On Sunday, the Washington Post published an opinion piece by Fred Hiatt, the opinion page’s editor, entitled “How Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders Both Reject the Reality of Climate Change.” This false equivalence is, to put it bluntly, absolutely one of the most idiotic things I have ever seen.
Hiatt’s piece inexplicably attacks the climate plan Senator Bernie Sanders would implement as president (here’s our analysis). While there are valid things to quibble with, Hiatt does a lot of hand waving “bUt HoW wOuLd We PaY fOr It” stuff and hand wringing over the idea that fossil fuel companies and the executives who run them should be prosecuted. He then turns to extensively quoting and paraphrase Patrick Pouyanné, the chairman and CEO of Total, a [checks notes] large Paris-based oil giant currently being sued in France.
The whole post reads like an advertorial for Total (sample quote: “Pouyanné himself did not seem particularly hateful; on the contrary”) and a carbon tax plan supported by the Climate Leadership Council, a group supported by Big Oil, including Total.
Both sidesing Trump and Sanders and credulously burbling out Big Oil talking points would be bad enough. But a group of scientists with the Sunrise Movement tweeted that the Post opinion section had previously rejected an op-ed they submitted defending Sanders’ climate plan and how seriously it takes the science. It was written in response to Joe Biden dismissing Sanders’ plan late last month, much as Hiatt did in his Sunday piece.
Earther reached out to Sunrise Scientists, and they shared their piece with us. Emails reviewed by Earther also confirm that a Washington Post editor explicitly declined to run the op-ed. Read the scientists’ article in full below, along with a list of authors who helped draft it.
Note: The letter is signed by the individual scientists and does not reflect the view of the institutions with which they are affiliated.
Joe Biden says Bernie Sanders’ Green New Deal is impossible.
We refuse that narrative. We are scientists here to refute Biden’s claim that “not a single, solitary scientist thinks that [Sanders’ Green New Deal would] work.” Not only do we believe that it is possible for the U.S. to decarbonize electricity and transportation by 2030, we know that such a goal is imperative.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s primary scientific authority on climate change, has been describing the immense harm that climate change will bring to the world and its peoples for decades. In 2018, it issued a report focused on the likely impacts of allowing global warming of 1.5. degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial warming, concluding in its famously measured phrasing that the global impacts of such warming are going to be bad. One example: “Any increase in global warming is projected to affect human health, with primarily negative consequences (high confidence).” Nonetheless, limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius can protect people and our planet from the most extreme anticipated consequences of climate change.
The planet has already warmed 0.8-1.2 degrees Celsius (1.4-2.2 degrees Fahrenheit), with an estimated future warming trajectory of 0.1-0.3 degrees Celsius (0.2-0.6 degrees Fahrenheit) per decade. Global mean sea level has already risen 8–9 inches (21–24 centimeters) since 1880 and is expected to rise by another 10-30 inches (26 to 77 centimeters) by 2100 under a 1.5 degrees constraint, or more if we go past that. We are running out of time.
We know we must act. Constraining climate change in a way that is most protective of our planet, our families, and our homes requires cutting greenhouse gas emissions rapidly and permanently. We believe that Bernie Sanders’ Green New Deal proposal lays out a course of action that is matched to the scale of the challenge. It is possible. But we must commit wholeheartedly.
Sanders’ Green New Deal is informed by science, linking its targets and timelines to what the science tells us is critical for staving off the most devastating impacts of climate change. Just as importantly, it understands the challenge for what it is: A need to transform our economy to support a more sustainable, healthier future.
Accordingly, it addresses decarbonization systemically, focusing on where money needs to be spent, where social programs need to be implemented, and where people need support to do great things. The plan funds new, clean energy, leveraging successful New Deal models of public financing and control of power generation, and fully funds a just, five-year transition for workers in the fossil fuel industry.
The plan recognizes climate change as an emergency. It would make the U.S. a global leader on climate action, while ensuring funding for a just transition and industrialization of the developing world. And perhaps most importantly, the plan reflects that it is the American people who will make this happen. That’s why Sanders’ Green New Deal focuses on jobs, justice, and public ownership of the energy systems that we create and will be bolstered by other policy commitments like Medicare for All, student loan forgiveness, union empowerment, and other programs that recognize the power and dignity of all.
We know that it is possible to rise to the challenge of the climate crisis. And we know that Sanders’ Green New Deal is a commitment to people that recognizes that only together can we make this deeply ambitious and critically necessary plan work. As President John F. Kennedy said to Congress at the advent of the Space Race: “I believe we possess all the resources and talents necessary. But the facts of the matter are that we have never made the national decisions or marshaled the national resources required for such leadership. We have never specified long-range goals on an urgent time schedule, or managed our resources and our time so as to insure their fulfillment.”
It is again time to take urgent, visionary actions that rise to the challenge that we as scientists know is coming. It is time to commit to a Green New Deal.
Dr. Emily Grubert, Ph.D. in Environment and Resources from Stanford University
Dr. Eric Rehm, Senior Research Associate, UMI Takuvik/Arctic Remote Sensing at the Université Laval
Dr. Dargan Frierson, Associate Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at University of Washington
Dr. Shannon Hateley, Ph.D. in Molecular and Cell Biology from the University of California, Berkeley
Dr. Peter Kalmus, Associate Project Scientist at the UCLA Joint Institute for Regional Earth System Science & Engineering
Matias Kaplan, PhD Candidate in Bioengineering at Stanford University
Isaac Larkin, PhD Candidate in Molecular Biology at Northwestern University
Yan Liu, BSc in Cell and Molecular Biology at San Francisco State University. Co-Founder and CEO, Biocaptivate
David Silverstone, PhD Candidate in Quantum Information Science at Yale University
Dr. Lucky Tran, PhD in Biology from Cambridge University
Spencer Roberts, BA in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, rooftop photovoltaic engineer
Peter E. Chen, PhD Candidate in Computational Genetics at Université de Montréal