For the second time in recent months, The Washington Times has cherry-picked statements from fossil fuel industry-funded individuals and organizations to allege that the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Clean Power Plan "faces opposition from black [and] Hispanic leaders." In reality, a great majority of African-American and Latino voters support climate action, and leaders from many of the largest minority groups have come out in support of the plan.
Several polls indicate that African-American and Latino voters overwhelmingly support government action to combat climate change -- and the Clean Power Plan specifically. Additionally, many major black and Hispanic organizations have endorsed the EPA's plan to reduce carbon pollution from power plants because of the financial and health benefits it will provide for their communities.
Here's a list of people of color who aren't representing the fossil fuel industry that The Washington Times could have cited if it had wanted to fairly reflect how the nation's African-American and Latino communities feel about the Clean Power Plan:
Cornell Williams Brooks, NAACP President and CEO: In an Aug. 4 statement mentioning the health benefits the EPA's plan would bring to African-Americans living "within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant," NAACP's Cornell Williams Brooks noted:
"As we enter the third day of America's Journey for Justice, I applaud President Obama's introduction of the Clean Power Plan. Just as we march to preserve our right to vote and to ensure that our children have access to good schools and a quality education, we also march to preserve our rights to clean air, clean water and to communities less impacted by climate change. The NAACP will continue to advocate for safer, cleaner, healthier energy alternatives and the job opportunities that result from innovative energy solutions. We stand with President Obama's efforts to establish the protections our communities need."
Albert S. Jacquez, Deputy Executive Director of National Council of La Raza Action Fund (NCLRAF): In an Aug. 8 opinion column in The Huffington Post, Jacquez cited concern about how the Latino community is among the most affected by climate change in places like California, Texas, and Florida as a key reason for the overwhelming Latino support for taking action:
Thus, it is not surprising that Latinos are so concerned about climate change. Polling shows that 82 percent are concerned with climate change, and nine-in-ten believe it is important for the government to take action on climate change.
This is why President Obama's historical and ambitious Clean Power Plan is so important and relevant for Latinos. The Clean Power Plan sets the first-ever limits on dangerous carbon pollution from the nation's existing power plants. It will protect public health from dangerous carbon pollution, invest in clean, renewable energy development, and boost energy efficiency measures, creating jobs in the process.
Gilbert Campbell and Antonio Francis, Volt Energy: In a statement, the two co-founders of this "minority-owned renewable energy firm" applauded the Clean Power Plan:
Volt Energy applauds President Obama's leadership on clean energy and especially with the Clean Power Plan. The president's leadership and commitment to clean power and climate action has helped the industry create millions of jobs and become one of the fastest growing sectors in our economy. As a minority-owned renewable energy firm, we also appreciate his championing of small businesses and working towards creating an inclusive green economy.There is real wealth being created in the clean energy industry and it is vital that communities of color are actively involved and also reaping the benefits.
Jamez Staples, Renewable Energy Partners: Staples, who is also on the Economic Development Committee of the African American Leadership Forum, said:
"We live in a time when profits are increasingly valued over people. The Clean Power Plan has the capacity to create more balance by opening doors to clean energy that protects our health and our kids' futures."
Kimberly Lewis, U.S. Green Building Council: Lewis, who fights to expand "access to green building to communities of color," stated:
My nieces and nephews are the light of my life. They will bear the burden of previous generations unsustainable use of energy resources that lead to pollution and climate change. President Obama's Clean Power Plan is vital to protecting vulnerable populations such as children, the poor and the elderly who share an undue burden of climate change. It will not be easy - but we believe the EPA's approach can work.
Christine Alonzo, Executive Director of the Colorado Latino Leadership Advocacy Research Organization (CLLARO): In an Aug. 5 op-ed published in The Denver Post, Latino organization representative Christine Alonzo expressed her group's support for the Clean Power Plan:
As part of the national strategy to deal with climate change, CLLARO supports the Clean Power Plan and will encourage members of the Latino community to support it also. The improvement in the quality of health and life within the Latino community and the overall Colorado community merits such support.
Van Jones, Green For All: Van Jones, founder of Green for All -- which works to "make sure people of color have a place and a voice in the climate movement" -- praised the Clean Power Plan in an op-ed co-authored with Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN) and published in The Guardian. They wrote that communities of color are disproportionately exposed to the health hazards of power plants, and that the Clean Power Plan "is a desperately needed response" to this problem:
African-Americans are more likely to live near environmental hazards like power plants and be exposed to hazardous air pollution, including higher levels of nitrogen oxides, ozone, particulate matter and carbon dioxide than their white counterparts ... We can't afford this. Black kids already have the highest rate of asthma in the nation, and our infant mortality rate is nearly double the national rate.
President Obama's Clean Power Plan is a desperately needed response to this problem. The Clean Power Plan would cut carbon pollution from power plants and put our country on a path towards cleaner energy solutions. It could stop up to 6,600 premature deaths and prevent up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children over the next 15 years - especially in African-American communities.
Elena Rios, National Hispanic Medical Association: National Hispanic Medical Association President and CEO Elena Rios said in a statement:
I, along with the National Hispanic Medical Association's 50,000 member doctors and allied health professionals, strongly support the EPA's final rule limiting carbon pollution from existing power plants. Pollution from these power plants -- both carbon pollution and other toxic power-plant emissions -- sickens people raising the risk of illnesses like asthma, allergies, lung cancer and heart disease.
The League Of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC): In a press release at the time the EPA's climate plan was announced, LULAC stated that "the Clean Power Plan will benefit Hispanic Americans more than most":
The League of United Latin American Citizens, this nation's largest and oldest Hispanic civil rights organization, fully supports the Environmental Protection Agency's plan to cut carbon pollution from America's power plants. Given that half of the U.S. Latino population lives in areas where the air quality does not meet EPA's health standards and that Latinos are 30 percent more likely to have to visit the hospital for asthma related attacks, the Clean Power Plan will benefit Hispanic Americans more than most.
Coalition Of Hispanic Groups Voiced Strong Support For Clean Power Plan In Letter To EPA's McCarthy. In a letter to EPA administrator Gina McCarthy, a coalition of groups including GreenLatinos, AZUL, National Hispanic Medical Association, Latino Decisions, Mujeres de la Tierra, National Hispanic Environmental Council, Presente.org, CHISPA, Hispanic Federation, and Protegete: Our Air, Our Health stated:
We strongly support EPA in moving forward with the proposed Clean Power Plan in the strongest form possible. We know that communities of color and low-income communities, including the Latino community, are frequently among those most negatively impacted by carbon pollution. Whether it is exposure to health damaging copollutants associated with carbon emissions or the present and worsening effects of climate change, these impacts are both direct and indirect and they threaten the social and economic order of overexposed and overburdened communities.
During the 5 p.m. ET Fox News Republican presidential debate, moderator Bill Hemmer asked Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) how Republicans could "trust" him after his "extremely unpopular" collaboration with Democrats on a cap-and-trade bill to address climate change. Graham reportedly warned Democrats at the time that they needed to accelerate negotiations on the bill as quickly as possible, "before Fox News got wind of the fact that this was a serious process." The network would go on to make a deliberate effort to undermine efforts to pass climate legislation.
During the debate, Hemmer asked Graham, "you worked with Democrats and President Obama when it came to climate change, something you know is extremely unpopular with conservative Republicans. How can they trust you based on that record?"
Ryan Lizza reported in The New Yorker that during 2010 negotiations on that climate bill, Graham urged fellow senators to move quickly on legislation before Fox found out about it: (emphasis added)
At a climate-change conference in South Carolina on January 5, 2010, Graham started to sound a little like Al Gore. "I have come to conclude that greenhouse gases and carbon pollution" are "not a good thing," Graham said. He insisted that nobody could convince him that "all the cars and trucks and plants that have been in existence since the Industrial Revolution, spewing out carbon day in and day out," could be "a good thing for your children and the future of the planet." Environmentalists swooned. "Graham was the most inspirational part of that triumvirate throughout the fall and winter," Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club, said. "He was advocating for strong action on climate change from an ethical and a moral perspective."
But, back in Washington, Graham warned Lieberman and Kerry that they needed to get as far as they could in negotiating the bill "before Fox News got wind of the fact that this was a serious process," one of the people involved in the negotiations said. "He would say, 'The second they focus on us, it's gonna be all cap-and-tax all the time, and it's gonna become just a disaster for me on the airwaves. We have to move this along as quickly as possible.'"
Fox News hosts and guests would go on to viciously attack the bill, which never came to a vote in the Senate.
Graham ultimately withdrew from the bipartisan climate bill efforts, subsequently claiming that he didn't believe human-caused emissions "are contributing overwhelmingly to global climate change."
Media Matters later obtained an email from Fox News Washington managing editor Bill Sammon to Fox journalists instructing them in the midst of the 2010 climate bill debate on Captiol Hill to "refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question." Sammon has since been identified as the "secret weapon" helping Fox journalists "craft the questions" for the evening debate.
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: