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Tag: President Trump

Gov. Jerry Brown to launch satellite to track greenhouse gas emissions

California Gov. Jerry Brown started the week by signing a pair of actions to get his state to use nothing but electric power drawn from green sources like wind and solar by 2045. He ended the week Friday with a surprise: The state would launch its “own damn satellite” to track down greenhouse gas emitters who fuel global warming.

The twin actions were meant to demonstrate the power that California, and other cities, states, corporations and individuals have to take action against global warming — particularly in the face of perceived inattention or hostility from President Donald Trump and the federal government.

In the days in between the two announcements, Brown hosted a gathering of nearly 5,000 environmentalists, elected officials, corporate chieftains and activists from five continents at the Global Climate Action Summit here. They repeatedly promised to do more to rein in global warming while trying to spur on an equal level of commitment from 195 national governments.

The week was a melange of high aspirations, escalating pledges of greater action against greenhouse gases and jeremiads about the calamities that await the world if it continues to move slowly on what Brown and others deemed an “existential” threat to humanity.

“In California, with science under attack, in fact we’re under attack by a lot of people, including Donald Trump. But the climate threat still keeps growing,” Brown told delegates at Moscone Convention Center, near the city’s financial district. “With science still under attack, we’re going to launch our own satellite, our own damn satellite, to figure out where the pollution is.”

Brown’s office said the satellite — to be developed in conjunction with the San Francisco-based Earth-imaging company, Planet Labs, and launched by 2021 — will allow the state to track greenhouse gas emissions. It hasn’t yet been determined whether data from the satellite would be available to other governments or private organizations that want to track greenhouse gas emissions, said Stanley Young, a spokesman for the state Air Resources Control Board.

The government could then crack down on catastrophic releases of carbon dioxide, methane and other pollutants, said Stanley Young, a spokesman for the state Air Resources Control Board. And it could use data to detect more chronic problems and develop policies to abate them, Young said.

The summit grew out of an alliance between Brown and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to push ahead with global warming solutions after Trump announced in June of 2017 that he intended to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement, under which all nations set greenhouse gas reduction goals.

The organizers pushed hard for companies, governments and other organizations to increase their ambition for expanding and nurturing forests, buying more electric cars and buses and building more sustainable green buildings, among other innovations.

In the lead up to and during the conference, the organizers said, there were more than 500 commitments, including:

  • Governor’s from 17 states, and both U.S. political parties, pledging to spend $1.4 billion to drive down auto emissions. The money comes from a legal settlement paid by Volkswagen for falsifying the clean air performance of its cars.
  • Two giants of the electric vehicle charging business, ChargePoint and EV Box, pledged to build 3.5 million new charging points worldwide.
  • A total of 26 states, cities and businesses pledged to procure non-polluting vehicle fleets by 2030 and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti promised that the city’s regional bus operation would be all electrical in time for it to host the 2028 Summer Olympics.
  • New York announced it would double the investment by its city’s pension funds in companies offering climate change solutions — investing $4 billion over the next three years.

“I had the sense that there is a tipping point in climate change action,” said Mark Major, a senior adviser at the nonprofit Partnership on Sustainable, Low Carbon Transport. “With the number and the scale of announcements, I felt like we were really accelerating the momentum, which is not where we were just three years ago.”

That’s when the world assembled in Paris and reached a historic compact on curbing greenhouse gas emissions, also agreeing to regular follow-up sessions to reassess. The goal of the international agreement is to keep global temperatures from increasing more than 2 degrees centigrade, and preferably no more than 1.5 degrees. Any more could put the planet’s ecosystems at unredeemable risk, scientists said.

The U.S. now stands alone as the only nation declaring its intention to walk away from the agreement.

That action and others by the Trump administration —including supporting a continuation of coal-burning electric power and favoring less stringent fuel-mileage standards for cars —made the president an object of derision here, a deep blue city where he is was already a political pariah.

Speakers issued multiple admonitions against complacency, regardless of how much participants felt as if they were making progress, and thereby thwarting Trump.

“I am going to tell the truth,” former Secretary of State John Kerry, who helped negotiate the Paris agreement, said on the final morning of the gathering, “and the truth is we are not anywhere near where we need to be with respect to the overall challenge of climate change.”

Indeed, a review by Data-Driven Yale and other scientists analyzed the plans of nearly 6,000 cities, states and regions, and more than 2,000 companies, worldwide and determined they would not be enough to fulfill the commitments made in Paris. Even those ambitious benchmarks were predicted to leave the Earth with 3 degrees of warming by 2100, a level that would trigger calamities, including famines and pandemics, scientists have said.

Kerry made his remarks at a panel on the health of the world’s oceans. A few minutes later, climate activist and former Vice President Al Gore took to the convention hall’s main stage to urge more action.

He began with a litany of the record temperatures, droughts, firestorms and severe weather that seem to be washing over the globe. “Every night on the television news it’s like a page has been ripped from the Book of Revelation,” Gore said, “and we have got to connect the dots between the cause and the effect.”

Gore described Trump’s desire to leave the Paris agreement as only “a speech,” since the accord sets timelines for withdrawal and the U.S. is not free to leave the pact until the day after the 2020 election. “And if there is a new president … excuse me for a moment,“ Gore said, before bowing his head and putting his hands together in apparent prayer, “then we are right back in.”

The crowd roared its approval. And many talked during the week about how the climate solutions were now known and so much momentum had been gained that it would be hard to stop them.

“Our world is in the early stages of a sustainability revolution that is built on the new digital tools of the internet,” said Gore. “This revolution is sweeping the globe. It has the magnitude of the Industrial Revolution revolution.”

It was Brown, 80 and just four months from retirement, who stole the headlines on the last day of his summit. His first two terms spanned from 1975 to 1983, when he earned the nickname of “Governor Moonbeam.” The moniker came, at least in part, because of Brown’s proposal for the state to join in a satellite project.

Well into his second stint in office, in late 2016, Brown told a group of scientists at an event for the American Geophysical Union that some people were denying the science that made it clear humanity’s activities were warming the planet. He described rumors that Trump would even “turn off the satellites that are monitoring the climate.”

While Trump has never said he intended to cut off data from America’s climate satellites, one of his advisers did say the administration intended to crack down on “politicized science” by refocusing the mission of NASA’s earth science division away from climate change.

So Brown told the gathering of scientists, also in San Francisco: “If Trump turns off the satellites, California is going to launch our own damn satellite. We’re going to collect that data.”

It wasn’t clear then if Brown was serious about that pledge. On Friday, it abundantly clear he was not joking.

Hurricane Maria kills 2,975; Puerto Rico updates official death toll

An estimated 2,975 people died in Puerto Rico in the five months after Hurricane Maria devastated the island last September, a far higher number than the government’s official death toll count of 64.

The new findings are from an independent study conducted by George Washington University’s Milken Institute of Public Health, which was commissioned by island officials for more than $300,000.

During a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló announced that his administration is updating its death toll count of 64 to match GWU’s 2, 975, “keeping in mind that it’s still an estimate.”

“The number of excess deaths is still very big and now, as a society, we need to come together and look forward to the future,” said Rosselló.

The Puerto Rican government said earlier this month that it was not updating its official death count until the findings were published.

According to the report, the number of excess deaths, which took place from September 2017 to February 2018, represent a 22 percent increase from what would have been expected during that time period.

This is not the first study that has tried to calculate the deaths following the storm; a Harvard University study out in May estimated that 4,645 more people died from Sept. 20 to Dec. 31, 2017, than in that same period in 2016.

However, GWU researchers said on Tuesday that their study is different in that it factored in the number of people who left the island right after the storm.

According to their calculations, they estimate that Puerto Rico saw an 8 percent drop in population after the hurricane, which triggered one of the longest power blackouts in history and pushed thousands of people to the mainland.

The study said that the risk of dying over this period was 60 percent higher among people living in the poorest municipalities and 35 percent higher among elderly men. During a call with reporters, researchers said that the elevated risk of death persisted beyond the five months that were studied for these two subgroups.

“We still don’t know when deaths came back to baseline,” Goldman said.

Rep. Nydia Velázquez, D-NY, who has introduced legislation that would set federal standards for measuring death tolls following disasters, said the findings are evidence of the “enormity of the tragedy that befell Puerto Rico.”

“These numbers are only the latest to underscore that the federal response to the hurricanes was disastrously inadequate and, as a result, thousands of our fellow American citizens lost their lives,” Velázquez said in a statement.

Enrique Fernández-Toledo, director of Puerto Rico Relief and Economic Policy at the Center for American Progress, also criticized island officials for taking so long to update their initial death toll of 64.

“According to this serious study, the actual death toll is more than 46 times that of the official count, placing it among the highest death counts caused by an Atlantic hurricane in the last 100 years,” said Fernández-Toledo in a statement.

GWU also makes a series of recommendations to help Puerto Rico effectively account for deaths during a disaster, such as providing doctors with the proper training and resources to issue death certificates based on the newest guidelines from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and improve interagency communication protocols.

Rosselló announced that the Puerto Rican government plans to create a committee, made up by local officials and “people from other sectors,” to find ways to implement the recommendations brought up in previous studies, including GWU’s.

He also plans to start a registry that keeps tabs of the most vulnerable populations in the island, such as people with disabilities, elders and those with severe medical conditions, so emergency responders are able to quickly and effectively locate people in need during a disaster.

The recent findings are just part of the first phase of what GWU expects to be a two-part investigation, in which they hope to interview families of victims who died during Maria’s aftermath, in an effort to identify how many of the 2,975 deaths can be attributed directly to the hurricane.

GWU researchers told reporters they don’t expect the 2,975 number to change during the next phase, “but it might get subdivided as to what situation caused certain deaths in the months after Maria.”

For the first part of the report published on Tuesday, GWU interviewed “key leaders,” including seven mayors and other officials from local agencies and FEMA.

Unlike previous studies on the matter, GWU’s has not yet been subjected to the rigorous process of being published in a peer-reviewed medical journal. Researchers at GWU told reporters on Tuesday the study is still in the process of submission.

Trump approval ‘remarkably stable’ after a stormy week of bad news

After a week that saw President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman convicted on eight counts of fraud and his former lawyer plead guilty to felony campaign finance charges, the president’s job approval rating remains virtually unchanged, new polling from NBC News and The Wall Street Journal shows.

But the stability in Trump’s approval rating also comes as more than half of voters say he has not been honest and truthful regarding the ongoing investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller. And fewer than three-in-ten voters are convinced that Trump himself is not implicated in the wrongdoing of the six of his associates who have now either been convicted of crimes or have pleaded guilty.

Between Aug. 18 and Aug. 22 — the day after the news involving former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former Trump attorney Michael Cohen — the president’s approval rating stood at 46 percent approve, 51 percent disapprove.

In a separate NBC/WSJ survey, conducted Aug. 22 through Aug. 25, Trump’s approval rating was 44 percent approve and 52 percent disapprove. That’s within the poll’s margin of error.

Republican pollster Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies, who conducted this survey with Democratic pollster Peter Hart and his team at Hart Research Associates, called Trump’s approval rating “remarkably stable” despite the Manafort and Cohen developments, both of which became public on the same afternoon last Tuesday.

Hart added that, for Democrats hoping to craft a midterm election strategy, the week’s news thus far “represents a fool’s-gold opportunity rather than a silver-bullet solution.”

NBC News and The Wall Street Journal originally planned to survey respondents from Saturday, Aug. 18 thru Wednesday, Aug. 22. But after the Aug. 21 conviction of Manafort on tax and fraud charges — and the news that Cohen is cooperating with federal prosecutors after his guilty plea— the news organizations took the unusual step of commissioning an additional poll of 600 respondents from Wednesday, Aug. 22 to Saturday, Aug. 25. That second poll included questions about Manafort and Cohen as well as a look at the president’s approval rating after the new developments.


Despite the durability of Trump’s approval even after one of the most dire weeks of his presidency, most voters are not convinced that Trump himself is completely insulated from the legal woes of his associates.

Asked if they believe that the six Trump associates who have pleaded guilty or been found guilty of crimes signals only that those individuals committed crimes or that Trump himself may have participated in wrongdoing, 27 percent cite just the individuals (not Trump), 40 percent say Trump may be involved with potential wrongdoing and 30 percent don’t know.

A majority of voters also say that Trump has not been honest and truthful when it comes to the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Twenty-one percent strongly agree that he has been honest and truthful, 17 percent agree somewhat, 10 percent disagree somewhat and a plurality — 46 percent — disagree strongly.

Inside those numbers, however, there’s some evidence that Republican defense of Trump’s truthfulness is relatively soft. Among Democrats, 81 percent strongly disagree that Trump has been honest. Among Republicans, just 46 percent strongly agree that he has been honest.

And just about half (53 percent) of Republicans say that the guilty pleas by Trump’s associates are limited only to those individuals and not the president, while a third — 35 percent — don’t know enough to say.

Among Democrats, 71 percent say that Trump may be implicated in wrongdoing.

The Manafort and the Cohen developments are also solidly on voters’ radar screens. Asked if they have heard about Paul Manafort being found guilty of multiple tax and bank fraud charges, 46 percent say they have heard a lot, 38 percent say they have heard some and 14 percent say they have not heard about it. Asked if they have heard about Michael Cohen pleading guilty to federal felony campaign finance charges, 46 percent say they have heard a lot, 34 percent say they have heard some, and 20 percent say they have not heard about it.

(That percentage makes Cohen and Manafort a big story, but not a huge one. For comparison, it’s about the same percentage overall (around 80 percent of Americans) who had heard about former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal when it was receiving prominent news coverage, but a smaller share than had heard about the Access Hollywood tape (95 percent).


The earlier NBC/WSJ poll — conducted Aug. 18 through Aug. 22 — showed Democrats with an 8-point lead in congressional preference, with 50 percent of voters preferring a Democratic-controlled Congress and with 42 percent wanting Republicans in charge.

Last month, Democrats were ahead by 6 points on this question, 49 percent to 43 percent.

Voters were split on what concerns them more — Republicans not providing a check and balance on Trump if they control Congress (46 percent who say this), or Democrats going too far in obstructing the president if they’re in charge (45 percent).

They also were divided on what bothers them more — a Democratic candidate who supports House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s policies (47 percent), or a Republican candidate who supports Trump’s policies (45 percent).

And asked their opinions of Democrats winning control of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, 41 percent of voters said that would be a good thing, while 38 percent say it would be a bad thing.

Still, Democrats continue to enjoy an edge in enthusiasm: 63 percent of Democratic voters express a high level of interest in the upcoming elections — registering either a “9” or “10” on a 10-point scale — compared with 52 percent of GOP voters who do the same.

What’s more, 56 percent of Democratic voters believe November’s elections are more important to them than past congressional elections, versus just 38 percent of Republicans who think that.

“Democrats are going to win [House] seats in 2018,” says Democratic pollster Fred Yang of Hart Research Associates. “The question is: How many will that be?”

“The reason why the Democrats still have the upper hand is the enthusiasm issue,” Yang adds.


The NBC/WSJ survey conducted mostly before the Cohen-Manafort news also finds Republicans with a 14-point advantage in which party better deals with the economy — their biggest lead on this question in the poll’s history.

Forty-three percent of voters say the GOP better handles the economy, while 29 percent pick the Democrats.

Republicans also hold the edge on trade (R+8), taxes (R+5), guns (R+5) and changing how Washington works (R+4).

Democrats, meanwhile, have the advantages on the environment (D+38), health care (D+18), ethics in government (D+14), looking out for the middle class (D+12) and immigration (D+4).


Finally, the earlier NBC/WSJ poll shows 33 percent of voters supporting Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, versus 29 who oppose his nomination; 37 percent say they don’t know enough to have an opinion.

In July, it was 32 percent support, 26 percent oppose.

The earlier NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll surveyed 900 registered voters between Aug. 18-22, 2018. The margin of error is +/- 3.27 percent.

The second NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll surveyed 600 registered voters between Aug. 22-25, 2018. The margin of error is +/- 4.00 percent.