NRDC Action Fund’s Weekly News Summary

This is what the NRDC Action Fund has been reading this week:

Voter Calls Ben Carson Out – At his town hall meeting in Iowa City on Friday, the Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson insulted people with low IQs and lamented that they were allowed to vote. He said it was “disturbing” that many people are unable to pass the written test to get into the military. He urged the audience to “read up” on the history of Islam, and said progressives are “dumbing down our society” with calls for political correctness. All of this intrigued Daniel Schnall, 29, a graduate student at the University of Iowa and registered independent. Schnall asked Carson: If you’re so passionate about being educated, then why don’t you accept the science of human-caused climate change? (Think Progress)

GOP Presidential Field Full of Deniers – Even in a campaign season where opinions diverge wildly, it’s hard to think of a topic with a broader range of candidate reactions than climate change. Democrats think it’s a big problem requiring a serious response, while Republicans tend to think either it’s not enough of a problem to worry about or it isn’t a problem at all, perhaps even a massive hoax. (Concord Monitor)

Next President Will Make-or-Break U.S. Paris PledgeThe United States’ ability to meet its Paris greenhouse gas reduction commitments will depend in large part on who is elected president this November, a new report finds. While the Obama administration has succeeded in bending the curve on carbon dioxide emissions, its policies are insufficient to deliver on President Obama’s promise of cutting U.S. emissions between 26 and 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, according to the report by the Rhodium Group. (E&E News Climatewire)

Jeb’s Climate Plan: “Someone in a Garage Somewhere” Will Fix ItOn the trail, former Florida governor Jeb Bush interjected to say the free market would resolve climate change before government could. “There’s someone in a garage somewhere,” he said, “parochially I hope it’s in Miami, that’s going to have a clue, to have an answer to this.” (The Guardian)

No Wonder They Continue to DenyBut mere acknowledgement of the existence of climate change is not enough. Neither Rubio nor Bush came forward to say what they would do to fight climate change. Their response to a gathering danger acknowledged by the Pentagon, 196 world leaders at the Paris climate summit and, yes, scientists, was merely to express opposition to the Democratic policy prescriptions already out there. Do they have no policy ideas? Would they leave climate solutions entirely to the market? That’s a huge oversight. (The Guardian)

Climate Change Is Most Important Policy Issue – So what’s really at stake in this year’s election? Well, among other things, the fate of the planet. Last year was the hottest on record, by a wide margin, which should — but won’t — put an end to climate deniers’ (debunked) claims that global warming has stopped. The truth is that climate change just keeps getting scarier; it is, by far, the most important policy issue facing America and the world. Still, this election wouldn’t have much bearing on the issue if there were no prospect of effective action against the looming catastrophe. (New York Times)

Conservative Case for Acting on Climate – Conservatives and liberals may not have much to cooperate on these days, but all would readily agree that people should not be forced to starve or lose their livelihoods when achievable, implementable solutions exist. This is especially the case when helping our neighbor also helps ourselves – by lending a hand in regions struggling with climate change, we also protect ourselves from political and economic instability and develop solutions that we will likely soon need in our own fields and cities back home. There are other strong reasons why Republicans should act, including the hunter’s incentive for habitat conservation, and the importance of re-establishing American technological innovation in the future global economy. All told, climate denial is not a future political winner for conservatives , and Republican legislators increasingly are becoming aware of this, such as Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Chris Gibson (R-NY). Maybe climate change should be a Republican issue in 2016 after all. (Huffington Post)

GOP Presidential Candidate Climate Stances – As Iowans vote today to select their preferred candidate for president, it’s worth taking a look at where the leading major Republican contenders stand on the issue of climate change. (Bloomberg)

Climate change threatens N.H., but GOP candidates have no answers

In the woods of central New Hampshire, Martha Carlson has a 60-acre “sugar bush” where she produces maple syrup. Carlson is part of an iconic industry that brings millions of dollars to the state each year, and she tends forests that help attract nearly $300 million worth of fall foliage tourism. Yet in the past few years, she has seen the sap season growing shorter and leaves sparser. There are fewer crisp nights to fuel the brilliant red of autumn. Even more alarming to Carlson: the syrup is less sweet.  Her research found that the decline in sweetness parallels the rise in temperature since 1970–a rise linked to climate change.

“Anyone can look at a picture of the polar bear, but what does [climate change] look like in my backyard with my animals and my plants?” Carlson asked. The state’s scientists are exploring those questions, and some predict that maple forests will move 300 miles north in coming decades.

Carlson is just one of many Granite State residents feeling the sting of climate change. Whether it’s the local ski industry that lost $54.3 million in low-snow years or the communities hit by severe storms requiring 12 FEMA “major disaster declarations” in the past decade, New Hampshirites are experiencing firsthand what climate change can do to their homes and livelihoods.

Yet none of the Republican presidential candidates arriving for the state’s primary are addressing these challenges. And not one of them champions the progress New Hampshire has made in reducing climate change pollution and its expanding clean energy economy. Instead, they either deny the existence of climate change or vow to block, rollback, and prevent climate measures across the country.

That won’t sit well with most New Hampshire residents. According to a January poll, more than 60 percent of the state’s voters favor the EPA’s new carbon pollution limits. And GOP pollster American Viewpoint found that Republican primary voters in New Hampshire want presidential candidates to maintain or strengthen national environmental safeguards.

While the GOP candidates passing through the Granite State ignore the climate challenge, many residents are rolling up their sleeves and doing something about it. New Hampshire’s Seacoast region, for instance, is a major economic engine for the state, home to aerospace industries, manufacturers, tourist businesses and commercial fishing. Yet residents have already seen an increase in flooding, and rising seas will only increase the threat.

Several towns have started using regional climate assessments to prepare infrastructure for higher waters. Kim Reed, the Rye town planning and zoning administrator, said, “In Rye, it is not an option to ignore the effects of the changing climate. If we don’t do anything, it may hurt the community.”

Even as New Hampshire towns become more resilient, the state is also tackling climate change at its root. In 2006, New Hampshire helped launch the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to reduce power plant pollution across nine northeastern states. The program has cut carbon pollution by one-third while saving people $1.5 billion on utility bills, creating more than 22,000 additional jobs and bringing $2.9 billion in additional economic benefit to the region.

New Hampshire also has a renewable energy standard that will ensure the state gets 24.8 percent of electricity from wind, solar and other clean power resources. And many Granite State businesses are investing in climate solutions, from Timberland to Stonyfield, Worthen Industries to Smuttynose Brewing Company.

Local action like this is important, but to paraphrase climate denier Marco Rubio, New Hampshire is not a planet. Each one of the Republican contenders for the White House has attacked similar climate action on the national and international level, from carbon limits to clean energy incentives. Both Democratic candidates, meanwhile, support the kind of progress that New Hampshire is making–the kind that will help keep the maple syrup sweet and the state strong for generations to come.

Rubio “mainstream”? He toes the line on GOP climate denialism

News articles keep presenting GOP presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) as the candidate of “mainstream” Republicans, a kind of moderate, old-fashioned (yet young!) alternative to the specter of Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).  But this portrait of Rubio is a mix of fantasy, spin and wishful thinking that just shows how wildly the primary race has pushed the Republican Party to the right and how desperately Republican leaders need a candidate whom they can portray as having views in line with most Americans.

If you want to see how right wing and out of the mainstream Rubio is, in fact if not in manner, you need look no further than his position on climate change.  Rubio’s statements as a presidential candidate on the issue are virtually indistinguishable from those of the rest of the climate-denying Republican slate.  And it’s another issue, like immigration, on which he’s flip-flopped.  At last night’s debate, he ran away again from his support years ago for climate action, providing a contorted answer that nonetheless left no doubt that he has no interest now in addressing our biggest environmental threat.

What has Rubio’s take on climate been in recent years?  Despite overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary, Rubio told ABC News in 2014, “I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it.” Rubio added the usual Republican throw-away evasion of not being a scientist, but he gave no reason for doubting those who are. In March of last year Rubio even voted against a simple resolution recognizing that climate change is real and that human activity is a contributing factor.

Rubio’s denialism has real consequences.  He has promised repeatedly to reverse the Obama administration’s policies aimed at addressing the problem. He has vowed to gut the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which unleashed a torrent of carbon pollution reduction commitments from nations across the globe ahead of the Paris climate talks late last year.

Even though a growing majority of Americans support federal limits on carbon pollution, Rubio has backtracked from professing support for climate action in 2007. Today he’s fallen in line with the GOP’s polluter-funded strategy of casting doubt about reality.

That may have earned him the endorsement of the Senate’s greatest climate change denier, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), who last year threw a snowball on the Senate floor during a speech in which he claimed climate change is a “hoax”.

Inhofe and Rubio’s environmental positions are part of a larger trend in their party. Despite the majority of Republican voters saying they support regulating carbon and prefer more renewable energy, Republican politicians have become increasingly radicalized on the issue of climate change. Nearly all the GOP’s remaining presidential hopefuls have strikingly similar energy plans that call for killing regulations—especially the Clean Power Plan—and investing in fossil fuels by expanding drilling and approving the Keystone XL pipeline. Now that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and New York Gov. George Pataki have both dropped out of the race, the GOP presidential field is entirely made up of climate deniers.

“America is not a planet,” Rubio once helpfully reminded us, suggesting that the U.S. ought not act on climate change alone. Now that American leadership has helped produce the Paris framework that includes commitments from nearly every nation on Earth to fight climate change, Rubio will need to come up with a new excuse not to act on one of the most obviously important problems of our time.

Any move by America’s next president to end our leadership on climate change, kill the Clean Power Plan rules and renege on our promises in Paris would unravel that historic agreement, likely dooming a planet-wide effort to avoid the worst effects of global warming.

Even among this year’s Republican contenders, no one holding such views should ever be described as mainstream.

Obama Urges Confidence, Fearlessness in Facing Climate Change

Obama in Alaska

President Barack Obama tours the Kenai Fjords National Park during his visit to Alaska on September 1, 2015, as part of an effort to highlight the importance of combating climate change.

In his State of the Union Address, President Obama mapped out a future for our nation that prioritizes climate action. He called for marshalling American ingenuity to expand the clean energy economy and make the world safer for the next generation. “A sustainable, peaceful planet for our kids… is within our reach,” he said, but progress is not inevitable. It’s the result of the choices we make.

Americans face a major choice this November. Elections are some of the most important decisions we make, and this cycle will determine our country’s response to climate change for years to come.

Will we elect a president who ignores the climate threat and sides with polluting industries? Or will we elect a president who confronts climate change and puts our nation on a road to cleaner air, lower energy bills and more vibrant communities?

Tuesday night revealed the stark contrast before us.

When Governor Nikki Haley gave the GOP rebuttal to President Obama’s address, she didn’t once mention climate change. She didn’t say a single word about the threat that made 2015 the hottest year on record and contributed to extreme weather events like the winter floods which pummeled Midwestern communities, left more than 25 dead and caused an estimated $1 billion in damages.

Given the position of the Republican presidential candidates, silence, while irresponsible, is almost a relief.  Some of the Republican presidential contenders still question the science of climate change, and they oppose the concrete steps President Obama has taken to address it.  Indeed, none of the leading Republican presidential candidates has offered a positive agenda for addressing climate change or preserving the environment.

Senator Ted Cruz denounces climate science and has said people who recognize climate change are “the equivalent of the flat-Earthers.” Donald Trump told Fox News that the Paris climate talks were “ridiculous” and that “I think [global warming] is a big scam for a lot of people to make a lot of money.” Senator Marco Rubio has relied on the “I’m not a scientist” line and opposes any effort to address climate change.

And when Governor Chris Christie was asked whether he would have attended the Paris climate if he were president, he simply responded: “Hell no!”

President Obama revealed how far afield these GOP attitudes are in his Tuesday night address: “Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it.  You’ll be pretty lonely, because you’ll be debating our military, most of America’s business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around the world who agree it’s a problem and intend to solve it.”

It is the American people who will determine if our nation can move forward with climate action. President Obama has ushered in important progress, from increasing fuel efficiency in cars to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 to setting national limits on carbon pollution from power plants.

More work needs to be done, but the President’s actions thus far confirm why elections matter. The steps President Obama has taken reflect promises he made on the campaign trail. He ran on climate action, people held him to it, and he delivered.

While the public is cynical about this, the best indicator of what a President will do is what he’s said on the campaign trail.  If one of the Republicans now running for President wins the White House, we will see a US president work to reverse the Clean Power Plan, try to renege on the Paris climate agreement, subsidize polluting energy companies, and turn his back on the millions of Americans suffering from extreme drought, flooding and fires. All the Democratic candidates, in contrast, have vowed to ensure America continues to lead on climate action, clean energy and resilient communities.

This is the choice before us.  It would be hard to exaggerate what’s at stake.

In his address on Tuesday, President Obama asked, “Will we respond to the changes of our time with fear… Or will we face the future with confidence in who we are, what we stand for, and the incredible things we can do together?” The November election will indicate which path America will take.

Last-Minute Gifts for your Favorite Climate-Denier Presidential Candidates

With the holiday season winding down, fans of the leading Republican presidential candidates may be looking for last-minute gift ideas. It’s hard to choose a present for the would-be commander-in-chief, especially the ones who stubbornly refuse to acknowledge human-caused climate change, so here are our suggestions for the leading contenders:

Ted Cruz Cruise

coastRedeem your Ted Cruz cruise gift certificate for a tour of coastal cities that will likely be underwater if Cruz gets his wish for unchecked carbon pollution. Continuing business-as-usual levels of pollution, the world would be on track for 4 degrees of warming. This could lock in enough sea level rise to submerge land currently home to 470 to 760 million people. New Orleans, Miami, New York, Philadelphia and Virginia Beach are all on the itinerary of at-risk cities. Go global and see London, Mumbai and Sydney as they are today, before unchecked Cruz-fancied global warming changes them irreversibly.

Donald Trump – Trump Cards

trump bushWhen presented with scientific facts about climate change, carbon pollution and evidence that the planet is already warming and experiencing extreme weather, just present these handy cards pre-printed with phrases that are bound to shut down those science-wielding know-it-alls. When you throw down a Trump card displaying the words “global cooling” or “warming pause”, the folks who spout climate facts will be so befuddled by your lack of basic understanding that they will likely just shut up and walk away. This pack of Trump cards also includes handy weather-based phrases such as “snow” and “cold” to use when suggesting that the presence of cold things disproves climate science.

Carly Fiorina – Apple iPad

ipadFor Carly Fiorina, we recommend a new Apple iPad. Fiorina could use a glimpse at how successful technology companies are not debating climate change, but instead working to stop it. Fiorina presided over a 65% drop in HP’s stock as CEO. She could use some lessons from Apple’s CEO Tim Cook who calls climate change “one of the great challenges of our time” (and who, by the way, has presided over a doubling of Apple’s stock price). Fiorina should learn that economic success – both for companies and countries – can go hand in hand with reducing pollution.

Marco Rubio – Water bottle

water bottlesWe all know Marco Rubio likes to drink water. That’s understandable since he is a human being and we all depend on drinking water for survival. Unfortunately, Rubio doesn’t want to do anything about climate change and that’s bad news for people who drink water. An analysis performed for NRDC found that by mid-century, one-third of all counties in the continental United States will face higher risks of water shortages as a result of global warming. More than 400 of these counties will face extremely high risks of water shortages. With this in mind, we recommend Rubio stock up on water while he can.

Ben Carson – Bug Zapper

Sadly, climate change is more than an annoyance and it can’t just be swatted away. That’s why we recommend a bug zapper for Dr. Ben Carson. As the climate changes, small bugs like mosquitoes will become bigger problems for people.  Higher temperatures, longer summers and changes in rainfall patterns will all contribute to an environment in which insects can remain active for longer seasons and in wider areas. As a medical doctor, Carson should know that insect-borne diseases like dengue fever and West Nile Virus are a life-threatening health challenge. Since Carson is unwilling to address climate change, a bug zapper seems to be his best protection.

Chris Christie – Magic 8 ball, Ouija Board

christieChris Christie doesn’t want to be bound by the opinion the world’s scientists when it comes to the severity of climate change and our need to act on it. He relies instead of his “feeling” about whether carbon pollution and a dramatically warming planet is something to be concerned about. We recommend Christie also consult the Magic 8 ball and Ouija board, which provide similarly reliable advice for predicting the future.

Jeb Bush – Dodgeball

dodgeballFor Jeb Bush, we suggest the movie Dodgeball. This slapstick comedy seems to have been an inspiration for Jeb’s campaign in which he is unsuccessfully trying to dodge the denier label. Jeb’s climate positions have included calling acceptance of climate science “intellectual arrogance,” waffling on whether humans are contributing to the problem, and consistently failing to present any plan to reduce carbon pollution. He’s trying to dodge that denier label, but as long as he continues to deny the need to act on climate change, we’ll keep calling him a denier. Maybe he can pick up a few tips on dodging from Ben Stiller and friends.

Don’t forget your stocking stuffers. As a resident of the North Pole, Santa definitely wants to act on climate. With Arctic sea ice retreating and reindeer threatened by climate change, Santa puts climate deniers on the naughty list. You can be sure every denier will get a lump of coal for his or her stocking. This should keep both candidates and the Dirty Energy companies bankrolling their campaigns happy. With coal companies in financial trouble and clean energy on the upswing, Dirty Energy is grateful for any new customer – even if the occasional purchase by the man in the red suit won’t be enough to put their books back in the black.