Category: Politics

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.

Image: https://www.wuwm.com/sites/wuwm/files/styles/x_large/public/202002/AdobeStock_79753939.jpeg

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.

Image: https://media.wired.com/photos/5c05d69be02cdf2d57026ba4/16:9/w_2400,h_1350,c_limit/chinaemissions-625667906.jpg

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.

Image: https://wallsdesk.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Prince-William-4K.jpg

Take Down the Climate Crisis Countdown Clock

by Anna Subbanna

Recently, Union Square’s midnight countdown clock has been changed to a climate crisis countdown clock. Sprawled across the facade of the building facing the square, are large numbers constantly reminding the people walking by that there are only seven years left to save the planet from climate change. However, during a time of mass anxiety due to the pandemic, rising unemployment, and political struggles, is it wise to add a sense of impending doom to that? 

The citizens that truly care about environmentalism are taking measures to reduce their carbon footprint including putting pressure on their local legislature to pass environmental protection laws. Around 67% of adults believe that their government is not doing enough to protect them from climate change and 63% of Americans are ready to deal with the cost of implementing stricter policies (Funk, Pew Research Center). To curb climate change is to reduce carbon emissions, chemical effluent, and waste production. Only one hundred companies are responsible for 71% of global carbon emissions (Riley, The Guardian). In fact, just twenty of those companies produce one-third of the world’s emissions (Taylor, The Guardian). It is the responsibility of businesses to reduce carbon emissions enough to stop the dire consequences of climate change. Moreover, other damaging practices such as oil spills and improper toxic waste burials cannot be stopped by everyday people. Putting up a countdown in Union Square for hundreds of New Yorkers to see and thousands of Americans to read about is not appropriate when looking at those responsible. Americans know that protecting the environment is increasingly important, now it is up to the companies and legislators to act. 

How do we hold companies responsible? 

Most companies will not change their environmental policies on a whim, they need to be told to do so by the government. This can be done in a myriad of ways, but the most efficient ways will be monetary consequences (The Sanders Institute). For example, increasing penalties on pollution will force companies to be more responsible for their production and transportation methods. If an oil company does have a major spill, like Deepwater Horizon’s spill in the Gulf of Mexico, they need to be held fully accountable for the direct impact and indirect impact of their mistake.  They should pay for the cleanup of the oil and restoration of habitats impacted by it. Harsh and decisive legal action is the only way to stop climate change, not a countdown clock in the middle of a busy city.

Image: https://www.democracynow.org/images/headlines/73/54573/full_hd/h13-climate-activists-unveil-climate-clock-nyc-ahead-global-climate-strike.jpg

California Passes Most Aggressive Plastics Recycling Law in America

by Daanyal Raja

California Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed a new law that requires all plastic beverage containers to be made with more recycled materials. With its introduction, companies that produce beverages must use 15% recycled plastic in all containers by 2022, 25% recycled plastic by 2025, and 50% recycled plastic by 2030. The law is the first of its kind in the nation and aims to reduce plastic litter. 

Supporters of bill AB 793 claim it will increase demand for recycled plastics and reduce pollution and resource consumption for goods that are used to make new plastics. 

Mark Murray, the executive director of Californians Against Waste, an environmental group based in Sacramento, called the law “the most ambitious, aggressive recycled plastics content law in the world.” 

“We are doing a really good job of collecting things for recycling,” Murray said. “The difficult part has been finding an end-use market for it. This new law is about closing the loop. Now companies that manufacture the plastic bottles have to buy them back. They’ll have the responsibility.”

The bill is a welcome addition, as many companies have already been moving towards recycled plastics in their products. Naked Juice’s bottles are made of 100% recycled content for all of its products and Evian aims to make all of its water bottles from 100% recycled plastic by 2025.

Plastic waste has become a major environmental problem, especially in the Oceans, where trash heaps such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch grow larger and larger.

A study from Science Advances estimates that only 9% of all plastics sold in the United States are recycled, with 13 million metric tons of it ends up in Oceans around the world every year. Once in the ocean, plastics are ingested by sea birds, fish, turtles, seals, and many other creatures, resulting in their deaths. The study also states that half the plastic ever produced was made in the last 13 years, highlighting how important it is that we curb our plastic production.

Plastic lasts for centuries, and constantly producing new products uses up great amounts of petroleum, which directly contributes to climate change. By being the first state in the nation to reduce its plastic production, California is leading a charge against climate change and hopes to set an example for other states to follow.

Image: https://www.mercurynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/STC-L-Plastic-0912.jpg?w=780

Hundreds of Protestors Break into German Mine in their fight Against Coal

by Saarang Kashyap

Hundreds of anti-coal protesters entered a mine in western Germany on Saturday to protest the continued extraction and use of fossil fuels.

Environmentalists object to the German government’s decision to allow the mining and burning of coal in the country until 2038, a deadline the activists say is too late to effectively tackle climate change. As stated by The Independent, “ The Garzweiler mine and nearby power plants have been a focus of protests for several years. Environmentalists say they are among the biggest sources of harmful pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in Europe.”

The big problem with moving away from coal is the lack of alternative economic opportunities. Although tens of thousands of mining jobs have been cut since the 1990s, most available employment in the region is still tied to coal. Mainstream German parties still support the industry, and as in other parts of Europe, the impact of green policies on traditional or left-behind communities has become a convenient agenda for populists and far-right politicians to latch on to.

Brown coal, or lignite, is the most polluting fuel in the world, and it still powers 14 % of Germany’s energy, which is a higher reliance than any other EU country. Additionally, the environmental impact of Germany’s reliance on coal is gruesome. Germany’s lignite mines have destroyed 175,000 hectares of the country’s landscape. Soil is considered dead since nothing grows in it afterward. Once the mine shuts and the pumps regulating the water levels are turned off, the ground becomes waterlogged.For Wiebke Witt, a brown coal expert for the NGO Klima Allianz Deutschland, Germany’s 2038 closure timeline fails to honor the 2015 Paris climate agreement on ending coal energy production.“When the end date for coal was negotiated, talks revolved around the amount of energy produced from coal and not for instance the impact it continues to have on the climate,” Witt says. This situation highlights an important statement: we must consider climate change as a significant factor during the conception of new rules and regulations, so people may be both positively economically and environmentally impacted.

Image: https://www.ctvnews.ca/world/hundreds-of-anti-coal-protesters-break-into-german-mine-1.5121407

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s extensive involvement on Environmental Issues as Supreme Court Justice

by Sudhit Rao

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the eldest Supreme Court Justice recently passed away at the hands of pancreatic cancer. Appointed as Supreme Court Justice in 1993 by former President Bill Clinton, she is popular for her work on gender equality. In addition to that, she has a long-lasting record of voting on cases regarding climate change and the environment. 

In 2011, she was part of the unanimous decision to protect power companies from lawsuits from the state or private companies in American Electric Power Co. Inc. v. Connecticut. She previously voted to allow the federal government to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Act in Massachusetts vs EPA, in 2007. She stated, “The Act itself thus provides a means to seek limits on emissions of carbon dioxide from domestic power plants—the same relief the plaintiffs seek by invoking federal common law.”

Gina McCarthy, a well-known expert on environmental health and air quality and former EPA administrator, praises Ruth Bader Ginsberg. She says, “Through her expansive mind, sound temperament and unwavering judicial integrity, she plied the Constitution as a living instrument of American life, lending it meaning in the life of us all.” 

In addition to being a firm believer in the threat of climate change, she has also praised young Swedish Activist Greta Thunberg as one of the future leaders in the fight against climate change. She is keen on encouraging and spreading awareness amongst the younger generation, saying “The young people that I see are fired up, and they want our country to be what it should be. One of the things that makes me an optimist is young people.”

Ginsberg’s stay as Supreme Court Justice will not only be remembered for her work on gender issues, but also for fighting against climate change. She has truly been revolutionary and her legacy will be remembered for years to come.

Image: https://www.witf.io/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/gettyimages-1207414667_wide-67a7ce3b33c61ce6c29e7122ef8cd6add7e38147-1920×1080.jpg

California Governor Newsom Officially Phases Out Gas-Powered Cars by 2035

by Arun

This past week, 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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Trump Blames Forest Management, Not Climate Change, for California Forest Fires

by Daanyal Raja

Within the past month, West Coast states have been dealing with one of the most dangerous wildfire seasons ever. An overwhelming majority of climate and environmental scientists attribute these fires to rising temperatures and warmer weather across the West Coast, making wildfires more common and damaging. However, President Trump, a fervent denier of man-made climate change and global warming, blames the issue on forest management.

President Trump recently visited California, one of the states that were greatly impacted by the fires, toured some of the wildfire damage, and sat down with local and state officials to discuss the matter. During one meeting, California National Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot told Trump, “We want to work with you to really recognize the changing climate, and what it means to our forests” before warning “If we ignore that science, and sort of put our head in the sand, and think it’s all about vegetation management, we’re not going to succeed protecting Californians.” Trump responded to this by claiming that the climate “would start getting cooler,” to which Crowfoot replied, “I wish science agreed with you.” 

Trump has been more than vocal about his beliefs regarding forest management and the wildfires in the past. At one of his rallies in Pennsylvania, he said “I see again the forest fires are starting […] They’re starting again in California. I said, you gotta clean your floors, you gotta clean your forests — there are many, many years of leaves and broken trees and they’re like, like, so flammable, you touch them and it goes up,” claiming that some trees and leaves can instantaneously combust. He also said, “Maybe we’re just going to have to make [California] pay for it because they don’t listen to us,” he added. This hasn’t been the first time Trump has blamed the predominantly Democratic state and threatened to withhold money from them; he did the same in 2018 and 2019 as wildfires ravaged the state. 

However, Trump’s threats have yet to be implemented in any way. In fact, last week, California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a new “shared stewardship” that combines forces from the U.S. Forest Service and California to work towards managing forests to reduce fire risk. Newsom also said “Wildfires don’t stop at jurisdictional boundaries. As we respond to wildfires in real-time this summer, improving coordination between the major stewards of California’s forested land will help us protect communities and restore forest health across California.”