Voters want—and need—climate debate questions

Ahead of tomorrow night’s debate, new polling shared exclusively with HEATED shows where Georgia voters are at on climate.

Welcome to HEATED, a newsletter for people who are pissed off about the climate crisis—written by me, Emily Atkin.

If you’ve been forwarded this email, you can sign up for your own subscription here:

HEATED is a community, and I love hearing from readers. If you have thoughts, questions, story ideas or tips, you can reach me at

Guys, I’m so sorry. Yesterday was Monday, and I forgot to remind you to drink water.

This was a grave error, one I deeply regret. It is so important to kick-start your week with a boost of sweet, sweet hydration—and because of my absentmindedness, it’s possible that some of you may have forgotten. I acknowledge my failure in this regard, and hope you might one day forgive me.

On that note, did you know that bananas are the most heavily-consumed fruit in America? I didn’t, but it makes sense! They are delicious and full of essential nutrients. Perhaps consider eating one this morning with your glass of water. If you’re feeling really good, do 10 push-ups or sit-ups. I bet you will feel energized.

OK. News time.

Will there be climate questions at tomorrow’s Democratic debate?

There freakin’ better be.

The CNN journalists who moderated last month’s Democratic presidential debate didn’t ask a single climate-related question during the entire three-hour event. It was a real shame. Climate change was a top priority among Democratic voters nationwide at the time—not to mention one of the most urgent, consequential issues facing humanity.

Neither of those facts have changed heading into Wednesday night’s Democratic presidential debate. Voters still want and need climate change questions—particularly in Georgia, where the debate will take place.

The good news: Georgia voters want climate questions

There’s some evidence that Georgia voters want climate questions, courtesy of a new poll of likely Democratic voters in the state released today by Climate Nexus, the Yale Program on Climate Communication and George Mason University. The polling was shared exclusively with HEATED.

Here’s the relevant evidence:

  • 71 percent of likely Georgia Democratic voters said they want candidates to talk about climate change during tomorrow’s debate.

  • 64 percent are either very worried or somewhat worried about climate change.

  • 70 percent think the federal government should be doing more to fight climate change.

  • 11 percent of Georgia Democratic voters picked climate change as one of the top two issues that will inform their decision on who to vote for in 2020. That’s more than education, abortion, foreign policy, the opioid epidemic, or the Supreme Court.

The bad news: Georgia voters want other questions more than climate questions

Though they care about the issue, most Georgia Democrats don’t actually consider climate change their top priority.

Only 6 percent of likely voters said the climate crisis was the issue they most wanted to hear about during tomorrow’s debate, according to Climate Nexus’s poll. The economy ranked highest, with 24 percent of the vote, followed by health care at 22 percent and immigration at 16 percent.

Health care, immigration, and the economy were also the top issues cited by Georgia voters when asked to pick two issues that will inform their decision on who to vote for in 2020. 36 percent of voters chose health care; 31 percent chose the economy; and 19 percent chose immigration.

The good news: If you want economy, health care, and immigration questions, that actually means you want climate questions

At first glance, Georgia voters’ priorities might not seem in line with environmentalists’ desire to see more climate questions at Democratic presidential debates.

But they actually line up pretty well, considering how badly the climate crisis stands to affect the economy, health care and immigration if carbon pollution is not adequately dealt with by the next administration.

For example, here are some sentences I found in various studies about how climate change might affect Georgia’s economy:

  • “Agriculture, the single biggest industry in Georgia and which in 2015 contributed $74.9 billion in output (8 percent of Georgia’s $917.6 billion economy) is particularly at risk. … Researchers predict that if climate change triggers an additional crop shortage of 5 percent, the economic impacts could cost nearly $110 million annually.” (Source) (Source)

  • “In 2004, Hurricane Ivan caused $68.8 million in property damage in Georgia, and it is projected that the cumulative cost of sand for protecting Georgia’s coastline from another hurricane could cost as much $1.3 billion by 2100.” (Source)

Georgia’s healthcare sector also stands to get hit hard by climate change. Some sentences:

  • “Hot days can be unhealthy—even dangerous. Certain people are especially vulnerable, including children, the elderly, the sick, and the poor. … Seventy years from now, most of Georgia is likely to have 45 to 75 days per year with temperatures above 95°F, compared with about 15 to 30 such days today.” (Source)

  • “Global climate change may produce an environment in the southeastern United States that could foster dangerous extreme heat events, more high-ozone pollution days in urban areas, and the potential for the growth of tropical diseases by the mid-21st century, Georgia State University School of Public Health researchers have projected.” (Source)

Georgia also may be on the front lines of climate-related migration. According to a study published in 2017:

  • “When Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana in 2005, cities inland saw an influx of evacuees escaping the storm and its aftermath. Now, a new University of Georgia study predicts that this could happen again as a result of sea-level rise.

    In a paper published today in Nature Climate Change, researchers estimate that approximately 13.1 million people could be displaced by rising ocean waters, with Atlanta, Houston and Phoenix as top destinations for those forced to relocate.” (Source).

The bad news: Georgia voters don’t yet seem to understand their vulnerability to climate change

The Climate Nexus poll released today indicates that Democratic voters in Georgia see environmental degradation around them. Only 14 percent think the state’s environmental quality will be better for the next generation than it is right now.

Voters don’t yet appear to grasp, however, how a degradation in environmental quality can affect the other issues they care about.

Only 23 percent think climate change is having a large effect on the state’s economy. Thirty one percent think the climate crisis is having some effect on the economy, and 21 percent think it’s having no effect at all.

There are similar numbers for healthcare. Only 27 percent of Democratic voters in the state think climate change is affecting Georgians’ health, and 20 percent think it’s not affecting Georgians’ health at all.

The poll did not ask about immigration.

The good news: By asking climate questions, the debate moderators can help solve this problem

The purpose of journalism is to create an informed citizenry—that is, a citizenry equipped with enough knowledge to solve society’s biggest, baddest problems. Climate change is society’s biggest, baddest problem. Other than nuclear war, it’s the only one that threatens the economy, the healthcare system, the immigration system, and the livability of the entire planet all at once.

The moderators of tomorrow night’s debate have a great opportunity to inform the public about how climate change might affect all the issues they care about most, by holding candidates accountable on their understanding of these problems.

But if journalists aren’t asking questions about climate change in a presidential debate, they’re not living up to their purpose. After all, in a democracy, voting is the mechanism by which the citizenry solves problems—and presidential debates are the main venue where citizens are exposed to their choices.

So yeah. Hopefully tomorrow doesn’t suck!

(Sorry, I can’t end all of these eloquently.)

HOT ACTION: A complicated (but potentially useful?) flow chart for climate action

Welcome to HOT ACTION, a place where readers can suggest actions individuals can take to help solve the climate crisis. I intentionally don't vet the suggestions very much, because it's a place for conversation among readers. Think of it as a well-monitored comment section. Suggestions? Email

Josephine Ferorelli is a HEATED reader. She’s also the co-founder of Conceivable Future, a self-described “women-led network bringing awareness to the threat climate change poses to reproductive justice, and demanding an end to U.S. fossil fuel subsidies.”

Ferorelli e-mailed me to share a flow chart she made last year when she was “getting tired of fielding friends' inquiries” about how they could take action to fight the climate crisis. She intended it as “a helpful resource for anyone who doesn’t know where to start.”

The flowchart is embedded as a JPEG below, but you can find a clearer PDF version with clickable links HERE.

Thoughts on the chart? Suggestions about other ways people can take action to fight the climate crisis? E-mail them to

A very HEATED meme (maybe NSFW???)

I don’t know what your workplace is like. But today’s meme is a re-upped classic from HEATED’s editorial memeist, @climemechange.

There’s kind of a butt in it, so you know. Use your discretion.

(Insert climate joke about how “it’s getting hot in here.”)

Have a good Tuesday!

OK, that’s all for today—thank for reading HEATED!

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See you tomorrow!

UPDATE: Twitter backtracks on banning climate ads

But fossil fuel companies like Exxon will still be able to advertise on climate issues, too.

Welcome to HEATED, a newsletter for people who are pissed off about the climate crisis—written by me, Emily Atkin.

If you’ve been forwarded this email, you can sign up for your own subscription here:

HEATED is a community, and I love hearing from readers. If you have thoughts, questions, story ideas or tips, you can reach me at

Today is an exciting day. It’s our first “Oh wow, we actually might have moved the needle on something!” day. I think we’re gonna have a lot more of these in the future. So thank you again for being a subscriber. These days don’t happen without you.

Also, thank you so much to everyone who responded to my request for reader reactions on Thursday! They were endlessly helpful for my presentation at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard over the weekend. I received 111 responses, 109 of which were positive, and 2 of which were negative. But even the negative ones were really quite nice and informative.

Anyway, I put all of the reader responses in a spreadsheet and analyzed the data for my presentation. If you’re interested, you can see the spreadsheet HERE. A short analysis is at the very bottom.

The speech and follow-up panel went well, all my nervousness considered. I’ll share more about it soon, once I have the video. For now, here are some tweets to prove that this all really did happen! Shout-out to the especially nice tweets from The Guardian’s badass climate reporter Emily Holden. She’s great and you should follow her.

Twitter changes course on climate ads after Elizabeth Warren call-out

Two weeks ago, HEATED published a story about Twitter’s upcoming policy banning political advertisements. The story was critical of Twitter’s decision to include so-called “issue” ads in the ban—that is, ads that don’t mention a particular candidate, but that advocate for a political issue.

HEATED’s story revealed that the policy would benefit corporate polluters while harming grassroots climate groups. For example, many of ExxonMobil’s climate-related ads were not labeled political, and therefore likely wouldn’t be covered by Twitter’s new ad policy. At the same time, grassroots climate groups’ ads were labeled political, and would be banned.

A few hours after publication, Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted about the article. That tweet prompted a reaction from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who said he would be “taking all this into consideration” before the official new ad rules were released on November 15 (last Friday).

Warren and Dorsey’s reactions to HEATED’s investigation sparked a national conversation about Twitter’s ad policy and the climate crisis. The piece and Warren’s response was cited by The GuardianThe Washington PostAxiosCNBCBusiness InsiderThe Intercept, and National Review, among others.

On Thursday, on group of more than 20 environmental organizations released a joint statement calling on Twitter to allow climate-focused issue ads.

Then, on Friday, Twitter backtracked on its original intention to ban issue ads. According to CBS News:

The social media company released details of its ban on political ads on Friday. Under the policy, paid political content won't be allowed. That includes any ad that references a candidate, political party, government official, ballot measure, or legislative or judicial outcome. The ban also applies to all ads — even non-political ones — from candidates, political parties and elected or appointed government officials. It also includes appeals for votes and solicitations for campaign contributions.

However, Twitter is allowing ads related to social causes such as climate change, gun control and abortion. People and groups running such ads won't be able to target those ads down to a user's ZIP code or use political categories such as "conservative" or "liberal," Twitter said. Rather, targeting must be kept broad, such as based on a user's state or province.

The CBS News article explicitly cited HEATED’s reporting when listing the factors that led to Twitter’s decision.

Reporters also pointed out that Twitter's definition of issue ads could set a double standard. The policy would have banned ads from climate activist groups, but permitted ads from fossil-fuel companies that depict them as climate-friendly, according to reporter Emily Atkin.

Big Oil gets to keep running climate ads, too

Environmental organizations will likely rejoice at Twitter’s decision, at it allows them to keep paying to spread messages about the climate crisis.

But they probably won’t be too happy about the flip side of the decision—which is that Big Oil companies like Exxon will still be able to run ads claiming they’re helping to solve the climate crisis by investing in biofuels and carbon capture.

These ads were never considered “political issue” ads by Twitter, despite their explicitly political nature, as Harvard researcher Geoffrey Supran told HEATED two weeks ago.

“Mobil and ExxonMobil have pioneered issue advertising for decades,” he said. “I’ve studied this historical record in detail, and it couldn’t be clearer to me that Twitter ads like these are its twenty-first century extension.”

“These Twitter ads aren’t just any political issue ads—they epitomize the art,” he added.

Environmental groups like Greenpeace have since started calling this a “loophole” in Twitter’s ad policy, and have launched a petition calling on Dorsey to ban oil company greenwashing ads from the platform.

More than 14,000 people have signed the petition so far.

Greenpeace USA@greenpeaceusa
@jack @exxonmobil @GeoffreySupran @Twitter 14,648 people have now signed our petition to @jack: Close the loophole! Ban greenwashing fossil fuel ads from Twitter!

Twitter has not responded to HEATED’s requests to explain why ads from Exxon and other oil companies about their low-carbon efforts are not considered political issue ads.

That may seem irrelevant now that Twitter will allow political issue ads to continue, but it’s not. By not classifying Big Oil’s climate-focused ads as explicitly political—which they are—Twitter is aiding the industry’s climate disinformation campaign.

These ads do not exist to sell consumers a product. They exist to sell the public on an idea: that the fossil fuel industry is working hand in hand with all of us to solve the climate crisis.

It’s a very nice idea. If only it were true.

Twitter is now struggling to define what constitutes a political ad, according to the New York Times, which cited Warren’s tweet about HEATED’s reporting as a reason for the struggle.

Twitter’s new ad policy goes into effect on November 22.

OK, that’s all for today—thank for reading HEATED!

If you liked this, please consider forwarding it to a friend. If you want to share today’s issue as a web page, click this button:


Questions? Comments? Tips? Send ‘em to

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See you tomorrow!

Why I'm mad about climate change

Two awesome podcasts recently let me talk about the philosophy behind this newsletter. Plus, some other HEATED-related updates.

Welcome to HEATED, a newsletter for people who are pissed off about the climate crisis—written by me, Emily Atkin.

If you’ve been forwarded this email, you can sign up for your own subscription here:

HEATED is a community, and I love hearing from readers. If you have thoughts, questions, story ideas or tips, you can reach me at

An end-of-week update/cry for help

Hey ya’ll, it’s Thursday! We made it. Well, I made it. I don’t know about you. Yesterday was rough.

In addition to the impeachment hearings, yesterday the House Science Committee held a very long hearing on the EPA’s new science policy, which I wrote about on Tuesday. If you missed that hearing and would like a good re-cap, the Washington Post has one, as does Bloomberg.

But today, I want to ask you guys for help with something. I’m travelling to Boston this afternoon for a three-day climate journalism workshop, hosted by the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. On Saturday, I’ll be speaking on a panel about how to tell climate stories in unique ways. The panel description reads: “Capturing people’s attention on climate stories can be a challenge, and finding ways to communicate and illustrate these issues is inspiring some creative and compelling journalism.”

My job for the panel is basically to talk about this newsletter. Of course, I have my ideas about why it’s compelling—but I’m not the audience. You are.

So, whether you’ve been a HEATED reader for just a few days, or since this whole shebang started back in September, I would love to know what you have found compelling so far. Is there something this format, or my approach to climate reporting, that has helped you understand this crisis better? What specifically is that thing, and why is it helping? If you think this newsletter is not helping, I would love to know that, too. But like, please explain why—otherwise, it’s just mean, ya know?

If you have any time to share your thoughts before Saturday, please do. Because ya’ll, they asked me to speak at freaking Harvard, and I am a person who got kicked out of high school and attended state college*. So yeah, uuhhhhh….help?

You can send your thoughts to me here:

Two dope podcasts

In keeping with the theme of talking about the newsletter, I thought today might be a good opportunity to direct you to two awesome podcasts that recently let me talk about HEATED at length:

The podcasts are awesome because they are run by two impressive, good-hearted people. Amy and Pete have very different podcasts, but what they share is an intense desire to make the world a less shitty place. Their genuineness and intelligence comes through in each of their respective shows. I wouldn’t recommend them if I didn’t believe that!

Anyway, like I said, both Amy and Pete recently had me on to talk about the philosophy behind HEATED—which is that climate change is first and foremost a corruption problem; that those responsible must be accountable; and that until those responsible are held accountable, the primary emotion climate change should spark within us is anger.

I’m going to post transcribed excerpts from those segments below, along with links if you’d like to listen to the interviews in full. Then I’m going to post a meme. Then I’m going to drink a glass of water. Then I’m going to do 10 push-ups. Then I’m going to take a nap.

(I apologize in advance for the cursing, I guess).

Why Amy and I are pissed off about climate change

AMY: What are the things that you're angriest about right now?

EMILY: I'm really angry just generally about the theme that fossil fuel companies have prevented us from doing anything about [climate change] for so long. About how many rich white dudes have benefited so financially from fucking us—from like, super fucking us. Like, we are so close to being fucked. And we only have a few years before X number of casualties happen … because old fucking white dudes who love oil money just paid all their oil money to make sure we didn't do anything about this, and didn't care that they were going to screw over a bunch of poor brown people.

And it's still framed all the time as if this is some problem with our air conditioners. And I'm just like, what? I’m like, “How did you not only manage to fuck everybody, but you also managed to convince us that it’s our fault? What?” I just look at the internet every day, and I see these pieces that are like “Oh, if only we recycled more.” And I’m like, “No!”

AMY: I see this all the time in internet comments, especially for very well-known people who try to say anything about climate—immediately they get a million trolls going, “Well maybe you should stop flying, buddy!” Like, yes—if people flew less, that’d be great. But that’s not the reason we’re in this mess.

EMILY: And also, we don't have time for these dumb-ass fights. I'm sorry. Like, you see the science. You see what the timeline is. Let's focus. Let's focus on what actually needs to happen, which de-carbonizing the electricity system, the agricultural system, and the manufacturing system.

AMY: And the transportation system.

EMILY: Yes. Those are the things we need to do. Stop fighting about whether or not I should eat a hamburger. And to be clear, I try not to eat hamburgers. But if I do eat meat, for example, my personal choice is about what system I want to support. So if I want to buy a chicken, I go find a pastured chicken that came very locally, that wasn't fed industrial grade corn byproduct, and that didn't travel 800 miles to get to me. And I go and I look for that because I want to support that system, not because I feel guilt about my own choice and I think that I'm causing the climate crisis.

One of the other things make me so pissed off about this whole thing is the guilt, the narrative that the fossil fuel industry has created, about this being a personal individual problem. It has caused people, particularly women, to feel like shit about themselves. There are so many women out there who are choosing not to have kids because of climate change. But if it weren't for climate change, then they would really want to have families. ..

And the thing I want to say to them most is just, have a baby. You should do it, because this isn’t your fault. Sure, population is a thing, I guess. But our goal is to have a net zero economy. That means every person emits net zero emissions. That means in terms of climate change, it doesn't matter how many people are on earth. You know what we need? We we need to win this fight against these jerk offs. And to do that, we need people on our side to be happy and healthy and ready to fight.

You can listen to my entire conversation with Amy by clicking HERE.

Why I criticize media so much

EMILY: People think that I started doing this because I'm passionate about climate change, and it's just not true. I started doing this because I'm passionate about journalism, and that's always been my goal.

My goal was never to be a climate change reporter. I wanted to cover politics, or I wanted to cover health care. When I was in school, I didn't go to school for environmentalism. It was journalism.

And when I look at climate change as as a issue, I look at it as a journalistic issue. I think that it's not been communicated honestly by journalists for a long time. I think that's our main problem. I think that journalists haven't approached climate change with the same level of vigor and ruthlessness that they've covered other political topics. I think it's because for some reason, the fossil fuel industry has convinced them that that there is no corruption to be seen here. There's a reluctance among journalists today to take climate change seriously as a corruption story, which is the heart of what our profession does. And I think that that's harming democracy, because people don't see climate change the way that they should, in the most truthful way. Journalists, as a whole, aren't living up to their responsibility. That’s what I’m passionate about.

PETE: When you say journalists didn't cover it correctly—We're talking about newspaper or magazine? Local or national reporting? Are we talking about television, all of it? How do you break down journalism? Because I feel like every time we talk about the news and media and journalism, I feel that people are so often they're only talking really about cable news, like CNN, MSNBC and Fox News or television news, and they’re not talking as much about print journalism. Have journalists as a whole or gotten it wrong on climate change, or would you segment it?

EMILY: There's an argument for segmenting it now, of course. But I wouldn't segment it for the majority of the last 30 years. I first started in climate change reporting, I got hired at Think Progress to be a climate change reporter in 2013. And that same year, NPR had just laid off its entire green desk, and so had the New York Times. They just got rid of all their environmental reporters.

PETE: Why? Because it wasn't making money. Because people weren’t reading it?

EMILY: Yeah. And that same year, CNN President Jeff Zucker said “We haven't figured out how to solve the climate change story yet. People just don't care about it.” Something along those lines, I'm not getting the exact quote right.

PETE: How dare you misquote Zucker.

EMILY: Ugh, how dare I. But that quote is, I think, representative of how everyone saw it at the time, which was that they needed to prioritize what was making money, what was selling, and the environment coverage just wasn't doing that. And that’s our mainstream public radio, our biggest most respected newspaper. I will give both of those institutions major props for upping their coverage right over the last six years, and especially within the last two years. But is that enough to create an informed citizenry that is able to respond to complex problems? Because that's the purpose of journalism. The purpose of journalism is to create an informed citizenry that is able to make the right decisions about the biggest problems facing it. I don't think that we have that information right now.

You can listen to my entire conversation with Pete by clicking HERE.

ICYMI: Tucker Carlson graduates from climate denial to straight-up eco-fascism

Meme by HEATED’s editorial memeist, @climemechange.

Yesterday’s issue was about how Tucker Carlson said admitting climate refugees into America would “pollute” and “despoil” the country—and why experts on eco-fascism found the comments “disturbing.”

OK, that’s all for today—thank for reading HEATED!

If you liked this, please consider forwarding it to a friend. If you want to share today’s issue as a web page, click this button:


Questions? Comments? Tips? Send ‘em to

Suggestions for an action readers can/should take in response to something I’ve written in this newsletter? Send those to

See you on Monday!

*my college journalism education was actually fantastic and I am extremely proud to be a SUNY New Paltz alumnus.

Did Tucker Carlson do eco-fascism? An investigation

Nazi or not Nazi? That is the question.

Welcome to HEATED, a newsletter for people who are pissed off about the climate crisis—written by me, Emily Atkin.

If you’ve been forwarded this email, you can sign up for your own subscription here:

HEATED is a community, and I love hearing from readers. If you have thoughts, questions, story ideas or tips, you can reach me at

Nazi or not Nazi?

That is the question.

On Monday night, with more than 2.8 million people watching, Fox News host Tucker Carlson said he really, truly cares about the environment. (Amazing!)

And because he really, truly cares about the environment, Carlson added, he doesn’t want a bunch of brown people coming into America, as they would “pollute” and “despoil” the country. (Oh wow! Ok!)

Carlson made these comments in a conversation with Justin Haskins, the editorial director for the right-wing climate denial group The Heartland Institute. The two were speaking about Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ recently-released immigration plan—which, among other things, says the Senator would allow at least 50,000 climate refugees into America during his first year in the White House.

(That part of Sanders’ plan is taken directly from Senate bill 2565, Senator Ed Markey’s bill “to establish a Global Climate Change Resilience Strategy, to authorize the admission of climate-displaced persons, and for other purposes.”)

Responding to scientific estimates that anywhere from 25 million to 1 billion people around the world will be displaced by climate change by 2050, Carlson asked Haskins: “Why would a climate migrant have the right to come to my country?”

Haskins responded by … well, you can just read it.

Haskins: I don't believe that anybody is actually suffering from man-caused climate change. But Bernie Sanders' proposal would have 50,000 [people] at minimum come to the United States from around the world who are suffering from climate change supposedly in just the first year, and over the course of his presidency hundreds of thousands of people, because supposedly this is good for climate justice or something along those lines. But the most bizarre part of this … is that they say human beings are causing climate change. If that's true, then why are we bringing from all over the world where they create CO2 emissions less per person, in places like Mexico and Guatamala, why are we bringing them to the United States where we produce CO2 emissions per person at a much higher rate?

Good point, Justin. Let them suffer so the rest of us can live!

Anyway, Carlson responded by proclaiming his personal love for the environment, accusing liberals of hating the environment, and speculating that immigrants would ruin the environment.

Carlson: Also, if you care about the environment—which I personally do in fact, emphatically care, and actually go outside once in a while unlike most people on the left—why would you want a crowded country? Isn't crowding your country the fastest way to despoil it, to pollute it, to make it, you know a place you wouldn't want to live?

Haskins: Yeah. Absolutely. 

Yeah. Yikes.

Is this eco-fascism?

Carlson has gotten in trouble over comments like this before.

As HuffPost noted yesterday, the Fox News host “faced fierce backlash and lost advertisers last year when he said immigrants are making America ‘dirtier’.” And he’s facing similar backlash this time around. Since Monday, people have decried his remarks as “flat-out white nationalism;” “awful and racist;” and “fascist,” among other things.

I thought all these things too when I watched the segment—which you can find in full HERE. But I also thought Carlson’s comments might be veering into even more insidious territory: eco-fascism.

I was first introduced to the term over the summer, after a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas left 22 people dead,and 24 others injured. At the time, Earther’s Brian Kahn reported that the shooter was motivated by a deranged form of environmentalism—one where he felt he needed to “get rid of enough people” to make the American lifestyle “more sustainable.”

“Horrific, disgusting, and absurd, this so-called ecofascist ideology uses legitimate environmental concerns to justify racist policies and, sometimes, mass murder,” Kahn wrote.

He continued:

This isn’t the first time right-wing or fascist figures have pulled from environmentalism to further their cause. Some thinkers within Hitler’s National Socialist party espoused the idea that “[o]nly through a re-integration of humanity into the whole of nature can our people be made stronger,” though the relationship of the Nazis and environment is a bit more complicated than that. Racists throughout U.S. history have often misappropriated population control tied to resource protection, an idea popularized in the 18th century by Thomas Malthus. His idea that food production couldn’t keep up with exponential population growth has been debunked since, well... here we are with 7 billion humans on Earth and enough food for everyone (if it were distributed equitably, that is). 

A right-wing figure pulling from environmentalism to further his cause? Using legitimate environmental concerns to justify racist policies? Sounds familiar, I thought—and fired off my above tweet about Carlson.

I was tempted to leave it at that. But on further reading, it appeared eco-fascism may be a bit more complicated. So I asked two academics who have studied the ideology extensively to weigh in on whether Carlson’s comments could be defined as such.

‘A conscious political move to win over environmentalists to the ecofascist cause.’

Kahn’s piece—which you should read in full if you get the chance—has a fascinating interview about the origins of eco-fascism with Betsy Hartmann, a professor emeritus at Hampshire College. So I reached out to her first.

While Hartmann did not directly call the arguments eco-fascist, she said both Carlson and Haskins were using language that came “right out of the John Tanton network’s playbook.”

“Tanton, recently deceased, set up a range of anti-immigrant organizations including the Federation for American Immigration Reform and Numbers USA, a favorite of Stephen Miller and Jeff Sessions,” Hartmann wrote. “In their environmental publications, Tanton-network groups often claim that migrants from poor countries should stay at home where their carbon footprint is smaller—supposedly if they come to the U.S., they will consume more and thus contribute more to global warming.”

More troubling, however, was what Hartmann called “the overcrowding argument”—that is, Carlson’s assertion that “‘we don’t want those masses of (black and brown) people despoiling our pristine (white) environments.’”

“This is a conscious political move to win over environmentalists to the eco-fascist cause,” she said.

I also asked Peter Staudenmaier, a professor of history at Marquette University, to weigh in. I was introduced to Staundenmaier’s work in this great New Republic piece about eco-fascism, which argues that the ideology “is fashionable again on the far right, thanks to a rise in global temperatures and anti-immigrant nationalism.”

Staudenmaier agreed that Carlson’s remarks were an extension of John Tanton’s ideology—but said he would not go so far to describe them as eco-fascism.

“That term, in my judgment, should be reserved for explicitly fascist invocations of environmentalism,” he said. “To my mind, the sort of thing peddled by Carlson and Haskins et al. these days falls short of that standard because it is not linked to a larger fascist politics. It would make more sense to see such claims as part of the broader field of right-wing ecological or reactionary ecological thought, where anti-immigrant resentments have long gone hand in hand with (real or imagined) environmental concerns.”

Staudenmaier added:

The disturbing elements in the exchange aren't really surprising, or perhaps even especially newsworthy; they are a standard part of contemporary right-wing ideology in US contexts. They fit well with related variants of white nationalism and the present conspicuously aggrieved form of hostility toward immigrant communities.

What might be more notable is the level of basic scientific ignorance involved in a number of their claims, even aside from the obvious forms of climate science denial. The notion that national borders will somehow magically stop atmospheric changes, for example, is nonsensical. There is no practical ecological significance to arbitrary historical phenomena like the US-Mexico border.

To summarize, according to the experts: Carlson’s comments were perhaps not directly eco-fascist; at the very least eco-fascist sympathizing; and scientifically ignorant.

Yeah I guess that’s not really newsworthy, is it.

Bernie campaign weighs in

Since Carlson’s segment was about Sanders’ climate refugee plan, I asked the Sanders campaign if they would like to weigh into the debate.

The campaign did not say if they thought Carlson was being an eco-fascist. But Josh Orton, Sanders’ policy director, did send over this statement:

Bernie believes that immigrants make our country and our society stronger. We must stand up to the xenophobic, racist rhetoric that will be used at every opportunity to divide us.

Bernie believes we must lead the world in the urgent fight against climate change, including investing $200 billion in the Green Climate Fund ensure that the developing world secures reliable electricity, reduces poverty and pollution-related fatalities, creates jobs, and improves living standards, all while reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

But climate change is already displacing people across the world, and Bernie believes we must live up to our ideals as a nation and welcome those forced from their homes.

You can read more about how climate change will displace people, and is already displacing people, HERE.

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Trump's EPA says air pollution can't kill you

Spoiler alert: it can.

Welcome to HEATED, a newsletter for people who are pissed off about the climate crisis—written by me, Emily Atkin.

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The EPA’s air pollution denial

According to The World Health Organization, at least 7 million people die prematurely every year from exposure to indoor and outdoor air pollution.

According to the United State Environmental Protection Agency, maybe they do, maybe they don’t. Who knows, am I right?

Now, let’s be clear: No one at the EPA has ever said the exact words, “This agency rejects the scientific consensus that air pollution causes premature deaths.” That would be a dumb thing for them to do. Surely, that would stoke widespread outrage from both the left and the right.

But that’s exactly what the agency’s new science policy means. First reported by The New York Times yesterday, the so-called “transparency” policy forbids the EPA from using scientific research that includes confidential data about human subjects. Most of the research showing how air pollution damages public health contains confidential data about human subjects. Therefore, the EPA won’t be able to use that research to justify regulating air pollution or climate change.

In other words, air pollution denial is becoming U.S. policy for the first time.

Air pollution denial: The new climate denial

The EPA’s new science policy has been in the works since Trump took office.

It is a key priority of Steve Milloy, a former tobacco and fossil fuel industry lobbyist who served on Trump’s EPA transition team. Milloy spoke extensively about his desire to de-regulate air pollution at the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, in 2017:

“My particular interest is air pollution,” Milloy said, alleging that EPA’s scientists are inherently biased. “These people validate and rubber-stamp the EPA’s conclusion that air pollution kills people.” Milloy also said, baselessly, that EPA scientists are “paying for the science it wants,” and that Trump must change the research process at the agency.

To Milloy’s delight, Trump has since followed suit.

In yesterday’s New York Times story about the EPA’s new science policy, Milloy said his “original goal” was to stop the agency from using two landmark air pollution studies from Harvard University and the American Cancer Society. These studies—which rely on the health data of thousands of people—definitively link polluted air to premature deaths.

For decades, the EPA has used these studies to justify strong air pollution and climate regulations. But the fossil fuel industry says these studies aren’t trustworthy, because they rely on health data that is confidential due to privacy laws. Though hundreds of scientists have approved these studies through extensive peer review, the EPA agrees with the industry. The EPA is currently run by Andrew Wheeler, a former coal industry lobbyist.

Still, scientists and public health professionals have been pushing back since the rule was first proposed. Last year, for example, the entirety of Harvard University wrote in an extensive letter that the “rule will wreak havoc on public health, medical, and scientific research and undermine the protection of public health and safety.” The school warned that the EPA’s rule could “disqualify high-quality science that supports some of the EPA’s strongest regulations on lead, arsenic, hormone-disrupting chemicals, and—of course—air pollution.”

Indeed, most of the 600,000 public comments about the rule have been in opposition. From the Times:

The National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners said it was “deeply concerned” that the rule would lead to the exclusion of studies, “ultimately resulting in weaker environmental and health protections and greater risks to children’s health.” The National Center for Science Education said ruling out studies that do not use open data “would send a deeply misleading message, ignoring the thoughtful processes that scientists use to ensure that all relevant evidence is considered.” The Medical Library Association and the Association of Academic Health Science Libraries said the proposal “contradicts our core values.”

Still, the EPA “does not appear to have taken any of the opposition into consideration,” the Times reported yesterday. It will attempt to finalize the rule by 2020.

The tobacco industry playbook

When I reported on this potential rule change back in 2018, I spoke to Stan Glantz, a professor of tobacco control at the University of California San Francisco. Glantz told me that the EPA’s proposal mimicked old tobacco industry tactics to suppress science showing second-hand smoke harmed public health.

“[The tobacco industry] realized that, rather than fighting every single study that came out linking them to cancer, if they could get the rules of evidence changed, they wouldn’t have to worry about it,” Glantz said.

This feels particularly relevant now, given the fact that fossil fuel companies are increasingly facing tobacco-type lawsuits over their lies about climate change. Big Oil companies spent years mimicking Big Tobacco’s business strategies as a way to gain profit. And even though they’re now facing the same fate as Big Tobacco—death by litigation—they’re still clutching to the industry’s failed tactics.

The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology will hold a hearing on the EPA’s new science policy on Wednesday. We’ll be watching!  

OK, that’s all for today—thank for reading HEATED!

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