This story was originally published by Gristand is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.
Two years after President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that their countries would work together to combat climate change, Republicans and conservatives in the United States continue to cite China's rising carbon emissions as a reason not to bother cutting our own.
Earlier this month, Donald Trump's economic adviser Stephen Moore claimed that limiting our carbon pollution is pointless because of China's supposedly growing coal dependency. "Every time we shut down a coal plant in the US, China builds 10," Moore told E&E News. "So how does that reduce global warming?"
Not only is Moore's statement simply untrue, but the broader conservative theory behind it is badly outdated. China's coal use and carbon emissions have dropped for the last two years. In 2015, China cut its coal use 3.7 percent and its emissions declined an estimated 1 to 2 percent, following similar decreases in 2014.
If China continues to cut its emissions, or even just keeps them at current levels, the country will be way ahead of its goal of peaking emissions by around 2030, which it laid out in 2014 and recommitted to during the Paris climate talks last December.
In part, China's emissions are dropping because the country is undergoing a dramatic shift in the nature of its economy. For years, China had been rapidly industrializing and growing at a breakneck pace. Growth often causes emissions to rise, all the more so when a country has an expanding manufacturing sector and is building out its basic infrastructure such as highways and rail lines. Heavy industrial activity—especially making cement and steel, which are needed for things like buildings, roads, and rail tracks—can be extremely energy intensive and have a massive carbon footprint. But now, as China is becoming more fully industrialized, its growth is slower and driven more by service industries, like technology, that are much less carbon intensive.
And the Chinese government is spurring this shift to a lower-carbon economy by reducing its indirect subsidies, such as favorable lending from state-controlled banks, for coal and other carbon-heavy industries. "This is actually a correction for the economy because China is adopting a more market approach," says Ranping Song, an expert on Chinese climate policy at the World Resources Institute, an international environmental research organization. "That will have an impact on emissions."
We can't know whether Chinese emissions will continue dropping every year, but China is committed to improving the energy efficiency of its economy and the cleanliness of its energy sources, and it's already off to a strong start. "There is a set of things happening in China that will continue to change the trajectory of its emissions," says Jake Schmidt, director of the international program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Here are seven things China is doing to curb its climate-warming emissions:
Limiting coal use. Just a week after that 2014 announcement with Obama, China released an energy strategy that called for capping coal consumption by 2020. China also put a three-year moratorium on new coal mines, starting this year, and it's been shutting down existing coal mines. Cutting back on coal not only reduces carbon emissions; it combats poor air quality, which has been causing serious health problems in notoriously polluted Chinese cities such as Beijing and Wuhan.
Carbon trading. Next year, China will launch a nationwide carbon market, the world's largest. It will cover six of the biggest carbon-emitting sectors, starting with coal-fired electricity generation. This cap-and-trade program will build on programs China has already created in two provinces and five cities.
Cleaning up cars and trucks. China is the largest car market in the world. Cutting pollution from automobiles, like cutting pollution from coal plants, is essential not just to reducing CO2 emissions but to clearing the air in cities: The government estimates that roughly one-third of Beijing's epic smog is from automobiles. China is pulling old, inefficient cars off the road, providing incentives for buying hybrids and electric cars, and enforcing stricter fuel-efficiency standards for new cars.
Making buildings more energy efficient. Two years ago, China started issuing requirements for buildings to be given energy-efficiency upgrades. The energy savings are just beginning to be felt, but given that buildings can last for decades or even centuries, there could be a long payoff period.
Building renewable capacity. China knows it needs alternative sources of energy to replace coal, so the government is investing heavily in developing wind and solar energy. "China has emerged as a leader in renewable energy," reported Song and one of his colleagues in a blog post in April. "Investment soared from $39 billion to $111 billion in just five years, while electric capacity for solar power grew 168-fold and wind power quadrupled." In Paris, China promised that at least 20 percent of its energy portfolio will come from non–fossil fuel sources by 2030.
Building nuclear reactors. Whatever you think of nuclear energy, it is one of the lowest-carbon forms of electricity out there. Earlier this month, China announced it will build at least 60 new nuclear power plants within a decade.
Building high-speed rail. A wealthier citizenry in a more industrialized country will be traveling a lot more. To limit transportation emissions, China is rapidly building high-speed rail. It already has more than 11,800 miles of high-speed rail that carry 2.7 million riders daily, and expansion plans are on the drawing board.
China will surely encounter hurdles and hiccups as it continues trying to rein in its emissions. The nation's economy has recently been slowing down for cyclical reasons, as well as the structural ones mentioned above. After years of debt-fueled corporate investment and growth, Chinese companies are paying down their debts at the same time that the government is reining in industrial overcapacity and winding down the stimulus spending that got it through the Great Recession. China's economy will eventually pick up again, and when it does, citizens will likely buy more cars, air conditioners, and electronic goods, leading to more electricity and gasoline use and perhaps greater carbon emissions.
But the policies China is enacting are designed to ultimately create a higher standard of living without more emissions. Since China has enormous low-lying cities that will be largely underwater in a century if climate change continues spinning out of control, the country has plenty of reason to curb its emissions and has shown that it is serious about doing it. That's true whether Republican politicians in Washington choose to believe it or not.
"As a six-time Olympic medalist, I know it takes hard work to achieve success. For me, it also takes over 800 rounds of ammunition daily," says Olympic shooter Kim Rhode in the second installment in a series of web ads opposing Proposition 63, a ballot initiative sponsored by California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom that would require background checks for buying ammunition and outlaw magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. It would not limit the quantity of ammunition people can buy. "If Gavin Newsom has his way, it'll make it incredibly hard to keep up my skills," says Rhode.
Those ammo regulations are just part of Prop 63, a sweeping measure that's drawing ire from gun-rights groups and praise from firearm safety advocates. Here's a look at what it would do, who's behind it, and its chances of passing.
What would Prop 63 do?
Known as the Safety For All Initiative, Proposition 63 would implement a raft of new gun laws. It would outlaw the possession of high-capacity magazines, create a system for confiscating guns from felons who are prohibited from owning them, elevate all gun thefts to felonies, and require people and businesses to report lost or stolen guns. It also would prohibit anyone who has stolen a gun from owning one again. But what's most contentious about the measure is that it would require background checks for ammunition purchases and would require anyone who wants to buy ammo to obtain a four-year permit from the California Department of Justice.
Proponents of the law say it will tighten existing gun control laws and will close, as Newsom puts it, "all kinds of loopholes." Dan Newmon, a campaign strategist for the Democratic lieutenant governor, told Poltifact, "Treating ammo sales like guns and screening for dangerous mental illness, taking guns away from people legally prohibited from owning weapons, reporting lost and stolen guns and ammo—these will all reduce gun violence of all kinds, from suicide to mass murder."
Opponents also contend that the measure won't do anything to stem mass shootings or other gun crimes, while burdening law-abiding gun owners. The website StopNewsom.com calls the lieutenant governor's "gun control agenda" "insane" and says that it will "destroy lives." Prop 63's opponents argue that it duplicates new gun laws that were signed in July by Gov. Jerry Brown, including a mandate that ammunition buyers pass a background check. (Prop 63's text was set in December 2015, well before the governor signed the new laws.)
StopNewsom.com also states that the measure will "criminalize" the sharing of bullets. (Politifact rated that statement as "mostly false," noting that it would only be illegal to share bullets with someone whom the person providing the ammo should know is banned from possessing ammunition.) Other Prop 63 opponents have raised concerns that they will no longer be able to purchase ammunition online. This is also not quite true. The new measure allows online purchases, but the ammo would have to be picked up from a licensed dealer rather than shipped to an individual's home.
Who is for Prop 63?
Unsurprisingly, support for the measure backed by the state's number-two Democrat largely falls along party lines. Proponents include the California Democratic Party, the California Young Democrats, and scores of officials across the state. It also boasts support from human rights organizations including Amnesty International. The California Medical Association, the California American College of Physicians, the California American Academy of Preventative Medicine, and other medical organizations have also voiced support. So far, the Yes side has outspent its opponents; it's raised more than $4.2 million and spent $3.7 million.
Who is against Prop 63?
The Coalition for Civil Liberties has made three 35-second ads against the initiative, including the one with Rhode (below). The Coalition is a campaign committee formed by the National Rifle Association's official state affiliate, the California Rifle and Pistol Association. The NRA has donated $45,000 to oppose the measure. In total, the opposition has raised nearly $500,000, according to Ballotpedia. The No side also claims the California Republican Party, the California Libertarian Party, and a collection of gun rights organizations. Last week, the California Police Chief's Association voiced its opposition, saying that the initiative "fails to meet the appropriate balance between public safety and individual gun rights."
Will it pass?
Right now, Prop 63 has a good shot of passing. Polls from Survey USA, the Los Angeles Times, and California Counts have found that an overwhelmingly majority of California voters support the measure. If that's the case, get ready for a legal challenge.
The Clinton campaign has released sharp ads attacking Donald Trump for his erratic temperament, his long history of misogynistic remarks, and his lack of foreign policy experience. But one of the most eviscerating ad efforts of the fall (so far) has come from a progressive outfit in Ohio, which has launched a series of spots slamming the GOP presidential nominee for having repeatedly stiffed contractors.
The effort was inspired by a June USA Today article that reported that Donald Trump has been involved in more than 3,500 lawsuits, with many of them involving contractors and individuals who claimed that Trump or his companies had not paid them for the work and services they provided. This story bolstered one of the anti-Trump themes of the 2016 campaign: that this guy is a cheapskate who screws the folks who work for him. In fact, in February, Kellyanne Conway, months before becoming Trump's campaign manager, denounced Trump on this front, saying he had "actually built a lot of his businesses on the backs of the little guy" and had a history of "not paying contractors after [they've] built something" for Trump. And at the first debate between Trump and Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee asked Trump, "[Do the] people that you have stiffed over the course of your business not deserve some kind of apology from someone who has taken their labor, taken the goods that they've produced and then refused to pay them?" Trump, replying to one case, huffed, "Maybe he didn't do a good job, and I was unsatisfied with his work."
This was one of the worst moments for Trump during that debate, and ProgressOhio, a liberal group, is hoping to keep this line of attack alive in perhaps the most crucial of the swing states. The organization has created several ads featuring first-person testimonials of contractors who say Trump skipped out on paying them. In one ad, a contractor hired to work at Trump's Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, maintains that Trump did not pay his small, family-run business a $232,000 bill. Due to this loss, he says, "My dad had to lay off his own brother."
Here are the ads:
So far, the ads have only been disseminated online by ProgressOhio and two other progressive groups: MoveOn and Working America. Actor Mark Ruffalo did tweet them out to his 2.7 million followers. And now ProgressOhio is aiming to bring them to the airwaves. It plans to start by broadcasting the ads only in Toledo. If it can raise more funds, it will look to air them in other parts of the Buckeye State. No doubt, it would be happy to share these ads with other groups with the resources to place them on television in other states.
One of the best ads of the 2012 campaign focused on a worker at a factory taken over by Romney's Bain Capital who built a stage on which company execs later announced the facility was being shut down. The spot personalized a major criticism of Romney's business career. The ProgressOhio ads seek to do the same for Trump, and they target an audience that Democrats are nervous about: economically insecure, blue-collar white guys who may be susceptible to Trump's fist-pounding attacks against the elites. The point here is obvious—to show these voters that Trump is no friend of working man and women. This sort of assault was highly effective against Romney four years ago. It may well become a more prominent feature of the 2016 campaign in the weeks to come.
Recent national polls show presidential nominees Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump locked in an increasingly tight race. That's freaking out Democrats, and allowing the Trump campaign some relief after the Republican nominee's numbers dropped significantly after the conventions.
But what are polls actually an indication of? And how do you know which poll you should trust?
What even is a poll?
Should you really be freaking out right now?
Thankfully, we've got some great experts in this new video from the We The Voters project, a new web-series about the US elections. Clare Malone and Harry Enten are senior political writers at FiveThirtyEight, the news and politics data analysis site headed by statistician Nate Silver. (Silver rose to fame after accurately predicting the outcome of 49 out of 50 states in the 2008 elections, and then all 50 states in 2012.) Using easy-to-understand analogies, Malone and Enten illustrate how polls work and what makes certain polls more representative than others.
Watch the video for a few key takeaways, but here's a pretty important one: Be aware of how polls are presented. A poll might be nonpartisan in itself, but the outlets that report them are free to deploy their own spin.
Or, the candidates themselves can self-servingly select which polls they choose to showcase. Case in point:
As NPR points out, most poll numbers show that Trump didn't "win" Monday's presidential debate. Instead, Trump used online reader polls, which are less scientific, to boast that he did. On Tuesday, a Fox News executive reminded Fox producers that online polls "do not meet our editorial standards," according to a memo obtained by Business Insider.
And of course, you shouldn't rely on just one poll. Generally, you should be looking at a number of polls to get an overall picture of how a candidate is doing—unless you want to flat-out deny reality, like this top Trump adviser:
Stay tuned for more from We The Voters, a new digital, nonpartisan campaign to inform voters of key issues this election season.
A new poll suggests that gender bias might account for a lot of those questions about Hillary Clinton's health.
With the exception of her recent bout of pneumonia, Clinton is apparently in fine health. She's released multiple letters from her doctor over the course of the presidential campaign, and none revealed any serious health concerns. But that didn't stop the right-wing media from continuing to suggest that Clinton had some vague—but surely deadly—health problem that should prevent her from taking the presidency. Trump himself hinted at this during Monday's debate, saying Clinton "doesn't have the stamina" for the job.
Apparently the perception of Clinton's health depends on whether the perceiver is a man or a woman. According to a new AP-GfK poll, there's a distinct gender gap in who is willing to buy the conspiracy theories. The poll found that 45 percent of men said they were "only slightly or not at all confident" in Clinton's physical fitness. Women were far less likely to think the first major-party female presidential nominee wasn't physically up to the task, with just 34 percent lacking confidence in her health. Despite the fact that Trump hasn't released as detailed a medical history, voters overall were more reassured, with 51 percent surveyed saying his health wasn't a concern.
The New Yorker this morning gave us a sneak peak at next week's cover, and boy it's a keeper.
A little cursory context if you don't get it: In the closing minutes of Monday's presidential debate, Hillary Clinton called out Donald Trump for his poor treatment of women. Clinton said Trump called 1996 Miss Universe winner Alicia Machado, from Venezuela and now an American citizen, "Miss Piggy" and "Miss Housekeeper." (Trump didn't deny the language he used, and in fact doubled down on his attack against the former beauty queen the next day by saying, "She gained a massive amount of weight and it was a real problem.")
The punchline of The New Yorker cover, of course, is classic role reversal: a portly Trump as the pageant winner, struggling to maintain dignity while balancing a tiara and holding back tears on a runway under intense scrutiny.
Gary Johnson appeared at an MSNBC town hall on Wednesday, where the libertarian presidential candidate was asked to name a foreign leader he admired. Host Chris Matthews gave him a chance to name any living leader, from anywhere in the world.
But Johnson appeared visibly flustered with the relatively simple question and struggled to deliver an answer. He shrugged and described his inability to name a foreign leader he respected as another "Aleppo moment"—a reference to his disastrous MSNBC interview where he asked "What is Aleppo?"
When a stunned Matthews pressed him, Johnson finally offered up the "former president of Mexico" as a response, but could not specify which former president he was referring to. That's when his running mate William Weld swooped in with a much-needed assist.
"Fox?" Weld asked, referring to former president Vicente Fox.
"Fox! Thank you," Johnson replied with relief.
It's another cringeworthy moment for the presidential hopeful, but at least viewers didn't have to witness another tongue-wagging moment:
These days, veteran GOP dirty trickster Roger Stone and longtime Hillary Clinton foe David Bossie are on the same side, helping GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump. Bossie was recently named deputy campaign manager for the Trump campaign, and Stone, who used to be a paid adviser to the celebrity mogul, is a fierce surrogate for Trump in the media. But the two have not always been allies. Several years ago, they battled in court over a misogynistic political group Stone had formed to bash Clinton.
At one point in 2008, while Hillary Clinton was first running for president, Stone was sitting in a bar conducting an informal focus group about the former first lady and hatched a toxic and offensive idea for thwarting her. He filed some paperwork with the IRS and created an independent political group called Citizens United Not Timid—also known as CUNT. He recruited a DJ-bartender from Miami who went by the name of Noodles to serve as its chairman. Stone's group set up a couple of websites, including WhatIsHillary.com, which featured a logo designed to look like a woman's crotch. Its main mission was to sell T-shirts with this image and the words, "To educate the public about what Hillary Clinton really is."
Former homepage of Citizens United Not Timid
The group's work is one example in a long list of misogynistic attacks on Clinton, dating back to Bill Clinton's first campaign for the presidency in 1992. And in the current presidential campaign, Trump has suggested Clinton doesn't have "a presidential look," claimed she lacks "stamina," and accused her of "shouting" when she speaks forcefully (apparently with encouragement from Stone himself). Citizens United Not Timid's brashness now seems like a warm-up for the 2016 campaign
Not long after its unveiling, the organization heard from another anti-Clinton outfit that might normally be an ally: Citizens United, the conservative advocacy group that was then run by Bossie. The group was annoyed that Stone's organization had copied the name of the long-established organization. While Citizens United had spent years attacking Hillary, often hitting similarly misogynistic notes, Stone's work apparently crossed the line.
Citizens United sent Stone a letter, accusing him of deliberately appropriating its name and trying to capitalize on the publicity surrounding Citizen United's forthcoming release of the Hillary: The Movie, the histrionic anti-Clinton docudrama that led to the landmark Supreme Court case opening the floodgates to money in politics. Citizens United demanded that Stone give up the group's name immediately and take down CUNT's websites. Stone refused, so Citizen Union sued him, DJ Noodles, and CUNT in federal court in Florida, accusing them of deceptive trade practices, unfair competition, and trademark infringement. The complaint alleged that the group's "sole business appears to be to use its trade name—and specifically the vulgar acronym formed from its trade name—to slur Hillary Clinton, to sell and distribute T -shirts bearing a vulgar and obscene logo and to collect names of those who are similarly inclined to characterize Ms. Clinton." Citizens United complained that Stone's appropriation of its name would confuse potential donors and tarnish its reputation.
In response, Stone—who recently published a book accusing the Clintons of waging a "war on women"—argued that CUNT was a constitutionally protected expression of free speech. He argued in a court filing that his group was created to educate the public about a "well known public figure," not to make money or to sell stuff for traditional commercial purposes. He said the name was chosen after "conducting a survey of like-minded people regarding what they thought of a certain public figure. Specifically, we asked a significant number of people to describe the particular public figure in one word. While the word 'bitch' came up most often, we were unable to come up with a name for the organization based thereon."
After a brief flurry of legal filings, Stone capitulated two months after the suit was filed and agreed to change the name. He came up with a new one that all parties could accept. CUNT, the acronym, would live on, so long as Stone dropped the "United" and the full name of his group would be Citizens Uniformly Not Timid. With all that behind them, Bossie and Stone are now both important foot soldiers in Trump's sometimes misogynistic crusade against Hillary Clinton.
Throughout this increasingly disturbing election season, a slew of prominent magazines have dedicated its covers to Donald Trump and the real estate magnate's unlikely rise to the top of the Republican party. But the most brilliant cover may have just arrived from Mexico, where the culture magazine Letras Libres featured a magnified image of the presidential candidate with two simple words, "Fascista Americano." The description appears to be presented to form the shape of a Hitler mustache:
Last week, the United Nations announced that antibiotic resistance is the "biggest threat to modern medicine." Nasty superbugs that have evolved to withstand antibiotics already kill 23,000 Americans every year—more than homicide—and experts predict that by 2050 they could kill some 10 million people around the world annually, more than the number of people killed by cancer. The United Kingdom's chief medical officer describes the situation as a "nightmare." Pretty soon, the director-general of the World Health Organization says, "common diseases like gonorrhoea may become untreatable."
Amid the doom and gloom, scientists are buzzing over some hopeful news out of Australia: A 25-year-old researcher there thinks she may have discovered a key to averting this public health crisis. Shu Lam, a Malaysian Ph.D. student at the University of Melbourne, has found a way to kill bacteria with small star-shaped protein molecules that she builds in her lab.
Rather than poisoning the bad bacteria like antibiotics do, the molecules, called peptide polymers, destroy the bacteria's cell walls. And unlike antibiotics, which also poison surrounding healthy cells, the polymers "are quite non-toxic to the healthy cells in the body," Lam says. That's because they're much too big (about 10 nanometers in diameter) to enter healthy cells—"the difference in scale between a mouse and an elephant," Lam's supervisor told the Sydney Morning Herald. What's more, in Lam's experiments, generation after generation of bacteria don't seem to become resistant to the polymers.
The research, published in Nature Microbiology, has been described by media as a major breakthrough that "could change the face of modern medicine." Lam has successfully used the polymers to kill six different superbugs in her lab and another superbug in mice. The technique has effectively fought off infections from drug-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii, a bacteria that's involved with pneumonia, meningitis, and urinary tract infections.
But it's still too early to celebrate. Lam hasn't tested the polymers on superbugs in humans yet, and she could need another five years to fully develop the technique, her supervisor says. "With research, you need to have a lot of patience," Lam told the Telegraph (which, ahem, published its article about her discovery on the "Lifestyle-Women" section of its site).
Right now there seem to be few alternatives. As my colleague Tom Philpott has reported, scientists continue to discover more cases of bacteria that have evolved to resist the antibiotics we have. And we're not coming up with new drugs at a speedy rate: Over the last half century, the Telegraph notes, only two new classes of antibiotics have entered the market.