Category: Politics

Looking Back At California Governor Newsom’s Decision To Phase Out Gas-Powered Cars by 2035

by the incentive

In late September, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that he will phase out gasoline-powered cars in order to reduce fossil fuel demand. By this executive order, all sales of passenger vehicles must be zero-emission by the year 2035. This move came with the intention of shifting the state away from being fossil fuel dependent and exposed to renewable energy.

Though the ruling seems extreme, it appears to be proportionally justified. In California, the transportation sector is responsible for more than half of all carbon pollution, 80 percent of smog pollution, and 95 percent of toxic diesel emissions (Source: gov.ca.gov). Banning the sale of these pollution-causing vehicles is a surefire way to reduce what is responsible for half of California’s pollution.

In wake of this ruling and with the rising share of electric vehicle (EV) companies, many car manufacturers like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Ford, among others, are embracing this change and are involved in the design and production of electric vehicles to meet the new market. With the regulation set in place for 15 years from now, it gives companies plenty of time to master and mass produce these electric vehicles to make them both convenient and affordable.

It is key to note, however, the fine print of this ruling. The ruling bans the sale of passenger cars, but not the use of cars. Cars purchased after 2035 must be electric, though existing cars can remain. With the extended lifetime of cars with the help of modern technology and maintenance, it will be a while until we truly see a zero-emission landscape.

It is ambitious, though Governor Newsom states that it “is the most impactful step our state can take to fight climate change.” In addition to providing support from the effect climate change has been having on California in the wake of the wildfires that have devastated the state and surrounding regions, Governor Newsom states that “cars shouldn’t make wildfires worse – and create more days filled with smoky air. Cars shouldn’t melt glaciers or raise sea levels threatening our cherished beaches and coastlines.”

Through this order, California joins the 15 other countries that have committed to phasing out gasoline-powered cars that pollute their nations. The regulations set rules and standards that other states can follow to address climate change on a large scale. With incentivizing and promoting renewable energy instead of fossil fuels, Governor Newsom shows his commitment to the environment among recent events that have devastated areas of California.

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Over 50 Countries Commit to Protection of 30% of Land and Ocean on Earth

by Arun

This past week, over 50 countries committed to a project to protect over 30% of the land and ocean on the plan by the year 2020 in an effort to slow down the effects of the climate crisis.

The organization behind this pact, The High Ambition Coalition (HAC) for Nature and People, agreed to the terms shortly before the One Planet summit in Paris on Monday.

According to The Guardian, “the HAC said protecting at least 30% of the planet for nature by the end of the decade was crucial to preventing mass extinctions of plants and animals, and ensuring the natural production of clean air and water.” Additionally, there are hopes that other countries such as Colombia, Costa Rica, Nigeria, Pakistan, Japan, and Canada would also join the agreement to set stage for a larger world movement.

Over the course of the One Planet summit, several countries additionally committed to investing billions of government funding into environmental projects such as the Great Green Wall in Africa. Independently, the UK government has also committed over $3 billion USD to support nature and biodiversity over the next five years.

In fact, biodiversity was a hot topic at the conference. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that “we are destroying the species and habitat at an absolutely unconscionable rate. Of all the mammals in the world, I think I am right in saying that 96% of mammals are now human beings or livestock that human beings rely upon.” Johnson points out how humans have reduced biodiversity and as an established “dominant species” are disproportionately affecting the natural cycles of wildlife and diversity.

The steps taken at the summit may have been large, but they stand for far more than that. The future looks bright as politicians get behind efforts to mitigate the climate crisis and unite towards creating change that will last generations and create a cleaner world for humans and wildlife alike.

Image Link: https://www.oneplanetsummit.fr/en

Biden Selects Brenda Mallory to Lead Environmental Quality Council

by Arun

This past week, President-elect Joe Biden picked Brenda Mallory to lead the Environmental Quality Council, putting her in a position to coordinate government-wide initiatives that will mitigate climate change and encourage sustainable development. Her selection comes at the heels of several other picks Biden has made as he assembles his cabinet and team that will carry out the entirety of his agenda.

What does the council do?

According to the New York Times, The Environmental Quality Council is “a division of the office of the president, and plays a behind-the-scenes role in federal environmental policy.” The council’s main role is the coordination of government-led initiatives and often works in concordance with the larger agencies like the Interior Department or the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Brenda Mallory currently serves as the director of regulatory policy at the Southern Environmental Law Center and has worked on issues ranging from pollution to land conservation. She is also a graduate of Yale University and Columbia Law School, and has spent over 15 years at various positions within the Environmental Protection Agency.  Under the Obama administration, where she had the role of general counsel, she pioneered efforts that created new national monuments.

Moreover, she also helped lead The Climate 21 Project, which has given recommendations and guidelines for how the government can address climate change effectively, which lines in with the ideals of the Council on Environmental Quality as they stated that “[the council] is best suited to elevate environmental justice to the White House and to lead the agenda on climate change resilience.”

How US President-Elect Joseph Biden plans to Combat Climate Change

by Kunaal Venugopal

With the results of the recent Presidential Election, Joseph R. Biden has been elected the 46th President of the United States, and the President-Elect has a climate plan that will go into effect as soon as he is in office. 

In a tweet, Biden outlined that he would rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement on his first day in office. Limit global temperature rise by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The Agreement aims to “Limit global temperature rise by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, provide a framework for transparency, accountability, and the achievement of more ambitious targets, and mobilize support for climate change mitigation and adaptation in developing nations” (NRDC). Biden’s decision reverses the action by the Trump Administration to pull out of the Paris Agreement in 2017.

Biden’s Administration proposes making US energy production carbon-free by 2035, with the ultimate goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. To do this, Biden plans to make buildings more energy-efficient, invest in public transport, and incentivize electric vehicle use. All of these implementations create new jobs for the American people, so jobs won’t be at stake even with Biden phasing fracking out.

At the end of 2019, Biden’s original climate plan received a 75/200 score, an F. Since then, Biden has taken more radical steps to create a quicker transition to cleaner energy. Sunrise Movement’s executive director Varshini Prakash said to Inside Climate News. “We forced [Biden’s advisers] to backtrack, and … he put out a comprehensive climate plan that cites the Green New Deal and names climate change as the greatest challenge facing America and the world.”

The world will have to wait and see if Biden’s plan will be effective in mitigating climate change, but for the first time in many years, the United States may have something to look forward to in respect to helping the environment; whether it works or not, it’s a change the world, and the US, needed to see.

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New Delhi Air Pollution Worsens

by Arun

Over the past week, the National Capital Region of New Delhi, India has had its air quality reach unprecedented levels in its history. The pollution is actually a record in Delhi – the Air Quality Index in Delhi reached as high as 735. For comparison, the Environmental Protection Agency states that a “Good” AQI is 0 to 50, and a “Moderate” AQI is 51 to 100. Clearly, the pollution in Delhi is a looming problem.

India has been known to struggle with its problem of pollution. A common image of India is the common sight of the jam-packed roads, filled with walkers and vehicles alike, moving around with no free space. Though the images have some truth to them, the pollution output of these vehicles is serious. Many of the vehicles Indian citizens use are often old and outdated, posing serious health hazards to the general public and the welfare of the people. India has recognized this issue and has made aggressive movements towards achieving carbon neutrality, but the fruit of these actions has not come to the scene yet.

The recent uptick in pollution is actually seasonal. There are three major factors responsible for the rise in hazardous air pollution. One being the abnormally high humidity. Another, the lack of surface winds which has caused pollutants to remain and not move off, causing them to be locked off in the city. Finally, in relation to the wind directions, pollutants from other cities have been blown into the capital. The current conditions in India caused a perfect storm of these events, resulting in unprecedented pollution in the capital.

On the positive, India is on the right track to combat pollution, as it seeks to modernize its economy away from fossil fuels and large factory output. However promising the future may be, there seems to be a long way to go in the path.

Norwegian Supreme Court Hears Case on Arctic Oil Drilling

by Arun

Norway is notoriously famous for its clean environment and fresh air. As a matter of fact, a section of the Norwegian Constitution states that all citizens have a right to a healthy environment. However, the economy, which is built around the oil and gas industry, seems to be contradicting the very basis of the constitution. How can Norway support a healthy environment if more than half the country’s exports contribute to an unhealthy environment? 

This question has stood for a while in Norway, but it hasn’t been until recently when the case has actually been brought up to the Norwegian Supreme Court, in which environmental groups seek to invalidate licenses for new oil exploration in the Arctic. This case marks the first time a case related to climate change has been brought up to the Supreme Court bench – consisting of 15 voting judges – under the Constitution’s environmental regulations. If the environmental organizations were to win, it would cause Norway to forfeit a large part of their economy, which is largely dependent on activities such as oil exploration.

According to Andreas Randoy, a win of this magnitude would mean “the beginning of the end of the oil age” and a shift towards modern, renewable energy. Environmental groups argue that the soil exploration plans in the Arctic had not been completely researched prior to their approval in 2016. The Norwegian government, however, claims that their arctic drilling is justified as they compensate for the negative effects of drilling by promoting a greener economy and landscape in other areas, as well as maintaining other environmental regulations.

Still, the case appears to be gaining steam. In what is largely a crowdfunded campaign to cover the legal costs of this case, the public has raised about $270,000 USD from contributors like Greta Thunberg.

In what is sure to be an interesting case of the environment versus the economy, a shift towards renewable energy as a whole seems to be looming not only in Norway but in the world.

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US Department on Energy makes Statement Regarding Emissions of Electric Vehicles

by Kaushal Kumar

Recently, the US Department of Energy put to bed the myth that electric vehicles are worse, or not any better for the environment than gasoline-powered vehicles. This statement was made in response to a mass internet campaign claiming that due to the amount of energy and resources needed to form batteries for electric vehicles and the complications that come with disposing of them or re-using them, and that electric vehicles are not any better for the environment than gasoline power vehicles. An example of this campaign is a Facebook post, claiming that a 1000 pound electric battery requires 500,000 pounds of raw material to create, therefore making the vehicle it is placed in just as damaging to the environment. However, this claim has recently been proven false. The US Department of Energy recently compared the lifecycle emissions of fully-electric, hybrid, and gasoline-powered vehicles, finding that electric vehicles do, in nearly all cases, have fewer emissions than a gasoline-powered car. 

However, this barrage of misinformation does not only include internet memes and popular Facebook posts. In 2019, a German study claimed that the Tesla Model 3, a fully electric car, emitted just as much CO2 into the atmosphere as a Mercedes C-Class vehicle with a diesel engine. This was recently proven to be false with the co-author of the new study, Auke Hoekstra explaining, “A Tesla Model 3 currently emits 65% less CO2 than a Mercedes C-Class.” 

The disinformation regarding electric vehicles is an obstacle that will forever be a challenge to the renewable energy automobile industry. Critics and skeptics will continue to attack these new vehicles with factless claims and arguments. As the popularity of electric vehicles increases, so will the volume of this slander. 

Even the idea that the US Department of Energy felt that they had to make a statement on this proves the difficulty of our battle against climate change. A fact that seemed so obvious is something that people are willing to discredit and lie about. The fight against climate change is very much one about the battle for truth, with one side claiming they have the truth and the other side proving that they do. Ultimately, it is the role of the reader to sift through the lies and exaggerations of the deniers and find for themselves what the science supports.

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European Union Votes for 60% Cut in Emissions by 2030

by Nakul

This past week marked a landmark event in the European Union’s attempt to strive towards a greener Europe. The member countries by 60% in the European Parliament unanimously voted in favor of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in its 2 comparisons to 1990. The proposal won the support of 392 Members of European Parliament (MEPs), with 161 MEPs voting against and 142 MEPs abstaining, as The Guardian reported. Previously, the goal had been set for a 40% emission reduction, and the European Commission recommended a maximum decrease of 55%. However, the EU simply rejected this suggestion, with the environmental committee leader Pascal Canfin explaining, “Having the parliament supporting 60% helps the progressive countries in the council to drive ambition upwards”. 

Support for the Decision

Evidently, many individuals were heavily in favor of the outcome of the vote, and many gave public statements to express their sentiments. Dutch MEP Bas Eickhout stated, “This vote shows that the European Parliament is listening to the science…”. Similarly, Swedish MEP Jytee Guteland explained, “The adoption of the report sends a clear message to the Commission and the Council, in light of the upcoming negotiations. We expect all member states to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 at the latest and we need strong interim targets in 2030 and 2040 for the EU to achieve”. Imke Lübbeke of WWF supported the decision but also explained that “[The] 60% result needs to be taken up by Member States so we can take real steps towards a green economic recovery and a planet that thrives.”

Opposition to the Decision

Right-wing politicians of many member countries were not impressed by the vote, to say the least. German politician and member of Parliament Peter Liese stated, “I regret that the majority in the European Parliament did not support the European Commission’s Climate Law proposal but voted for the overambitious 60%”. Liese was in favor of the 55% recommended cut in emissions, but felt that the 60% cut risked too many jobs. French MEP Agnes Evren concurred, saying “Going beyond 55% would endanger jobs. Let’s not be ideological”. Canfin responded to these claims, arguing, “There is no trade-off between prosperity and climate action. On the contrary, the cost of inaction is much higher than the cost of action”.
Ultimately, this vote by the European Union indubitably displays its authentic attempts to work towards establishing a more eco-friendly environment. Whether the member countries will accept this ambitious decision remains to be seen; as of now, there is not majority support among the member states of the 60% vote.

Image: https://euobserver.com/opinion/140843

China Looks to Achieve Carbon Neutrality by 2060

by Sudhit Rao

In a recent United Nations General Assembly, Xi Jinping, president of China, the largest polluter of greenhouse gases in the world today, announced that he plans for China to go carbon-free by the year 2060. He detailed a “green revolution,” and came out with plans to peak carbon emissions by 2030 and slowly reduce them by 2060. 

China is responsible for a large portion of pollution although it is also a global leader in renewable energy. He stated, “China will scale up its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions by adopting more vigorous policies and measures. We call on all countries to pursue innovative, coordinated, green, and open development for all.” 

Although many climate activists were excited to hear the announcement, they were more adamant that Xi lives up to his pledge and execute this decades-long plan. Jennifer Morgan, a well-known climate activist with Greenpeace International responded on Twitter saying that Xi’s plan “is an important signal that responding to the climate crisis is top of mind and top of agenda for China.”

As for the plan itself, consultancy Wood Mackenzie, detailed that the process would take an enormous investment of $5 trillion to accomplish. According to them, solar, wind, and energy storage would each have to increase tenfold by the 2050s to around 5,040 gigawatts of energy. Concurrently, coal and gas power would have to decrease by about half to get close to the goal. Moreover, Prakesh Sharma, head of markets and transitions, states how the world must change socially too saying, “The most challenging part of the shift is not the investment or magnitude of renewable capacity additions but the social transition that comes with it.”

While Xi’s plan leaves us optimistic about China, the question remains whether the US will follow in China’s steps. Fighting climate change is a global effort, and currently, there is no concrete plan by the United States detailing how US carbon emissions will reduce.

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Britain’s Prince Williams Creates New Annual Environmental Award

by Arun

British Prince Williams has created a new environmental award in an effort to encourage citizens to create solutions to the pressing issue of global warming and climate change. The Prince has dedicated $65 million towards the cause and will be awarded for the first time in 2021. The prize will be called the Earthshot prize and will be awarded annually to five people or organizations that successfully address one of the problems of protecting and restoring nature, cleaning the air, reviving oceans, building a waste-free world, or fixing the climate. Similar to the prestige of the Nobel Prize, each winner of the Earthshot prize will receive the equivalent of $1.3 million USD.

The effort is among the first of many global leaders who are now working tirelessly to address the issue of the current climate crisis. Just two weeks ago, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced California’s plan of banning the sale of gasoline cars by the year 2035. These series of laws and orders come with a recent surge in the effect of climate change from the recent hurricanes to the devastating fires on the west coast. The Prince states that “the next ten years are a critical decade for change,” noting how we are in an imminent and closing period to work towards mitigating climate change before it is too late.

Global warming and environmental regulations have been long linked to politics, but it hasn’t been till recently, where the issue has become increasingly prominent. So much so, that the topic is one of the highest on the list for presidential debates to see how we can mitigate climate change from a political standpoint. Some of the obvious consequences of climate change have been the devastating forest fires, hurricanes, and natural disasters in general which have constantly increased year over year as a result of climate change. Many people, however, are immune to these natural disasters and hence do not feel its powerful effect. Many argue that economic development should continue and flourish before addressing climate change, while scientists argue that it may be too late to address it if we leave it off.

There’s no doubt climate change will be a hot topic for years to come, but with politicians slowly shifting towards actively addressing climate change through creating regulations or offering new awards like Prince William’s, the world seems to be taking the right step in the fight.

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