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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Beyond The Headlines

Air Date: Week of

Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), center, spoke at a February 7, 2019 press conference about the Green New Deal, flanked by his cosponsor Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). (Photo: Senate Democrats, Wikimedia Commons CC BY 2.0)

In this week’s look beyond the headlines, Peter Dykstra and host Bobby Bascomb talk about conservative criticisms of the Green New Deal, and an Australian court decision that’s killed a new coal mine proposal. Then, they look back fifteen years to when the Pentagon, under President George W. Bush, commissioned a report looking at how climate change could cause severe global destabilization.


BASCOMB: It's time for a trip now beyond the headlines with Peter Dykstra. Peter's an editor with Environmental Health News -- that's ehn.org -- and DailyClimate.org. Hey there Peter, what do you have for us this week?

DYKSTRA: Hi Bobby. Well, I'm going to put on my Washington, DC know-it-all, blowhard TV pundit hat, and make a little political prediction. The Green New Deal is poised to become a centerpiece of rhetoric that climate and green energy are part of a sinister effort to take over America, and then take over the world!

BASCOMB: And what evidence do we have of that?

DYKSTRA: Well, it's bubbling up in a lot of, well, let's call them the right-wing mainstream sites and pundits, people like Hugh Hewitt, the radio talk show host, and blogger who said this about the Green New Deal -- quote -- "It is not socialism, it is Communism, it is fascism, it is despotism." And then Sean Hannity, who of course has been recognized as one of Trump's closest advisors, said on Fox News that the Green New Deal is, quote, "one of the most dangerous, impractical, misguided, economically guaranteed to be devastating plans ever championed by any American politician." And finally, on Fox and Friends, Brian Kilmeade said this: the Green New Deal look like it was put together by a 10th grader, whereupon one of the Fox and Friends guests talked him down to agreeing that it was put out by a third grader.

BASCOMB: Wow, strong words. But, for those Republican legislators who do think climate change is an urgent issue, do you think maybe the Green New Deal puts pressure on them to come up with a better idea, something more in line with their conservative thinking?

DYKSTRA: Well, it only puts pressure on people who accept climate change as not only a fact, but a fact that will affect our lives and economy and ecology in the coming years. And of course, not all conservatives are there by any means -- not in Congress, not in the Cabinet, not in the White House with the President himself. The advocates of the Green New Deal have to be realistic that when they push what many Americans view as essential, common sense, other Americans are going to perceive it as a threat. And they're going to be encouraged to do so.

BASCOMB: Right. But I mean, climate change, it's sort of like gravity, you know; believe in it or not, it's still going to affect you. You know, if you walk off a cliff, you're going to fall.

DYKSTRA: Uh, yeah, but Congress is a place where laws are made, but the law of gravity doesn't always fit into the logic of how Congress works. Think of the original New Deal, as put together by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It was a fix for the Great Depression. Everybody accepted that the Great Depression was real and was having an impact in every corner of America. Whether we should be there or not, despite all the warnings, we're not there with climate change politically.

BASCOMB: Well, what else do you have for us this week, Peter?

The Anglesea coal mine in Victoria, Australia. The nation is the world’s leading exporter of coal. (Photo: Takver, Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0)

DYKSTRA: Australia is one of the coal happiest nations on Earth; they still get nearly two-thirds of their electricity from coal. And they're the world's leading exporter of coal, particularly to growing economic powers in Asia, like China and India. But here's a first from Australia's judicial system: a state court in New South Wales dealt a blow to a new coal mine project by citing the urgency to cut greenhouse gases instead of adding to the total; they killed a new coal mine proposal.

BASCOMB: Mmm. Well, perhaps unlike the United States, the average Australian might be accepting climate change more readily. I mean, they had just crazy wildfires this year in Tasmania and record high temperatures. We reported on that a couple weeks ago. It seems like maybe it's hard to ignore there.

DYKSTRA: Right; this January, the month we just concluded, was the hottest month ever on record in Australia.

BASCOMB: Well, what do you have for us from the history vault this week?

Fifteen years ago, when Donald Rumsfeld was Secretary of State, the Pentagon commissioned a report on how climate change could cause global upheaval, environmental refugees, devastating storms, and more. (Photo: David B. Gleason, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.0)

DYKSTRA: You know, there's some folks that look upon the Green New Deal as a mad power grab, like we said; but consider this: February's the 15th anniversary of a report commissioned by the Pentagon, at a time when the Pentagon was run by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, "Mr. Iraq", that climate change could cause global upheaval, environmental refugees, flooded coastlines, devastating storms, and more. All of this foreseen by those dangerous radicals at the Pentagon.

BASCOMB: Well, thanks for that, Peter! Peter Dykstra is an editor with Environmental Health News, that's ehn.org, and DailyClimate.org. We'll talk to you again soon.

DYKSTRA: All right, thanks a lot, Bobby, talk to you soon.

BASCOMB: And there's more on these stories on our website, loe dot org.



Right-wing media takes on the Green New Deal

Nature | “Landmark Australian ruling rejects coal mine over global warming”

About Australia’s dependency on coal for electricity production

Australia is on track for 50% renewable electricity by 2025

About the Pentagon climate report commissioned in 2004


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