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The latest House climate hearing went about as well as you’d expect

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John Kerry deserves some kind of award (in addition to his Purple Hearts) for responding to a slew of truly dumb questions on Tuesday with his signature composure.

The House Committee on Oversight and Reform held its first climate hearing on Tuesday and, hoo boy, it was a doozy. The former secretary of state, alongside former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagle, fielded questions from Republican and Democratic representatives — ostensibly on the subject of climate change and national security — for a good four hours. I know what you’re thinking: “Four hours of testimony? Count me out.” But this wasn’t your typical congressional snoozefest, I promise.

Despite some off-the-wall questions, Kerry only lost his cool (read: appeared vaguely exasperated) a few times. Exhibit A: when Kentucky Republican Thomas Massie asked a series of increasingly inane questions that culminated in: “Did geology stop when we got on the planet?”

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Rather than taking the time to explain that geological change is, in fact, ongoing, Kerry responded: “This is just not a serious conversation.” Zing!

Not to be outdone, Paul Gosar of Arizona — the same Republican representative who suggested that photosynthesis discredits climate change — asked Kerry whether he supports a ban on plastic straws. An important national security question!

“It would be great to provide a way to move to a biodegradable straw, frankly,” Kerry replied, bemused. Then, Gosar picked up a dark gray ball of what he described as “rare earth … from the Mojave Desert” as a prop to demonstrate his point that the U.S. needs to be more aggressive about mining rare earth metals if it wants to develop renewable technology.

Kerry described the stunt as “a five-minute presentation on all the reasons we can’t do this or that without any legitimate question or dialogue.” Another zinger!

On the Democratic side, representatives Ro Khanna of California and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York focused on the need for swift action, promoting the progressive climate proposal called the Green New Deal. Ocasio-Cortez asked the bipartisan committee to read the contents of the 14-page resolution, which she co-introduced in February, in full. “We don’t need CliffsNotes,” she quipped.

Now that Democrats are back in control of the House, there have been more and more climate change hearings happening. But after four hours of questioning on Tuesday, the committee didn’t have much to work with. That’s a hard pill to swallow, even with the aid of a biodegradable straw.

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The latest House climate hearing went about as well as you’d expect

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Nathaniel Rich’s ‘Losing Earth’ tells lost history of our current climate predicament

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Nathaniel Rich published his 30,000-word account of the years between 1979 and 1989 — the decade humanity missed its chance to fix climate change — in the New York Times Magazine last August. The response to the piece was so staggering that Rich put aside his other projects and started turning it into a book the very next week. Losing Earth: A Recent History is out on the shelves April 9, just eight months after the magazine version hit newsstands.

Our near-constant companion throughout the whole sordid tale is an environmental lobbyist by the name of Rafe Pomerance. In 1979, when the story begins, Pomerance happened upon a report warning that continued use of fossil fuels would cause “significant and damaging” changes to the planet’s atmosphere in the span of a few decades. Alarmed, Pomerance, with the aid of a geophysicist named Gordon MacDonald, decided to try to bring the issue to the attention of the U.S. government.

At first, serious progress appeared to be underway. The Carter administration commissioned a report to ascertain whether the issue was really as dire as some scientists were saying. (It was.) But when a team of scientists, policy experts, and government officials convened at a hotel in Florida to craft a framework for addressing the problem, they couldn’t even agree on what the opening paragraph of their statement should say. Thus began an excruciating decade of indecision, delay, and obstruction.

Pan Macmillan, 2019

If you finished the marathon task of reading the original magazine article, you’ll find the plotline more or less familiar, though there are some new chapters. And this time around, Rich addresses something many readers, including this one, were left wondering: What do we make of this history?

“We can realize that all this talk about the fate of Earth has nothing to do with the planet’s tolerance for higher temperatures and everything to do with our species’ tolerance for self-delusion,” he writes in the afterword. “And we can understand that when we speak about things like fuel efficiency standards or gasoline taxes or methane flaring, we are speaking about nothing less than all we love and all we are.”

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Grist caught up with Rich to talk about his new book and what we can make of the agonizing history he unearthed. Our conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Q.Did you plan to turn your article into a book?

A.As soon as the piece was published, I realized there were some very large questions that arose from the history. I felt some obligation to try to answer those questions more explicitly than I was able to do in the article. I wrote a new afterword that’s essentially a stand-alone essay. I also wanted to go into a little more depth and bring the story up to date from 1989 to the present. Despite the length of the magazine piece, there was actually a lot I had to leave out. And so I was excited for the opportunity to publish a definitive version of the story that I think is fuller, more comprehensive, and more complete as a work of writing.

Q.I’m curious about some of the criticism your article received. Robinson Meyer of the Atlantic wrote that you let “fossil-fuel interests off the hook entirely,” and Naomi Klein argued that you overlooked the role capitalism played in dooming us all. How did you respond to that?

A.I was very surprised at some of those criticisms. As you said, there was this accusation, and usually it was expressed very viciously, that I had downplayed the oil and gas industry’s role in blocking climate policy during that decade. At first I was worried. I thought maybe — in my two-year survey and my interviews with like 100 people — maybe I did miss something.

The [oil and gas] industry wasn’t helping matters, as I write about in detail. Of course, they were aware of the science, just like the government, just like anybody who was following the issue, and made little effort to publicize it or anything else. They made no efforts to pass laws to limit emissions — that would be sort of a ridiculous expectation.

No one is disputing what happened since 1988 and ’89, but the suggestion was that there was a coordinated effort to stop climate policy earlier than that, and nobody in their attacks on the piece was able to come up with a single example.

Q.Why did you choose to tell the story this way, through the lens of a single decade in American history?

A.I felt that the story from 1989 to the present has been extraordinarily well told, and exhaustively told. And I didn’t feel like I had much to add to the story of industry involvement, the corruption of politicians, the corruption of scientists, the Republican Party’s embrace of, first, disinformation propaganda fed to it by oil and gas industry, and then the metastasizing of that into the full-fledged fantasy world of denialism.

What I felt was not understood very well, including by me when I first started researching it, was how we got to that point: the pre-history of our current paralysis. Paralysis not only in the political process but in some sense the dialogue, the public conversation about the subject. It’s been relatively unchanged since the 1990s. So there was this opportunity to tell the story of exactly a decade, from the establishment of scientific consensus about the nature of the problem and the birth of this movement to try to bring about a solution. That was the story that I feel like has been forgotten, including by a lot of people who are on the front lines of the climate change conversation.

A lot of activists and advocates are still under the impression that the problem started with James Hansen speaking before Congress in 1988. Even New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez the other day was giving an extraordinarily passionate, eloquent speech on the floor of the House about how we need to take action on climate, and she said that the government has known about this since 1989. I don’t mean to single her out, but even people on the leading edge of this are still essentially taking for granted the industry talking point that this is a new problem, something that has just come to light as recently as the 1980s. Of course, the government knew about it in the 1950s. And scientists knew about it decades before that. The amount of public amnesia around the issue is staggering.

Q.A few times throughout the decade you focus on in your book, the United States was on the precipice of real climate action. It never materialized. Now, it feels like parts of the public are mobilizing toward action again. Could this time be different?

A.What’s changed really in recent months in the public conversation is that the young leaders are now bringing new momentum to the issue. They’re saying things like, “our lives are at stake, you people in positions of power are robbing our future from us.” They’re also making very emphatic connections in the way they talk about how the climate crisis is inextricable from almost every issue of social injustice in the U.S. and globally. When you hear Ocasio-Cortez or Greta Thunberg talk about it, they’re making a moral argument that I think is frankly stronger and more profound, and ultimately more politically effective, than making only the logical argument. There’s a moral tenor to the way they’re talking about it that I don’t think was present and couldn’t have been present in the 1980s.

It’s a transformation of the dialogue that I think was inevitable, but it’s heartening to see it happening now. It’s extremely powerful and it will only become more so. I also think it’s a more honest way of speaking about the problem, as something that is a threat to our very humanity and the way we view ourselves. That’s why I went back to this period [between 1979 and 1989] because I think it’s a way of writing about this story in human terms, before the poisoning of the dialogue.

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Nathaniel Rich’s ‘Losing Earth’ tells lost history of our current climate predicament

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Tauntauns, seahorses, and lotsa babies: Mike Lee trolls the Green New Deal

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Senator Mike Lee of Utah gave a speech about the Green New Deal Tuesday morning on the floor of the U.S. Senate that included references to Star Wars, Aquaman, and the SyFy channel’s Sharknado series. While acknowledging the skill involved in relating the bold climate proposal to anything involving Steve Sanders from Beverly Hills 90210, Lee’s rant should sicken any American who has even a passing interest in living in a country with a functioning government.

Lee wasted more than 10 minutes of taxpayer time and money (which included the printing of five massive color photos) to lambast the proposed Green New Deal, introduced last month by New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey.

In debating the resolution, Democrats, ever the Charlie Brown gearing up to kick a phantom football, are talking about the seriousness of climate change, the impacts on their constituents, and the moral obligation to act. Meanwhile, Republicans are talking about the end of airplanes and the end of cows — two elements that aren’t in the resolution, but were alluded to in a FAQ mistakenly circulated via Ocasio-Cortez’s office — and are bringing an end to anything approaching a serious conversation about one of the most important issues facing the country and the world.

But it’s Lee whose speech really plumbed the depths of civil discourse in the halls of American government today. In it, as he attempted to take down the Green New Deal, he debased himself, his chamber, and the American people who rely on his unabashedly awful judgement to help make decisions about our future.

Here are some choice nuggets from a speech that should fill every American with rage, not just because of the climate denial on display but because of the total mockery that it makes of representative democracy.

He opens with some garden-variety climate denial: “Unlike some of my colleagues, I’m not immediately afraid of what carbon emissions unaddressed might do to our environment in the near-term future or our civilization or our planet in the next few years.”

Next, a ham-fisted attempt to liken the Green New Deal to a caricature of Ronald Reagan “fighting” in the Cold War: “I rise today to consider the Green New Deal with the seriousness it deserves. This of course is a picture of former President Ronald Reagan, firing a machine gun, while riding on the back of a dinosaur. … This image has as much to do with overcoming Communism in the 20th century as the Green New Deal has to do with overcoming climate change in the 21st.“

Time for more misinformation, specifically about travelling without airplanes. Lee suggests looking to The Empire Strikes Back and cartoons for transportation inspiration: “How are we supposed to get around the vast expanses of, say, Alaska, during the winter? Well, I’ll tell you how: This is a beloved species of repto-mammals native to the ice planet of Hoth. … Not only are Tauntauns carbon neutral, but according to a report a long time ago and issues far, far away they may be fully recyclable and usable for their warmth especially on a cold night. What about Hawaii? … All residents of Hawaii would be left with is this. This is a picture of Aqua Man, a superhero from the undersea kingdom of Atlantis and notably here a founding member of the Super Friends. I draw your attention, Mr. President, to the 20-foot impressive sea horse he’s riding. Under the Green New Deal, this is probably Hawaii’s best bet.”

Even more bullshit, this time on the elimination of cows (also not called for under a proposed Green New Deal): “I visited different areas in Utah. Every cow I spoke to said the same thing: ‘Boo.’”

Back to climate denial, starring sharks: “Critics will no doubt chastise me for not taking climate change seriously, but please, Mr. President, nothing could be further from the truth. No Utahan needs to hear lectures of the gravity of climate change from politicians from other states for it was only in 2016, as viewers of the SyFy network will remember when climate change hit Utah, when our own state was struck not simply by a tornado, but a tornado with sharks in it. These images are from the indispensable documentary film Sharknado 4.”

Hark? Is this an actual alternative solution to climate change? “Mr. President, this is the real solution to climate change: babies. … It’s a challenge of creativity, ingenuity, and more of all technological innovation. And problems of human imagination are not solved by more laws, they are solved by more humans, more people, bigger markets for more innovation. … The courage needed to solve climate change is nothing compared with the courage needed to start a family.”

Let’s take Senator Lee seriously for a moment. How about more babies? Set aside the fact that a bumper crop of kids would likely make climate change worse. It would really be passing the problem to still-unborn geniuses that will do the work Lee is too cynical to do himself. I’d like to think that whether you’re a Republican, a Democrat, or an Independent, you’d feel like what Lee rose to say in the Senate chamber on Tuesday was not a masterclass in “owning the libs,” but instead was one of the clearest pieces of evidence that our government isn’t working for our benefit right now. It’s broken.

It’s not enough that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, is gleefully bringing up the non-binding resolution — an ambitious plan to tackle climate change and inequality that is just lacking, well, a plan — but his GOP colleagues are turning what’s supposed to be the country’s foremost deliberative body over to discussion of what is simply a mission statement. Surely they have actual legislation to debate rather than playing out this political stunt. (In contrast, New Zealand’s legislators swiftly made over the country’s gun laws days after a horrific mass shooting.)

Yes, Lee’s antics were laughable. But it’s a reflection of how unseriously he takes one of the greatest threats imaginable. Sit on that for a second and, regardless of how you feel about climate change, see if it doesn’t fill you with anger, anxiety, and anguish.


Tauntauns, seahorses, and lotsa babies: Mike Lee trolls the Green New Deal

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Trump’s monument review was a big old sham

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This story was originally published by the HuffPost and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

President Donald Trump, a self-proclaimed “loyalty freak,” found a loyal friend and unwavering supporter in former Senator Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah.

So when Hatch’s office sent a letter in mid-March 2017 requesting that the Interior Department shrink the boundary of Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument to free up fossil fuel-rich lands, as the New York Times revealed, the Trump administration sprang into action.

A little more than a month later, Trump signed an executive order calling for a review of more than two dozen recent national monument designations. It was clear that Bears Ears was the primary target. At the signing ceremony, Trump said he’d “heard a lot about” the 1.35 million-acre site in southeastern Utah and how “beautiful” the area is. He painted the Obama administration designation as a massive federal land grab. And he boasted that it “should never have happened” and was made “over the profound objections” of the state’s citizens, and that he was opening the land up to “tremendously positive things.”

He made no mention of the five Native American tribes that consider the area sacred and jointly petitioned for the monument’s creation. Instead, he thanked Hatch for his “never-ending prodding.”

“[Hatch] would call me and call me and say, ‘You got to do this,’” Trump said. “Is that right, Orrin? You didn’t stop. He doesn’t give up. He’s shocked that I’m doing it, but I’m doing it because it’s the right thing to do.”

Again, this was before former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke launched what he promised would be an objective, thorough review of recent monument designations; one he said would give all stakeholders a voice. In the end, Trump signed a pair of proclamations to cut more than 2 million acres from Bears Ears and nearby Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument — the largest rollback of national monuments in U.S. history. Seemingly every action leading to that decision suggested the outcome was predetermined.

On Wednesday, Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee held an oversight hearing to examine what they described in a news release as Trump’s “illegal decision to shrink” the Utah sites. The event, titled “Forgotten Voices: The Inadequate Review and Improper Alteration of Our National Monuments,” featured testimony from several tribal leaders, the Utah state director of the Bureau of Land Management and other stakeholders. Zinke turned down an invitation to testify through his attorney, according to a committee spokesperson.

Representative Raúl Grijalva, a Democrat from Arizona and the committee’s chair, told HuffPost in a recent interview that Zinke created a culture at the Department of the Interior centered on “making life easier” for oil, gas, and mining interests at the expense of conservation and environmental stewardship. The monument rollbacks, he added, “epitomizes” that culture.

Grijalva echoed that sentiment during the committee’s hearing. He said the administration’s review was “hollow and improper” and gave industry “special consideration.”

“It is my firm belief that this was a predestined outcome and that everything that has occurred since then has been to justify that outcome,” Grijalva said. “I don’t think it’s justifiable.”

BLM directed to free up coal deposits

One of the biggest revelations about the administration’s motives came during Wednesday’s hearing, when Representative Jared Huffman, a Democrat from California, cited testimony from a BLM employee who said he was directed to redraw the boundary of Grand Staircase-Escalante to exclude coal-rich areas and to be no more than 1 million acres.

“The first area I was told to exclude from the boundary, with no discussion, was the coal leases from 1996,” the BLM mapping specialist told investigators at Interior’s Office of Inspector General, according to Huffman.

Huffman went on to reveal that the expert was told to carve out areas rich in fossils, the very resources the monument was established to protect.

“The big one was the paleontological resources — huge dinosaur area,” the BLM expert told investigators, according to Huffman. “These coal areas are all pretty high dinosaur resources areas. We were told they are out regardless.”

This testimony is included in an unredacted version of an OIG report release in January that concluded there is “no evidence” that Zinke gave retired Utah state Representative Mike Noel preferential treatment when he redrew the monument’s boundary.

Ed Roberson, BLM’s Utah state director, told lawmakers Wednesday that the review was open, fair, and thorough. Huffman told Roberson that the order given to the BLM mapping specialist “does not sound like an honest and exhausted process,” but rather “a pre-cooked decision to allow coal companies to mine this coal.”

In his final report to the White House, Zinke acknowledged the potential for mining coal in Grand Staircase-Escalante, noting that the site contains “an estimated several billion tons of coal.” Downey Magallanes, the daughter of a former executive of coal giant Peabody Energy, was a top Interior official who oversaw the Trump administration’s monument review. She left the agency last year for a job at oil giant BP.

Former Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke during a visit to Utah in 2017.George Frey / Getty Images

Zinke cozied up to monument opponents

In the week after Trump signed the orders threatening the future of 27 national monuments, Zinke met with Utah’s Republican delegation and the San Juan County Commission — staunch critics of Bears Ears — to discuss next steps. He sat down with members of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, a group of five area tribes that petitioned for monument status, only after they traveled to Washington to demand a meeting, claiming that neither Trump nor anyone on his team had consulted with them.

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A week later, Zinke traveled to Utah as part of a monuments “listening tour,” when he spent four days visiting Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. Monument opponents, including Utah Governor Gary Herbert (a Republican) and members of the San Juan County Commission, joined him on the tour of Bears Ears. Representatives of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition were given a one-hour meeting with the agency chief.

In an op-ed published Sunday in the Salt Lake Tribune, the coalition, one of several groups now suing the administration, called Trump’s rollback of Bears Ears “devastating” and said the administration “failed to meaningfully engage our sovereign nations.”

“The upcoming hearing will uncover the bias, the outsized influence of the mining and drilling industries and the political motivations of the administration that led them to their illegal decision,” the coalition wrote.

Cherry-picked data

In launching its review, the Interior Department claimed that the size of national monuments designated under the Antiquities Act of 1906 “exploded from an average of 422 acres per monument” early on and that “now it’s not uncommon for a monument to be more than a million acres.”

The figure formed the foundation of the administration’s argument that Trump’s predecessors abused the century-old law. But a look at early monument designations upends the agency’s math. In 1908, two years after the Antiquities Act became law, Theodore Roosevelt designated more than 800,000 acres of the Grand Canyon as a national monument. Only a few Obama-era land monuments are larger. Roosevelt also designated the 610,000-acre Mount Olympus National Monument and the 20,629-acre Chaco Canyon National Monument. Republican presidents Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover both designated monuments of over a million acres. Coolidge set aside Alaska’s Glacier Bay in 1925, and Hoover designated California’s Death Valley in 1933.

The Interior Department has never substantiated the 422-acre figure, despite HuffPost’s numerous requests.

Not about extraction, they said

Throughout the process, Zinke maintained that the review and subsequent rollbacks were not aimed at boosting energy and mineral development on once-protected lands.

“I’m a geologist,” Zinke, who is not a geologist, said at a congressional budget hearing last year. “I can assure you that oil and gas in Bears Ears was not part of my decision matrix.”

Media reporting over the last year suggests otherwise. The New York Times obtained emails via a public records request that show potential future oil extraction played a central role in the decision. The Washington Post uncovered a lobbying campaign from uranium company Energy Fuels to shrink Bears Ears. And Roll Call reported this month that Energy Fuels, which owns a uranium mill adjacent to the original Bears Ears boundary, met with a top Interior Department official to discuss Bears Ears even before the agency launched its review.

The Washington Post also reported on agency emails that show Interior Department officials dismissed information about the benefits of establishing protected monuments, including increased tourism and archeological discoveries, instead choosing to play up the value of energy development, logging, and ranching.

A man holds a sign in protest, during Ryan Zinke’s visit to Utah in 2017.George Frey / Getty Images

Nothing to learn from the public

Early in the review process, Interior announced a comment period to give the public a chance to weigh in. It was a move that Zinke said “finally gives a voice to local communities and states” that the Trump administration claimed previous administrations had ignored.

That invitation appears to have mostly been for show. As HuffPost first reported, the agency conducted its review of Bears Ears assuming it had nothing to learn from the public.

“Essentially, barring a surprise, there is no new information that’s going to be submitted,” Randal Bowman, an agency official who played a key role in the review, told colleagues during a May 2017 webinar to train a dozen agency staffers on how to read and catalog public comments. And in a May 2017 email exchange with Downey Magallanes, a former top aide of Zinke’s who played a key role in the review, Bowman said he expected the comments to be “99-1 against any changes.”

The support for keeping monuments intact was indeed overwhelming. An analysis by the Colorado-based Center for Western Priorities found that 99 percent of the more than 685,000 public comments submitted during a 15-day comment period voiced support for Bears Ears.

In a report summary made public in August 2017, Zinke acknowledged that the vast majority of the 2.8 million public comments the department received as part of its sweeping review favored maintaining national monuments, which he chalked up to “a well-orchestrated national campaign organized by multiple organizations.”

He didn’t appear to consider that the comments were the honest opinions of individual Americans.

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Trump’s monument review was a big old sham

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Breaking: Across the globe, students go on strike to demand climate action

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It’s Friday, March 15, and hundreds of thousands of students are expected to walk out of school to protest global leaders’ inaction on climate change. Young climate activists across the globe have been anticipating this day like Christmas without the consumerism. Inspired by newly minted teenage Nobel Peace Prize nominee Greta Thunberg, Gen-Zers are rallying to send adults a clear message — you need to take our future seriously.

Several Grist reporters are in the field today covering the U.S. Youth Climate Strike. We will update this post throughout the day as the strikes unfold worldwide. For more news on the student walkouts, follow @grist on Twitter.

Here’s the latest on the Youth Climate Strikes:

Some of our favorite signs yet

As Seattle strikes wrap up, kids are laser-focusing their message at politicians

“To all those politicians who can’t imagine my and many other futures in a ruined climate, imagine being out of a job in 2020, 2022, 2024, or 2026 when I personally get to vote.” — Taro Moore, 12-year-old climate striker from Kenmore Middle School

“I really can’t conceptualize an idea where people wouldn’t believe this is a real issue. The way the environment has changed over past decade, droughts from America to Africa to Australia, it’s just preposterous that some people in the Republican party are opposed to this.” — Kevin, 17-year-old climate striker from Bellevue High School

“Anybody who wants to run for president, who wants to run this country, they’ve got to pay attention.” — Athena Fain, 15-year-old organizer from Ingraham High School

Police respond in New York as protestors block roads

Per 350.org, the protests surpassed 1 million participants worldwide

Strikes get going in the Pacific North West (Grist’s backyard)

California groups join in the fray

Spotted in San Francisco!

The pace picks up across the country

Strikes get underway in other East Coast cities

New York City is up and at ’em

International Youth Climate Strikes kick off

The night before the strike, youth across the country prepare for protest

At Columbia University in New York, students worked late into the night to make signs for the protest.

Grist / Rachel Ramirez

Ahead of the strike, student leaders across the country share their motivations for participating.

Image courtesy of Shania Hurtado

As united as Friday’s protests will be in their call for meaningful climate action, the reasons young people have for participating are also grounded in their regions’ unique climate concerns.

“Hurricane Harvey devastated our city,” said Shania Hurtado, 16, who lives in Houston, Texas. “It was a time when my family and my friends were in a state of fear. It was terrible. This is truly why I’m striking. It’s why I’m organizing the strike. It’s something that affects me personally and we have the power to prevent and we should do something about it.”

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Breaking: Across the globe, students go on strike to demand climate action

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Trump’s ‘Budget for a better America’ means worse climate change

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It’s budget day, and, well, oy vey. President Trump unveiled his “Budget for a Better America” Monday — and it’s giving everyone a serious case of déjà vu.

To the surprise of no one, Trump’s proposed budget would take an ax to many domestic programs — $650 million in programs and activities compared to current funding levels — including several environmental and energy-related activities. The total cost of programs that would be slashed is in the billions, but much of it is countered by a major boost to national security spending.

After Congress told Trump he couldn’t have for $5.7 billion to build his wall, he’s gone and asked for $8.6 billion for a barricade on the U.S.-Mexico border. (The art of the deal, folks!)

Here’s just some of what’s outlined in Trump’s proposal:

A 31 percent reduction in spending at the Environmental Protection Agency. Slashing the agency’s budget keeps his promises on the campaign trail to cut back on enforcement actions that hurt the bottom line of the fossil fuel industry.
The Department of Energy would see an 11 percent decrease from current funding, to $31.7 billion. That smaller budget would mean cuts to the DOE’s well-known innovation arm, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, or ARPA-E, which is instrumental in developing world-class energy technology needed to help curb climate change.
The Interior Department — now under the helm of newly-minted director (and oil lobbyist) David Bernhardt — would see a 14 percent cut, to $12.5 billion.
A repeal of the tax credit for electric vehicles
Selling off the Washington Aqueduct, which provides water to the metro D.C. area.
Privatizing federally owned transmission lines

On the plus side, lawmakers have declined to enact most of Trump’s previous funding requests. Now that Democrats are in the majority in the House, it’s even more likely this budget is going nowhere.

“This budget is the Republican approach to governing in a nutshell: Cut taxes for the super-rich and then, when it’s time to fund national priorities, lecture us about tightening our belts,” said Rep. Raúl Grijalva, a Democrat from Arizona, in a statement. “If you think environment conservation is an unaffordable luxury, you’ll love this plan. This isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on, it’s dead on arrival in Congress, and printing it was a waste of time.”


Trump’s ‘Budget for a better America’ means worse climate change

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A member of the GOP says the Green New Deal is the next Fyre Fest. Wait, what?

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North Carolina Representative Mark Walker is trying to one-up Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s social media game. On Wednesday, the Republican released a trailer on Twitter that takes a … unique approach to Green New Deal fear-mongering:

The 90-second video plays off the recent Fyre Festival boondoggle and documentary. “A socialist utopia” scrolls across the screen as blond women smile and millennials party, “kill off all the cows, ban all the airplanes.” The actual Green New Deal resolution doesn’t call for banning cows or planes, but Walker and his team of what I can only imagine are a bunch of 20-year-old bros don’t seem to care.

Watch the trailer to catch this reporter’s favorite part, a five-second clip of partiers holding pitchforks and celebrating under a title card that reads “so much energy.”

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A member of the GOP says the Green New Deal is the next Fyre Fest. Wait, what?

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How are Republicans dealing with Green New Deal enthusiasm? As well as you’d expect.

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This post has been updated to include Senator Klobuchar’s endorsement of the Green New Deal.

Congressional Republicans don’t have a plan to tackle climate change — an issue voters across the political spectrum now agree needs to be addressed — but it only took a weekend for the GOP to come up with a response to the Green New Deal proposed by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey.

Surprise! The right is not a fan of the proposal, which calls for rapid decarbonization of the economy alongside other agenda items like universal healthcare, housing, and a federal jobs guarantee. Already, more than 15 percent of the House — 68 members — have signed on as sponsors of the deal. Supporters include five high-profile presidential contenders, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, and, most recently, Amy Klobuchar.

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Republicans, banking on the hope that backing such an ambitious proposal will come back to bite Democrats during the presidential election next year, unleashed a torrent of backhanded encouragement.

“It would be great for the so-called ‘Carbon Footprint’ to permanently eliminate all Planes, Cars, Cows, Oil, Gas & the Military – even if no other country would do the same. Brilliant!,” President Trump tweeted on Saturday. Eliminating airplanes and oil and gas would be great for our carbon footprint, but the resolution doesn’t actually call for an end to fossil fuels.

“I would like them to push it as far as they can. I’d like to see it on the floor. I’d like to see them actually have to vote on it,” Idaho Republican Representative Mike Simpson told Politico, adding, “It’s crazy. It’s loony.” South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham tweeted on Friday, “Let’s vote on the Green New Deal!”

Other Republicans took a more straightforward approach. Wyoming Republican and Environment Chair John Barrasso called the deal a “socialist manifesto.” “I think everyone on our side would say that the Green New Deal is a little bit much,” Michigan Representative Fred Upton told journalists.

Clearly, Republicans are a bit skeptical of the goals outlined in AOC and Markey’s resolution. But I think the Democrats pushing the deal would agree with Senator Graham: “Let’s vote on the Green New Deal!”

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How are Republicans dealing with Green New Deal enthusiasm? As well as you’d expect.

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Who stands to lose the most from climate change? Red states.

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A new analysis from the Brookings Institution shows that many of the states and counties with the most to lose from climate change have been voting for candidates least likely to do something about it.

Of the 16 states facing the highest long-term losses of income from climate change — starting with Florida, Mississippi, and Louisiana — all but one voted for Donald Trump in 2016. That exception: Hawaii.

The data, sourced from Climate Impact Lab, tell a similar story when you look at counties and congressional districts. On average, the districts that voted Republican in November stand to lose 4.4 percent of their income this century, compared with a loss of 2.7 percent for those that backed Democrats. Those red districts tend to be less affluent, more rural, and more exposed to rising seas, stronger storms and punishing droughts, particularly in Florida and Texas.

Typically blue regions like the Pacific Northwest and New England could actually stand to gain from climate change, the report says. For chillier states, warmer temperatures could mean lower energy bills and a boost in crop yields. But a lot of other bad stuff too, don’t forget.

So, does this mean that red states are doomed, and liberal northerners will be left saying I told ya so? Well, it might not get to that if this new data — combined with the actual observable effects of climate change — changes people’s minds. Recent polls suggest that voters are coming around on the issue, as hurricanes, droughts, and wildfires get harder to ignore.

The Brookings Institution, for its part, offers this advice to climate activists: “A harder charging, grittier, and more palpable campaign focused on climate impacts in ‘red’ America could prove a lot more effective. And the data now exist to make that happen.”

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Who stands to lose the most from climate change? Red states.

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Kirsten Gillibrand doesn’t just support the ‘idea’ of a Green New Deal, she’s wholly behind it

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In a testament to the power of political pressure and grassroots activism, a number of 2020 candidates have recently supported the concept of a Green New Deal — an economy-wide climate fix being championed by the Sunrise Movement and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Why push the plan so hard now, when there’s little chance of legislation passing the Senate? Sunrise co-founder (and Grist 50 member) Evan Weber told Vox part of the logic is “to have a platform for candidates to run on in 2020.” In that sense, the initiative has been wildly successful: Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Beto O’Rourke have all signed on to the idea of a Green New Deal. But what exactly does that mean?

Kirsten Gillibrand, the most recent Democrat to make a 2020 announcement, just raised the stakes. On Thursday, she tweeted out what amounts to the strongest endorsement of a Green New Deal from a 2020 candidate thus far.

The junior senator from New York also sent a letter to Republican John Barrasso, chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works — a committee on which she serves as a minority member — outlining her vision for actually building out a Green New Deal.

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“Given the stakes, we do not have time to waste,” she wrote, citing the 4th National Climate Assessment that came out in November and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report published in October.

In order to achieve a green America, Gillibrand asks the committee to hold hearings and consider legislation that would help decarbonize the economy and “get us to net-zero emissions by as close to 2050 as possible.”

She also calls for investment in green jobs, upgraded public transit, and other measures that would support a green economy. Most notably, she calls for legislation that will build “resiliency across a range of infrastructure in low-income and frontline communities that will bear the worst of climate impacts.”

All these steps and more align with what Sunrise activists and AOC have outlined in previous calls for a Green New Deal. And while it’s unlikely that Barrasso will take any of her suggestions seriously, Gillibrand’s letter might set an example for other candidates who have yet to express anything other than mild support for the plan’s goals.

Gillibrand doesn’t appear to be putting all her eggs in the same green basket, either. In an earlier interview with Pod Save America, she voiced support for a carbon tax, calling it an effective way to “attack global climate change.” The Sunrise Movement does not currently include a carbon tax as part of its approach, but in a previous interview with Grist, Weber said the group isn’t ruling the option out entirely.

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Kirsten Gillibrand doesn’t just support the ‘idea’ of a Green New Deal, she’s wholly behind it

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