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Climate leftists and moderates have a radical new plan to defeat Trump: Work together

The period between April and December 2019 was a magical time for climate activists. The more than 20 Democratic candidates vying for the party’s nomination couldn’t stop trying to one-up each other. Candidates promised Green New Deals and millions of green jobs, initiatives to save the oceans and drilling bans on public lands. But to paraphrase Ecclesiastes, there’s a time to dream and a time to get down to business — and that’s exactly what climate advocates are doing now.

On Wednesday, a trio of major progressive political organizations — the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the Sierra Club, and the League of Conservation Voters — launched a new project called Climate Power 2020. The group’s advisory board is a hodgepodge of Democratic operatives and activists from across the climate spectrum. It includes party heavyweights like former Secretary of State John Kerry, Georgia politician Stacey Abrams, former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Bill Clinton’s former chief of staff John Podesta. The advisory board also includes climate activists like Varshini Prakash, of the left-wing, youth-oriented group the Sunrise Movement, and Rhiana Gunn-Wright, an architect of the original Green New Deal plan. In short, it puts factions of the party that were just recently at odds with each other under the same umbrella.

“People who were on probably opposite sides of the primary fights are coming together because they understand there are two major goals of the climate movement right now: to defeat Donald Trump and to build momentum for the next president and Congress to pass major, bold climate policy,” Jamal Raad, a former staffer on Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s presidential campaign and an advisor to Climate Power 2020, told Grist.

The group doesn’t have a specific policy agenda, per se. Instead, it aims to accomplish the dual tasks of galvanizing the growing bloc of American voters who care about climate and furnishing Democrats with a workable offensive strategy on the issue of climate change.

That second agenda item is long overdue. The left has yet to figure out how to hit Republicans where it hurts on climate change, even though a widening swath of the GOP’s base is coming around to the idea that humans might have something to do with rising temperatures. That might be because Republicans are just better at messaging. Medicare for all? More like socialism for all. Gun control? An attack on the Constitution. Green New Deal? Hold onto your hamburgers.

Climate Power 2020 hopes to chisel out a better messaging strategy for Democrats ahead of the general election and appeal to climate-conscious Republicans. “[L]et’s combat myths and be aggressive and proactive about the need for climate action, because that’s the only way we’re going to be able to change the dynamics for 2021,” Subhan Cheema, a spokesperson for the group, told Grist in an email.

The group’s overarching goal is to show politicians that embracing climate policy is just good politics. “There are many who think that climate is an albatross or something for the Democrats,” Cheema said, “but our data shows the exact opposite, so let’s change that conversation.”

In order to actually accomplish that, the group plans to unleash a torrent of digital messaging in key swing states across the country, including Michigan, Arizona, Wisconsin, and Florida. Climate Power 2020 will use videos, social media campaigns, virtual town halls, and the like to drum up support for climate policies among persuadable voters, 62 percent of whom disapprove of Trump’s climate performance, according to the group’s in-house polling. The project hired Pete Buttigieg and Jay Inslee’s social media managers, as well as staffers from Elizabeth Warren and Michael Bloomberg’s campaigns, to help get the message out.

The message itself will highlight Trump’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic to connect the dots between this crisis and the next one. “For both COVID-19 and the climate crisis, the anti-science policies from this administration are pushing our nation into crisis,” Podesta said in a statement, offering a sneak peek at the group’s forthcoming offensive strategy.

Raad says the new project is “in the same vein” as a similarly collaborative initiative underway at Joe Biden’s camp. Also on Wednesday, Biden and his former top rival Bernie Sanders unveiled six joint policy task forces that will make policy and personnel recommendations to Biden’s campaign. The climate task force will be co-chaired by Kerry and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and will also include Prakash of the Sunrise Movement. The idea is to find the common ground underlying the policy themes that fractured the party in the primary.

For those of you following along at home, it’s clear that we’ve entered a new phase of the 2020 election. Climate organizers and policy wonks are putting aside their differences to pool resources, messaging, and even personnel. Will their unifying efforts pay off in November? Time will tell.

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Climate leftists and moderates have a radical new plan to defeat Trump: Work together

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Joe Biden has a podcast, and there’s an episode on climate change

The public rarely gets access to the real Joe Biden. His team keeps the gaffe-prone 77-year-old on a tight leash on the campaign trail. That strategy has paid off handsomely; the former vice president is now the presumptive Democratic nominee for president. But there is a way to get access to the inner workings of Uncle Joe’s brain, and it doesn’t require sneaking past the Secret Service.

Biden has taken a tip from the entire male population of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and started his own podcast. It’s called Here’s the Deal — possibly the most on-brand title of a podcast in the history of the genre.

So far, the former vice president has recorded six episodes with folks like Senator Amy Klubochar (Biden’s former primary rival) and Gretchen Whitmer, the governor of Michigan. But the latest episode of Here’s the Deal, released on Earth Day, is worth listening to in particular because it sheds light on how Biden is thinking about climate change, an issue that he’s been previously accused of underestimating by both climate activists and scientists. In this week’s episode, Biden remotely interviews Washington governor and former climate candidate Jay Inslee from the confines of his basement in Delaware.

The 20-minute conversation touches on a number of issues that are front-of-mind for many Democratic voters right now: the potential of wind and solar energy to outpace fossil fuels, the nation’s progress on electric vehicles and other green technologies, and the notion that progress on climate and economic growth actually go hand in hand. They also talk about the connection between the coronavirus pandemic and the looming climate crisis. About halfway through the conversation, Biden asks Inslee whether he thinks there’s an opportunity for the U.S. to implement a climate plan as the country gets back on its feet. The question indicates that Biden is thinking along the same lines as a number of green groups that have released proposals for how the U.S. could implement a green stimulus in the coming months (including a team of former Inslee staffers).

Biden’s posture toward Inslee throughout the conversation is almost deferential. Biden makes a point of saying that he has reached out to Inslee for his input in the past and aims to continue doing so. “I hope I can keep bothering you on the telephone,” he said to Inslee, who graciously agrees.

That attitude is in keeping with other overtures Biden has recently made to the progressive climate movement. Earlier this week, Biden scored his first environmental endorsement from the League of Conservation voters, an environmental group that funds climate-friendly Democrats. In response, Biden said expanding his $1.7 trillion climate change plan “will be one of my key objectives” in the coming months and that he knows the issue “resonates” with young voters. That openness to beefing up his climate platform may have played a role in the endorsements that followed: first from a group of more than 50 scientists and climate experts, then from longtime climate hawk Al Gore and Inslee himself.

Inslee plugs his endorsement again on the podcast. “I can’t wait to have an optimist back in the White House,” he tells Biden. The whole thing sounds like a voicemail two of your grandparents left you — wholesome, if a bit rambly. Except in this case one of the grandparents is gearing up for what may be the most consequential election of our lifetimes. “Wash your hands,” Inslee, sounding concerned, tells Biden toward the end of the episode. “I did!” Biden assures him.

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Joe Biden has a podcast, and there’s an episode on climate change

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What does Joe Biden have to do to win over the climate movement?

This story has been updated.

If Joe Biden had released his $1.7 trillion climate plan in a vacuum last year, the proposal would have been hailed as the most ambitious climate platform introduced by a presidential candidate in United States history. The 22-page plan aims to zero out emissions by 2050, protect disadvantaged communities from pollution, and create 10 million new jobs to boot.

Unfortunately for the former vice president, his proposal paled in comparison to plans from a number of his primary challengers that were three, five, and even 10 times as expensive. Bernie Sanders, for example, put out a $16 trillion climate plan called the Green New Deal that had the elderly pied piper of the progressive left collecting endorsements from climate groups like a Vermonter picking blueberries in July.

Whether progressives like it or not, Biden is the presumptive Democratic nominee for president. And on Monday, he snagged his first environmental endorsement from the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), a powerful environmental group that helps elect climate hawks to office and scores members of the House and Senate based on how they vote on environment and climate bills.

“We are confident that as president, Biden will immediately put our country on track for a 100 percent clean energy economy with policies centered in justice and equity that restore America’s global climate leadership,” Tiernan Sittenfeld, senior vice president of government affairs for LCV Action Fund, the political arm of the group, said in a statement.

Given that the choice in the general election comes down to Donald Trump, who has left no stone unturned in his effort to roll back environmental protections, and Biden, who has an 83 percent lifetime score for his environmental voting record from LCV, it’s not surprising that the group decided to endorse the former senator from Delaware.

What is surprising, and what might be welcome news to voters for whom climate change is a top priority, is that Biden plans to expand his climate platform. In his own statement in response to the LCV’s announcement, the former vice president said he was “honored” to receive the endorsement and indicated that there’s more to come. “In the months ahead, expanding this plan will be one of my key objectives,” he said, adding that he knows the issue “resonates” with young voters.

Biden’s statement said he aims to “campaign on climate change and win on climate change,” which isn’t a bad plan if he’s looking to convince a wider swath of Democratic voters — and maybe even pick up a Republican or two. In poll after poll after poll, climate change and health care are the top two issues for Democrats this election cycle. And the issue is no longer relegated to one side of the political aisle. Polls also show that young Republicans may care as much about the warming planet as their blue counterparts.

By his own admission, Biden has a lot of work to do to earn the progressive movement’s vote. Many local chapters of the Sunrise Movement, a youth-led climate group that backed Bernie Sanders in the primary and has emerged as a powerful force in the activist landscape, have said they aren’t endorsing Biden. But that could change if the candidate steps up his climate game.

“We’ve tried to be super clear about the way that we need them to improve on not only their climate policy but their immigration, criminal justice, and financial regulation policies,” Varshini Prakash, Sunrise co-founder and executive director, told Vice News, referring to the Biden campaign. “We’ll see if that conversation translates into policy changes.” In an interview on the New York Times’ The Daily podcast, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democrat from New York who is one of the architects of the Green New Deal, expressed a similar sentiment and said she was waiting to fully endorse him.

Will Biden be able to win over diehard Sanders supporters? Probably not. Biden’s campaign is premised on returning to a time of relative normalcy, not turning the economic system on its head. But if he does scale up his climate plan, he might be able to rack up a few more endorsements from environmental heavyweights.

Update: On Tuesday, a group of more than 50 scientists and climate experts wrote an open letter endorsing Biden for president. “We are confident that, unlike President Trump, Joe Biden will respect, collaborate with, and listen to leaders in the scientific community and public health experts to confront the existential climate crisis and other environmental threats,” the letter said. Prominent climate scientists Michael Mann and Jane Lubchenco (formerly head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under President Obama) are among the letter’s signatories.

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What does Joe Biden have to do to win over the climate movement?

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Should Biden and Sanders steal Elizabeth Warren’s climate plans?

Elizabeth Warren dropped out of the 2020 presidential race on Thursday morning, 390 days after officially announcing her run. Several months ago, the senator from Massachusetts was widely regarded as a frontrunner with momentum to spare. But her support started to waver in the lead-up to the first contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada. Ultimately, she never placed higher than third in any of the state caucuses and primaries she competed in.

Warren’s slogan, “I have a plan for that,” is an apt description of her biggest contribution to the presidential race — especially when it comes to climate policy. Over the course of her campaign, she released more than a dozen proposals to address climate change — more plans than any other candidate. Warren left no stone unturned in her quest to come up with an answer to what is arguably the biggest threat facing the nation.

Her plans offered solutions to problems as big as warming oceans and as small as inaccessible national parks. She had a plan to green the military (think zero-emissions vehicles and combat bases that run on clean energy) and a plan to base trade agreements with other countries on their emissions goals. The strength of Warren’s climate game lay not just in the quantity of her plans but also in their quality.

Warren’s candidacy may be dead, but her 14 plans could live on. And there’s reason to believe they might. After Washington governor Jay Inslee dropped out of the race in August, he encouraged the remaining candidates to crib from his climate plans, which he called “open-source.” Warren adopted planks of his sweeping climate platform and even hired one of his climate advisers. There’s nothing stopping the remaining candidates from similarly picking over Warren’s plans now that she’s out of the race.

“Any candidate who wants to win Warren voters should think seriously about embracing Elizabeth’s climate platform,” a Warren aide told Grist.

Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, the two remaining candidates with a viable path to the nomination, both have comprehensive climate plans. Sanders’ plan earned him an A+ from Greenpeace, which ranks candidates based on their dedication to phasing out fossil fuels and passing a Green New Deal. Biden’s plans got him a B+. But both stand to benefit from adopting some of Warren’s plans, which got more and more ambitious in the lead-up to her decision to drop out. Here are three plans that deserve to outlive Warren’s campaign.

“Stop Wall Street From Financing the Climate Crisis.” This plan is aimed directly at making sure Wall Street doesn’t leave Americans high and dry by continuing to invest in oil and gas infrastructure that could lose all their value in the transition to clean energy. Climate change, Warren says, destabilizes the American financial system by jeopardizing Wall Street’s investments and inflicting physical property damage (think the wreckage of coastal cities in the wake of catastrophic hurricanes or Western towns post-wildfires). She proposed using the regulatory tools in the Dodd-Frank Act — enacted in the wake of the 2008 crash — to regulate Wall Street and address those risks.

Warren’s plan for public lands. In April 2019, Warren became the first front-runner to release a sweeping public lands plan aimed at reducing emissions from public lands. She set the bar for similar plans from other candidates by advocating for an executive order banning new fossil fuel leases on federally owned lands on her first day in office. Most interestingly, she introduced the framework for a conservation workforce that would put a smile on FDR’s face: the “21st Century Civilian Conservation Corps,” which would “create job opportunities for thousands of young Americans caring for our natural resources and public lands.”

“Fighting for justice as we combat the climate crisis.” This plan has a lot in common with environmental justice plans from other candidates. It would direct at least $1 trillion to low-income communities on the frontlines of climate change. But it differs in one important respect: It uses wildfire wisdom from tribes to help the U.S. prevent deadly wildfires like the one that razed Paradise, California in 2018. In addition to investing in wildfire prevention programs and improved mapping of active wildfires, she aimed to incorporate “traditional ecological practices” and explore “co-management and the return of public resources to indigenous protection wherever possible.”

Will Biden and Sanders poach Warren’s climate plans? Time will tell. Her campaign certainly hopes they will. “The urgency of the moment calls for it,” the Warren aide said.

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Should Biden and Sanders steal Elizabeth Warren’s climate plans?

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How did the fate of the planet fare at the third Democratic debate?

Another month, another Democratic debate (Round 3, if you’re keeping count).

After the seven-hour marathon that was CNN ‘s Climate Town Hall last week, ABC’s return to the traditional debate format, in which candidates get one minute and 15 seconds to respond to questions, felt like the political equivalent of speed dating. The moderators didn’t exactly prioritize climate change (failing to ask about Houston’s chronic flooding when the debate was in, of all places, Houston), but candidates stepped up, in part, by segueing early and often to the greatest threat to the planet without getting asked.

Although Thursday night’s debate felt comparatively short on time and climate talk, it wasn’t short on drama. Julián Castro seemingly took a jab at Joe Biden’s age and memory, Pete Buttigieg called debate infighting “unwatchable,” and Andrew Yang announced he would give away $120,000 over the next year as part of a pilot program for his universal basic income plan. This debate also brought some fresh pairings: Biden and Elizabeth Warren were on the same stage for the first time, as were Warren and Kamala Harris, the two top-polling women in the field.

In terms of time spent discussing climate change, the third Democratic debate felt like a step back, if only because the candidates didn’t have the same 40 minutes CNN had given them last week to hash out the issue of our times. The longest stretch of conversation about the climate crisis came when one of the moderators, Univision’s Jorge Ramos, bounced a few global warming questions off the candidates in the second half of the debate. That resulted in a lot of reheated leftovers from CNN’s Climate Town Hall: Amy Klobuchar once again emphasized that she had a good vantage point as a Midwesterner to deal with climate change; when asked if American foreign policy should be based around climate change, Warren simply answered “yes.” Harris said that, as California’s attorney general, she’s already taken on Big Oil.

But it did seem as if, fresh off of CNN’s climate master class, the candidates had found their footing on how to integrate the topic into a myriad of issues.

A few candidates brought up the subject right off the bat. Castro, the first candidate up, mentioned the “clean energy economy” in his opening statement. Bernie Sanders was the first contender to actually utter the words “climate change” when he promised — in front of a Texas audience, no less — to end fossil fuels. He also said he would pass climate legislation “to save the planet.” Biden, the frontrunner, also brought up climate change in his opening statement: “I refuse to postpone any longer taking on climate change and leading the world in taking on climate change.”

Cory Booker touted his own $3 trillion climate plan by mentioning environmental injustice during a response to a question about racism. He also talked about the effects of factory farming on the environment. On trade, Warren said she wants ”environmentalists on the table” at future talks.

Sure, it wasn’t the jam-packed seven-hour marathon we had last week, but the candidates often seemed keen to bring it up. Could this be a sign that Democrats are recognizing how our overheating planet touches pretty much every political issue? Tune in for the next round.


How did the fate of the planet fare at the third Democratic debate?

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Looking for a CNN Climate Crisis Town Hall drinking game? Bingo!

So you’ve decided to watch CNN’s Climate Crisis Town Hall on Wednesday evening. That means you’re either a climate wonk who’s willing to spend seven hours of your precious free time listening to politicians prattle about global warming, or you can’t figure out how to change the channel. Either way, hello and welcome!

The town hall’s rules of engagement are simple. Ten presidential candidates will have 40 minutes each to share their ideas for fixing humanity’s biggest and scariest problem ever. And what better way to prepare you to digest that marathon strategy-fest than a little climate action aperitif?

That’s right, we’ve come up with the ultimate drinking game to complement the delicate aroma of the world bursting into flames. (Though abstainers should feel free to stick with us and sub a couple of Marianne Williamson’s pre-debate yoga moves).

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If you follow our nifty drinking guide, our goal is to leave you sober enough to decipher Bernie’s thick Brooklyn accent but drunk enough to keep the TV on when Biden promises to unlock the power of “American innovation.” (Drink!)

Ready? Let’s go.

How to play

The game itself is simple: climate candidate bingo! Keep tabs on each presidential wannabe’s quotable quotes and take a sip for each phrase that gets mentioned. We’re sure the multiple hours of dense, environmental policy proposals will just fly by. (You can download a PDF version of the bingo board here.)


The games begin at 5 p.m. Eastern with former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro. The “fun” won’t end until Cory Booker closes out starting at 11:20 p.m., so consider chugging some water at least every time CNN switches moderators or you’ll be Wolf Blitzer-ed by the time Amy Klobuchar rolls up.

5:00 p.m. Julián Castro
5:40 p.m. Andrew Yang
6:20 p.m. Kamala Harris
7:00 p.m. Amy Klobuchar
8:00 p.m. Joe Biden
8:40 p.m. Bernie Sanders
9:20 p.m. Elizabeth Warren
10:00 p.m. Pete Buttigieg
10:40 p.m. Beto O’Rourke
11:20 p.m. Cory Booker

Pregame idea: Raise a glass to the dearly (Democratically) departed.

Your brain (and liver) should probably be grateful that not all of the original 20-some Democratic candidates have made it this far in the election cycle. But a few drop-outs had some interesting climate ideas along the way. If you’re up for pregaming, consider pouring one out for the following candidates:

Jay Inslee — Ah, the original “climate candidate.” The Washington governor’s impressive environmental record and, um, crowd appeal will be sorely missed during this town hall. I would tell you to take a shot for every climate plan Inslee released during his run for president but there are six of them and I’m not trying to kill you. So slowly sip a sustainable beverage for dear old Jay as you scan the remaining candidates for your new “climate daddy.” (Google if you dare.)

John Hickenlooper — The former Colorado governor is gone from the presidential foray but not forgotten (because he’s running for Senate). His climate plan, however, which didn’t do much to offset his history of boosting fracking in his state, might merit a little forgetting. If you do drink to his memory, just make sure it’s not fracking fluid — that’s John’s job.

Kirsten Gillibrand — The #metoo candidate was the most recent campaign casualty in the rapidly thinning Democratic primary. She is survived by her impressive $10 trillion climate plan, which includes a tax on carbon pollution. Raise a glass of whiskey, Gillibrand’s “favorite comfort food,” to that.

Bonus doomsday dares

Need some additional entertainment? Spice up the evening with a few of the following challenges:

Phone your grandma when Joe Biden calls one of the other full-grown adults on stage “kid.”
Shotgun a Michelob Ultra every time Elizabeth Warren gets raucous applause for one of her six climate plans.
Have a friend go into another room and read last year’s entire 2,000-page Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. Whoever cries themselves to sleep first wins!
Scream “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country” at the TV when someone uses JFK’s moon landing project as a metaphor for taking on climate change.

Seven hours of climate policy might feel like a poor substitution for, say, an official climate debate, but it’s a major step up for broadcast media. Last year, national broadcast networks spent only 142 combined minutes discussing the issue.

Ideally, an uptick in coverage would be spread out over the course of several months, not concentrated in one brutally long political masterclass. But the occasion seems to have prompted a number of 2020 procrastinators to release climate plans ahead of the event. On Tuesday, Warren, Klobuchar, and Booker unveiled proposals, and Buttigieg slid in just under the wire, releasing his climate plan Wednesday morning. Harris said she also intended to release a plan pre-town hall.

But you know what? We’ll take what we can get, even if it’s too little too — Ding dong! Who’s there? The delivery guy with the baked potato you drunkenly ordered in honor of Amy Klobuchar.

Go to bed.

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Looking for a CNN Climate Crisis Town Hall drinking game? Bingo!

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Joe Biden looks to revive Obama’s climate plan. Scientists say that’s not good enough.

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

At a moment when mounting reports from the world’s top scientists indicate humanity is barrelling toward climate catastrophe and ecological collapse, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is preparing a climate policy that appears to put the United States back on the pre-Trump trajectory.

The former vice president’s proposal is anchored in resetting the clock to 2016 by rejoining the Paris climate accord and reinstating Obama-era regulations on power plant and vehicle emissions, according to a Reuters report published Friday. The policy is expected to maintain a role for fossil fuels, and veer away from the Green New Deal framework that most of Biden’s top rivals for his party’s 2020 presidential nomination have embraced.

“Reheating the Obama administration’s regulations-plus-Paris approach will be totally insufficient,” said Joseph Majkut, a climate scientist and policy expert at the center-right think tank Niskanen Center.

TJ Ducklo, a spokesman for Biden’s campaign, said in an email statement that the former vice president “knows how high the stakes are” and noted his record on addressing climate change.

“As president, Biden would enact a bold policy to tackle climate change in a meaningful and lasting way, and will be discussing the specifics of that plan in the near future,” he said. “Any assertions otherwise are not accurate.”

The descriptions of the forthcoming policy offer only a first glance at Biden’s proposal to address a global crisis that, over the past year, has surged to the top of Democratic primary voters’ concerns. But the position appears dangerously out of step with the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The world’s leading climate science body warned in October that governments must cut global emission by nearly half and begin removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to keep warming from exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, at which point the havoc wreaked by extreme weather and sea-level rise is expected to cost $54 trillion and kill millions.

The finding, confirmed a month later by 13 federal agencies in the congressionally mandated National Climate Assessment, cast a shadow over the Obama administration’s climate legacy. While the 44th president forged the first global emissions-cutting deal to include the United States and China, his administration oversaw the rapid expansion of U.S. oil and gas production, a fact about which Obama boasted last November. Expanded U.S. drilling threatens to add 1,000 coal plants’ worth of greenhouse gases by the middle of the century, according to a January analysis by researchers at more than a dozen environmental groups. That will make the emissions reductions set out by the IPCC all but impossible to meet, and discourage countries like China, India and Indonesia — whose emissions are growing at a rapid clip — from adopting cleaner development strategies as the world’s richest nation and biggest historic emitter fails to set an example.

“The greatest fault in his proposal is the suggestion that natural gas can be part of the solution,” Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University, said by email. “The solution to a problem created by burning fossil fuels cannot be the burning of fossil fuels.”

Biden has called climate change an “existential” threat. And during a campaign speech in Iowa earlier this month, he noted that he was “one of the first guys to introduce a climate change bill, way, way back in ’87.” PolitiFact looked into the claim and found it to be true.

Yet, in a speech last month, the former vice president parroted a familiar oil and gas industry line, declaring, “North American energy makes us independent.” And, according to Reuters, he picked Heather Zichal as a climate adviser. Zichal, 42, who advised in the Obama administration, served on the board of liquified natural gas giant Cheniere Energy Partners from 2014 until last year.

Zichal came to Biden’s defense in a post to Twitter on Friday afternoon, saying “Reuters got it wrong.”

“There may have been a chance for modest, ‘all of the above,’ ‘middle ground’ climate strategies 20 years ago but we’ve passed that point now,” said Peter Gleick, a climate scientist and co-founder of California’s Pacific Institute. He added that “many politicians still fail to understand or accept the severity of the climate crisis or the speed with which we now have to act.”

Of the nearly two dozen Democrats vying for president in 2020, only two — Washington Governor Jay Inslee and former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke — have laid out detailed climate policies, as The Guardian reported this week. But the plans set a far different course from what former President Barack Obama envisioned.

O’Rourke, who climate activists criticized for pro-fossil fuel votes in the past, proposed a sweeping $5 trillion plan to beef up infrastructure and make the United States carbon neutral by 2050.

Inslee, who’s making climate change the sole focus of his White House bid, went further, outlining a detailed vision to eliminate emissions from power plants, passenger vehicles and new buildings by 2030.

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) vowed to ban new fossil fuel leases on federal lands and waters and increase renewable energy generation on public acreage by nearly tenfold.

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) threw his weight behind the Green New Deal resolution that Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.) released in February, which calls for a sweeping national industrial plan to decarbonize the United States and expand the social safety net over the next 10 years. Roughly half the 21 Democrats running for president pledged to reject donations from the fossil fuel industry.

“In an election where more than half the field had pledges to reject fossil fuel money, Biden has a fossil fuel bird member leading his climate policy development,” David Turnbull, a spokesman for the nonprofit Oil Change U.S., said by email. “This is not a good look, and worse yet will lead to terrible policy stuck in the past.”

Andrew Dessler, an atmospheric scientist at Texas A&M University, said the policies described in the Reuters story “do not sound very ambitious” and would likely blow past the additional degree of average temperature rise the Paris Agreement aimed to cap global warming.

“My rough intuition is that this approach would be more in line with stabilizing at 3 to 4 degrees C of warming, rather than staying below 2 degrees C,” he said by email. “So I would categorize this as a bit disappointing.”

Yet he said it may be a “politically savvy” appeal to draw voters who elected President Donald Trump in 2016. That may be a strength in the general election, but the proposal drew fierce criticism from Democratic activists who could influence the primary election.

“I’m a Woolsey Fire survivor,” RL Miller, political director of the political action committee Climate Hawks Vote, said referring to one of the historic wildfires that blazed in California last year. “Does Biden mean that the next wildfire will compromise with me which half of my home emerges unscathed?”

Sunrise Movement co-founder Varshini Prakash, whose youth-focused group led the protests that propelled the Green New Deal into the national conversation last year, called Biden’s “middle ground” policy “a death sentence for our generation and the millions of people on the frontlines of the climate crisis.”

The Green New Deal remains the only framework on the scope of the crisis, and the movement to enact it initially drew stunning bipartisan support. A December poll from Yale and George Mason universities found 81 percent of voters, including 64 percent of Republicans and 57 percent of conservative Republicans favored the policies outlined under such a program. But months of negative coverage on right-wing media outlets like Fox News — which routinely smeared the Green New Deal by falsely claiming it would ban hamburgers, trigger genocide against white men, or set the stage for Stalinist government policy — dramatically eroded support among Republicans, new polling shows.

Labor unions, a key constituency for Democrats, are divided on the Green New Deal. The building and construction trade unions, a powerful force in the labor movement, rely on the fossil fuel industry for lucrative jobs with coal trains and pipelines, and as such have opposed proposals that threatened those sectors.

Yet proponents of the Green New Deal say a Democratic leader with strong appeal to unions could help bridge that divide by promoting the policy’s potential to generate unionized clean energy jobs.

“It’s a false tradeoff to say that we have to seek moderate climate policy in order to appeal to both the environmental left and the labor movement,” said Greg Carlock, the researcher who authored the left-leaning think tank Data for Progress’ Green New Deal blueprint last year. “We can decarbonize our economy and we can grow good jobs.”

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Joe Biden looks to revive Obama’s climate plan. Scientists say that’s not good enough.

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Bernie Sanders for Veep!

Mother Jones

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Spike Lee converses with Bernie Sanders in the Guardian today:

Lee: Were you ever offered the VP position, sir?

Sanders: No. Absolutely not.

Lee: Would you have taken it?

Sanders: Er. Probably, yes. But that’s again looking through the rear-view mirror.

Huh. I don’t think I’ve ever heard Sanders say that before. Or has he? In any case, can you imagine what the office of VP would be like after eight years of Biden and then eight years of Sanders?

More seriously, I wonder what kind of ticket that would have been? The upsides are obvious, but there are downsides too. I’m not sure what the ultimate effect would have been.

BTW, in the same interview Sanders agrees with Lee that “it would be hard to suggest that the people of this country were enthusiastic about the Clinton campaign.” He’s getting a lot of crap for this on social media, but come on. My issues with Sanders are on the record, but it’s hard to deny that someone with unfavorables in the mid-50s didn’t generate a ton of enthusiasm. This wasn’t all Clinton’s fault, but it is what it is.

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Bernie Sanders for Veep!

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Mr. T, Joe Biden, and Other Celebrities Who Gave Us New Ways to Say "Bullshit"

Mother Jones

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While researching my new book Bullshit: A Lexicon, I came across hundreds of words that refer to bullshit or bullshitters. Most of these words—like most words in general—don’t have a definitive inventor. Word history is usually far too tangled to point to one person as the creator of a word. But a select few BS words, whatever their origin, have a Patron Saint: Someone highly associated with that word who pushed it to greater prominence and popularity.

Here’s a look at five people and the BS they spread.

Pete Marovich/ZUMAPress

Stephen Colbert: truthiness

While the word truthiness was not an original coinage of Colbert’s—it’s been around since at least the 1800s—Colbert launched it into the linguistic stratosphere when he used it in the first episode of The Colbert Report in 2005. Not only is truthiness commonly used, it’s inspired the Colbert suffix, which forms terms such as mathiness, an approach to math that doesn’t quite add up.

Olivier Douliery/UPPA via ZUMAPress

Joe Biden: malarkey

There are many reasons why some people would like to see Joe Biden run for President. For my money, I’d just like to hear the word malarkey more often. Biden has used the term several times, but his most memorable use was probably when he responded to Paul Ryan in an October 2012 debate: “With all due respect, that’s a bunch of malarkey.” The origin of malarkey is uncertain, but it does seem to share Irish roots with the vice president.

Globe Photos/ZUMAPress

Mr. T: jibber-jabber

Thanks to the huge success of The A-Team and Mr. T’s character B.A. Baracus in the ’80s, jibber-jabber (or ­jibba-jabba) became a very popular word that’s still associated with the fool-pitying actor. Jibber has been around since the 1800s, and jibber-jabber first started popping up in the early 1900s. The Oxford English Dictionary‘s first use is from Archibald Haddon’s 1922 book Green Room Gossip: “The jibber-jabber was entertaining, not because the utterances were those of ordinary human beings, but because they were the voice of George Bernard Shaw.”

Library of Congress

Warren Harding: bloviation

For a long time, Harding was considered the inventor of this wonderful, hot air-inspired word, but he was just the spreader of this Ohio-ism. Bloviation is a near-perfect word for bullshit, especially long-winded pretentious bullshit: it sounds like what it is. The verb form is bloviate, which is done by a bloviator. If any BS word deserves a comeback during this interminable election season, it’s this one.

Pete Marovich/ZUMAPress

Antonin Scalia: applesauce

Whatever you think of his politics, it can’t be denied that Supreme Court Justice Scalia has a way with words, especially old words with a folksy flavor. In addition to using jiggery-pokery—another word in the neighborhood of BS—Scalia used the expression “Pure applesauce” in a dissent back in June. Green’s Dictionary of Slang traces this use back to the late 1800s, mainly in exclamations. If only a debate moderator had the wit to pull a Scalia and reply to some truthiness with “Applesauce!”

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Mr. T, Joe Biden, and Other Celebrities Who Gave Us New Ways to Say "Bullshit"

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Perhaps We Should Retire the Idea That Joe Biden Is "Authentic"

Mother Jones

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Back in August, Maureen Dowd wrote several hundred words about what a horrible person Hillary Clinton is. No surprise there. She could pretty easily write a million if the Times gave her the space. But then, having obsessed over Hillary’s sinister psyche for the thousandth time, she turned to the possibility of white knights jumping into the presidential race to save us all. In particular, there was Joe Biden, who was now reconsidering a run after the death of his son Beau:

When Beau realized he was not going to make it, he asked his father if he had a minute to sit down and talk….“Dad, I know you don’t give a damn about money,” Beau told him, dismissing the idea that his father would take some sort of cushy job after the vice presidency to cash in.

Beau was losing his nouns and the right side of his face was partially paralyzed. But he had a mission: He tried to make his father promise to run, arguing that the White House should not revert to the Clintons and that the country would be better off with Biden values.

It’s a touching scene, but also an odd one: Dowd didn’t attribute it to anyone. Not even “a friend” or “someone with knowledge of the situation.” In Politico today, Edward-Isaac Dovere says there’s a reason for that:

According to multiple sources, it was Biden himself who talked to her….It was no coincidence that the preliminary pieces around a prospective campaign started moving right after that column. People read Dowd and started reaching out, those around the vice president would say by way of defensive explanation. He was just answering the phone and listening. But in truth, Biden had effectively placed an ad in The New York Times, asking them to call.

….“Calculation sort of sounds crass, but I guess that’s what it is,” said one person who’s recently spoken to Biden about the prospect of running.

….At the end of August, while friends were still worrying aloud that he was in the worst mental state possible to be making this decision, he invited Elizabeth Warren for an unannounced Saturday lunch at the Naval Observatory. According to sources connected with Warren, he raised Clinton’s scheduled appearance at the House Benghazi Committee hearing at the end of October, even hinting that there might be a running-mate opening for the Massachusetts senator.

Needless to say, I don’t have any independent knowledge of whether Dovere is right about this. But it sure sounds plausible, and it’s a good illustration of why you should take claims of “authenticity” with a big shaker of salt. Biden is an outgoing guy and gets along well with the press. But that just means he’s an outgoing guy who gets along well with the press. Authenticity has nothing to do with it.

It’s one thing for people close to a candidate to leak information that makes their man look good—that’s so common I’m not sure it even has a name—but for the candidate himself to use his son’s death as a way of worming his way into a weekly column written by a woman who detests Hillary Clinton more fanatically than anyone this side of Ken Starr? I’m not quite sure what to call that, but authentic isn’t it.

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Perhaps We Should Retire the Idea That Joe Biden Is "Authentic"

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