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Black environmentalists are organizing to save the planet from injustice

“I can’t breathe.” These were among the final words that George Floyd and Eric Garner gasped before their deaths at the hands of white police officers. That plea has become part of the current rallying cry for racial justice and an end to police brutality in the U.S. But for black people living near industrial facilities, the phrase has an additional layer of meaning: a reminder of their disproportionate pollution burden.

“While many in power seemed surprised that COVID-19 is killing twice as many black Americans, those of us in the environmental justice movement know that the health impacts of cumulative and disproportionate levels of pollution in our communities have created underlying health conditions that contribute to our higher COVID-19 mortality rates,” said Peggy Shepard, co-founder and executive director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice, said at a virtual press conference on Monday.

Shepard is part of the National Black Environmental Justice Network (NBEJN), a national coalition of black environmental justice groups and grassroots activists founded in 1991. Although the network took a hiatus in 2006 after executive director Damu Smith passed away, the network just announced that it’s making a comeback against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and renewed calls to fight racial injustice.

The network’s mission sends a clear message: Environmental injustice is not a single issue. Rather, it’s a constellation of issues including discrimination in housing, jobs, and healthcare.

It’s impossible to untangle black communities’ current risks from America’s long history of racist policies and practices. Discriminatory policies such as banks’ government-sanctioned refusal to approve home loans and insurance for people in communities of color, also known as redlining, forced black families into neighborhoods more likely to be exposed to industrial pollution and extreme heat. Now these same communities face a surge in unemployment and poverty rates as a result of the economic downturn brought on by the pandemic, and they are also disproportionately dying from the novel coronavirus as a result of a lack of health insurance, unequal access to test sites, and higher workplace exposure via employment in essential services. As if that wasn’t enough, a recent Harvard study also found a link between air pollution and death from COVID-19.

Given the systemic conditions that disproportionately expose black people to the coronavirus pandemic, climate change, and other worsening crises, NBEJN members — including the network’s co-chairs, environmental justice pioneers Robert Bullard and Beverly Wright — say they are now looking to bring in black lawyers, engineers, leaders, and other experts to join forces to help create an equitable green stimulus package, take on the fossil fuel industry, and fight the Trump administration’s seemingly endless orders to weaken environmental protections.

“We see these environmental rollbacks as not just fast-tracking project permits, but as a fast-track to the emergency room and cemeteries,” said Bullard, an author and professor of urban planning and environmental policy at Texas Southern University. “The NBEJN is about dismantling systemic racism, and we’re talking about turning the dominant paradigm on its head.”

Network leaders say COVID-19 recovery legislation could be an opportunity for lawmakers to pass a robust green stimulus package that would focus on environmental justice. Such a green stimulus package, the coalition said, needs to address core issues of systemic racism by, for example, providing green jobs to communities of color.

“Green stimulus packages often only look at protecting the world, but not protecting people like us,” said Wright, executive director of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice. “Any stimulus package dealing with transportation to housing or whatever they’re talking about doing will have to include us and need to be viewed with equity and justice lenses.”

Even if an equitable green stimulus package makes it through Congress and the White House, there will still be a lot more work to be done. Bullard said that even if the Democratic party wins the presidential election or takes control of the Senate, it will take time to reverse Trump-era environmental policy damages, including the country’s withdrawal from the 2016 Paris Agreement. Even then, he added, policymakers will need to take additional steps to curb greenhouse gas emissions and center frontline communities. And NBEJN leaders say the network will stick around to make sure those steps are taken.

“Racism is baked into America’s DNA,” Bullard said. “NBEJN is needed today to fight these conversing threats and underlying conditions that are denying black people the right to breathe and the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness enjoyed by white America.”

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Black environmentalists are organizing to save the planet from injustice

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At least the coronavirus stimulus package isn’t bailing out the oil industry

After more than a week of squabbling over what should go into the third coronavirus relief package, the White House and Senate leaders reached a compromise on Tuesday night. And while no climate-friendly provisions made it into the $2 trillion stimulus bill, it wasn’t necessarily bad news for the planet either.

In the days leading up to this near-final bill, much of the debate centered around Democrats’ attempts to include certain green provisions, like support for the struggling renewable energy industry, and a requirement that a bailout for airlines be contingent on emission reduction promises.

The fight broke down into a sandbox tussle on Monday when Mitch McConnell accused Democrats of delaying relief for hospitals and struggling Americans in their pursuit of the Green New Deal, while Democrats argued that if the government was going to bail out the oil industry by purchasing $3 billion of oil for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, why not help other hurting energy industries, too? The clash seems to have ended in a draw, as neither the oil bailout nor any clean energy or emissions reduction measures are in the most recent version of the bill. The only thing that stuck was $32 billion for the airline industry — no strings attached.

In the midst of the negotiations, a coalition of scientists, academics, and advocates from the environment, justice, and labor movements penned a letter to Congress with their own “menu of solutions” to make the stimulus a win-win for the economy and the environment.

The letter criticizes the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the stimulus package signed by President Obama during the Great Recession, for centering companies over workers, and it offers almost 100 policy interventions to improve on that model. If you’re someone who thought the Green New Deal sounded nice but weren’t sure what it meant in practice, I encourage you to check this letter out. The proposals are highly specific and cover everything from creating jobs to reducing emissions to shoring up communities that are vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

The ideas range from the familiar, like creating green jobs in clean energy, construction, the food system, transportation, and manufacturing, to the creative, like expanding funding for the National Endowment for the Arts to support out-of-work artists and makers. There are layers of proposals within each of the umbrellas I just mentioned, like providing direct funding to transit authorities to help them through the slowdown, changing zoning regulations to promote dense development, providing no-interest loans for local governments to build parks, supporting indigenous farming practices and protecting native seeds, and ending fossil fuel subsidies and directing those funds to help workers transition to new jobs.

The letter’s authors aren’t the only ones thinking about how the country could bounce back from coronavirus while getting ahead on climate change. Grist staff spoke with seven experts with more ideas for a green stimulus. While most called for short-term measures similar to the ones Democratic senators fought for, in the long term many wanted to see major investments in clean energy infrastructure with a focus on hiring from and serving under-resourced communities and communities of color.

Even though the $2 trillion stimulus that Congress is voting on this week is void of consideration for the planet, experts are saying it will probably only get us through the next few months. That means many of these ideas could still come into play in future legislation.

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At least the coronavirus stimulus package isn’t bailing out the oil industry

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Revolution or steady progress? The Bernie-Biden climate split

Is it better to take on climate change with bold, revolutionary action, or compromise and tinkering?

In practice, it’s usually both. You can organize protests, and support the incremental art-of-the-possible tweaks that city and state officials work to pass. But in the contest to nominate the Democratic candidate for the White House, this question has been an either-or proposition. The race has narrowed to Senators Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, who represent opposite sides of this divide (or at least their supporters do). You’re bound to see this populist versus insider split when they face off in debate Sunday.

Sanders promises big, Green New Deal-style changes, counting on a popular uprising to transform political reality. Biden, though also a supporter of the Green New Deal, offers more modest changes within the existing political framework. Which is a better bet?

In the middle of our national flame-throwing fest about how to get things done, we could learn a lot from a little-noticed debate from last year that serves as the perfect proxy for this question. This wasn’t your typical chest-pounding debate, in fact it was sort of the opposite: A disagreement offering so much clarity that, no matter your position, it’s certain to shift your thinking at least a little bit.

It started in March last year, when Jerry Taylor, president of the Niskanen Center, pleaded in “An Open Letter to Green New Dealers” for a more Biden-esque approach. (Taylor is a former CATO Institute climate-change skeptic who changed his mind as he reviewed the evidence).

Leah Stokes, a professor of political science at the University of California at Santa Barbara (and a newly minted member of the Grist 50) fired back with an epic thread of tweets, making the Bernie-esque case that elected officials would need a social movement, a push from the people, to get anything done.

The two met in person last September and hashed it out at a conference organized by the Breakthrough Institute, an environmental think tank. You can watch the whole debate yourself.

But if you’re trying to limit your screen time, here are some of the highlights:

Taylor warned Stokes against fighting the impossible fight. He anticipated that a political window would open to pass climate legislation in 2021, which Democrats could miss if they become focused on the Green New Deal. There’s good reason to think something that big would fail: The Democratic Congress couldn’t even pass a resolution to support it in principle.

“In other words, if there was a Republican rapture experience, and they all disappeared and all we had were Democrats in the House, it still wouldn’t pass,” Taylor said.

It turned out that Stokes agreed with this: “A lot of your critiques, Jerry, really speak to the inside Congress game. And I think you are spot on on that.” But she argued that if there’s going to be any hope of passing legislation big enough to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions, we should be looking outside of Washington for leadership. “If you look at the Earth Day movement, the founding of the EPA, the Clean Air Act, a lot of the landmark legislation that we still rely on today actually came out of a big public outpouring of people in the streets,” she said.

The problem with Stokes’s line of thinking, Taylor responded, is that climate action is polarized along political lines. Republicans such as climate-change denying Senator James Inhofe are the ones blocking legislation, he said, not the politicians influenced by climate strike-leader Greta Thunberg. “I don’t care how many people Greta puts in New York, it’s not changing James Inhofe’s mind, nor is it changing the votes of most Republicans.”

But the fact that activists, like those from the Sunrise Movement, are banging down the doors of Congress and holding strikes is creating space even for right wingers to offer their own version of policy, Stokes said. “If you are being asked by journalists all the time, like, “What’s your climate plan?” and the Republicans have no answer, they have to come up with something.”

There’s much more to be gleaned from the debate (you really should watch it, these two are so funny and smart) Witness Taylor ripping the GOP (“First of all, you have to speak their language: Russian”) and Stokes self-mockingly professing her passion for energy research (“I just want to spend a lot of money because I love the government, bad habit”).

It’s important to recognize that a lot has changed in the last 4 months. When I recently asked Taylor for an update, he pointed out that the Green New Deal is no longer sucking all the air out of the room, so the door is open for politicians to push for other measures in Congress. Democrats are working on bills like the Clean Future Act which, he said, is less a Green New Deal and more a copy of California’s state climate policy rejiggered for national scale.

Taylor also had words of praise for the activists he had once been so worried about. “What Sunrise has done,” he said, “is to elevate climate change to the near-top of the progressive agenda. And that counts for something. It may count for a lot, actually.”

Which is one of the key points Stokes was making in their debate. Taylor shifted his stance as he realized the facts had changed. As for Stokes, she noted that this primary season is a referendum on whether activists like the Sunrise Movement can lead a surge in new voters to support something like the Green New Deal. That hasn’t happened. “I think we are seeing the limits of that,” she conceded. Both Taylor and Stokes have moved closer to each other.

But Stokes stuck to her guns on one point: She sees a role for a social movement around climate change. “I think that climate change is the unity issue for the Democratic Party. And it’s a huge wedge issue: It has a lot of support among independents and young Republicans.”

A smart candidate would run on a climate-focused surge of spending, promising good union jobs and clean air, Stokes said: “That would be a winner in November.”


Revolution or steady progress? The Bernie-Biden climate split

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Emperors of the Deep – William McKeever


Emperors of the Deep

Sharks–The Ocean’s Most Mysterious, Most Misunderstood, and Most Important Guardians

William McKeever

Genre: Biology

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: June 25, 2019

Publisher: HarperOne


In this remarkable groundbreaking book, a documentarian and conservationist, determined to dispel misplaced fear and correct common misconceptions, explores in-depth the secret lives of sharks—magnificent creatures who play an integral part in maintaining the health of the world’s oceans and ultimately the planet. From the Jaws blockbusters to Shark Week, we are conditioned to see sharks as terrifying cold-blooded underwater predators. But as Ocean Guardian founder William McKeever reveals, sharks are evolutionary marvels essential to maintaining a balanced ecosystem. We can learn much from sharks, he argues, and our knowledge about them continues to grow. The first book to reveal in full the hidden lives of sharks, Emperors of the Deep examines four species—Mako, Tiger, Hammerhead, and Great White—as never before, and includes fascinating details such as: Sharks are 50-million years older than trees;Sharks have survived five extinction level events, including the one that killed off the dinosaurs;Sharks have electroreception, a sixth-sense that lets them pick up on electric fields generated by living things;Sharks can dive 4,000 feet below the surface;Sharks account for only 6 human fatalities per year, while humans kill 100 million sharks per year. McKeever goes back through time to probe the shark’s pre-historic secrets and how it has become the world’s most feared and most misunderstood predator, and takes us on a pulse-pounding tour around the world and deep under the water’s surface, from the frigid waters of the Arctic Circle to the coral reefs of the tropical Central Pacific, to see sharks up close in their natural habitat. He also interviews ecologists, conservationists, and world-renowned shark experts, including the founders of Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior, the head of the Massachusetts Shark Research Program, and the self-professed “last great shark hunter.” At once a deep-dive into the misunderstood world of sharks and an urgent call to protect them, Emperors of the Deep celebrates this wild species that hold the key to unlocking the mysteries of the ocean—if we can prevent their extinction from climate change and human hunters.

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Emperors of the Deep – William McKeever

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It’s official: Federal judge shuts down the largest oil refinery on the East Coast

A federal judge finally confirmed the Chapter 11 bankruptcy plan of Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) on Thursday. The plan includes the sale of PES’s 1,300-acre refinery complex to a real estate company — putting an end to the largest oil refining operation on the East Coast.

A month earlier, dozens of Philadelphia-based climate activists made a trek to New York City to protest outside the building where a closed-door auction to sell the refinery site was being held. The activists hoped to prevent the site from being sold to a bidder with plans to keep the site running as a refinery. The following week, their wish seemed to have come true: Hilco Redevelopment Partners, a Chicago-based real estate company with a track record of turning defunct fossil fuel infrastructure into logistics centers, was the selected winner. For a moment, the future of the site looked bright. All that was left was approval from the bankruptcy court.

But the other bidders didn’t give up so easily. Industrial Realty Group (IRG), which had made a higher bid than Hilco, teamed up with Phil Rinaldi, the former chief executive of PES, to try to get the results of the auction voided so that IRG could continue running the site as a refinery. With the support of union leaders representing former refinery workers, Rinaldi urged the White House to get involved, arguing that more than a thousand jobs and national security interests were at stake. Peter Navarro, the assistant to President Trump for trade and manufacturing policy, openly backed IRG’s plan, telling the Philadelphia Inquirer, “We’d love to see that remain as a refinery.”

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross had a tough decision to make. Last week, the Delaware judge delayed the confirmation hearing to give stakeholders more time to object to the plan. But on Thursday, he officially signed off on the plan. “I’m very much satisfied that the sale to Hilco is the highest bid and sale,” Judge Gross said. “Clearly is in the best interest of the community as well, given the risks that were attended to the prior operations with the refinery, and a refinery frankly that had numerous and repeated problems over the years.”

As a result of yesterday’s hearing, Hilco is now set to buy the plot of land for $252 million, $12 million more than what was initially agreed upon. The final bankruptcy plan also includes $5 million in severance for laid-off refinery workers, as part of a larger settlement for all the refinery’s unsecured creditors. In addition, the plan will also pay PES executives as much as $20 million in bonuses on top of the millions of dollars in bonuses paid to them right after the refinery exploded last June.

Since the explosion, Philly Thrive — the grassroots environmental justice group that organized the protest of the auction — ramped up its efforts to organize and rally against the refinery for threatening public health. The group held several protests in front of the refinery, hosted call banks, wrote testimonies, and occupied government-owned buildings. Meanwhile, a report released last week found that the PES refinery, which processed 335,000 barrels of crude oil each day, released the highest levels of cancer-causing benzene pollution of any refinery in the country.

“Some people can’t afford to get up and move,” South Philadelphia resident Carol White, who lives about a mile away from the refinery and is also a member of Philly Thrive, told Grist after the June explosion. “There are older people living here inhaling fumes, newborn babies, kids under five, and ultimately, it’s impacted people of color.”

Philly Thrive’s months-long fight to end the refinery — along with its years-long fight to breathe clean air — have paid off. The PES refinery will now be permanently shut down and most likely be redeveloped as a mixed-use property. But the group said it’s not an end to the fight, and it looks forward to working with Hilco in determining the future of the land.

“Thrive members are already seeing and planning for the next fight ahead of us, including holding Hilco to a process of involving the public around redevelopment, taking on measures to get whatever justice we can around the benzene emissions, and also linking up with efforts around a Green New Deal,” Philly Thrive organizer Alexa Ross told Grist. “This is not the end of the fight.”


It’s official: Federal judge shuts down the largest oil refinery on the East Coast

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Congress is losing a major Republican climate hawk. What now?

Representative Francis Rooney of Florida announced he’s retiring on Saturday, citing frustration over increasing partisanship in Congress and a sense that he’d completed what he set out to do as reasons for his abrupt departure. The surprise decision came just a day after the congressman said he was open to considering articles of impeachment against President Trump (the first House Republican to do so).

“I thought the idea was you came and did your public service and left, you accomplish what you want to accomplish and you left,” Rooney told Fox News. “And that’s what I want to be an example to do. And I’m also tired of the intense partisanship that stops us from solving the big questions that America needs solved.”

While Rooney was in office, he championed a carbon pricing measure and advocated for an offshore drilling ban on Florida’s coast. His departure leaves a climate-shaped hole in the GOP, a party that has developed a pretty severe allergy to established science over the past several years. Rooney is the current co-chair of the Climate Solutions Caucus, a bipartisan group in the House of Representatives whose main objectives are to educate members of Congress about climate change and to push for climate legislation. The group, which formed in early 2016, operates on the premise that bipartisanship on climate and environmental issues is still possible, perhaps once a less science-averse president is in office.

But that caucus took a major hit to its Republican flank during the 2018 midterms, when 21 members lost their seats, including the caucus’ Republican co-chair at the time, Representative Carlos Curbelo, also from Florida. Now, less than a year into his tenure as the new co-chair, Rooney is on his way out.

What does that mean for the future of climate change legislation in the United States? It’s true that with President Trump in office, it’s nigh impossible for climate bills to become law, even if they somehow managed to survive the Senate. Historically, however, major environmental legislation has been successful when both sides of the political aisle fight for it. That’s partly why things like public lands bills and the occasional offshore drilling ban stay put no matter which party controls the White House. But recent political polarization around climate change has wrested the title “conservationist” away from the Republican party and bequeathed it to the Democrats.

Members of the Citizens Climate Lobby, a grassroots environmental group that lobbied for the creation of the caucus, are optimistic that Rooney’s departure does not doom bipartisan climate action, though his sudden retirement did catch the group by surprise. “It’s definitely not something we saw coming,” Andres Jimenez, senior director of congressional affairs for Citizens Climate Lobby, told Grist. “[Rooney] was one of our biggest champions on carbon pricing.”

But Jimenez is confident Republicans will step up to the plate in Rooney’s absence.

He cited recent polling that shows growing support for carbon taxes and a Green New Deal among young Republicans. And he said that Republicans from districts that have been touched by extreme weather and other climate-tinged events are wising up to the fact that voters support climate action.

Not to mention recent news that the Senate is starting up its own bipartisan climate group. That initiative builds off of the work done by the House, Jimenez said. “It’s had a huge impact, not only in the House but now in the higher chamber,” he said, adding: “We believe that there will be champions stepping up to take Representative Rooney’s spot.” He did not, however, name any names.

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Congress is losing a major Republican climate hawk. What now?

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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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Joe Biden wants to be the anti-Trump. Here’s what that could mean for climate policy.

Let’s play a game called two truths and a lie:

  1. Joe Biden is running for President.
  2. Joe Biden has endorsed a carbon tax and the Green New Deal.
  3. Joe Biden was the first senator to introduce climate legislation in the U.S.

For all those who guessed that No. 2 is the lie, you are correct! Congrats. The Democrat has not, in fact, endorsed the Green New Deal. Nor has gone on record about supporting carbon pricing, a climate solution embraced by most political moderates.

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Biden announced Thursday morning that he is throwing his ice cream-stained cap in the 2020 presidential ring, which means the already-crowded, left-lurching Democratic primary has its most establishment member yet in the 76-year-old former vice president. In a video that focuses heavily on the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, and the current White House occupant’s shocking response to the event, Biden clearly positions himself as the antidote to Donald Trump.

The longtime senator from Delaware has been under scrutiny for months as the media anticipated his official announcement. Dozens of stories have probed his decades-long record. And a month ago, Lucy Flores, a Democratic politician from Nevada, accused him of unwanted touching. Since then, a number of women have come forward with similar stories.

The accusations and the background checks didn’t stop the Democrat from joining the 2020 race. His launch video eschews any talk of issues, so what can we expect from Biden when it comes to tackling climate change? Let’s take a trip down memory lane.

Amtrak Joe was actually the first to propose climate legislation in Congress’s upper chamber — a bill called the 1986 Global Climate Protection Act that would have done what Nancy Pelosi’s Select Committee on the Climate Crisis does now: “Establish a Task Force on the Global Climate to research, develop, and implement a coordinated national strategy on global climate.” Imagine how useful such a panel might have been three decades ago. Unfortunately the president at the time, Ronald Reagan, wasn’t exactly champing at the bit to address rising temperatures.

Between his early days in the Senate and now, Biden’s most notable climate-related accomplishment was serving as Barack Obama’s sidekick for eight years. The administration was especially focused on climate action, especially during its second term (think: CAFE standards, Clean Power Plan, the Paris agreement, among other achievements). Following the 2008 recession, Biden handed out $90 billion in funding for clean-energy programs and called the move “the thing I’m proudest of” from the administration’s first term. In a 2015 speech, the vice president said tackling climate change was “the single most important thing” the White House could do.

Overall, however Obama’s climate record is far from spotless: He bragged about helping the U.S. become the world’s leading oil producer. And part of his energy plan included handing Shell a permit to drill in the Arctic and promoting offshore drilling. Biden might now have to answer for those decisions.

Today, as the chatter left of the aisle centers on the Green New Deal, it’s clear that ideas like the Obama-era “all of the above” energy strategy aren’t going to fly in the Democratic primary. Already, five 2020-bound senators have signed on as cosponsors of the ambitious equity-focused, economy-transforming proposal offered by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey. A slew of other candidates not serving in the Senate have thrown their support behind the idea, too.

Biden, however, has so far been uncharacteristically quiet on that front. But, in a speech at the Conference of Mayors in January, he gave the audience a taste of what his thinking around climate is these days:

Lots of renewables: “Today we generate wind power for 24 million homes,” he said. “There’s no reason why we can’t quadruple that, virtually overnight.”
He’s all about setting goals: “There’s no reason that in 2025 all of North America can’t get half its electricity from non-polluting sources.”
Bipartisanship: “There’s unanimity in my party, the vast majority of Republicans agree,” he claimed, that climate needs to be addressed.
Climate change is a matter of national security: “Sea levels rise a half a foot or a foot, you have tens of millions of people migrating,” he explained, shaking his fist. “That’s how wars start.”
Climate change poses an existential threat: “It’s about a matter of survival.”

Biden wrapped up his speech with a call to arms: “We cannot continue down this blind path,” he proclaimed. “We cannot ignore science, we cannot abdicate our duty to lead the world.”

It’s no accident that Biden spent a third of his 30-minute speech expounding on his record on the environment and enumerating ideas to tackle climate change. With the clock ticking on much-needed action, the issue is often on the lips of many challengers vying to take on Donald Trump — and then, hopefully, warming.

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Joe Biden wants to be the anti-Trump. Here’s what that could mean for climate policy.

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5 facts to make you smarter than the president on Puerto Rico

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The fact-checking bar was already pretty low for Donald Trump, but the president’s untrue Twitter rant this morning regarding how much relief aid the U.S. has sent to Puerto Rico post-Hurricane Maria has still managed to shock and anger many of the island’s advocates.

When Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico in September 2017, it left mass devastation in its wake. It also left a train of misinformation, including the number of deaths associated with the storm, the amount of help that’s come from the government, and the relationship between the island’s residents and the mainland.

To (once again) clear the air, we’ve compiled a list of actual truths about Puerto Rico and its post-storm recovery:

Puerto Ricans are Americans

Despite Trump’s continued antagonism toward the island and a White House aide’s recent comment calling Puerto Rico “that country,” Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory and its residents are U.S. citizens. More than 3 million people reside on the island.

Puerto Rico’s death toll associated with Hurricane Maria is about 3,000 people

A report commissioned by the Puerto Rican government estimated that 3,000 Puerto Ricans perished in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. In the first week after the storm, the government initially announced an official death toll of 16. That estimate then jumped to 64 but was updated when the report was released in August 2018 by George Washington University.

Puerto Rico has received about $1.5 billion in U.S. aid for storm recovery

The storm incurred around $91 billion in damages to the island. The island has received only about $1.5 billion in federal aid, out of a larger pot of aid funding previously approved by Congress. Puerto Rico is still waiting to receive most of the approximately $40 billion in relief funds which have been allocated to the territory.

Puerto Rico did not receive more recovery aid for Hurricane Maria than mainland states did for Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina, which in 2005 affected more than a million people across three states, cost the federal government more than $120 billion in recovery efforts. About $76 billion of that aid went to Louisiana projects. In comparison, Puerto Rico has only received about $1.5 billion in storm aid so far.

Most Puerto Ricans are not happy with Trump’s response to Hurricane Maria

Despite Trump’s tweet this Tuesday that “The best thing that ever happened to Puerto Rico is President Donald J. Trump,” a poll conducted last year found more than half of Puerto Ricans felt Trump and his administration had done a poor job responding to the Hurricane Maria. That may not be surprising considering that earlier this year, the White House called Puerto Rico food stamp program “excessive and unnecessary.”

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5 facts to make you smarter than the president on Puerto Rico

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Burger King’s ‘Impossible Whopper’ is 0% meat and 100% real

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Burger King, the fast-food giant known for meaty excess, has announced it intends to pilot a fully vegetarian, beef-free version of its classic Whopper.

The company announced on Monday that it will test out plant-based patties from startup Impossible Foods starting with stores in the St. Louis, Missouri area. And thank the flame-broiled Gods, this does not appear to be an April Fool’s Joke. The chain already offers a meatless patty in the form of the MorningStar Farms Garden Veggie Patty, which is made from vegetables and grains. But the more meat-like Impossible Whopper represents a promotion for vegetarian options from sub-in to front-of-brand star.

Fernando Machado, Burger King’s chief marketing officer, told the New York Times of the new Impossible Whopper that even fans who know the traditional beef Whopper inside and out “struggle to differentiate which one is which.”

Plant-based meat substitutes have been gaining popularity as people have become more aware and focused on the environmental woes associated with standard animal-based food systems. Plus, health-conscious customers may be drawn to plant-based options because of their lower cholesterol and calorie counts.

Burger King is the biggest fast-food company to launch a vegetarian-friendly burger option to date, but it’s far from the first. In January, Carl’s Jr. started offering a meatless “Beyond Meat” option at more than 1,000 locations. And the mostly Midwest-based chain White Castle (of Harold and Kumar fame) has been offering a meatless “Impossible Slider” at their nearly 380 locations since September of last year.

Burger King’s “whopper” of a contribution to the meatless fast food landscape is, at least for now, still theoretical. The Impossible Whopper will only be tested in 59 of the company’s approximately 7,200 locations, with plans for broader rollout in the future if the trial goes well.

One potential barrier to the Impossible Whopper’s success is its price tag: the meatless burger will cost about a dollar more than its meaty namesake. But according to Burger King’s North America president Christopher Finazzo, research shows consumers are willing to pay more for the plant-based burger.

And as Impossible Foods gets deeper into the fast food game, it’s possible prices for the popular, plant-based patties could drop.

“Burger King represents a different scale,” Impossible Foods COO and CFO David Lee told CNN. “The only thing we need to be affordable and at scale versus the incumbent commodity business is time and size.”

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Burger King’s ‘Impossible Whopper’ is 0% meat and 100% real

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