public investment in clean energy R&D, including in storage technology, designed materials, advanced nuclear, and carbon capture and sequestration. Expand successful innovation initiatives, like ARPA-e, and cut those that fail to deliver results.
And Clinton also confirmed that she would make it a "top priority" to defend and implement the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Clean Power Plan, which sets the first-ever federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants. As the EPA has explained, the Clean Power Plan involves "EPA setting a goal and the states deciding how they will meet it. Each state will choose the best set of cost-effective strategies for its situation."
Stoll's only other climate policy suggestion -- that Clinton "allow more hydrofracturing" -- ignores evidence that methane leaks may eliminate any of the potential climate benefits of extracting natural gas via hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. And Stoll's claim that oil-fired power plants are "cleaner" than coal-fired plants is an exercise in exceedingly low expectations, since the carbon-intensity of oil-fired plants is only marginally better.
There's also one other reason Clinton shouldn't take Stoll's advice on how to best address climate change: He doesn't accept that it is a particularly serious problem. According to Stoll, "Secretary Clinton assumes that man-made climate change is a risk serious enough to try to mitigate and that America should try to mitigate it by reducing its carbon emissions. These are big 'ifs,' but ones I will grant for argument's sake."
If only he would also grant Clinton all of the proposals that are included in her climate change platform.
Image at top by Paul Morse and taken from Flickr using a Creative Commons License.
In a Q&A about the 2016 election on the Facebook page of NBC's Meet the Press, Blue Virginia's Lowell Feld asked: "Given that the most important issue facing humanity - by far - is climate change, why isn't your show devoting an appropriate amount of coverage to this topic?" Host Chuck Todd responded: "Fair critique on the lack of coverage; We plan to do more and do it soon."
From the July 22 edition of Fox Business Network's Mornings With Maria Bartiromo:
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Democratic presidential candidate Martin O'Malley was on solid ground when he recently linked climate change to the rise of ISIL, but Fox personalities and other conservative media figures have continued their deceptive onslaught against his remarks.
As Media Matters detailed, multiple expert studies and reports explain how a severe drought likely due to climate change caused economic and social conditions in Syria to deteriorate, which provided "tinder" for the 2011 uprising there. Experts have also detailed how ISIL took advantage of Syria's civil war to gain territory and establish a base of operations in the country. O'Malley summarized this research accurately during a July 20 interview with Bloomberg Television, saying "Climate change and the mega-drought ...created a humanitarian crisis" in Syria that "led now to the rise of ISIL."
In response -- and in spite of the evidence -- right-wing media figures relentlessly mocked O'Malley, as Media Matters catalogued. But some of the worst reactions have occurred since our piece was published.
On the July 21 edition of Fox Business' Kennedy, host Lisa "Kennedy" Montgomery and her panelists agreed that O'Malley is "a moron," with Kennedy mockingly declaring: "I guess when you mix a rise in temperature with a lack of water, you get an Islamic caliphate!" Joanne Nosuchinsky, co-host of Fox News' Red Eye, then compared O'Malley's comments to saying "my use of aerosol hairspray is as bad as beheadings":
And on the July 21 edition of Fox News' The Five, co-host Greg Gutfeld said O'Malley "suffers from A.B.I.S., or Anything But Islam Syndrome. It's like IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), except he's the pain in the ass":
Read more about the connection between global warming and the rise of ISIL here.
Right-wing media are mocking Democratic presidential candidate Martin O'Malley for stating that a severe drought linked to climate change created a "humanitarian crisis" in Syria leading to the rise of the jihadist organization known as ISIL (or ISIS). But O'Malley's remarks are backed up by studies and reports affirming the link between human-caused global warming, the Syrian civil war, and the emergence of ISIL.
From the July 16 edition of Christian Broadcasting Network's The 700 Club:
A July 14 CNN.com article promoted the thoroughly debunked right-wing claim that, according to a group of scientists, a decrease in solar activity over the next 15 years could lead to a "deep freeze." In reality, the scientists' findings about the "irregular heartbeat of the Sun" did not include any analysis of how it might impact global temperatures, and several recent studies that did address the issue found that any cooling from decreased solar activity would be far outweighed by increased warming due to greenhouse gas pollution.
In a July 9 press release, the British Royal Astronomical Society stated that professor Valentina Zharkova and her colleagues had created a model that suggests "solar activity will fall by 60 per cent during the 2030s to conditions last seen during the 'mini ice age' that began in 1645." That line was quickly distorted by conservative media outlets on both sides of the Atlantic, such as the UK's Telegraph and The Washington Times, which claimed the scientists had found that the earth is likely heading for a "mini ice age."
Zharkova herself did not help matters when she hesitantly answered, "Yes, indeed" when asked during a July 13 interview with Radio New Zealand whether she was "saying we've got 15 years before there's an ice age?" Zharkova, who is a professor of mathematics at Northumbria University in England, clarified later in the interview that she doesn't "do atmospheric research" and "can't say for sure" what impact the phenomenon she has predicted, known as a grand solar minimum, will have on the earth's climate relative to global warming.
However, studies that specifically researched the potential climate impact of a grand solar minimum have found that it would be very small compared to the continued warming that will occur as a result of man-made climate change, a fact that appeared in several publications before CNN.com posted its article.
In 2013, The Guardian's Dana Nuccitelli cited several studies on the impact a grand solar minimum would have on global temperatures, concluding, "A new grand solar minimum would not trigger another [Little Ice Age]; in fact, the maximum 0.3°C cooling would barely make a dent in the human-caused global warming over the next century." More recently, The Washington Post reported on July 14 that "several other recent studies of a possible solar minimum have concluded that whatever climate effects the phenomenon may have will be dwarfed by the warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions." Similarly, blog posts by Slate's Phil Plait and the websites ...and Then There's Physics and HotWhopper each cited one of those studies, which was published in Nature Communications and found that "[a]ny reduction in global mean near-surface temperature due to a future decline in solar activity is likely to be a small fraction of projected anthropogenic warming."
Moreover, Think Progress's Joe Romm has pointed out that that the planet actually faces the opposite of a "mini ice age" in the decades ahead, as recent studies by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory indicate that "[t]he Earth is headed toward an imminent speed-up in global warming" (emphasis original).
Despite all of this evidence to the contrary, CNN.com headlined its story, "Scientists: Sun's irregular 'heartbeat' could mean future freeze." The article did acknowledge lower down that the scientists' research has not been published or peer reviewed and "needs a closer look," and also reported that NOAA's Doug Biesecker "said the research shouldn't give anyone the idea that because the weather may cool, climate change is not something to be worried about." But these acknowledgements raise the question of why CNN.com ran this story in the first place.
CNN.com is not the only mainstream media outlet to help advance this climate denial myth; as climate advocate Miles Grant noted, ABC News affiliates in both the Bay Area and Chicago also reported that "scientists say [the] Earth will enter a 'mini ice age' by 2030." Hopefully other media outlets won't make the same mistake.
Image at top via Flickr user Justin Kern using a Creative Commons License.
To deny the fact that polar bears are in danger of extinction from unmitigated climate change, the Daily Caller turned to a Heartland Institute-affiliated biologist who dismissed scientific computer climate models as an "opinion."
"The single most important step for polar bear conservation is decisive action to address Arctic warming," the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) wrote this week in their draft recovery plan for polar bears, which are listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. The plan was issued after newly released data from the U.S. Geological Services (USGS) showed that greenhouse gas emissions are the species' "primary threat," due to the predicted Arctic sea ice loss that will diminish polar bears' habitat and food supplies.
But don't worry, polar bears are "doing just fine," according to the Daily Caller.
To refute the federal agencies' warnings, the conservative news publication turned to scientists affiliated with the fossil fuel-backed Heartland Institute. Daily Caller first quoted Canadian biologist Mitchell Taylor, who dismissed the USGS' report because he said it is "based on climate models, not empirical data." The agency's climate models are "an expression of their opinion," said Taylor, adding that "it's simply their idea of what will happen if the carbon models are correct."
Taylor prefers "empirical data" to modeled forecasts of climate change. However, the empirical data also show that Arctic sea ice has been declining at record rates. The sea ice levels recently were at their lowest for the month of May since record-keeping began in the 1980s, and have been on a steady decline since then.
Taylor was a contributing author for the Heartland Institute's "Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change" (NIPCC) report that attempts to mirror and debunk UN climate science reports. He has also signed the Manhattan Declaration, which posits that carbon dioxide -- the primary factor in human-caused climate change -- is "not a pollutant but rather a necessity for all life."
Daily Caller also quoted zoologist Susan Crockford, who dismissed the USFWS report as alarmist and "flawed," and who also co-authored Heartland's report. The online outlet frequently turns to Crockford to deny global warming's impact on wildlife.