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Donald Trump Said Really Stupid Things About Climate Today. Here Are 8 Facts He Ignored.

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This story was originally published by the Guardian and appears here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Donald Trump believes the US has a “clean climate”, telling the interviewer Piers Morgan on ITV’s Good Morning Britain that he had informed Prince Charles in a 90-minute conversation that the US “right now has among the cleanest climates there are based on all statistics, and it’s even getting better because I agree with that we want the best water, the cleanest water.”

There are a few important details the president may have overlooked in presenting a clean bill of health for the US environment, so here is a handy reminder.

The US is still the world’s second biggest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions, having been overtaken by China more than a decade ago. In per capita terms, however, the US far outstrips China, though it comes below some Middle Eastern states with tiny populations and vast fossil fuel industries. While carbon emissions have been falling, in part because of the switch from coal to gas, Climate Tracker estimates that the US will fail to meet its carbon reduction targets set by Barack Obama, to cut emissions by 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

The US is now one of the world’s biggest gas producers, thanks to fracking, and about half of its oil now comes from the production method, which requires the blasting of dense shale rock with water, sand and chemicals to release the tiny bubbles of fossil fuel trapped inside. This boom has come at a cost, as the vast water requirements are draining some areas dry, and pollutants found near fracking sites include heavy metals, chemicals that disrupt hormones, and particulates. The effects range from memory, learning and IQ deficits to behavioral problems. Leaks of “fugitive” methane are an additional contributor to climate change.

Not content with the US’s existing conventional oil reserves, and the expansion of the oil and gas industries through fracking, the US fossil fuel industry is seeking new grounds for exploration—among them, the pristine Alaskan wilderness. Drilling in the Alaskan wildlife reserve is a key Trump policy.

The Trump administration has moved to loosen regulations on fuel efficiency for cars and vans, which were already less stringent than in many other countries. Opponents fear this will increase greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.

Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement of 2015 cannot legally take effect until after the next presidential election, in an irony of timing. However, the effect can already be seen, in the emboldening of other nations considering a withdrawal, such as Brazil, formerly a strong proponent of action at the UN talks, and the increasing influence of fossil fuel lobbyists.

With the president claiming climate change to be a “Chinese hoax”, it is perhaps not surprising that the US has some of the highest rates of climate denial in the world, according to polling by YouGov in collaboration with the Guardian. Despite this, a sizeable majority of the US public—nearly six in 10 people—still agree with the science on climate change, and support action to stave off the worst consequences.

Despite Trump’s claim to Morgan that “we want the best water, the cleanest water—it’s crystal clean, has to be crystal clean clear”, his recent actions on water have been an attempt to roll back decades of progress on cleaning up the US water supply. Last December, he announced plans to undo or weaken federal rules that protect millions of acres of wetlands and thousands of miles of streams from pesticide run-off and other pollutants.

By rolling back Obama-era measures intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, the Trump administration is also threatening to increase air pollution, as coal-fired power stations will be able to spew out toxins once more, according to 14 states who last year opposed the Environmental Protection Agency’s plans. This is in contrast with China and India, cited by Trump—along with Russia—as having polluted air. Those nations are trying to clean up their pollution with stricter limits on what power plants and other industries can produce.


Elizabeth Warren Just Added a Green Marshall Plan to Her Long List of Proposals

Yet the senator from Massachusetts is taking a different approach to the climate crisis, weaving a patchwork that will likely amount to Warren’s answer to the Green New Deal.

In February, Warren co-sponsored the Green New Deal resolution that Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) introduced. In April, Warren released a public lands plan, promising to sign executive orders to ban new fossil fuel leases on federal acres and demarcate more areas for renewable energy. In May, she outlined a plan to dramatically slash emissions generated by the US military, one of the world’s biggest polluters.

On Tuesday, the Warren campaign released its most comprehensive climate plan yet, a $2 trillion package that commits the federal government to spend $150 billion a year over the next decade on low-carbon technology, increases energy research funding tenfold and funds a $100 billion Green Marshall Plan to aid the poorer countries projected to suffer the worst as global temperatures rise.

In modeling her proposals on the post-World War II Marshall Plan aid package that helped rebuild Western Europe, Warren takes stock of the global nature of the crisis.

“The climate crisis demands immediate and bold action,” Warren wrote in a Medium post that appeared on Tuesday morning. “Like we have before, we should bank on American ingenuity and American workers to lead the global effort to face down this threat—and create more than a million good jobs here at home.”

The plan would add a quarter million jobs in 2020, with employment up 1.2 million by 2029, according to an analysis by Moody’s.

The proposal came out the same day Joe Biden, who is leading in the polls for the Democratic nomination, released his $5 trillion climate plan, embracing the Green New Deal. 

The plan proposes a new National Institute of Clean Energy, modeled on the National Institutes of Health, to ramp up research in costly but vital areas, including aviation and long-term battery storage, with $400 billion in spending over a decade.

The centerpiece of the policy proposal is a pledge to directly spend $1.5 trillion over a decade on renewable electricity, electric vehicles and energy-efficient lightbulbs in a bid to hasten a market shift. Warren would require companies selling clean technology to the federal government to pay a $15 minimum wage, respect union organizing and guarantee at least 12 weeks of paid leave.

The policy announcement comes as Warren’s 2020 rivals are pumping out bold climate policies that promise to fundamentally reshape the United States economy.

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) proposed a $5 trillion economy-wide effort to zero out emissions by 2050. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee sped ahead with a detailed 15,000-word proposal for a $9 trillion federal effort to eliminate emissions from vehicles, utilities and new construction by 2030 while repealing right-to-work laws that make it harder to unionize. Sen. Michael Bennet, a long-shot centrist, put out a farmer-focused climate package. Former Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) introduced a $4 trillion plan to put a price on carbon emissions and build out carbon-capture technology.

The international focus of Warren’s plan stands out. Climate refugees are gaining attention as global warming projections worsen and immigration remains a hot-button issue across the developed world. And the disproportionate role that countries like the US played in emitting the greenhouse gases causing the warming casts the geopolitical narrative in stark terms.


Yep, Elizabeth Warren Has a Plan to Clean Up the Pentagon

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One month after Sen. Elizabeth Warren formally launched her campaign for president, she leaned forward during a Senate hearing with senior Pentagon officials and said something you probably won’t be seeing on a bumper sticker: “Let’s dig in a little bit then on OCO.”

Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat, was asking about “overseas contingency funding,” another name for the Pentagon’s war-fighting expenses, which are not restricted by congressionally mandated budget caps. To keep increasing its budget, defense officials under Barack Obama and now Donald Trump have repeatedly added on new OCO expenditures, effectively turning a safety valve designed for use in overseas conflicts into what one former budget official called “a piggy bank for the Defense Department.” That’s rankled lawmakers like Warren, who used her time that day to blast the White House’s recent attempt to increase OCO allocations by $95 billion. “I think it’s time to stop this business of more, more, more for the military,” she said.

Since Warren joined the Senate Armed Services panel more than two years ago, she has carved out space for narrowly tailored, wonky reforms that might inspire passionate think-tank panels, but couldn’t be further from the kitchen-table issues on which she has staked her political ascent and her White House bid—issues such as student debt, affordable housing, and the opioid crisis. Many of her primary opponents have largely avoided discussing foreign policy and the military. And when the issue does come up, it’s often in the context of America’s unending wars or as part of a debate over rising levels of defense spending.

Warren shares those concerns, but she’s also been willing to get far more specific. Last week, she introduced proposals to tackle the Pentagon’s carbon footprint and the revolving door between the defense industry and government. Weeks earlier, she released a plan to reform military housing. Those initiatives, outlined in a series of Medium posts, contain some novel ideas, such as imposing a fee on contractors that have not reached net-zero carbon emissions and blocking former national security officials from lobbying for foreign governments—something that Michael Flynn, Trump’s disgraced former national security adviser, infamously did.

Unlike some of her usual allies on the political left, Warren isn’t talking about fundamentally changing the military’s focus or reducing its lethality. Instead, cleaning up the Pentagon—literally and otherwise—is Warren’s stated goal. “We don’t have to choose between a green military and an effective one,” she wrote in a blog post introducing her climate plan, which includes a net-zero carbon emissions goal for all “non-combat bases and infrastructure by 2030” and billions of dollars in research “on microgrids and advanced energy storage.” Climate change has posed a persistent challenge for the Pentagon’s assets, but the sprawling department has been slow to prioritize it as a threat. In April, Warren urged military leaders to act “act vigorously and expeditiously to mitigate” the problem.

In November, Warren sharply criticized the Pentagon in a major speech at American University, declaring that the department had been captured by defense contractors. During congressional hearings, she’s ripped into military waste, with much of her attention lately focused on Patrick Shanahan, the acting Pentagon chief who Trump nominated earlier this month to lead the department permanently. Warren has criticized his ties to defense giant Boeing, where Shanahan spent three decades before entering government.

At Warren’s request, the DOD’s inspector general opened an investigation into whether Shanahan improperly favored Boeing at the expense of other contractors while serving as deputy secretary of defense. He was cleared of any wrongdoing, but Warren turned up the heat nonetheless. “Shanahan’s obvious potential conflicts of interest remain,” she said. “The truth is that our existing laws are far too weak to effectively limit the undue influence of giant military contractors at the Department of Defense.” That would change under her ethics package, which governmental ethics expert Craig Holman tells Mother Jones would be “much broader than the current law.” 

Warren’s focus on the Pentagon’s ties to the defense industry aligns nicely with the anti-corruption agenda she has promoted as a senator, but it has raised questions about how consistently she has applied progressive principles in her work in Congress. “Warren has fought to stop the Army from shifting funds away from a Massachusetts-built communications network to pay for unanticipated costs associated with the war in Afghanistan,” noted a Politico story from 2015. “She’s lobbied for problem-plagued General Dynamics-made tactical radios. And she’s pledged to protect Westover Air Reserve Base from the budget ax—all while saying she supports ‘targeted’ cuts elsewhere.”

When it comes to foreign intervention, Warren has been a reliable opponent of the US-backed Saudi Arabian war in Yemen and a critic of the Trump administration’s bellicose stance toward Iran. But her views have not always aligned with those of other progressive lawmakers and activists. She declined to support a Senate resolution that would have blocked Trump from intervening in Venezuela without congressional authorization. After initially saying in January that she opposed sanctions against embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s regime, she reversed course a month later. “When It Comes to US Militarism, Elizabeth Warren Is No Progressive,” read the headline of a recent article from the left-wing outlet In These Times.

Warren’s climate change proposal has received similar scrutiny. The socialist magazine Jacobin blasted her legislation for allowing waivers in the event of a war or if market conditions demand that the Pentagon prefer one contractor. New York magazine reduced her proposal to a call to make a “cleaner, greener war machine,” but noted, “if we want to get 60 Senate votes on a massive investment in green technology within the next couple of years, Warren’s ‘let’s buy ourselves a cleaner, greener war machine’ may be the best shot we’ve got.” Progressive writer Naomi Klein took aim at the plan, arguing that the defense budget should instead be “slashed to help pay for a Global Green New Deal.”

As for Warren’s advisers, she’s drawn input from Sasha Baker, a former deputy chief of staff to Obama-era Defense Secretary Ash Carter, and Ganesh Sitaraman, a law professor at Vanderbilt University who has sketched a progressive foreign policy vision that is skeptical of international intervention and bullish on redirecting current Pentagon spending to cyber defense and other new technologies that will play major roles in future conflicts.

For now, primary voters have not prioritized foreign policy, despite the fact that the president’s authority in international affairs can be far more significant—and subject to far fewer constraints—than his or her domestic powers. But with Shanahan’s confirmation hearing set for next month, Warren will have ample opportunity to put a spotlight on climate, Defense Department ethics, or even OCO funding. 

Kara Voght contributed reporting to this story