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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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Jay Inslee turns up the pressure on the DNC to host a climate debate

The Democratic National Committee sets the tone for the Democratic party every big election. Issues like healthcare and jobs have always been much higher on the organization’s list of priorities than climate change — a topic that got a total of five minutes and 27 seconds of debate time in 2016. But this presidential election is sure to be different: Scientists say we have little time to avert climate catastrophe, extreme weather chewed through swaths of the country last year, and a majority of voters are worried about climate change. The 2020 Democratic primary even has its very first climate candidate.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee is betting that he can stand out in a crowded 2020 primary by making climate change the centerpiece of his campaign. His very presence in the field, and the relative expertise with which he talks about thorny topics like nuclear energy and geoengineering, will put pressure on his rivals to clarify their own climate platforms. That is, if Inslee manages to get more than a few words in edgewise.

On Earth Day, Inslee penned an open letter to his fellow 2020 Democrats asking them to join him in asking the DNC to hold a climate debate. “This is an urgent problem, and we can’t resolve it with soundbites and one-off questions,” he wrote. The DNC, however, doesn’t seem particularly enthused about the idea. “[W]e will absolutely have these discussions during the 2020 primary process,” a spokesperson said, which is a polite way of saying, “Settle down, pipsqueak.”

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But Inslee might be able to generate some momentum by double-dog daring his opponents to match his climate fervor. Already, two of them have endorsed his idea. “A DNC debate focused on climate change would show the world that America intends to lead again on this issue,” New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand told the Daily Beast in a statement last week, when Inslee first called on the DNC to host a climate debate. “I’m in!” Obama’s former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro tweeted on Monday, even though his climate record is light and a little spotty.

Recent polls show Castro and Gillibrand both polling at around 1 percent — why not make a splash on climate? Other candidates, like Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, may not feel the need to respond to Inslee’s bait: They have both been long-time climate advocates. Warren just proposed a public lands climate bill.

At one point or another, all of these Democrats are going to have to tell us what they really mean when they say they support climate action or something like the Green New Deal. “Each 2020 candidate needs to have a concrete plan to take on this challenge  —  and we deserve to hear those plans,” Inslee wrote.


Jay Inslee turns up the pressure on the DNC to host a climate debate

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Horsemen of the Apocalypse – Dick Russell


Horsemen of the Apocalypse

The Men Who Are Destroying the Planet—And How They Explain Themselves to Their Own Children

Dick Russell

Genre: Science & Nature

Price: $2.99

Publish Date: May 2, 2017

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Seller: OpenRoad Integrated Media, LLC

Two New York Times –bestselling authors team up to name names in “a must read for anyone concerned with climate and energy issues” (Leonardo DiCaprio).   The science is overwhelming; the facts are in. The planet is heating up at an alarming rate and the results are everywhere to be seen. Yet, as time runs out, climate progress is blocked by the men who are profiting from the burning of the planet: energy moguls like the Koch brothers and former Exxon Mobil CEO and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, along with powerful politicians like Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Jim Inhofe, who receive massive contributions from the oil and coal industries. Most of these men are too intelligent to truly believe that climate change is not a growing crisis. And yet they have put their profits and careers ahead of the health and welfare of the world’s population—and even their own children and grandchildren. How do they explain themselves to their offspring, to the next generations that must deal with the environmental havoc that these men have wreaked? Horsemen of the Apocalypse takes a personal look at this global crisis, literally bringing it home.   “This may be the most important book yet on the climate crisis . . . and by the way, it’s fun to read. Dick Russell’s keen research and sharp writing unpacks the complex sordid tale of fossil fuel corporations and their henchmen, from the Koch brothers to Exxon to Peabody coal, who have systematically held us back from solving climate change, using denial, deception, and ruthless power.” —Kert Davies, director, Climate Investigations Center

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Horsemen of the Apocalypse – Dick Russell

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John Hickenlooper has a curious connection to a Trump Cabinet secretary

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

Former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper’s ties to the oil and gas industry run deep, especially when compared to those of other candidates in the unwieldy 2020 Democratic field. In some ways, given that Hickenlooper served two terms in the fifth-largest oil-and-gas-producing state, these connections are not surprising. But what may be less apparent is that his government service also intersected with David Bernhardt, the new secretary of the Interior responsible for opening public lands to industry development. Hickenlooper has also often ended up aligned with Bernhardt’s former law and lobbying firm, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, on matters regarding fracking, the use of public lands, and support for the oil and gas industry over the interests of consumers.

Any governor of Colorado, no matter what party, would inevitably come into contact with the firm, which represents dozens of clients across the energy sector alone. His own chief of staff, Doug Friednash, came from Brownstein in 2015, only to return to it again before the governor’s tenure ended last year. Hickenlooper has been dubbed “Frackenlooper” by critics who claim he’s prioritized major oil and gas development at the expense of citizen activism.

Brownstein is one of the most profitable lobbying firms in the country, and its influence naturally extends into Colorado government as well. According to the Denver alt-weekly Westword, “When there’s a hot political issue in Colorado, the Brownstein firm usually has a seat at the table … and sometimes more than one.”

Now, internal emails reveal how the law firm enjoyed a seat at the table very close to the governor’s. They show how Brownstein became a conduit for the relationship between Hickenlooper’s administration and one of its most prominent Colorado clients, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA), an industry group that led the way in trying to thwart local attempts to restrict fracking. In this matter, pitting local communities against the fossil fuel industry, Bernhardt, who was the chair of Brownstein’s natural resources division, and Hickenlooper’s administration repeatedly fought on the same side to clear hurdles to drilling.

In 2012 and 2013, two Colorado towns, Longmont and Fort Collins, had placed a moratorium on fracking development. The communities, worried about potential groundwater contamination, argued that municipalities should have the right to reject Colorado’s fracking expansion, setting up a face-off with the considerably more lax Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, whose appointments by the governor often include regulators with extensive energy sector connections.

Hickenlooper’s administration sued Longmont and Fort Collins for preempting state law, and, on behalf of COGA, Brownstein sued them in a case that worked its way all the way up to the state Supreme Court. Before becoming Ryan Zinke’s deputy at the Department of the Interior, Bernhardt was the energy and natural resources chair at the firm with broad responsibilities and a long list of his own clients in the oil sector. In 2016, the state Supreme Court struck down the bans in Longmont and Fort Collins, setting a precedent statewide and providing a big win for Brownstein, Hickenlooper, and COGA.

“We appreciate the Supreme Court’s guidance on balancing private property rights and local government jurisdiction of oil and gas operations in Colorado,” Hickenlooper said in a celebratory statement that struck his usual theme of working with industry, not against it. “We’ll continue to work creatively and energetically with communities and industry to ensure our world-class environment is protected while remaining a place that is welcoming to business and jobs.”

It is unclear how direct a role Bernhardt played in the industry’s fight as chair of the natural resources division, and the matter doesn’t appear on the listed conflicts of interest in his ethics disclosure. But he was front and center celebrating his firm’s victory in a May 2016 press release issued from the firm: “This case involved precedent-setting issues pertaining to state preemption of oil and gas activities,” Bernhardt said in a statement commending his employee, whose “knowledge of energy and land use law were on exceptional display in front of the Supreme Court, showing the depth and breadth of our team.”

A few months after the 2016 state Supreme Court win, environmental activists were gathering signatures for a pair of ballot initiatives, Nos. 75 and 78, that would have given municipalities the power to ban fracking and force fracking operations to be located 2,500 feet from occupied buildings. COGA objected to the efforts and sought a series of meetings, including getting oil and gas executives on the “governor’s dance card” to plot a strategy to defeat or at least undermine the initiatives, according to emails obtained through state requests by the watchdog group Documented and shared with Mother Jones.

The ballot initiatives barely gathered support, and neither one cleared the threshold for enough valid signatures to make the 2016 cycle. Activists tried again in 2018 with Proposition 112, a state initiative that would have required the sites for new oil and gas wells to be located more than 2,500 feet away from any occupied building — schools, homes, and sensitive areas — because of health concerns. Once more, Hickenlooper was on the side of COGA and opposed Proposition 112, arguing that the measure would impose excessive burdens on the economy and state budget. Both the governor and COGA pointed to the estimate that 85 percent of non-federal lands would be off the table. The industry contributed $38 million to help defeat it and back a different initiative, which also failed.

Nonetheless, before leaving office in 2018, the state commission struck a compromise ahead of a newly elected Democratic wave, unanimously approving a more narrow order setting new fracking operations back 1,000 feet from schools.

Now Hickenlooper is on the campaign trail, Bernhardt is running the Department of the Interior, and COGA is working with the Colorado arm of the American Petroleum Institute in its next fight: preventing the new Democratic majority in Colorado from passing a law to give local entities more power to curb fracking. Tracee Bentley, Hickenlooper’s legislative director at the time, started the American Petroleum Institute’s Colorado arm in 2015 and is working on the side of oil and gas on this effort.

Last year, Bentley hosted an American Petroleum Institute roundtable in which she sounded the alarm about citizen efforts to rein in the oil industry and praised compromise in terms that Hickenlooper now echoes on the campaign trail. “I know that the key to our success is collaboration,” she said in a statement, “and we will continue to work hand-in-hand with government partners, communities and stakeholders alike to ensure that our shared future betters the lives of all Coloradans.”

Appearing on the same panel was then-deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt.

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John Hickenlooper has a curious connection to a Trump Cabinet secretary

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What would a national emergency over climate change look like?

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Well, it finally happened: President Trump declared a national emergency in order to secure funding for his barrier between Mexico and the United States. We are under virtually no threat from illegal immigration through the southern border. Phew! But don’t put up your feet just yet, the U.S. actually is facing a pretty terrifying threat, not from immigrants, but from climate change.

Now that Trump has set a precedent, some are raising the point that a different president could use the same maneuver to declare a national emergency over rising temperatures. After all, rising sea levels, worsening hurricanes, wildfires, invasive species, and droughts threaten millions of Americans. Talk about a national security crisis.

Shortly after Trump made his declaration, Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar took to Twitter to call on the next president to declare climate change a national emergency upon taking office. If the idea catches on, 2020 Democrats might have to decide not only whether they support the Green New Deal, but also whether they would be willing to take that commitment to the next level.

Hold your horses, can a future president use emergency power to combat climate change? And if so, what would that even look like?

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Dan Farber, professor of law at the University of California, Los Angeles, examined the idea of a climate change national emergency in a blog post. It turns out there are a few things a future president might be able to do to mitigate climate change through such a move. Here are the areas Farber thinks are worth exploring (these options are as of yet untested, could look different in practice, AND, as Farber told us in an earlier story, just ’cause it’s possible in theory doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good idea):

Oil drilling could be put on pause. “Oil leases are required to have clauses allowing them to be suspended during national emergencies,” Farber writes. If climate change is causing the emergency, doesn’t it make sense to pump the brakes on the stuff causing it? Hmmm?
The Secretary of Transportation, who is in charge of transportation coordination during national emergencies, could restrict use of gas-powered vehicles.
The renewable energy industry could get an influx of financial support, because a provision allows “the President to extend loan guarantees to critical industries during national emergencies,” Farber writes.
There’s even an act that could be invoked to give the president power to “impose sanctions on individuals and countries.” In a national climate change emergency scenario, the act could be used to sanction oil-producing countries.

In a national emergency, the president gets nearly 150 special powers. The options listed above are just a few of the ways those powers could be used in the name of climate change mitigation.

Already, Oregon Representative Earl Blumenauer has announced he will be introducing a “congressional emergency declaration on the climate crisis” in Congress. Get ready, GOP! Even if the Supreme Court ends up striking down the border wall, Trump just opened Pandora’s Box.

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What would a national emergency over climate change look like?

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A bipartisan group of senators just agreed we need to break our addiction to carbon

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Leaving our fossil fuel-entrenched economy behind is looking more and more like a bipartisan goal. Case in point: A bipartisan Senate committee just apparently agreed that we need to decarbonize our energy system.

On Thursday, the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a hearing on how to innovate the energy sector, and it took a climate-friendly turn. While the group didn’t reach a consensus on how to achieve “net-zero greenhouse gas emissions,” as promised in the brand new Green New Deal resolution, the conversation was nevertheless encouraging.

Near the end of the hearing, Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, a Democrat of Nevada, asked the committee if anyone disagreed with looking into an energy portfolio with the “outcome of decarbonization.” The room was silent. A few seconds later, Cortez Masto concluded, “I think that’s why we’re here. That is where we could set our long-term mission and goal.”

Leading up to that, the committee found plenty to agree (and in a few instances, disagree) on.

“It is time to push hard to bring down the cost of clean energy technologies like renewables, advanced nuclear, next-generation energy storage, and carbon capture,” said Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski from Alaska, the chair of the committee, in her opening remarks.

Even Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia — a Democrat who just earlier this week applauded President Trump’s line about the U.S. being the world’s No. 1 oil producer during the State of the Union address — appeared to get behind the eventual goal of decarbonization. “Breakthrough technologies will help us reliably meet our energy needs in the future while decarbonizing our energy system,” he said.

Tellingly though, he called for a focus on new technologies to suck carbon out of the air. The coal-state senator from  made it clear that he wasn’t ready to kick dirty energy to the curb just yet: “We must acknowledge that fossil fuels will continue to play an integral role in our electric generation.”

He also expressed concern over the economic effects of a transition to renewables on West Virginia: “We don’t want to drink dirty water. We don’t want to breathe dirty air. We want our kids to have a future. We really do. But they also realize they have to have a job to sustain themselves.”

In response, Cortez pointed to her state of Nevada. “Ten years ago, Nevada was known for gambling, entertainment, and mining,” she said. “Now we are an innovation state.”

Senator Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat, also highlighted the promise of renewables. “There are 8,000 parts in a big wind turbine, and we’re prepared to make every single one of those [pieces] in Michigan,” she said. “You can do some in West Virginia, too,” she told Manchin.

But as Ernest Moniz, former Energy Secretary under Obama, said in his testimony to the committee, “Accelerating this transition will not be easy.”

Moniz urged the committee to make sure they’re not putting all their low-carbon eggs in one technology basket. “There is no single low-carbon, one-size-fits-all solution,” Moniz said. “What we need to do is have the full quiver of arrows for which low-carbon solutions can be fit to purpose in different regions of our country and in different countries.”

Jason Grumet, president of the Bipartisan Policy Center, emphasized the necessity of reaching zero emissions by mid-century while acknowledging the work that lies ahead. “With some reasonable success and failure,” Grumet said, “ I think we can actually provide a better future for our children, which has been the human tradition for 10,000 generations.”

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A bipartisan group of senators just agreed we need to break our addiction to carbon

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House Democrats just told the Pentagon to redo its climate change report

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

Earlier this month, the Pentagon released a landmark report that identified the 79 American military installations most vulnerable to the “effects of a changing climate.” The 22-page filing frankly acknowledged the security implications of climate change — in dramatic contrast with President Trump’s very public global warming skepticism — but Democrats roundly criticized its failure to include several details requested by Congress, including specific cost estimates to protect or replace the ten most vulnerable bases from each of the military services.

Now those lawmakers want a complete do-over.

In a letter released Wednesday afternoon, three Democratic members of the House Armed Services panel, including Chair Adam Smith from Washington state, urged Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan to compile another report by April that “thoroughly and clearly addresses” the criteria requested by Congress.

“They clearly ignored the requirement in the law,” says Representative Jim Langevin of Rhode Island, one of the signatories, who had described himself as “deeply disappointed” with the original report. “The report they issued was completely unsatisfactory.” Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the ranking member on the Senate Armed Services panel, said the report carried “about as much value as a phonebook.” Smith immediately demanded another report that “rigorously confronts the realities of our warming planet.”

Heather Babb, a Defense Department spokesperson, attempted to explain the priorities, saying earlier this month that Pentagon officials “focused on mission assurance” when compiling the report. “By using this alternative approach, we are able to highlight where there are operational risks,” she said. When asked about the new request on Wednesday, Babb said, “As with all congressional correspondence, we will respond directly to [the] authors of the letter.”

What was omitted in the first report that the Pentagon had a year to compile was striking. No Marine Corps installations were mentioned, for example, despite the fact that just four months before the report was released, Hurricane Florence slammed into Camp Lejeune, the Marines’ biggest base on the East Coast, costing more than $3 billion in damages. Omissions from other branches of the military were just as concerning. Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, where Hurricane Michael devastated 95 percent of the buildings in October, was not included among the Air Force’s most vulnerable bases.

In the summer of 2017, as part of the debate over last year’s annual defense spending bill, Langevin introduced an amendment requesting that the Pentagon assess how best to mitigate climate-related threats across the armed services, down to the level of an estimated cost and combatant command requirements. Earlier that year, the Washington Post had reported that defense officials removed nearly two-dozen references to climate change from a draft survey of installations vulnerable to the threat, creating an embarrassing news cycle for the Pentagon.

The amendment was added by voice vote in committee and reaffirmed with bipartisan support on the floor of the House. In July, more than 40 members of Congress, including several Republicans, even wrote to former defense secretary Jim Mattis to remind him of the requirements included in the report. Notably, lawmakers said they had been “disturbed” by the Post story, as if to warn Mattis against inciting a similar firestorm.“We expect that when this report is delivered to Congress later this year, it will contain candid assessments in line with the clear instructions passed by Congress and signed into law by the President,” the letter stated.

The report clearly fell short of its goal in the first version and now, with Democrats in control of the House, Langevin said the Armed Services committee is considering several options in case the Pentagon ignores this new request, from subpoenaing documents to hauling relevant DOD staffers before the panel for testimony. “I hope this doesn’t become a long, dragged-out battle,” he said. At least one major ex-Pentagon official has already voiced his support for a new report. John Conger, the former assistant secretary of defense for energy, installations, and environment, noted in a blog post earlier this month that “DoD should make the transition from anecdote to analysis and provide a fuller assessment, as Congress directed.”

For Shanahan, now in his fifth week leading the Pentagon as Mattis’s acting successor, the challenge from House Democrats poses an important early test of how compliant he will be with Congress. Mattis, who fell out of favor with Trump and ultimately resigned once the president announced that he would withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, had long been viewed as a climate change realist in a Cabinet of deniers and skeptics. Shanahan, whose background had been in weapons acquisition and management as a career executive at Boeing, arrived at the Pentagon as deputy secretary without a history of making his public policy views explicit.

But in the months since he entered government as the No. 2 to Mattis, climate change has risen on the military’s agenda. The recently released annual worldwide threat assessment from the intelligence community even listed global warming as a menace to “low-lying military bases.” The Democrats’ request for a new report can potentially put Shanahan at loggerheads with Congress, which confirmed him as deputy secretary with wide bipartisan support, and Trump, who has indicated that Shanahan could remain acting secretary indefinitely. (A spokesperson for Shanahan was not immediately available for comment.)

Since the early days of the Trump administration, the Pentagon has quietly but firmly adopted a more proactive approach toward climate change in some areas. After years of degradation to shipyards in Virginia, Hawaii, Maine, and other states, the Navy submitted a $21 billion infrastructure plan last year to clear a backlog of maintenance work. Military leaders have also grown more assertive in confronting the possibility of security threats from Russia and China in a warmer Arctic. In the past, reports from the Pentagon and the independent Government Accountability Office have even catalogued the threat to hundreds of installations in the United States and abroad. But the reluctance some officials have shown toward openly contradicting their commander in chief has compromised lawmakers’ confidence in DOD’s willingness to seriously confront the security implications of a warming planet.

Read the complete letter here.

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House Democrats just told the Pentagon to redo its climate change report

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gets biblical on Sarah Huckabee Sanders

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It’s as official as it ever was: The White House doesn’t want to be held responsible for acting on climate change.

In an interview on Fox News Tuesday night, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders dismissed Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s urgent calls to action on climate change: “Look, I don’t think we’re going to listen to her on much of anything, particularly not on matters we’re gonna leave in the hands of a much, much higher authority, and certainly not listen to the freshman congresswoman on when the world may end.”

This came in response to an interview Cortez did on Monday with the writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, during which she emphasized the 12-year deadline to slash carbon emissions enough to avoid the worst ravages of climate change. She told Coates that young people are looking for bold moves on climate change, and condemned the “abdication of responsibility” by those currently in power.

In the third round on Wednesday, Cortez turned to the bible in a Twitter thread.

Others, like climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe, quickly chimed in.

The congresswoman summed it up by saying: “You shouldn’t need a Bible to tell you to protect our planet, but it does anyway.”

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gets biblical on Sarah Huckabee Sanders

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Here’s where 2020 presidential candidate Julián Castro stands on the environment

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Last week, President Obama’s former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro announced he is running for president. Castro is well known in San Antonio, Texas, where he served as mayor from 2009 to 2014, but he’s not exactly a household name elsewhere in the country just yet. The Latino Democrat’s 2020 policy agenda includes progressive crowd-pleasers like universal pre-K and Medicare-for-all, but where does he stand on the environment?

We don’t have to speculate about Castro’s environmental intentions. During his announcement speech on Saturday, Castro swore to reaffirm America’s commitment to the Paris climate agreement and pass some version of a Green New Deal.

There’s reason to believe he isn’t just jumping on the climate change bandwagon because other (rumored and official) 2020 contenders — such as Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Bernie Sanders, and Washington state Governor Jay Inslee — have made climate change a central component of their platforms. While he was the mayor of San Antonio, Castro pushed the city’s public utility to close a 900-megawatt coal-powered plant, adopt a 20 percent renewable energy by 2020 pledge, and offer green jobs training. The city also launched a small car-sharing program and a bike-share system aimed at making transportation greener under his leadership.

But Castro’s environmental record isn’t blemish-free. In 2011, during his time as mayor, he touted the economic benefits of fracked gas for his district. “This is the kind of moment that only comes once a century,” he said of a proposed fracking project in the Eagle Ford Shale. And the native Texan has not yet taken the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge — a vow to eschew donations from Big Oil PACs that has only been taken by a few 2020 contenders thus far, including Warren and Inslee.

So as 2020 presidential candidates keep pushing each other further left, will Castro draw a clearer line in the sand when it comes to climate? We’ll keep you posted.

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Here’s where 2020 presidential candidate Julián Castro stands on the environment

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Bad news for the Amazon as Brazil backs out of hosting U.N. climate talks

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Brazil was set to be the host country for COP 25, next year’s crucial United Nation talks to address climate change, but just two months after offering to do so, the country’s officials have reversed their stance.

Brazilian leaders communicated the decision on Monday to Patrícia Espinosa, executive secretary of the U.N. Convention on Climate Change, just days before the start of COP 24, this year’s annual climate conference being held in Katowice, Poland. The Brazilian government blames the change on budget constraints and the ongoing presidential transition process. But others are interpreting the move as yet another sign of President-elect Jair Bolsonaro’s impending war on the environment.

“This decision is not surprising considering it comes from a leader with proven skepticism towards the reality of climate change, and open animosity towards those working to preserve our climate,” Christian Poirier, program director at Amazon Watch, told Grist. Poirier also says he doesn’t buy Brazil’s budget excuse for reversing on hosting the conference. “It is clear that Mr. Bolsonaro’s reactionary political agenda was the decisive factor in this decision.”

Bolsonaro confirmed that he participated in the decision, saying “I recommended to our future minister that we avoid the realization of this event here in Brazil.”

(The United Nations did not immediately reply to Grist’s request for comment.)

Before Bolsonaro’s election, the country seemed eager to host the next round of international climate talks. According to Brazilian news site O Globo, the foreign ministry had said Brazil’s offer reflected “the consensus of Brazilian society on the importance and the urgency of actions that contribute to the fight against climate change.”

But in some ways, the current reversal comes as no surprise. During his campaign, Bolsonaro (a.k.a. The Trump of the Tropics) vowed to jettison from the Paris Climate Agreement — though he’s since backtracked from that promise. Still, he’s been steadfast in his desire to open up the Amazon, the world’s largest rainforest, to mining, farming, and dam building. He’s said he wants to open up the country’s existing indigenous reserves to commercial exploitation. And earlier this month, he chose a new foreign minister that has said he believes climate change is a Marxist plot to help China.

A recent report issued by the Brazilian government found the Amazon has reached its highest levels of deforestation in a decade, thanks to illegal logging and the expansion of agriculture in the area. And there are major concerns that Bolsonaro’s lax environmental policies could push the Amazon past its tipping point as one of the world’s most important carbon sinks.

Brazil withdrawing its offer to host COP 25 also carries symbolic weight when you consider the country is the birthplace of global climate talks. The milestone Rio Earth Summit of 1992 set the green agenda for decades to come.

“The image of Brazil is at risk,” said Carlos Rittl, executive secretary of the Brazilian Climate Observatory, a coalition of environmental non-governmental organizations, in an interview with the New York Times. “Climate and the environment are the only issues where Brazil is a leader in global terms. We are not leaders in world trade, we are not leaders in a geopolitical sense on security issues. But on climate and environment we are leaders, and we are giving that up.”

The South American country’s decision has left the United Nations scrambling to find a new site for the summit. A new venue for the summit has not yet been determined.

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Bad news for the Amazon as Brazil backs out of hosting U.N. climate talks

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