In a far-ranging discussion with actor-activist Leo DiCaprio and climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe, President Barack Obama defended his approach to climate change and expressed concern about the future.
“We’ve got to change our politics. And as Leo said, it’s got to come from the bottom up. Until on a bipartisan basis, politicians feel that their failure to address this will cost them their seats, potentially, or will threaten their careers, then they’re going to continue to operate in ways that I think are really unproductive.”
In the same discussion, Obama repeated his questionable claim that the domestic fracking boom has led to a decrease in greenhouse pollution, asserting “the fact that we’re transitioning from coal to natural gas means less greenhouse gases.”
He also repeatedly characterized climate change as primarily a problem for future generations, saying that “climate change is almost perversely designed to be really hard to solve politically because it is a problem that creeps up on you.” He even repeated the now-debunked canard that there is “no single hurricane or tornado or drought or forest fire that you can directly attribute to climate change.”
Just last month, Obama visited the victims of the catastrophic Baton Rouge floods. Consoling the survivors of climate disasters has been a ritual of his presidency. With a fierce Hurricane Matthew churning towards a Florida landfall, the president will likely have another major opportunity to witness the creeping problem of global warming first hand at least once more.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) has joined the growing chorus of opposition to a controversial pipeline threatening the rights of Native Americans in North Dakota. In a campaign email, Gabbard called for supporters to sign a petition in solidarity “against a greedy oil company and an Army Corp of Engineers that have failed to properly follow the law or actually address the important issues of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and neighboring communities.”
Hawaii, like North Dakota, has one of the largest indigenous populations in the United States.
Gabbard was one of the few elected officials to endorse Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the presidency, a move she announced in concert with resigning from the top leadership of the Democratic National Committee. Sanders has also come out in opposition to the pipeline, offering a Senate amendment to require environmental statement for the pipeline.
While in Laos, President Barack Obama was caught unprepared by a question on Native Americans’ efforts to stop the construction of an oil pipeline in North Dakota. The pipeline, now under construction, is intended to transport fracked North Dakota oil to Iowa so that it can reach Texas refineries for export. The pipeline route crosses the Missouri River upstream of the Standing Rock Sioux water supply, through ancestral lands bordering the reservation.
The final question of a multinational youth town-hall forum came from a Malaysian activist “in solidarity with the indigenous people” of America “fighting to protect their ancestral land against the Dakota Access pipeline.”
Obama responded that one of his priorities is “restoring an honest and generous and respectful relationship with Native American tribes,” and argued that “we have actually restored more rights among Native Americans to their ancestral lands, sacred sites, waters, hunting grounds” during his term than under the Reagan, Clinton and Bush presidencies.
However, he said he’d “have to go back to my staff and find out how are we doing” on this particular violation of Native Americans’ ancestral lands, sacred sites, waters, and hunting grounds.
Iowans will once again engage in acts of nonviolent civil disobedience on Saturday to stop construction of the Dakota Access pipeline “that is using eminent domain for private gain, and threatens our land, water and climate,” a coalition of climate activists has announced. Following a non-violence training in the morning, the civil-disobedience action will commence at noon.
“Standing with farmers, landowners and our tribal allies in North Dakota, more and more Iowans are contacting me to say they’re ready to risk nonviolent direct action to stop this assault on our water, climate and property rights,” said Ed Fallon, director of Bold Iowa, in a press release.
The “Bakken Pipeline Pledge of Resistance,” supported by Bold Iowa, Iowa CCI, CREDO Action and 100 Grannies for a Livable Future, has now been signed by 2,100 citizens, with over 500 pledging to risk arrest in acts of peaceful nonviolent civil disobedience to stop construction on the pipeline. On Aug. 31, 30 people were arrested in a direct action in Boone County.
Dakota Access has filed suit against Bold Iowa and Iowa CCI, along with Ed Fallon and Adam Mason, seeking an injunction “to silence our First Amendment rights to speech and free assembly with actions to protest the pipeline,” in the words of Fallon. A hearing on those charges is scheduled in federal court on Sept. 29. The 30 citizens who were arrested on Aug. 31 will appear in court in Boone County on Sept. 15.
The nonviolence training will begin at 9:00 am in the Mickle Center, 1620 Pleasant St, Des Moines. At noon, participants will be transported to the pipeline construction site for the action.
You know, we tend to think of climate change as if it’s something that is just happening out there that we don’t have control over. But the fact is that it is man-made.
It is not, “We think it is man-made.”
It is not, “We guess it is man-made.”
Not, “A lot of people are saying it’s man-made.”
It’s not, “I’m not a scientist, so I don’t know.”
You don’t have to be scientist. You have to read or listen to scientists to know that the overwhelming body of scientific evidence shows us that climate change is caused by human activity.
Obama noted that global warming is continuing at a frightening clip, with 2016 on pace to be the hottest year on record.He later repeated one of his administration’s favored canards:
During the first half of this year, carbon pollution hit its lowest level in a quarter of a century.
Obama is referring to the decline in carbon-dioxide emissions from electricity production in the U.S., using “carbon” as a synonym for “carbon dioxide.” However, the decline in CO2 emissions has been matched by a surge in methane emissions, another carbon-based greenhouse gas.
Furthermore, the U.S. has been dramatically increasing its production of oil and natural gas, helping fuel the continued global surge in carbon pollution during Obama’s presidency.
Full video of Obama’s speech:
A few weeks before Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) became the Democratic nominee for vice president on the Hillary Clinton ticket, he joined other senators to discuss the fossil-fuel industry’s “web of denial” preventing action to end their climate pollution. Below is a transcript of his July 12, 2016 speech.
Thank you, Madam President. I join rise to join my colleague to talk about the critical issue of climate change and especially the facts around climate change but also the fact that there are many who would deny the facts. This is a really important issue to the commonwealth of Virginia. Climate change is not a distraction. It’s not a next year or next decade issue. Climate change in Virginia is a today issue.
Earlier today, I was in Norfolk, Virginia, which is in the Hampton Roads area near the Atlantic Ocean. Norfolk and the surrounding communities is the largest concentration of naval power in the world. It’s the center of naval operations. The headquarters of the U.S. Atlantic fleet. And it is already having to spend millions of dollars to elevate the piers where aircraft carriers come and go due to sea level rise. The Hampton Roads area is listed as the second most vulnerable community on the east coast of the United States to rising sea levels after New Orleans.
This is a challenging issue in a lot of ways.
I have friends who live in these communities who bought homes recently but now their homes aren’t marketable. For most Americans, certainly for me, my home is the most valuable asset I own. And if you have that and then you suddenly can’t sell it because climate is changing sea level is rising, flooding is more recurrent, no one will buy your home, it’s a very, very serious issue.
In addition to the effect on individuals and businesses because of sea level rise, the effect on the naval station is significant. Current estimates are that rising sea levels in Norfolk will take the main road entrance into the center of American naval power and have that under water by 2040, three hours a day just because of normal tidal action. In times of storms it would be worse.
So imagine in America that counts on its navy, that counts on that naval presence around the globe having its largest naval base inaccessible because of sea level rise.
We have an interesting community. One of the most unique areas is Tangier Island. It’s been continually inhabited since the 1600’s as a community for men and women. The folks who have traditionally made their living by going out and catching crabs and oysters and fish, and this is a small island with a few acres. It’s one of the only places you can go in the United States where you can hear English spoken as Shakespeare would have spoken it with a language that is an Elizabethan language. The community is isolated in that way. You hear this beautiful English spoken there and the community has many wonderful virtues but the Chesapeake Bay is coming up around this community and eroding it. I received a letter from a middle school student within the last month, a handwritten letter that might have been the most heartfelt piece of communication I’ve received in four-plus years in the senate saying would are you doing about sea level rise, what can you do to help us deal with these issues so that Tangier as an island does not completely disappear.
For these reasons and many others in Virginia we take this very, very seriously and we have to deal with it. I’ll tell you something else about Virginians. Virginians believe in science. The Virginia political figure we most admire was the preeminent scientist of the day, Thomas Jefferson. Virginians overwhelmingly believe in science. 70% of Virginians accept the scientific consensus that human activity is causing climate change and that it is urgent that we do something about it. 70% of Virginians believe in that proposition.
Politico, The Atlantic, and The Washington Post are hosting events during the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute, one of the organizations called out by Senate Democrats earlier this month for “perpetrating a sprawling web of misdirection and disinformation to block action on climate change.”
The American Petroleum Institute is a notorious front group for ExxonMobil, Koch Industries, and other climate polluters. The organization has long played a key role in the industry’s web of denial, as Sen. Dick Durbin noted on the Senate floor. Durbin read from a 1998 API memo explaining the oil industry’s plan to systematically deny climate science: “Victory would be achieved when uncertainty about the science would be part of the public perception.”
With the paid collusion of Politico and The Atlantic, API is still blowing smoke into the eyes of the public. They are promoting their civilization-threatening Vote4Energy “voter education project,” which calls for an “all-of-the-above energy strategy ” with “increased production of oil and natural gas,” denying the urgent scientific warnings about increased greenhouse pollution.
Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and the Democratic National Platform are all calling for a Department of Justice investigation of the fossil-fuel industry for “corporate fraud” and “misleading shareholders and the public on the scientific reality of climate change.”
Democrats – including representatives of the Hillary Clinton campaign – appear to be giving the “web of denial” social license with their participation in Big Oil propaganda events during the Democratic National Convention.
- Gov. John Hickenlooper (CO)
- Gov. Jay Inslee (WA)
- Rep. Jerry McNerney (CA-9)
- Rep. Henry Cuellar (TX-28)
- Rep. Gene Green (TX-29)
- Rep. Dave Loebsack (IA-02)
- Trevor Houser, Energy Advisor, Hillary Clinton campaign
- Heather Zichal, former White House climate advisor
Planned participants in the other “Vote4Oil”-sponsored events during the week include:
- Sen. Chris Coons (DE)
- Rep. Joe Crowley (NY-14)
- Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03)
- Rep. Xavier Becerra (CA-34)
- John Podesta, chair, Hillary Clinton campaign
- Neera Tanden, President and CEO, Center for American Progress
- Ruy Teixeira, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress
- And other Democratic advisors and former top officials
It is a troubling state of affairs that the journalists of the Atlantic and Politico are accepting payment from dangerous propagandists. It is even worse that Democrats who recognize the seriousness of the climate emergency and the crisis of fossil-fuel influence and deception are rolling in Big OIl’s muck.
Climate Hawks Vote has launched the following petition to Democrats attending the DNC:
Michael Levi, a prominent apologist for the Keystone XL pipeline, natural-gas exports, and other fossil-fuel industry priorities, has joined the White House, Hill Heat has learned. Yesterday, Levi began work as a Special Assistant to the President for Energy and Economic Policy on the National Economic Council staff.
For ten years, Levi was Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow for energy and climate policy. Previously, Levi was a nuclear non-proliferation expert at the Brookings Institution, while pursuing his doctorate at the University of London.
Possessed of undeniable brilliance, Levi has no formal training in climate science, economics, or energy policy; his undergraduate and master’s degrees are in physics, and his doctorate is in War Studies. In 2008 he began publishing on climate policy, overseeing a major CFR Task Force report on U.S. climate policy chaired by Tom Vilsack and George Pataki. He quickly established himself as a prominent (and convenient) climate centrist-cum-contrarian—embracing the urgency of climate action, while criticizing other proponents of strong climate policy and providing convoluted arguments for the continued expansion of fossil-fuel and nuclear projects. (Levi calls his approach a most-of the above policy.) Over the years, his pursuits included taking a skeptical view of green jobs, promoting tar sands exploitation, and defending natural gas as a bridge fuel.
Levi’s position as CFR’s energy and climate expert was endowed by David Rubenstein, the founder of the Carlyle Group, a major investor in the oil and gas industry.
Levi is part of a generation of industry-friendly climate experts whose influence is on the rise with the ascension of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, whose numbers also include Heather Zichal (BA, Rutgers), the Rhodium Group’s Trevor Houser (BA, City College of New York) and Columbia University’s Jason Bordoff (Harvard Law). These people are pundits whose careers as climate experts have been sponsored by fossil-fuel industry investors despite a lack of training in climate science. They are now in position to shape United States climate policy if Clinton succeeds President Obama in November.
Climate Movement Flexes Political Power: Clinton's Democratic Platform Adopts Strong Climate Principles
Sanders and Clinton delegates speak in support of unity climate amendment.
However, the Sanders delegates, led by Josh Fox, were unable to get the platform to include language calling for a national moratorium on fracking. Led by Hillary Clinton energy advisor Trevor Houser, the committee adopted language calling for more regulation of fracking and a rebuilding of existing natural-gas infrastructure instead.
The text of the adopted unity amendment is below:
Page 19 Line 18, insert: Democrats believe that carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases should be priced to reflect their negative externalities, and to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy and help meet our climate goals. Democrats believe that climate change is too important to wait for climate deniers and defeatists in Congress to start listening to science, and support using every tool available to reduce emissions now.
Page 19, Line 26, insert: We will streamline federal permitting to accelerate the construction of new transmission lines to get low-cost renewable energy to market, and incentivize wind, solar and other renewable energy over the development of new natural gas power plants.
We support President Obama’s decision to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. As we continue working to reduce carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gas emissions, we most ensure federal actions don’t “significantly exacerbate” global warming. We support a comprehensive approach that insures all federal decisions going forward contribute to solving, not significantly exacerbating climate change.
Democrats believe that our commitment to meeting the climate challenge most also be reflected in the infrastructure investments we make. We need to make our existing infrastructure safer and cleaner and build the new infrastructure necessary to power our clean energy future. To create good-paying middle class jobs that can’t be outsourced, Democrats support high labor standards in clean energy infrastructure, and the right to form or join a union, whether in renewable power or advanced vehicle manufacturing. During the clean energy transition, we will insure landowners, communities of color and tribal nations are at the table.
The text of Houser’s amendment supporting the continued fracking of natural gas is below:
Democrats are committed to closing the Halliburton loophole that stripped the Environmental Protection Agency of its ability to regulate hydraulic fracturing, and ensuring tough safeguards are in place, including Safe Drinking Water provisions, to protect local water supplies. We believe hydraulic fracturing should not take place where states and local communities oppose it. We will reduce methane emissions from all oil and gas production and transportation by at least 40-45% below 2005 levels by 2025 through common-sense standards for both new and existing sources and by repairing and replacing thousands of miles of leaky pipes. This will both protect our climate and create thousands of good-paying jobs.
Climate Hawks Vote is calling for the Democratic Platform to call for a national ban on fracking.
Under President Obama’s leadership . . . We are getting more of our energy from the sun and wind, and importing less oil from overseas.
Democrats believe that climate change poses a real and urgent threat to our economy, our national security, and our children’s health and futures, and that Americans deserve the jobs and security that come from becoming the clean energy superpower of the 21st century.
2. Create Good-Paying Jobs
We will build 21st century energy and water systems, modernize our schools, and continue to support the expansion of high-speed broadband networks. We will protect communities from the impact of climate change by investing in green and resilient infrastructure.
c. Clean Energy Jobs
We must help American workers and businesses compete for jobs and investments in global clean energy, high-tech products, internet technology products, and advanced manufacturing and vehicles. And we must make American manufacturing more internationally competitive by making it the greenest and most efficient in the world, including by investing in industrial energy efficiency.
3. Fight for Economic Fairness and Against Inequality
Democrats will claw back tax breaks for 22 companies that ship jobs overseas, eliminate tax breaks for big oil and gas companies, and crack 23 down on inversions and other methods companies use to dodge their tax responsibilities.
On the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), there are a diversity of views in the party. Many Democrats are on record stating that the agreement does not meet the standards set out in this platform; other Democrats have expressed support for the agreement.
4. Bring Americans Together and Remove Barriers to Create Ladders of Opportunity
k. Honoring Indigenous Tribal Nations
We are committed to principles of environmental justice in Indian Country and we recognize that nature in all its life forms has the right to exist, persist, maintain, and regenerate its vital cycles. We call for a climate change policy that protects tribal resources, protects tribal health, and provides accountability through accessible, culturally appropriate participation and strong enforcement. Our climate change policy will cut carbon emission, address poverty, invest in disadvantaged communities, and improve both air quality and public health. We support the tribal nations to develop wind, solar and other clean energy jobs.
6. Combat Climate Change, Build a Clean Energy Economy, and Secure Environmental Justice
Climate change is an urgent threat and a defining challenge of our time. Fifteen of the hottest years on record have occurred this century. While Donald Trump has called climate change a “hoax”, 2016 is on track to break global temperature records once more. Cities from Miami to Baltimore are already threatened by rising seas. California and the West have suffered years of brutal drought. Alaska has been scorched by wildfire. New York has been battered by superstorms, and Texas swamped by flash floods. The best science tells us that without ambitious, immediate action to cut carbon pollution and other greenhouse gases across our economy, all of these impacts will be far worse in the future. We cannot leave our children a planet that has been profoundly damaged.
Democrats share a deep commitment to tackling the climate challenge; creating millions of good-paying middle class jobs; reducing greenhouse gas emissions more than 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050; and meeting the pledge President Obama put forward in the landmark Paris Agreement, which aims to keep global temperature increases to “well below” two degrees Celsius and to pursue efforts to limit global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius. We believe America must be running entirely on clean energy by mid-century. We will take bold steps to slash carbon pollution and protect clean air at home, lead the fight against climate change around the world, ensure no Americans are left out or left behind as we accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy, and be responsible stewards of our natural resources and our public lands and waters. Democrats reject the notion that we have to choose between protecting our planet and creating good-paying jobs. We can and we will do both.
Clean Energy Economy
We are committed to getting 50 percent of our electricity from clean energy sources within a decade, with half a billion solar panels installed within four years and enough renewable energy to power every home in the country. We will cut energy waste in American homes, schools, hospitals, and offices; modernize our electric grid; and make American manufacturing the cleanest and most efficient in the world, creating new jobs and saving families and businesses money on their energy bills. And we will transform American transportation by reducing oil consumption through cleaner fuels, making new investments in public transportation, expanding electrification of the vehicle fleet, increasing the fuel efficiency of cars, boilers, ships, and trucks, and by building bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure across our urban and suburban areas. Democrats believe the tax code must reflect our commitment to a clean energy future by eliminating special tax breaks and subsidies for fossil fuel companies as well as defending and extending tax incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy.
Democrats are committed to defending, implementing, and extending smart pollution and efficiency standards, including the Clean Power Plan, fuel economy standards for automobiles and heavy-duty vehicles, building codes and appliance standards, and the reduction of methane emissions from oil and gas production. We will work to expand access to cost-saving renewable energy by low-income households, create good-paying jobs in communities that have struggled with energy poverty, and oppose efforts by utilities to limit consumer choice or slow clean energy deployment. We support President Obama’s decision to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. And we believe that the federal government should lead by example, which is why we will take steps to power the government with 100 percent clean electricity.
Environmental and Climate Justice
Democrats believe clean air and clean water are basic rights of all Americans. Yet as we saw in Flint, Michigan, low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately home to environmental justice “hot spots,” where air pollution, water pollution, and toxic hazards like lead increase health and economic hardship. The impacts of climate change will also disproportionately affect low-income and minority communities, tribal nations, and Alaska Native villages—all of which suffer the worst losses during extreme weather and have the fewest resources to prepare. Simply put, this is environmental racism. The fight against climate change must not leave any community out or behind—including the coal communities who kept America’s lights on for generations. Democrats will fight to make sure these workers and their families get the benefits they have earned and the respect they deserve, and we will make new investments in energy producing communities to help create jobs and build a brighter and more resilient economic future.
All corporations owe it to their shareholders to fully analyze and disclose the risks they face, including climate risk. Those who fail to do so should be held accountable. Democrats also respectfully request the Department of Justice to investigate allegations of corporate fraud on the part of fossil fuel companies accused of misleading shareholders and the public on the scientific reality of climate change.
Public Lands and Waters
Democrats believe in the conservation and collaborative stewardship of our shared natural heritage: the public lands and waterways, the oceans, Great Lakes, the Arctic, and all that makes America’s great outdoors priceless. As a nation, we need policies and investments that will keep America’s public lands public, strengthen protections for our natural and cultural resources, increase access to parks and public lands for all Americans, protect species and wildlife, and harness the immense economic and social potential of our public lands and waters.
We oppose drilling in the Arctic and off the Atlantic coast, and believe we need to reform fossil fuel leasing on public lands. We can phase down extraction of fossil fuels from our public lands, starting with the most polluting sources, while making our public lands and waters engines of the clean energy economy and creating jobs across the country.
11. Global Threats
g. Climate Change
Climate change poses an urgent and severe threat to our national security. According to the military, climate change is a threat multiplier that is already contributing to new conflicts over resources, catastrophic natural disasters, and the degradation of vital ecosystems across the globe. While Donald Trump says that climate change is a “hoax” created by and for the Chinese, Democrats recognize the danger facing our country and our planet. We believe the United States must lead in forging a robust global solution to the climate crisis. We will not only meet the goals we set in Paris, we will seek to exceed them and push other countries to do the same by slashing carbon pollution and rapidly driving down emissions of potent greenhouse gases like hydrofluorocarbons. We will support developing countries in their efforts to mitigate carbon pollution and other greenhouse gases, deploy more clean energy, and invest in climate resilience and adaptation. And as a proud Arctic nation, we are against putting the region at risk through drilling in the Arctic Ocean or the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Instead, while protecting our strategic interests, we will seek collaborative, science-based approaches to be good stewards of the rapidly changing Arctic region.