Sunrise's Democratic Presidential Scorecard: Sanders A-, Warren B-, Biden F

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 10 Dec 2019 00:28:00 GMT

The youth climate activist group Sunrise Movement has published a 200-point climate leadership scorecard on the top three Democratic presidential candidates, with Bernie Sanders leading Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden far behind.

Sanders earned 91.5% of the possible points; Warren 82.5%; and Biden a strikingly low 37.5%.

The careful scoring process is broken into four sections: “How they talk about it,” “How much they talk about it,” “Plan to win,” and “Green New Deal vision.”

Sanders and Warren earned identical scores for “How they talk about it” and “Plan to win”- reflecting their similarity in rhetoric about the urgency of the climate crisis and the need for comprehensive action that directly confronts the fossil-fuel industry. Both campaigns have laid out comprehensive plans for action that are built around principles of climate justice.

However, Sanders has talked about climate change significantly more than Warren on the campaign trail and in the presidential debates—a difference reflected in the metric used by the Sunrise Movement, which is the frequency with which climate change is discussed on the campaign Twitter feeds.

The Green New Deal section was a 100-point analysis of the candidate’s climate plans, representing half of the full score. Sanders received an A (95 points) compared to Warren’s B (85 points) for his clear plan for a phase-out of fossil-fuel extraction and for more detailed and ambitious plans for sustainable agriculture, forestry, climate refugees, energy democracy, public infrastructure, renewable energy investment, and public transportation.

In all categories Biden lagged significantly.

Perhaps relatedly, the Biden campaign’s top climate staffer, Heather Zichal, is a former John Kerry and Barack Obama staffer who parlayed her years of service into highly lucrative positions in the natural gas industry.

When Biden has been confronted by climate activists at campaign stops, he has responded dismissively that he was involved in one of the first climate bills passed by Congress and if they’re still not happy, they should vote for someone else.

Politicians Need To Know Fossil Fuel Money Doesn't Make Good Climate Policy

Posted by Justin Guay Thu, 21 Nov 2019 19:09:00 GMT

A guest post by climate strategist Justin Guay. A prior version was published on Twitter.

I don’t know David Victor.

Not in the Trump sense, I literally have never met him. I can’t weigh in on him and don’t want to. But there is an underlying issue swirling around him and the Buttigieg campaign – taking money from those who actively sabotage climate efforts – that needs to be talked about, not hand-waved away.

No one would today, with the hindsight of history, suggest that Tobacco, Asbestos or other universally recognized “bads” should have been at the table designing regulations aimed at eliminating their industries. But fossil fuels, incredibly, are somehow different.

Don’t get me wrong. This is not black and white. There are friends, frenemies (I see you utilities, I see you), and enemies. Companies and actors can and do move amongst the categories. We can’t be ideologues because yesterday’s villain can be tomorrow’s hero. (There’s lots of this in finance.)

But there are, I believe, universal bad guys who will never move because their business model doesn’t allow it. Pure-play coal companies are one, which is why carbon-capture-and-sequestration coalitions should never, ever, allow the likes of Peabody to launder their reputation with their well-intentioned efforts.

And then there’s oil. We do have examples of shifting (Love you, Ørsted). But it’s the exception, not the rule, and it was achieved thanks to hefty state intervention and ownership. The reality is large, publicly traded oil companies today are not friends – they’re enemies and they’re powerful.

So when academics, politicians and other “very serious actors” take their money, they enable an incredibly insidious thing. They launder these companies’ reputations, enable their gaslighting, and generally squander power that is very, very difficult for climate hawks to build.

They do that in part by abstracting climate into a “carbon problem” as though carbon dioxide is not created by specific companies and industries for their own benefit at the expense of our future. Those are arguments the left internalizes, enabling an artificial narrowing of the political horizon.

It’s this, even more than billions spent directly lobbying that I find most troubling. It’s unseen limitations on the ambition of the left that DC refugees know all too well. It’s not “political reality.” It’s artificially generated both-sides-ism brought to you by money.

It’s then made visible by journalists who treat these paid shills as equals as they present counter arguments “in good faith.” That’s not an equal argument focused on what’s in the best interest of the public. That’s an industry fighting to survive at society’s expense.

So let’s be clear. We can not and will not, solve the climate crisis as long as we allow those actively sabotaging action to appear as though they’re not. We will look back and find it ridiculous that this needed to be said.

Fossil-Fuel-Funded Pete Buttigieg Climate Advisor David Victor Opposes Fossil-Fuel Divestment

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 21 Nov 2019 02:39:00 GMT

Pete Buttigieg climate advisor David G. Victor, a political scientist and recipient of millions of dollars from BP and other fossil-fuel companies, begrudged the recent decision of the University of California to divest its endowment from the fossil-fuel industry.

”’Divesting from all fossil fuel companies turns the climate problem into something that seems like a simple problem, and in fact it’s the opposite,” Victor told Cal Matters in September, when U of C’s decision was announced. “We should be shareholders in those companies, and we should be active shareholders, to make sure that they’re actually doing it.”

In lieu of divestment, Victor has advocated for drilling for natural gas, “clean coal,” and considering geoengineering in the name of climate action.

Of course, Victor is only one of Buttigieg’s climate advisors.

It is not clear what Buttigieg’s position on the climate divestment movement is. However, Buttigieg, like all of the Democratic candidates for president on the debate stage tonight. has signed the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge, committing to not accept campaign contributions from the fossil-fuel industry.

h/t Dr. Genevieve Guenther

Pete Buttigieg Climate Advisor Is a Fossil-Fuel-Funded Witness for The Trump Administration Against Children's Climate Lawsuit

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 19 Nov 2019 01:31:00 GMT

South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg, enjoying a surge in Iowa polling, has a climate advisor allied with the Trump administration against climate activists.

David G. Victor, recently quoted in a New York Times article criticizing Bernie Sanders’ ambitious climate plan, was identified by journalist Lisa Friedman as a “climate advisor to Pete Buttigieg.”

Not mentioned by Friedman were Victor’s ties to the fossil-fuel industry and to the Trump administration. For the past 15 years, his funding has come from the fossil-fuel industry—in particular the oil giant BP and the electric-utility-backed Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). Victor, who is a political scientist, not a climate scientist, by training, sits on the board of EPRI.

In 2004, Victor celebrated a $1.95 million contribution from BP to the program he directed at the time, Stanford University’s Program on Energy and Sustainable Development. “This new partnership with BP will allow the program to accelerate research in several areas, including the design and operation of market-based policies to address the threats of global warming,” said Victor. “In addition to BP Foundation support, we look forward to learning more from BP’s own experience as an energy company, which touches on every aspect of our program’s research.”

In 2005, Victor published an article calling for a global boom in natural-gas extraction in the name of climate action. “[M]ore programs to build natural gas infrastructures would help the governments of China and India to manage their local air pollution problems while cutting emissions of CO2,” he wrote. “India’s shift to gas is being hampered by the United States–led effort to isolate Iran, which is slowing plans to build an important pipeline from Iran’s vast gas deposits to markets in Pakistan and India. External pressure and assistance to normalize Russia’s gas industry would help to unlock vast Siberian gas deposits for export to China.”

In 2007, Victor celebrated a further $7.5 million contribution from BP with a very similar quotation. “BP’s support has allowed our program to study the world’s most pressing energy problems, such as global warming, energy poverty and the prospects for the world oil market,” said program director and Stanford law Professor David Victor. “In addition to BP Foundation support, we learn from BP’s experience as an energy company because they operate in all the markets where we do research—such as in China and India.”

In 2009, he pushed “clean coal.”

In 2010, Victor helped to found the Laboratory on International Law and Regulation at UC San Diego’s School of Global Policy and Strategy, also funded by BP and EPRI.

In 2016, Victor emphasized his empathy for corporate polluters, railing against a study finding that 90 corporations are responsible for most greenhouse pollution. ””It’s part of a larger narrative of trying to create villains; to draw lines between producers as responsible for the problem and everyone else as victims,” he complained. “Frankly, we’re all the users and therefore we’re all guilty. To create a narrative that involves corporate guilt as opposed to problem-solving is not going to solve anything.”

In 2018, Victor was paid by the Trump administration to be an expert witness against the 21 youth plaintiffs bringing suit against the federal government for its inaction on climate change and support of a fossil-fuel economy.

“It is my belief that the dependence on fossil fuels which existed prior to the oil crises of the 1970s, and which exists today, in fact, is the inevitable consequence of history,” Victor wrote. He also argued that it is the renewable energy sector, not the fossil-fuel industry, which enjoys the lion’s share of federal subsidies, and that federal policy has little to do with the financial success of the fossil-fuel industry. He was paid $325 an hour to prepare his testimony.

“The progressive wing wants radical change, and climate change is one of those areas where this has really been the most palpable,” Victor told the Times. “The Sanders plan claims to deliver radical change, but it can’t work in the real world.”

This is a decidedly strange perspective-it is precisely “radical change” in the “real world” that the Sanders plan and Our Children’s Trust are working to avoid. The approach of Victor and his client Donald Trump – and worryingly, Buttigieg’s – is the one risks radical change.

Update:

Via Emily Atkin’s Heated newsletter, Victor responds:
Victor also sharply criticized the Hill Heat article, accusing it of using deceptive language regarding his testimony in the youth climate lawsuit. “It is truly unbelievable,” he said. “This is the kind of factless innuendo that is why we have not made more progress on the climate problem, and it’s very disappointing to see.”

Because the lawsuit is against the Trump administration—and because Victor was paid to testify on the government’s side—the Hill Heat article described Victor as being “allied with the Trump administration against climate activists.” But Victor said he was brought on as a witness for the government when the case was originally brought against the Obama administration.

“Because of continuity of government, when the president changes, the government keeps on going. So Right now it’s Trump. Soon, it will hopefully be Buttigieg.”

Victor’s definition of “factless innuendo” seems to be “facts he doesn’t like.”

This is a fact: Victor is being paid by the Trump administration to testify against youth climate activists.

This, however, is an opinion: That he decided to work against youth climate activists when Barack Obama was president doesn’t make his decision less contemptible.

Constructing factless innuendo is left as an exercise for the reader.

Pushed By Climate Activists, New York Times Abandons Oil And Money Conference

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 03 Sep 2019 14:28:00 GMT

The New York Times has dropped its long-running sponsorship of its highly lucrative Oil And Money conference, ceding to rising pressure from climate activists. The decision was announced on Twitter by the New York Times Climate team led by editor Hannah Fairfield. The tweet included a statement from the Times’ communications SVP, Eileen Murphy:

The New York Times has decided to end its relationship with the Oil & Money conference.

Over the last several years The Times has significantly expanded its reporting on climate change and its impact, as well as broader investigative and explanatory coverage of energy and environmental policy. We have a large team focused solely on the topic and in the last year alone we’ve traveled to every continent to document the effects of a warming planet.

While our partners in Oil & Money, Energy Intelligence, have always maintained high standards of independence and impartiality, the subject matter of the conference gives us cause for concern as we continue to invest in these consequential environmental issues. We want there to be no question of our independence or even the potential appearance of a conflict of interest.

We wish Energy Intelligence well as they continue to gather energy leaders, policy makers, and environmentalists to discuss how to sustainably meet the world’s rising energy needs.

The tweet, like much of The Times’ climate coverage even to this day, avoided directly stating that the fossil-fuel industry causes global warming.

Separately, Energy Intelligence announced the conference will be “renamed the Energy Intelligence Forum” because “the energy industry is changing, and as our conference program has evolved in recent years to address the challenges of climate change and the energy transition, we felt that our conference needed a new identity and a new mandate.”

The London-based conference, which gathers the world’s top oil executives, has been the target of protests for years. In 2014, climate activist Tamsin Ormond stormed the conference, shouting “Oil is fucking our future!

In 2015, members of Fossil Free London (@DivestLondon) staged a protest outside the conference, holding the banner “Climate Change: No Time To Party”: and blocking the award ceremony celebrating ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson: The protesters mockingly threw cash at the executives as they entered the “Petroleum Executive of the Year” gala: Two of the protesters superglued their hands to the doors of a side entrance, and others tried to infiltrate the gala.

In 2016, the Divest London protests continued, with activists declaring a “Climate Crime Scene”:

The protests at the conference continued in 2017 and 2019.

In June 2019, Extinction Rebellion staged sit-in protests at The New York Times headquarters in Manhattan, blocking traffic on Eighth Avenue and scaling the NYT building with a large “Climate Emergency – Mass Murder” banner: About 70 protesters were arrested.

At the time, The Guardian’s Amanda Holpuch reported that The New York Times responded: “There is no national news organization that devotes more time, staff or resources to producing deeply reported coverage to help readers understand climate change than The New York Times.”

The New York Times did not report on the protest, which was covered by many other outlets.

The June protest focused on the tenor of The New York Times’ climate coverage and its acceptance of fossil-fuel advertising, not its sponsorship of the Oil & Money Conference. However, Extinction Rebellion NYC soon began to focus on the Oil & Money Conference, including it as a target in their August 7th die-in at Times headquarters and in an August 30 video appeal to the Times.

As DNC Votes to Kill Climate Debate, Biden Campaign Rescinds Support

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 23 Aug 2019 18:38:00 GMT

On Thursday, the Democratic National Committee’s resolutions committee voted down a resolution that would have established a climate debate for the presidential candidates, reflecting the wishes of frontrunner Joe Biden. However, the committee did open the door to candidates participating in a non-DNC-sanctioned climate debate, a significant victory for the youth activists leading the call. On Saturday, the full DNC voted that plan down 222 to 137, closing the door to any presidential climate debate.

DNC chair Tom Perez’s resolution to block a DNC climate debate passed the committee in an 17 to 8 vote.

At the DNC meeting in California, Biden spokesperson and DNC member Symone Sanders said it would be “dangerous” to hold a climate debate.

Mercury News’s Casey Tolan reported that Symone Sanders said a climate debate “would fundamentally change the game” of the established debate rules and would be “dangerous territory in the middle of a Democratic primary process.”

In June, Biden had expressed unequivocal support for a debate exclusively on climate.

DNC members opposed to holding a climate debate include corporate lobbyist and CNN commentator Maria Cardona of the Dewey Square Group, who said “It will take away time from their knocking on doors, going to all of your states to be able to campaign.”

DNC Chair Tom Perez Files Resolution To Kill Climate Debate

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 14 Aug 2019 14:36:00 GMT

With the August 22nd meeting of the Democratic National Committee fast approaching, DNC chair Tom Perez has filed a resolution to block the establishment of a Democratic presidential debate focused on climate change. Spurred by youth climate activists, nearly every candidate supports such a debate.

The Perez resolution argues that the climate town-hall forums scheduled by CNN and MSNBC for September, in which candidates would be interviewed separately, are a sufficient substitute for a debate.

The resolution concludes:
WHEREAS, Democratic candidates for President of the United States are demonstrating their commitment to tackling the issue of climate change, having already scheduled two televised forums on CNN and MSNBC to discuss the issue, and debating the issue during each of the DNC-sanctioned presidential primary debates;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT, Democrats will address the serious threat of climate change through bold and inclusive solutions that grow the clean energy economy and expand America’s middle class.

Perez was backed by Barack Obama to block environmental-justice leader Keith Ellison from becoming chair.

The full text of the resolution is below:

Environmental Organizations Cross Racial Divides To Present Climate Justice Platform

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 23 Jul 2019 19:11:00 GMT

In an encouraging sign for those seeking to make the vision of the Green New Deal a reality, a coalition of mostly white environmental organizations and predominantly black environmental justice organizations have released the “Equitable & Just National Climate Platform.”

The platform is a vision statement for American climate justice policy, with signatories “committed to advancing a bold and equitable national climate agenda and believe that all people and all communities have the right to breathe clean air, live free of dangerous levels of toxic pollution, access healthy food, and share the benefits of a prosperous and vibrant clean economy.”

The Sierra Club, League of Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Union of Concerned Scientists are also members of the BlueGreen Alliance which released a similar labor-focused platform in June.

Platform co-authors and inaugural signatories: Center for American Progress, Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy, Center for the Urban Environment, John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy, Thomas Edison State University, Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, Earthjustice, Environmental Justice Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform, Harambee House–Citizens for Environmental Justice, League of Conservation Voters, Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, Los Jardines Institute, Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition, Midwest Environmental Justice Network, Natural Resources Defense Council, New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance, ReGenesis Project, Sierra Club, Tishman Environment and Design Center at the New School, Union of Concerned Scientists, WE ACT for Environmental Justice.

Environmental justice organization inaugural signatories: 2BRIDGE CDX / BTB Coalition, Agricultura Cooperative Network, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, Black Environmental Collective-Pittsburgh, Black Millennials 4 Flint, Black Youth Leadership Development Institute, Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment, Citizens for Melia, Clean Power Lake County, Coalition of Community Organizations, Community Housing and Empowerment Connections, Community Members for Environmental Justice, Concerned Citizens Coalition of Long Branch, Concerned Citizens of Wagon Mound and Mora County, Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice, Dakota Wicohan, Delaware Concerned Residents for Environmental Justice, Dr. Cesar G. Abarca, Dr. Fatemeh Shafiei, Dr. Marisol Ruiz, Dr. Robert Bullard, East Michigan Environmental Action Council, Eduardo Aguiar, El Chante: Casa de Cultura, Farmworker Association of Florida, Flint Rising, Georgia Statewide Network for Environmental Justice and Equity, Greater Newark Conservancy, Green Door Initiative, Greenfaith, Ironbound Community Corporation, Jesus People Against Pollution, Las Pistoleras Instituto Cultural de Arte, Lenape Indian Tribe of Delaware, Louisiana Democracy Project, Minority Workforce Development Coalition, Mossville Community in Action, Native Justice Coalition, Organizacion en California de Lideres Campesinas, Inc., Partnership for Southern Equity, People Concerned About Chemical Safety, People for Community Recovery, PODER, Reverend Canon Lloyd S. Casson, Rubbertown Emergency ACTion, Tallahassee Food Network, Texas Coalition of Black Democrats, Texas Drought Project, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services, The Wise Choice, Inc., Tradish “Traditional Real Foods,” Tusconians for a Clean Environment, UrbanKind Institute, We the People of Detroit, West County Toxics Coalition, Wisconsin Green Muslims.

Download Equitable & Just National Climate Platform or read the text below:

Iowa Group Plans to Host Unsanctioned Presidential Climate Debate

Posted by Brad Johnson Sat, 29 Jun 2019 14:14:00 GMT

The climate-activist organization Bold Iowa has announced it plans to host a climate debate in the fall among Democratic presidential candidates, despite the Democratic National Committee’s refusal to sanction such a debate. In the first two DNC debates, each featuring ten candidates, a total of fifteen minutes was given to climate – less than a minute per candidate.

Volunteers with the organization have begun asking the candidates to commit to participation in their debate.

Fifteen of the candidates have previously said they would be willing to participate in a climate debate, though that was under the assumption it would be a DNC-sanctioned debate. The DNC has threatened that any candidate participating in a non-sanctioned debate would be barred from future DNC debates, though it is hard to see how they would enforce that if the frontrunners agreed to participate in the climate debate.

Press release:
DES MOINES, IOWA — Bold Iowa today announced it will host a debate this fall specifically focused on the climate crisis. Bold’s 270 Iowa Caucus volunteers, known as Climate Bird Dogs, are shifting their focus to get Democratic presidential candidates to commit to participate in the climate debate, even at the risk of being barred from future DNC-sponsored debates.

“Like more and more people across the country, Democratic voters in Iowa are tired of Party leaders who ignore the climate crisis that threatens our very survival,” said Bold Iowa director, Ed Fallon. “No doubt, the fact that the DNC reversed its ban on accepting fossil-fuel donations and let the American Petroleum Industry pony-up $700,000 for the Party’s 2016 national convention explains why it won’t allow a climate debate. Well, Iowans have had enough. If the DNC won’t host a climate debate, we will. Starting today, we’re going to find out which candidates are true climate champions and ready to debate the climate crisis, regardless of what the DNC says.”

Climate Bird Dogs have been active across Iowa since the first of the year. They’ve addressed the climate crisis with 20 presidential candidates at over 100 events, questioning them on the Green New Deal, the Dakota Access Pipeline, fossil-fuel donations, and more. Bold’s Climate Bird Dogs have sometimes moved beyond simply asking questions of candidates to bringing signs into events where signs weren’t allowed, co-opting photo lines, and dressing as “climate refugee” penguins. Five Bold Iowa members were recently arrested at a fundraiser attended by Donald Trump, dressed in black and wearing Depends while holding a banner that read, “Climate Denier in the White House scare the S#*T outta you? IT DOES US!”

Bold Iowa is happy to partner with other entities to organize this debate, which will happen unless either (1) the DNC relents and agrees to host a climate-specific debate, or (2) other national entities step forward to host such a debate.

Labor-Environmental Alliance Releases High-Level Climate Action Principles

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 24 Jun 2019 15:29:00 GMT

On June 24th, the BlueGreen Alliance released “Solidarity for Climate Action”, a compendium of labor and environmental principles with the goal of achieving net-zero carbon pollution by 2050 in line with the Green New Deal vision.

Several union leaders associated with the fossil-fuel industry have responded to the call for a Green New Deal with skepticism or hostility, despite its emphasis on full employment and a unionized workforce; the work of the BlueGreen Alliance represents the viewpoint of another side of labor movement. The opening lines of the document emphasize the importance of collaboration as much as the end result:

“The BlueGreen Alliance and its labor and environmental partners are committed to the vision, principles, and policies outlined in this document, and are committed to a process of working together to identify concrete solutions to achieve these goals.”

The high-level vision document was unveiled at a presentation featuring Mike Williams of the BlueGreen Alliance, Leo Gerard of the United Steelworkers, and the National Wildlife Federation’s Collin O’Mara.

The members of the Alliance include the environmental organizations Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Union of Concerned Scientists, Environmental Defense Action Fund, League of Conservation Voters, and the National Wildlife Federation; and the labor unions United Steelworkers, Communication Workers of America, Service Employees International Union, International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART), Utility Workers Union of America, American Federation of Teachers, United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters (UA), and the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (BAC).

This effort echoes The Leap Manifesto and the platform of the European Green Party, though with less ambition.

Download “Solidarity for Climate Action” or read the text below:

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