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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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Bernie Sanders inspired the Sunrise Movement, now has its endorsement

Sunrise Movement, the group of young climate activists who helped catapult the Green New Deal onto the national stage last year, is feeling the Bern. The organization used its oodles of Gen Z social capital to endorse Senator Bernie Sanders for president on Thursday.

In a statement, Varshini Prakash, the group’s executive director, said she believes a Sanders presidency “would provide the best political terrain” for Sunrise to accomplish its mission of enacting a Green New Deal. It’s no surprise that an organization founded by young adults inspired by Sanders’ presidential run in 2016 would throw its support behind the candidate. But the results of a survey of thousands of the group’s members, published Thursday, made it clear that the group is united behind the Vermont Senator.

Sunrise, which is comprised of a national leadership team and a series of autonomous “hubs” located across the country, started the process of endorsing a candidate last November. The six-week-long undertaking allowed the group’s 10,000 members to cast votes on two questions: should Sunrise endorse a candidate, and who should that candidate be? Eighty-five percent of its members voted in favor of endorsing, and 76 percent voted in favor of Sanders — a decisive victory by any measure. Senator Elizabeth Warren got 17.4 percent of the vote, and the remainder was split primarily among Pete Buttigieg, Andrew Yang, and “no preference.”

Sanders, who was the first candidate to unveil a climate change proposal actually called the Green New Deal, said on Thursday he was “honored” to receive Sunrise’s support. But he’s not the only candidate with a vision for a progressive climate action plan. Warren also has a plan called the Green New Deal and has been endorsed by one of the architects of Congress’s Green New Deal resolution, and all of the Democrats running for president have said they support the general idea of a Green New Deal. “I’m grateful for @SunriseMvmt’s leadership in this fight,” Warren, who clearly is not a sore loser, wrote on Twitter shortly after the group announced its endorsement of Sanders.

Regardless of how committed other candidates say they are to progressive proposals like the Green New Deal, Sanders’ seniority on these issues has made him a magnet for endorsements from progressive groups like Dream Defenders and People’s Action. Most importantly perhaps for the young members of Sunrise Movement, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, cosponsor of the Green New Deal resolution that was introduced in the House and rejected by the Senate last year, endorsed him in October.

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Bernie Sanders inspired the Sunrise Movement, now has its endorsement

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The Sunrise Movement has a plan to force presidential candidates to address climate change

The Sunrise Movement has had a big year: The climate activist group staged a protest in Nancy Pelosi’s office, helped spur a standoff between kids and California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, and had a meeting with Beto O’Rourke that resulted in the candidate taking a pledge to eschew fossil fuel donations. Sunrise activists are known for coming in real hot and pushing the Green New Deal like their lives depend on it. The next piece of their climate plan is no different.

On Monday night, the group hosted a rally in Washington, D.C., featuring two of the patron saints of the current climate movement: Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Bernie Sanders. At that rally, between jabs at Joe Biden’s alleged “middle of the road” climate approach and stabs at the fossil fuel industry, Sunrise unveiled the next rung of a ladder that the group hopes will lead all the way to the White House.

Here’s how the group aims to center the 2020 presidential race around climate change, even though the main Republican contender has one of the most severe allergies to climate action doctors have ever seen.

Sunrise hopes to get Democratic candidates to accept their three key demands: Candidates must sign the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge, make the Green New Deal a priority on day one in office, and call on the Democratic National Committee to host a climate debate. The group says it is in the process of mobilizing its network of thousands of volunteers across the nation to put pressure on the candidates to meet its demands.

Sunrise is also organizing a demonstration at the presidential debate in Detroit beginning on July 30, the deadline for candidates to accept the aforementioned three demands. The group says it will host a parallel event featuring speakers and stories from folks on the frontlines of the climate struggle.

Will 2020 candidates buckle under pressure? We’ll see. But it’s clear from the rapid-fire way Beto took the no fossil fuel money pledge that Sunrise’s tactics have left a serious impression on the presidential hopefuls: No one wants that awkward Feinstein moment.

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The Sunrise Movement has a plan to force presidential candidates to address climate change

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Climate movement grandpa James Hansen says the Green New Deal is ‘nonsense’

In the 1980s, NASA scientist James Hansen brought climate change to the attention of Congress, and shortly thereafter the public. Humans, he testified in 1988, were responsible for rising global temperatures.

But the man who put his reputation on the line to alert the world to the dangers of global warming doesn’t appear to agree with the most recent crop of climate advocates.

In April 20 debate with Sunrise Movement’s Varshini Prakash and Christian Aid’s Amanda Mukwashi, Hansen called the Green New Deal “nonsense.”

Hosted by Al Jazeera, the 12-minute debate highlights a growing fault line between two theories of climate action. Among progressives and environmental justice advocates, the Green New Deal represents a last-ditch, economy-wide overhaul. Hansen, on the other hand, seems to argue for a more economically incremental approach that is centered on a carbon tax.

That tension came to a head when Hansen appeared visibly aggravated by the progressive proposal and Prakash, realizing that one of the most prominent climate scientists in the world was scoffing at her organization’s central focus, could only laugh in disbelief.

Although Hansen is a proponent of using technology to bring down emissions, a carbon tax, he said, “is the underlying policy required. People need energy, we need to make the price of fossil fuels include their cost to society.”

The green new dealers, on the other hand, think their predecessors are offering too little too late. Prakash referenced a “point of no return” during the debate, a threshold past which temperatures rise so much that they trigger a series of unstoppable and catastrophic feedback loops. That kind of outcome can only be stopped by drastic action, she argued. When I spoke to Sunrise’s Evan Weber late last year, he indicated that the organization wasn’t actively pursuing a carbon tax.

What was most striking about Hansen’s argument was his measured tone, a stark difference from the way even the typically staid scientists behind the U.N’s IPCC report are beginning to discuss the issue.

“We should be phasing down emissions now,” he said, which seems like a bit of an understatement considering he’s been advocating for decreased emissions for the last, oh, four decades. “If we do that, we will get a little bit warmer than we are now, and then temperature(s) can begin to decline,” he said, adding that we will have to phase out fossil fuels over the “next several decades” in order to accomplish this goal.

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Climate movement grandpa James Hansen says the Green New Deal is ‘nonsense’

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A bunch of kids confronted Senator Dianne Feinstein over the Green New Deal

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It’s becoming increasingly clear that kids, not grownups, are driving the global conversation around climate action. As you read this, young people in Europe and the United States are organizing marches, walk-outs, and sit-ins to protest the way their governments are handling (or ignoring) climate change. It’s not just a cute stunt, in many cases, these kiddos are getting serious results.

In the latest round of the kids v. adults showdown: A bunch of children and young folks stormed Senator Dianne Feinstein’s office to ask her to back the Green New Deal. And the California Democrat took the opportunity to publicly back the proposal! Just kidding.

The meeting was organized by the Sunrise Movement, the same climate group that staged a sit-in in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office to demand she support the GND after the midterms. The kids, and at least one adult, presented Feinstein with a handwritten letter asking her to vote “yes” on the progressive climate plan.

Judging by the video, Feinstein appeared prepared to negotiate at first. “I’ll tell you what,” she said. “We have our own Green New Deal.” But after being interrupted multiple times, Feinstein got a little feisty, and things turned testy.

“Some scientists have said we have 12 years to turn this around,” a little girl told the senator. “Well, it’s not going to get turned around in 10 years,” Feinstein responded, which is the political equivalent of telling a kid that the tooth fairy doesn’t exist. Except maybe meaner.

Whether you’re on the side of the kids or the grandma (not an insult, Feinstein reports she has seven grandchildren), one lesson here is that telling a bunch of kids that you won your race by “a million vote plurality” isn’t the best way to endear yourself to an increasingly rambunctious climate movement.


A bunch of kids confronted Senator Dianne Feinstein over the Green New Deal

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MacArthur winner wants to make clean energy with fake leaves

MacArthur winner wants to make clean energy with fake leaves

By on 2 Oct 2015commentsShare

What’s the difference between an artificial leaf and a solar panel? This isn’t the setup for a joke; it’s an actual question. Although believe me — that’s not for lack of trying.

The difference is that a solar panel turns sunlight into electricity, and an artificial leaf turns sunlight into fuel. (Ba dum tss!) This is an important distinction, because as much as we humans love our electricity, we’re not very good at storing it, and that’s a problem, because electricity can be as ephemeral as your college roommate’s desire to read Infinite Jest. The nice thing about fuel is that it is an energy storage device — that is, it stores the energy from sunlight in the chemical bonds of the fuel itself. This is what plants do when they convert sunlight and CO2 into oxygen and sugar (fuel), hence the term “artificial leaf.”

Another important difference between a solar panel and an artificial leaf is that you can actually buy a solar panel. Artificial leaf technology is still in research mode, but it won’t be for long if Peidong Yang has anything to say about it.

Yang, a professor of energy and chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, is one of this year’s MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant recipients. His lab has developed a “leaf” that uses nanowires between 100 and 1,000 times thinner than a human hair to capture sunlight. Bacteria cultured among the nanowires then use that sunlight to convert CO2 into oxygen and fuels like methane and butanol.

The Los Angeles Times recently caught up with Yang to discuss the technology and his hopes for the future:

How close are you to being able to use artificial photosynthesis on a large scale?

This year, we finally came up with a first-generation, fully-functional system — and that’s after 10 years of research. We demonstrated its feasibility, but in terms of robustness and cost and efficiency, it is not close to being commercially viable.

To do basic research, we have to be patient. I’m a big believer that discovery cannot be planned. It requires support from the government and industry. It will take the work of one or two generations of talented people to solve this problem.

Do you think artificial photosynthesis can ever compete with natural photosynthesis?

We want to learn from nature, but we have to be better than nature.

It took evolution millions of years to get green plants and leaves to their current stage, but their solar-to-chemical-energy efficiency is not that high. All they need to do is make enough energy to survive. To come up with a commercially viable technology, we have to do better than that.

Is that possible?

Theoretically, it is certainly possible. In solar panels the energy conversion efficiency is above 20%, much higher than what is happening in leaves. So in terms of design, we have the advantage — nature doesn’t have silicon to use. We do.

Yang isn’t the only one working on an artificial leaf. Earlier this year, a group at Caltech demonstrated an artificial leaf that could turn sunlight into hydrogen fuel at a relatively high efficiency. Their prototype is still too expensive for the market, but it was a promising proof of concept.

OK, OK — I got it: An internal combustion engine, an artificial leaf, and a solar panel walk into a bar.

The internal combustion engine orders a Sidecar, and the artificial leaf orders a Tequila Sunrise.

The bartender looks at the solar panel. “And another Sunrise for you?”

“No, thanks. It’ll go right through me.”


Q&A MacArthur ‘genius’ explains why artificial leaves need to work better than real ones

, The Los Angeles Times.


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