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The plan meant to unite Biden and Bernie voters on climate is finally here

Once upon a time, many moons ago — i.e., back in April — Democratic presidential primary candidate Bernie Sanders agreed to exit the race and join forces with his mortal frenemy Joe Biden to help the former vice president take the White House. The two announced they were putting together a series of joint “unity” task forces with experts from each of their camps to shape the Democratic platform, including a task force on climate change.

After a few months of weekly Zoom meetings and conference calls, the task forces sent their final recommendations to the Democratic National Committee for its consideration on Wednesday.

On climate change, the two candidates and their supporters had some serious divides to bridge. Over the course of nine months of primary debates, Biden touted his plan to build 500,000 electric vehicle chargers and put his faith in American exceptionalism while Sanders bashed fossil fuel executives and promoted the Green New Deal. To try to find a middle ground, Sanders appointed Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Sunrise Movement co-founder Varshini Prakash, and Catherine Flowers, the founder of the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice, to the joint climate task force. Biden selected former Secretary of State John Kerry, former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy, and former Biden policy advisor Kerry Duggan, along with two members of Congress.

From the preamble to the task force’s policy recommendations, it’s clear that Sanders’ camp had a meaningful influence on the platform. Titled “Combating the climate crisis and pursuing environmental justice,” the introduction immediately namechecks communities that have suffered the most from the effects of climate change, like Houston, Texas and Paradise, California, and quickly moves on to those that have long suffered from racist policies and pollution, like Flint, Michigan and the Navajo Nation. The platform goes on to work justice and equity into pretty much every bullet point, from eliminating legacy pollution like Superfund sites, to creating union jobs in clean energy that reflect the full diversity of the country. While the Green New Deal is never mentioned, traces of it are all over the place.

Prakash wrote about her experience on the task force on Twitter on Wednesday, explaining that she had two goals: to push Biden to increase his ambition on climate change in terms of timelines and benchmarks, and to place environmental and climate justice at the heart of all of Biden’s climate policies.

On Prakash’s first goal, there was certainly some success. Previously, Biden’s climate policies centered around achieving 100 percent clean electricity by 2050. The task force shaved 15 years off that goal. It also came up with a slew of closer, more specific benchmarks: Within five years, make all school buses electric and help spur retrofits of 4 million buildings by unlocking private sector funding and setting efficiency standards, and by 2030, zero out the carbon footprint of all new buildings.

As for Prakash’s second goal, she applauded Biden’s commitment to putting environmental justice at the heart of his climate policy agenda by “directing federal funds to disadvantaged communities, ending pollution & toxic waste sites, and creating mitigation strategies and rebuilding from disaster in just and equitable ways.”

“We are leaving these discussions with policies that, if implemented, will make Joe Biden’s climate agenda far more powerful, equitable, and urgent than where his plans were just weeks ago,” she tweeted.

Naturally, there is evidence of compromise throughout the task force’s plan. While the document endorses repealing fossil fuel subsidies and addressing methane emissions from oil and gas infrastructure, it does not say anything about fracking, and the only pipeline that it mentions is the “diverse pipeline of talent” the government should help create to fill good clean energy jobs. However, it does urge the Democratic party to explicitly fess up to “historic wrongs” perpetrated against Native American tribes with respect to infrastructure (i.e. pipelines), and to commit to a more robust and meaningful consultation process with tribes across all federal agencies. To do so, the task force recommends conducting a “Tribal Needs Assessment” to understand how to support more than 500 tribes in the energy transition.

Primary season left the Democratic party deeply divided, and some on the climate left will inevitably remain skeptical that a Biden administration will be ambitious enough. This document is by no means the scripture of climate policy. But Biden has proven to be pliant, allowing himself to be pushed further and further on climate since first announcing his candidacy, and this experiment in intra-party negotiation and compromise offers some evidence that the trend could continue.

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The plan meant to unite Biden and Bernie voters on climate is finally here

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A bill in Congress could get to the bottom of how coronavirus links air pollution and racism

It’s becoming clear that black and Latino communities in the U.S. suffer disproportionately from the novel coronavirus. The COVID-19 mortality rate for black New York City residents, for example, is twice that of white residents, and a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report has suggested that black Americans in general are hospitalized for COVID-19 at much higher rates. Research is also emerging showing that exposure to air pollution likely makes COVID-19 deadlier. In other words, when it comes to COVID-19 outcomes, it’s clear that race matters and that pollution matters. What is not yet clear is how, exactly, these two troubling trends are related.

In hopes of finding concrete connections between air pollution in communities of color and COVID-19 outcomes, last month Democrats in Congress introduced the Environmental Justice COVID-19 Act, which would allocate an additional $50 million to existing Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant programs and prioritize that funding for projects that “investigate or address the disproportionate impacts of the COVID–19 pandemic in environmental justice communities.”

The measure was included in the HEROES Act, the $3 trillion pandemic relief legislation that passed the House of Representatives last month with mostly Democratic support. The legislation’s future in a Republican-controlled Senate is shaky, but at a House Committee on Energy and Commerce hearing on Tuesday, lawmakers and advocates continued to push for the bill funding the study of the relationship between pollution and racial disparities in COVID-19 outcomes.

“COVID-19 has exacerbated what we have known all along,” said California Representative Raul Ruiz, one of the bill’s cosponsors, during the hearing. “[At-risk communities are] disproportionately breathing polluted air and drinking dirty water due to neglect or decisions by others.”

Jacqueline Patterson, director of the NAACP’s Environmental and Climate Justice Program, discussed how black and Latino communities in the U.S. face more extensive exposure to pollutants, making them more susceptible to lower respiratory illnesses like COVID-19. More than 70 percent of black Americans “are living in counties in violation of federal air pollution standards,” she told the panel of lawmakers.

Patterson also criticized the Trump administration’s approach to environmental policy.

“Instead of strengthening regulations to reinforce protections for communities made vulnerable by poor air quality, we have an administration that has rolled back over 100 regulations in the context of COVID-19,” she said, referring to the Trump administration’s broad relaxation of environmental enforcement during the pandemic.

Patterson said that the funding provided by the Environmental Justice COVID-19 Act would help existing organizations, like local chapters of the NAACP, study the way environmental factors affect public health for communities of color. However, she isn’t sure that the $50 million allocated is enough to accomplish the bill’s aims.

“[The bill] is going to make a difference, but I think ‘enough’ is gonna be a hard bar to reach at this point because the needs are so great,” she told Grist. “Air pollution standards aren’t even stringent enough in the first place.”

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A bill in Congress could get to the bottom of how coronavirus links air pollution and racism

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Coronavirus’s next victim: Big Meat

Americans are soon going to be eating a lot less meat — just not in the way environmentalists had hoped that would happen. Coronavirus has shuttered so many meatpacking plants around the country that the number of cattle and pigs slaughtered every day is down 40 percent. Farmers are euthanizing pigs by the thousand and trucking the meat to landfills to rot.

“The food supply chain is breaking,” wrote John Tyson, chairman of Tyson Foods Inc. in a full-page that ran in major newspapers on Sunday.

As far as his business is concerned, Tyson is right: The meat industry has never experienced a crisis like this before. It’s likely to lead to many long term changes: more scrutiny of the industry’s consolidation, more support for smaller meat companies, and a renewed push for mechanization. In the short term, it means two things: scarcity and higher prices.

“It’s going to cause price spikes somewhere downstream,” said Rich Sexton, an agricultural economist at the University of California, Davis. But the average shopper might only notice empty shelves rather than higher prices, because “big grocery chains don’t like to jack up prices, especially in times like this.”

By the last week of April, some 16 plants had been shut down. In response, President Donald Trump issued an executive order Tuesday to reopen meatpacking plants, provoking protests from unions and Democratic politicians who say that the order doesn’t do enough to protect workers from getting infected. “We are really putting workers in grave danger today,” said Representative Rosa DeLauro from Connecticut at a press conference on Tuesday. At least 20 meat-processing workers have died from coronavirus so far.

It’s all frightening enough that very serious people are warning of a collapse that could end in food riots. So is it time to panic-buy for real? How could we protect the people risking their lives to produce food? And could this crisis wind up breaking the grip of the few companies that control most of meat processing in America? Here’s our explainer for anyone who wants to get beyond their reflexive Trump-fury and search for solutions.

Would people starve if the meatpacking plants stayed closed?

After Trump announced his order, Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa tweeted that “society is 9 meals away from food riots.” But, no, there are still plenty of calories to go around — even with farmers dumping mountains of potatoes and oceans of milk. Meatpacking plants are not an existential necessity, because humans survive primarily on grains; we are more seed eaters than beef eaters. The supply chains delivering bread, pasta, and rice are still working well because they rely on machines rather than virus-vulnerable human labor. And much more food is in storage.

“There’s still enough food, but it might not be what we wanted,” said Jayson Lusk, food economist at Purdue University.

What’s the argument for keeping these plants open?

Keeping even a few of the biggest meatpacking plants closed for more than a month could cripple every food business and farmer connected to them. And they are connected to almost everyone. The meat industry is shaped like an hourglass, with farmers at one end, eaters at the other, and a few enormous packing plants at the chokepoint. For example, just 15 slaughterhouses kill 60 percent of the pigs in America.

Purdue University

So the economists I talked to said it only made sense to find a way to get the plants running again as soon as possible.

Farmers are scrambling to find smaller slaughterhouses and meat packers, and those smaller businesses are benefiting, said Nelson Gaydos of the American Association of Meat Processors, which represents these smaller companies. “A lot of people are saying it’s like Christmas on steroids,” he said.

But the big boys are so enormous that the small- and medium-sized meat companies can’t make up for their losses. Imagine you ran a small slaughterhouse that killed 200 pigs a day from local farmers: That might sound like a lot, but you’d have to do that for 100 days to provide as much pork as one of the big plants butcher in a single day (Lusk did the math in a blog post).

Can the plants reopen safely this soon?

It’s tough to tell. Companies are giving workers masks, having them stand six feet apart, and putting up plexiglass barriers when they need to be closer, said Gaydos.

Democrats have said that the government should mandate worker protections rather than simply asking for good-faith efforts as Trump did in his executive order. “It is vital that we do everything we can to protect food supply workers,” wrote a group of Democratic senators in a letter to Trump. “Breakdowns in the food supply chain could have significant economic impacts for both consumers and agricultural producers.”

There’s only so much the government can do. Trump’s executive order releases meat companies from liability from worker’s lawsuits, and it overrules state and local authorities calling for shutdowns. But the president can’t force workers to come back to the job if they don’t feel safe.

How will this crisis change things?

A crisis exposes weaknesses. This one is revealing two major vulnerabilities in the meat industry: Its reliance on human labor and its concentration.

Henry Ford modeled his assembly lines after the disassembly lines he saw in meat packing plants. Automobile assembly lines grew more and more automated, while meat plants continued to rely mostly on dirty, dangerous grunt work. The experience of a pandemic could soon change that. There’s one slaughterhouse in Holland that is almost completely run by machines.

“There is going to be even more of a rush to automate farmwork and slaughterhouses,” Sexton said.

The hourglass shape of the meat industry is another vulnerability. This concentration of just a few giant meat companies is able to put inexpensive meat on the plate of people at even the lowest income levels in America, but it can’t nimbly respond to changes.

Concentration causes other problems, too. For instance, the meat behemoth JBS recently sent a cease-and-desist letter to a union for conducting a “multi-faceted corporate campaign” to “coerce” the corporation to make worker-safety concessions at a plant in Greeley, Colorado.

Of course, unions exist to coerce companies to give workers more money and better conditions. The fact that JBS views the union demands as an illegal breach, rather than business as usual, suggests that it is not used to serious challenges to its authority.

The number of slaughterhouses has fallen 70 percent since the 1960s, a result of bigger companies swallowing up the little ones to grow even bigger. But the pandemic has put these giants in the spotlight. On Wednesday, a bipartisan pair of Senators asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate meatpacking consolidation.

And maybe this crisis will lead politicians to lift some of the regulatory barriers that keep smaller businesses out, Lusk said.

What about the environment? At the moment, that’s an afterthought. The attention right now is focused on ensuring Americans have a steady supply of meat, not on prodding the industry to become environmentally sustainable.

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Coronavirus’s next victim: Big Meat

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What critics of Bernie Sanders’ climate plan are missing

Bernie Sander’s $16 trillion climate plan, which he calls the Green New Deal, would transition the electricity and transportation sectors to renewable energy by 2030, allegedly create 240,000 jobs a year, and essentially nationalize the nation’s power sector. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and legions of climate activists have thrown their support behind the proposal, arguing the Vermont Senator is the only candidate in the primary whose climate ambitions are commensurate with the scale of the crisis. What’s not to love?

A lot, according to a bunch of climate scientists and energy economists interviewed by New York Times reporter Lisa Friedman. In a nutshell, those experts say the plan is “technically impractical, politically unfeasible, and possibly ineffective.” Friedman’s sources argue that Sanders’ resolute stance against building new nuclear projects would kneecap his ability to make the leap from fossil fuels to wind and solar. Then there’s the fact that many of the exciting projects he has planned for the American people, like high-speed rail and mass transit, require CO2-intensive resources to build.

The paper of record isn’t the first to question Sanders’ climate plan. “I find it very difficult to imagine that we can reach a completely decarbonized electricity and transport system by 2030, especially if we’re limiting our options exclusively to wind and solar, as well as geothermal,” Nader Sobhani, a climate policy associate at the think tank Niskanen Center, told InsideClimate News. In the Washington Post, columnist David Drehle wrote, “The wall is child’s play compared with the risible fantasy that Sanders has rolled out in lieu of an actual climate change strategy.”

Obviously, experts and pundits can and should criticize a policy proposal on its merits. But what Sanders’ critics miss is that even if it’s impractical or unfeasible, his Green New Deal still serves a political purpose. The plan moves the Overton window, the range of political ideas that the public considers acceptable or mainstream, several notches to the left.

In fact, Sanders has already moved the Overton window on climate. In 2016, Sander’s climate strategy centered around a carbon tax, an idea that his rival, Hilary Clinton, couldn’t even get behind. In 2019, a carbon tax is barely on the menu, not because it’s too ambitious, but because it’s not ambitious enough. The extraordinary evolution of our climate discourse over the past couple of years is, in part, thanks to the groundwork Sanders laid in 2016. (It’s also thanks to Green New Deal champion Ocasio-Cortez, who credits Sanders for inspiring her to run for Congress.)

Sanders has long been adept at shifting the Overton Window. In 2016, Clinton called talk of a single-payer system “a theoretical debate about some better idea that will never, ever come to pass.” Now, more than half of the crowded Democratic field supports some version of it. That’s in large part because Sanders started beating the Medicare-for-All drum on a national stage during his 2016 presidential run. Sanders has also influenced the national conversation around immigration, publicly funded higher education, and, yes, capitalism itself.

His $16 trillion climate plan may not be entirely feasible, but pulling his most serious competitors further left has always been well within Sanders’ grasp. At the end of the day, that may be the most indelible mark Sanders leaves on the 2020 race.

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What critics of Bernie Sanders’ climate plan are missing

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11,000 scientists say that the ‘climate emergency’ is here

More than 11,000 scientists declared a climate emergency today in — where else — an article published in a scientific journal.

“Scientists have a moral obligation to clearly warn humanity of any great existential threat and to ‘tell it like it is,’” begins the “World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency,” published in BioScience. It continues, “On the basis of this obligation … we declare … clearly and unequivocally, that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency.”

The declaration was co-written by William Ripple, a professor of ecology at Oregon State University and the founder of the environmental advocacy group Alliance of World Scientists, and undersigned by more than 11,000 scientists and climate experts.

These signatories aren’t the first to describe the present state of the climate as a crisis. Hundreds of governments of various sizes around the world, including New York City and the United Kingdom, have passed resolutions saying the same. This summer, some members of Congress proposed a resolution for the U.S. government to join the climate-emergency chorus.

This particular declaration is a little different, though — for one thing, it’s peer reviewed. It’s also the first time so many scientists have directly told the public that the current state of the climate constitutes a crisis, rather than letting their data speak for itself.

“Phrases like ‘climate change’ sound a little bit mild, in terms of how severe the problem is,” Ripple told Grist. “So, we wanted to publish language that is consistent with the data and the trends that we’re seeing.”

Ripple organized a similar initiative back in 2017, when he and 15,000 other scientists issued a “warning to humanity” about climate change (which was itself an homage to a climate warning written by a different group of scientists in 1992). But Ripple decided it was time to upgrade the warning to a declaration of emergency after talking to Representative Earl Blumenauer from Oregon, who introduced the resolution for Congress to declare a national climate emergency back in July.

“In my view, declaring a climate emergency should mostly be based on the data,” said Ripple. “These governmental bodies, they’ll look to the science to see if they are on solid ground before they pass these resolutions.”

Even though outright climate denialism is increasingly illegitimate in mainstream news, the debate over whether to use words like “catastrophe,” “emergency,” or “crisis” continues. So Ripple wanted politicians, activists, and the general public to know that the science supports urgency. He wrote the letter, which details the basic facts of climate change — how human impacts, like CO2 emissions and deforestation, have environmental consequences, like the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and global temperature rise — and sent it around to other scientists, who added their names to the message by the thousands.

But what exactly does it mean to declare a climate emergency? Sure, the first step to solving a problem is admitting you have one, and advocates of climate emergency resolutions point out that acknowledging the severity of the problem posed by our warming planet is a prerequisite for action.

It’s easy to look skeptically at climate emergency resolutions, though, since they’re largely symbolic measures at a time when there are so many tangible actions that need to be taken — transitioning the energy sector from fossil fuels to renewable sources, say. Resolutions also usually (although not always) call for vague, nonbinding measures without legal mechanisms to hold governments accountable for meeting them.

Whether or not you think climate emergency resolutions are an effective tactic for inspiring more concrete actions, it’s a pretty big deal that so many scientists have decided it’s necessary to step out of their labs and into the political arena. If you didn’t believe our warming planet is in a state of emergency, just know that several thousand scientists want you to know otherwise.

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11,000 scientists say that the ‘climate emergency’ is here

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Here’s why Twitter’s political ad ban gives Big Oil a free pass

If you’re fortunate enough not to have a Twitter account, then you might have missed the news that the website’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, took the unprecedented step of banning political ads last week. In a Twitter thread (what else?), Dorsey explained the logic behind the move, which sets the social network apart from major competitors like Facebook, which has not banned much of anything, including neo-Nazis, in the name of “free speech.” “We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought,” he wrote.

Twitter’s decision, which will take effect on November 22, was hailed as a win for democracy and civic discourse. In a tweet, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York called the move a “good call,” adding, “if a company cannot or does not wish to run basic fact-checking on paid political advertising, then they should not run paid political ads at all.”

But there’s a significant downside to Twitter’s decision. Ads that “advocate for or against legislative issues of national importance,” like immigration, health care, and, yes, climate change, are on the chopping block. And when it comes to the issue of climate change, Twitter’s new policy gives oil and gas companies a leg up, and the folks who want to regulate those companies a kneecapping.

In recent years, Big Oil has finally wiped the smog off its glasses and read the writing on the wall: the public knows that a shortlist of multinational corporations are responsible for the lion’s share of the world’s planet-heating emissions. So those corporations shifted tactics lickity-split. Instead of denying that climate change exists, fossil fuel companies want you, and government regulators, to think that they’ve changed their oily ways. ExxonMobil says it’s investing heavily in developing a clean biofuel from algae. Shell produced several climate change manifestos with hopeful titles like “the Sky scenario” that it says have the potential to stop climate change. Chevron is saving turtles in the Philippines.

The problem is that these great initiatives are just a tiny sliver of what Big Oil actually does, which is — you guessed it! — dig up and sell oil. Algae biofuel is Exxon’s hobby (read: marketing ploy), oil is its day job. But it wants you, the consumer, to think that its top scientists are in the lab day and night working tirelessly to save the planet. Meanwhile, in Congress, these same companies are spending hundreds of millions every year to lobby against any kind of climate regulation that will hurt their bottom lines.

Twitter’s new policy allows ExxonMobil to keep filling up your newsfeed with ads about a biofuel that isn’t going to be commercially viable for at least another decade. But it bans a politician from buying ad space to tell you that, if elected, they plan to go after Big Oil.

Exxon’s efforts may not appear overtly political, but they absolutely are. Trying to hoodwink voters and regulators so that the government doesn’t hold polluters accountable is fundamentally at odds with Dorsey’s vision of earning reach instead of buying it. Has Big Oil earned the right to clog our newsfeeds with pictures of green gunk that’s ostensibly going to save the earth? Certainly not.

Twitter has put us in a tough spot. Yes, it’s good that, pretty soon, politicians and dark-money-fueled super-PACs won’t be able to force whatever nonsense they want onto the public. But the new ban will also tilt the online playing field in favor of companies that want to keep burning fossil fuels and against the politicians and groups that want to legislate them out of existence. Which is all to say that regulating civic discourse on social media is a gargantuan task and one that’s nearly impossible to do right. If you came here looking for an answer to this ethical dilemma, I’m sorry to disappoint. Go tweet @jack.

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Here’s why Twitter’s political ad ban gives Big Oil a free pass

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House Democrats set to introduce first-of-its-kind climate refugee bill

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

House Democrats are set to introduce the first major piece of legislation to establish protections for migrants displaced by climate change, ramping up a push for a long-overdue framework for how the United States should respond to a crisis already unfolding on its shores.

The bill, called the Climate Displaced Persons Act, would create a federal program separate from the existing refugee program to take in a minimum of 50,000 climate migrants starting next year.

The legislation, a copy of which HuffPost obtained, directs the White House to collect data on people displaced by extreme weather, drought and sea level rise and submit an annual report to Congress. It also requires the State Department to work with other federal agencies to create a Global Climate Resilience Strategy that puts global warming at the center of U.S. foreign policy.

The bill, set to be introduced by Representative Nydia Velázquez, a New York Democrat, is a companion to legislation proposed by Massachusetts Democratic Senator Ed Markey, one of the leading advocates for a Green New Deal. Its introduction in the House of Representatives marks an escalation as Democrats start to flesh out what a sweeping federal plan to eliminate emissions and prepare the country for more climate catastrophe would look like.

The 21-page proposal looks unlikely to become law while Donald Trump, who rejects climate science and slashed the country’s refugee cap to a historic low of 18,000 last month, remains president.

But the bill lays the groundwork for how a future administration could deal with what’s already forecast to be among the greatest upheavals global warming will cause.

Since 2008, catastrophic weather has displaced an average of 24 million people per year, according to data from the Swiss-based nonprofit Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. That number could climb to anywhere from 140 million to 300 million to 1 billion by 2050. The World Bank estimated last year that climate change effects in just three regions ― sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America ― could force 143 million people to flee by the middle of the century.

Yet little to no legal infrastructure exists to classify and process climate refugees. Last December, leaders from 164 countries formally adopted the U.N. Global Compact for Migration, the first major international document to recognize the role of climate change in causing displacement. But it’s a nonbinding and voluntary accord, and the United States, Australia, and several European Union members refused to sign.

Meanwhile, the exodus is already underway. Within the United States, coastal communities in Louisiana, Florida, and Alaska are abandoning their low-lying homes in search of higher ground, albeit with limited federal support. The wave of foreign migrants seeking safety in the world’s largest economy has begun lapping on U.S. shores.

Thousands of Central American migrants making the treacherous journey to the U.S. border with Mexico are farmers escaping lands so parched by drought crops won’t grow. Last month, the Trump administration turned away at least 119 Bahamians heading to Florida to flee the destruction Hurricane Dorian, the kind of Category 5 storm scientists project to be more frequent in a hotter world, left in its wake.

“America will continue to stand tall as a safe haven for immigrants,” Velázquez said in a statement. “This legislation will not only reaffirm our nation’s longstanding role as a home to those fleeing conflict and disasters, but it will also update it to reflect changes to our world brought on by a changing climate.”

The nascent climate refugee crisis comes as the United Nations is already recording more than 65 million people displaced worldwide ― a figure that, depending on how it’s counted, amounts to the highest number of refugees ever. In Europe, the steady stream of refugees escaping war, poverty, and drought in North Africa and the Middle East has spurred a powerful new right-wing movement against immigrants, led by some of the most brazenly ethnonationalist elected officials since the 1930s.

Absent any liberal alternatives, this European right is starting to pitch its hardline immigration policies as a bulwark against climate disruption. Earlier this year, Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right National Rally, criticized “nomadic” people who “do not care about the environment” as “they have no homeland,” harkening to Nazi-era “blood and soil” rhetoric. A spokesman for her party proposed a solution: “Borders are the environment’s greatest ally.”

Climate Displaced Persons Act by Alexander Kaufman on Scribd

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House Democrats set to introduce first-of-its-kind climate refugee bill

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Trump’s New York buildings need to cut emissions or pay millions in fines

“Don’t mess with your hometown.” That was the message New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio had Monday afternoon for real-estate-mogul-turned-President Donald Trump, who has several properties subject to carbon emissions targets recently set by the Big Apple.

If the Trump organization fails to reduce the carbon footprint of the eight buildings in question, it could face more than $2 million in yearly fines starting in 2030.

“[Trump’s] not just a problem because of his policies in Washington. He’s a problem because his buildings are among the biggest polluters in New York City,” said de Blasio, who has confronted the president time and again over issues ranging from global warming to immigration.

Trump has often undermined the science of global warming, including reports issued by his own administration. He’s also said he intends to take the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement — a promise House Democrats symbolically attempted to block by passing a doomed pro-climate bill earlier this month.

In April, New York City passed the Climate Mobilization Act, a package of 10 bills aimed at keeping the city compliant with carbon reduction goals outlined in the Paris accord. De Blasio expanded municipal climate policies by outlining his city-level “Green New Deal” (not to be confused with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s own statewide version, or Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s much-discussed federal Green New Deal, which in its most clearly formed iteration is still just a non-binding resolution).

Keeping to NYC, De Blasio’s $14 billion deal would cut down greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030.

Nearly 70 percent of New York City’s greenhouse gas emissions come from its buildings. The Climate Mobilization Act mandates buildings larger than 25,000 square feet reduce emissions by 40 percent by 2040 and 80 percent by 2050. These megastructures are just two percent of real estate in the city but are responsible for half of building emissions.

According to the mayor, Trump’s buildings’ carbon footprint is equivalent to 5,800 cars. “Maybe President Trump has forgotten where he comes from. This is the city that has suffered because of global warming and we are still vulnerable,” said de Blasio, referencing the devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

Speaking alongside the mayor at a rally inside Trump Tower, New York Communities for Change board member Rachel Rivera spoke about how she and her daughter are still recovering from Sandy seven years later. “We ran into the night with nothing  . . . When it rains extremely hard, [my daughter] gets extremely anxious,” she said. “New York City will not survive without a radical action to stop climate change.”

Rivera’s comments were met with both cheers and boos — the latter from counter-protesters who interrupted the gathering bearing signs that read, “Trump 2020.”

“Clearly the Trump Organization is a little sensitive to the fact that we’re calling them out for what they are doing to the climate and the way this building is a part of the problem,” de Blasio said. “But, we will not back down.”

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Trump’s New York buildings need to cut emissions or pay millions in fines

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Green New Deal activists make first 2020 endorsement in wildfire-burned California

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

The Green New Dealers are making their first endorsement of the 2020 election.

At a rally on Saturday, Sunrise Movement, the youth-led grassroots group whose protests pushed the Green New Deal into the political mainstream, endorsed Audrey Denney, an agricultural educator running to replace Rebulican Representative Doug LaMalfa in California’s wildfire-scorched 1st congressional district.

“She’s spent her life working to help farmers and rural communities in the district put food on the table for their families and be part of environmental solutions,” Varshini Prakash, Sunrise Movement’s co-founder, said in a statement. “Representative LaMalfa’s constituents are dying because of climate change, yet he’s spent his career in Washington cozying up with the same oil and gas lobbyists who profited at the expense of his constituents’ lives.”

The rally, the latest stop on Sunrise Movement’s tour to promote the Green New Deal, took place in Chico, a northern California city with nearly 94,000 residents, which was hit repeatedly last year by deadly wildfires.

LaMalfa, who rejects what he calls the “bad science” behind climate change, beat Denney last November to win a fourth term.

But the Democrat faced extraordinary personal challenges in her debut bid for elected office. She advanced to the general election despite entering the primary race late. But midway through the campaign, she underwent surgery after her doctor diagnosed a football-sized tumor on her ovary. Eighteen hours after her procedure, she shot a video from her hospital bed reflecting on the limited healthcare access in her district.

She lost the race but managed to shrink LaMalfa’s usual 20 percent margin of victory to 9 percent. At the time, Sunrise Movement — then a much smaller operation working on just a handful of progressive campaigns, including that of New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez  — did not endorse her. But this time the group is betting that its newfound clout and the sobering climate realities that voters in California’s 1st now face will propel Denney to victory in 2020.

Already last summer, the Carr Fire ripped through the district, killing eight. But, days after the election, a utility equipment failure ignited the Camp Fire. By the time its final flames went out, the blaze killed 85, reduced the entire town of Paradise to ash and displaced thousands in the deadliest wildfire in California history. Though mostly spared, the Chico City Council declared a climate change emergency earlier this month.

“In 2018, 93 lives were lost in my district in the Carr and Camp Fires,” Denney said in a statement. “I’m running for Congress because we need a representative who is only beholden to their constituents, not to corporate interests and political gamesmanship.”

Denney pledged to reject money from fossil fuel companies and executives, and she vowed if elected to support Green New Deal legislation in Congress. That stands in stark contrast to LaMalfa, who’s received over $162,330 from energy and natural resource corporate political action committees and over $100,000 from the oil and gas lobby, according to data from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. A LaMalfa spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment on Saturday.

Sunrise Movement is expected to play an expanded role in 2020. Last November, the group’s protests mainstreamed the Green New Deal, a movement for a sweeping national plan to zero out emissions and provide clean-energy and climate infrastructure jobs to millions. Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey released a joint resolution outlining the core values of a Green New Deal in February. With notable exceptions, including former Vice President Joe Biden, nearly every major contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination backed the plan.

The group is in the midst of a nationwide tour with roughly 250 events at churches, classrooms and town halls meant to drum up support for the Green New Deal.

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Green New Deal activists make first 2020 endorsement in wildfire-burned California

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The latest Democratic contender is all climate all the time

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Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced he was running for president on Friday from the warehouse of a solar company in South Seattle — a historically diverse area of the Pacific Northwestern hub.

The event was more press conference, less political rally, and almost strikingly devoid of bells and whistles — especially compared to the splashy announcements held by other presidential hopefuls, like Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren. Attendees followed the sound of chatter behind A&R Solar’s street-front office to a work yard out back, where the sun beat down on stacks of solar panel building materials. Journalists, Seattle-area politicians, A&R employees, and a few politically inclined citizens crowded onto the warehouse floor, where Inslee, positioned in front of a solar array, spoke for around 30 minutes about the issue he’s building his campaign around.

“We have one chance to defeat climate change, and it is right now,” he said. “It is my belief that when you have one chance, you take it.”

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Inslee is hoping to set himself apart from the increasingly crowded 2020 Democratic field by running as the climate change candidate. “There is no other issue that touches so much of what we care about,” Inslee told the raucous crowd of roughly 100 people. “It’s just as much a matter of equity as it is a matter of ecology.”

By using climate as a lens for approaching issues that might hot closer to home for many voters — like health care, jobs, education — Inslee is positioning his platform to appeal beyond just the environmentally-inclined. “Climate change is not more important than the economy,” he said, noting that his focus on climate doesn’t make him a single-issue candidate. “It is the economy.”

His track record as Washington’s progressive, climate-oriented governor could help him galvanize support for his presidential bid. “If America wants to see a Washington that actually works,” Inslee said, “look West to Washington state.”

Case in point, as he made his announcement, the Washington state senate voted to approve clean energy legislation proposed by the governor. The bill will eliminate natural gas and coal from the state’s energy mix by 2045. A few hours after he left the stage, a second of his climate bills, a proposal to reduce hydrofluorocarbons — a group of especially powerful industrial greenhouse gases — passed the House 55 to 39. Still, Inslee has supported multiple failed efforts to pass a carbon tax in Washington, including a ballot measure that voters rejected this past November.

In his remarks, Inslee made reference to the Green New Deal — a plan to deal with warming and jumpstart the economy that is popular among progressives and a clutch of high-profile 2020 candidates — as evidence that climate is becoming a household issue. “Americans are calling for this,” he said. “Americans are mobilizing across the country.”

But the governor did not explicitly endorse the proposal. Instead, he unveiled a four-pronged plan to tackle rising temperatures that has a great deal in common with the Green New Deal resolution introduced into Congress earlier this month by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey last month.

  1. Power the economy with “100 percent clean, renewable, and carbon-free energy.” The governor did not say when such a goal would be accomplished or whether more controversial clean energy sources, like nuclear or hydro, are included in his vision of a green America.
  2. Create millions of jobs in green industries. Inslee laid out the outline of a green jobs plan that takes advantage of what each state has to offer. “We are going to build electric cars in Michigan, build and install wind turbines in Iowa,” he said, “and solar right here in Washington state.”
  3. Justice and inclusion. Communities of color are often on the frontlines of climate change and are frequently left out of the picture by politicians, Inslee said, adding, “Everyone benefits from new jobs and investment.”
  4. No more subsidies for fossil fuels. “I have a message for the oil and gas interests,” Inslee said, setting up one of the morning’s biggest applause lines. “That gravy train is over.”

Inslee pledged not to take any money from the fossil fuel industry throughout his campaign, and he upped the ante for his prospective presidency: “Not one nickel of taxpayer dollars will go toward subsidizing oil and gas.”

The Democrat, who until recently was chair of the Democratic Governors Association, took a break from climate change to discuss paid family leave, health care, taking on the NRA, and legalizing marijuana nationwide. But he quickly came back to his climate platform.

While the governor’s unyielding emphasis on climate change might be a turn-off for some, those who came to hear him speak seemed enthusiastic about his laser-focused platform. “I think it’s a great idea,” said Kim Mead, head of the Washington Education Association, an 82,000-member teachers union. “It’s something we haven’t been paying enough attention to, and it’s something that’s the future for our kids, too.”

Inslee’s bear-hugging of climate has won him the support of Charlie Lapham, the 28-year-old director of communications at the Martin Luther King County Labor Council. “There are a lot of candidates in the Democratic field supporting climate,” he said. “They say it’s this issue that’s going to threaten our existence, but then it’s their number-four or five priority.”

Jesse Anderson, a 34-year-old project engineer at A&R Solar, hasn’t quite made up his mind if he’s supporting Inslee for president, but he likes a lot of what he hears. “I feel like he supports the cause for the industry that I work for,” he said.

Still, Anderson isn’t quite on the same page as Inslee about climate change being the number one priority for the nation. That sentiment is among the biggest challenges to the Washington governor’s candidacy, in addition to low name recognition and the fact that he’s executive of one of the deepest of blue states.

“There’s a lot of priorities,” Anderson said. “I think it’s definitely up there.”

For Inslee, obviously, nothing else comes close to stopping climate change. To wit, as those assembled made their way out of the warehouse and onto the street, a man quipped about the governor’s speech: “It sure was easy to figure out what his priorities were.”

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The latest Democratic contender is all climate all the time

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