Overnight Energy: Democrats seek help in appealing to conservatives on climate | Whistleblowers say Interior sidelined scientists | Automakers strike fuel efficiency deal with California in rebuff to Trump

Overnight Energy: Democrats seek help in appealing to conservatives on climate | Whistleblowers say Interior sidelined scientists | Automakers strike fuel efficiency deal with California in rebuff to Trump
© Greg Nash

DEMS WANT GOP CLIMATE LINGO: Senate Democrats are looking to Republicans for messaging help in hopes of generating more climate action support from their GOP constituents.

Lawmakers on the Senate Democrats Special Committee on the Climate Crisis interviewed a panel of Republican communications and polling experts at a hearing Thursday on language and messages they could use to appeal to conservatives on climate change.

"Climate action is feasible, practical, it's financially smart," said Sen. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzOvernight Defense: Lawmakers demand answers on reported Russian bounties for US troops deaths in Afghanistan | Defense bill amendments target Germany withdrawal, Pentagon program giving weapons to police Senators push to limit transfer of military-grade equipment to police Hillicon Valley: Justice Department announces superseding indictment against WikiLeaks' Assange | Facebook ad boycott gains momentum | FBI sees spike in coronavirus-related cyber threats | Boston city government bans facial recognition technology MORE (D-Hawaii), chairman of the committee. "Today we continue to build the case that climate action is doable and not the exclusive domain of progressives. But right now Democrats don't have a dance partners on climate action in the United States Senate. Our Republican colleagues have chosen not to be here."


Frank Luntz, a tenured Republican pollster, told the senators their ability to connect with conservatives came down to a change in messaging -- likening selling climate action support to selling a product.

"How do you personalize, humanize and individualize it so people see their own role in it?" Luntz asked rhetorically.

He suggested the answer was posing climate action as a win-win, regardless of whether scientific theories on the negative impacts of climate change came true.

"If we do this right, we get cleaner air, we get less dependence on foreign fuels, enhanced national security, we get more innovation in our economy, and more jobs and great new careers. And that's if the scientists are wrong," Luntz suggested as a talking point.

"If the scientists are right, we get all of those things and begin to solve what could be the most catastrophic environmental problem that any of us have faced."

Luntz and other conservatives on the panel differed over what tone to take with voters in order to get them to care about the issue of climate change.

"I'm giving them a piece of the negative. I'm wrapping it in the positive, and it's a call to action," Luntz said of his strategy.

Kiera O'Brien, vice president of Students for Carbon Dividends, said she preferred to present the message in business terms measuring risk involved.

"Speaking about the issue in terms of risk is what I think is the correct way to go forward on this, because everybody's been talking about the most likely outcomes of climate instability and what is probable to happen," she said.

Read more here.


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BLOW THE WHISTLE: Former Interior employees who say they experienced retaliation at the agency for their work on scientific endeavors appeared before lawmakers Thursday, sparking political wrangling over the role of scientists in the Trump administration.

Republicans used the appearances to accuse Democrats of political theater, while Democrats in turn stepped up calls for scientists to be protected. 

Among those testifying were Joel Clement, a whistleblower who said he was removed from his work on climate change and reassigned to an accounting role. 

Also testifying was Maria Caffrey, who said she had to fight with Interior to keep references to the human contributions to climate change in a report on how sea level rise would impact national parks.

Clement said under the Trump administration, Interior "has sidelined scientists and experts, flattened the morale of the career staff, and by all accounts, is bent on hollowing out the Agency."

Clement, now a senior fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University, said he was removed from his work with 30 Alaska Native communities that were "one big storm away from being wiped right off the map" and needed to be immediately relocated. 

Caffrey, whose research was funded by Interior, said she found herself repeatedly demoted at the agency after pushing to keep references to the human impacts of climate change in her report. 

"It removes the meaning from my study. I prepared four different climate scenarios for those three different time periods, so those scenarios hang on how much greenhouse gases we produce in the future," she said, including how much humans contribute to the atmosphere. 

The hearing was held to discuss the Scientific Integrity Act, a bill sponsored by Rep. Paul TonkoPaul David TonkoOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Supreme Court upholds permit for B pipeline under Appalachian Trail | Report finds NOAA 'Sharpiegate' statement 'not based on science' but political influence | EPA faces suit over plan to release genetically engineered mosquito Report finds NOAA 'sharpiegate' statement 'not based on science' but political influence Democrats call for green energy relief in next stimulus package MORE (D-N.Y.) that would add protections for government scientists, including allowing them to publish research outside of government channels, and establish a Scientific Integrity Officer. 

Several Republicans on the committee complained the hearing was political theatre centered around a bill that would have to pass out of the Science, Space and Technology Committee.

Read more on the hearing here.


FUEL EFFICIENCY DEAL: Automakers have struck a deal with California that would circumvent the Trump administration's pending freeze of fuel efficiency standards.

Four automakers agreed Thursday to produce vehicles that could average 50 mpg by 2026, undercutting efforts by the Trump administration to freeze them at 37 mpg.

The proposed rollback from the Trump administration has set up a clash with California which, for decades, has been allowed to create its own stricter standard. That standard has in turn been adopted by other states.

The deal between the California Air Resources Board and Honda, Volkswagen, Ford and BMW of North America gives the companies an extra year to meet standards that are nearly as ambitious as those developed under former President Obama, designed to end the dueling federal and state fuel standards.

The four automakers that signed on to the deal represent just 30 percent of the market, but that could grow as other manufacturers dissatisfied with the federal-state spat join the deal--something California is advocating.

"This agreement represents a feasible and acceptable path to accomplishing the goals of California and the automobile industry," said CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols. "If the White House does not agree, we will move forward with our current standards but work with individual carmakers to implement these principles.

"At the same time, if the current federal vehicle standards proposal is finalized, we will continue to enforce our regulations and pursue legal challenges to the federal rule," Nichols added.

A joint statement from the automakers said they struck the deal out of a need for consistency.

"These terms will provide our companies much-needed regulatory certainty by allowing us to meet both federal and state requirements with a single national fleet, avoiding a patchwork of regulations while continuing to ensure meaningful greenhouse gas emissions reductions," the group said.

The Trump administration has claimed the lowering fuel efficiency standards will help people afford new cars, but critics say it will help fast-track greenhouse gas emissions from transportation--already the largest sector of such pollution.

Read more on the deal here.



- More than 500 places have a higher wildfire hazard potential than Paradise, Calif., The Arizona Republic reports.

-Ocean's trash cans: Seabin skimmers come to Hawaii, The Pacific Business News reports

-New Mexico AG seeks quick toxic foam cleanup, The Albuquerque Journal reports.



Stories from Thursday…

-Interior whistleblowers say agency has sidelined scientists under Trump

-Study: Decades-long 'megadroughts' could return to US due to climate change

-Deforestation of the Amazon rainforest hits nearly three football fields per minute: report

-Democratic senators turn to GOP for help in reaching conservatives on climate messaging

-Paris records its hottest day ever amid European heat wave

-Automakers rebuff Trump, strike fuel efficiency deal with California

-Gillibrand releases $10 trillion climate change plan