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President Joe Biden

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Right-wing media are expressing outrage that President Joe Biden mentioned climate change during his September 21 speech at the United Nations General Assembly.

Biden’s nearly-30 minute speech, which focused mainly on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, also included calls for global cooperation on important issues including food insecurity, human rights, and climate change. The climate part of his speech lasted roughly 3 minutes and included celebrating the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act. He also touched on recent climate disasters and the need for global emissions reductions, as well as promising billions of dollars in international climate finance.

Despite the relatively modest amount of time he spent on climate change, many in right-wing media were outraged that he even mentioned climate at all. Their comments included climate denial and falsehoods about the importance of climate change to the global community.

Right-wing media falsely claimed that the global population doesn’t care about climate change

Climate change is a serious concern around the world. For example, a January 2021 survey found that a majority of people around the globe want greater climate action. And a September 2021 Pew poll found that the world’s population increasingly views climate change as a personal threat. In August of this year, another Pew survey found that a “median of 75% across 19 countries in North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region label global climate change as a major threat.”

Additionally, people from the global south — those who have contributed the least to the climate crisis but disproportionately suffer its effects — are often some of the loudest voices for climate action. Around the same time that Biden gave his UN speech, indigenous peoples from around the world were protesting in New York for climate justice. The president of Kenya made climate change a key part of his UN speech, and the prime minister of Pakistan, a country that has seen over 30 million displaced due to climate-fueled monsoon flooding, thanked Biden for “highlighting the plight of the flood victims.”

Climate change and poverty, meanwhile, are inextricably linked, as are climate change and global hunger. These facts, however, were still not enough to convince right-wing commentators in the U.S. that climate change is a significant threat to the global population.

For example, on the September 22 edition of Newsmax’s Wake Up America, host Rob Finnerty stated that “there's 193 sovereign nations in that room right there. … And nobody cared about that part of the speech. They needed a lot more from the American president, with everything going on in the world right now, and they get climate change.”

On Fox News’ Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy insinuated that people living in poverty don’t care about climate change, stating, “Suddenly he’s talking about climate change. And, you know, there are 675 million people living in poverty around the world. And for the president of the United States to be talking about climate change rather than trying to figure out a way to feed them.”

Doocy also entirely missed the fact that Biden did discuss food in his speech; he mentioned the term “food insecurity” 6 times, while also mentioning “feeding the world.”

The editorial board of the right-wing New York Post also claimed that the world's poor don’t care about climate change. They referred to climate change as part of a “laundry list of left-liberal shout-outs,” before writing that the speech focused “on climate change, which Biden claimed lists first among the ‘challenges that matter most to people’s lives.’ The planet’s 674 million people living in abject poverty don’t agree, Joe.”

Right-wing media also dipped into one of their favorite overused talking points when it comes to climate change: U.S. action is worthless because China is the biggest polluter

There were also criticisms claiming China does not care about climate change. Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade remarked about Biden’s climate comments that “climate change is unbelievable. The fact is that China could not care less.” On Wake Up America, The Daily Caller’s Briana Lyman took this China criticism a step further, stating that if “you want to talk about climate change, then you need to talk about China because China is responsible for more than double the emissions of the United States. … I think it's a dereliction of duty when he doesn't tie China and climate change together.”

Kilmeade’s comments ignore the fact that China is by far the largest market for clean energy in the world, and that its pledge to become carbon neutral by 2060 came about a year before the U.S. passed major climate legislation. Yes, its coal plants (and emissions) are a huge problem, but to say that the country doesn’t care about climate change (especially when an unprecedented heat wave just hit the country) is absurd.

Regarding Lyman’s comments, Biden did mention that the United States “will work with every nation, including our competitors, to solve global problems like climate change.” Immediately after this, he referenced China and said the U.S. will not seek out conflict with them.

Lyman also touched on a longtime right-wing trope about climate change: that countries like China are the problem because they currently emit the most carbon, and because of this, it’s foolish to think that the U.S. should act on climate change. But the United States is the largest historical emitter; per capita emissions in the U.S. vastly outweigh those of China; and many of our products are manufactured in China.

Solely blaming China while absolving the U.S. for its own pollution problems and its outsized role in spreading climate denial does nothing for solving climate change in the long run.

Right-wing media also exaggerated the time Biden spent talking about climate change, and they threw in some good-old-fashioned climate denial

Three minutes out of 30 is arguably not enough time to devote to a problem that has led to a summer of destructive extreme weather across the globe. But it was still enough to annoy right-wing media figures.

Again on Wake Up America, host Rob Finnerty stated that “the president spent a lot of time talking about climate change during his speech. … This, of course, coming at a crucially important time. We’re seven months into the worst war in Europe that we've seen since World War II, and the president took the opportunity to campaign for Democrats and talk about climate change.” On the September 21 edition of Kudlow, guest Steve Moore falsely claimed that “he spent half the time talking about climate change.”

Perhaps the worst reaction came from Newsmax host Eric Bolling, who went on a climate denial rant on the September 21 edition of Eric Bolling The Balance. He called climate change “another made-up crisis lurking just around the corner,” adding, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” He then blamed Al Gore for supposedly inaccurate predictions about climate change and chastised former President Barack Obama for buying a house near the sea despite being concerned about rising sea levels.

The right-wing blow-up over Biden’s climate comments is not surprising. To these figures and outlets, any action on climate, big or small, is akin to a radical socialist takeover of the U.S. economy. In particular, the right has increased its climate denial and criticism of climate policies in recent months. As climate change worsens and global citizens come together to clamor for climate action, right-wing media will continue to double down on denial and lies to protect their polluting interests.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

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The privilege of beholding the corals of Belize, the second largest reef system on earth, is a complete marvel that can never be taken for granted. The school of nine squid in perfect alignment that stared at us like transparent sentinels ,the green barracuda that floated as if in suspended animation, looking for prey. Those moments of utter awe were soul transformative not only for a child, but also for parents nurturing a young human to the ultimate reason to exist on this earth, to care for life.

Over the next few years, a battle was waged between environmentalists and those who saw dollars in the form of oil extraction in the reef. Thankfully on December 1, 2015, right after the Cop21 Paris Climate Accord, Belize made the tremendous decision to ban drilling outright -- and is working hard to restore coral. The same cannot be said for many other fragile parts of the world particularly the warming Arctic, where Russia has a near stranglehold of more than half the Arctic Ocean.

Sea weed from the Great Sargassum Atlantic Belt has started to wreak havoc on many of the beaches of the Caribbean, including Florida, over the last decade, often to the great annoyance of visitors. Christopher Columbus observed them over 500 years ago, Vast mats of these brown macroalgae growths, sometimes six feet tall, first starting polluting its waters in 2011 and have not only affected tourists but also turtles who could not lay their eggs in the sand. Stripping oxygen from the water and killing fish, these blooms of seaweed have been exacerbated by nitrogen pollution from industrial runoff from as far away as the Amazon, and even dust particles that contain phosphorus, iron, and nitrogen from the Sahara that have helped fertilize plankton growth.

While humanity has been pouring pollutants and plastic into the overheated oceans for decades, the newest industrial craze of undersea mining is the last human activity the oceans need if they are going to survive.

Is there really such as thing as sustainable seabed mining? The Deep Sea Mining Summit that just occurred in London may not question the manic rush for deep sea gold mining and other such operations. Under discussion is not the present health of the oceans, or their future .There will be assurances and promises and arguments that the technicians have a plan to make doubly sure little will be harmed. Those assurances have never worked. We are at an inflection point in time, where our civilization either does an about face in terms of pollution and the subjugation of the oceans -- or they die. By 2060, the fisheries of the world will have collapsed. It is perhaps no coincidence that England, the very country that started the Industrial Revolution, hosted The Deep Sea Mining Summit.

Scientists who have seen what has happened to the Barrier Reef, are crying. The bleaching events there have been devastating. The Chinese fishing fleets, of which there are 400 vessels, have been sent to the waters near the Galapagos and have pillaged the seas near the mythic islands. A true Darwinian nightmare.The list of horrors we have unleashed on the oceans is endless. Witness the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Witness Fukushima and what radioactive elements have done to sea life in the Pacific .

As of 2021 there had been no commercial deep sea mining. But deep sea extraction of polymetallic nodules is considered by some to be the salvation of the electric car industry and other industries that run civilization. Some proclaim these resources could mitigate global warming . The chief executive of Florida’s Ocean Minerals says,” We desperately need substantial amounts of manganese, nickel, cobalt, and copper to build electric cars and power plants.” Is mining the ocean floor and potentially ravaging it the answer to our overheated planet? Helen Scales ,a marine biologist, sees the mining of the oceans as devastating : “ Mining means destruction and in this case it means the destruction of an ecosystem about which we know pathetically little.”

The HMS Challenger in 1872 was the first to discover these metal nodules in its round the world voyage.The nodules form around an object like a rock at the rate of one centimeter every million years. One zone of salvation or destruction -- however one looks at the argument -- is located between Mexico and Hawaii. Known as the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, it is four million square kilometers of seabed that will be explored, extracted, and very possibly exploited beyond recognition . At stake are six time more cobalt and three times more nickel than found anywhere on land. The question is what will be left of the remarkable sea floor and its life forms, most of which we know so very little about.

Twenty contracts have already been awarded to the International Seabed Authority by the UN, which is quite ironic considering the UN is supposed to be helping humanity avoid conflict . Some vessels will be able to collect 400 tons of nodules per hour, 100,000 tons in two weeks. Sediment plumes will disrupt and pollute ecosystems many miles away. Acidification of the sea bed from toxic metals will be largely unavoidable. Most pernicious of all, the biological pump which draws carbon from the atmosphere will also be adversely affected.

Marine biologists are sounding the alarm and with very good reason.Species of all kinds from sponges, to corals and worms and tiny creatures called tartigrades will be inevitably sacrificed, though many are new to science. Scales warns in her book The Brilliant Abyss that many creatures will quite simply be obliterated and lost forever before they are even known to science. The scale of the operations and size of the extractive machines used may well overwhelm near pristine environments for all time.

Pippa Howard, director at Fauna & Flora International warns, “The conclusions we have come to after extensive study could hardly be more troubling. From methane release to disruption of the ocean’s life-support systems and the destruction of unstudied ecosystems, the risks of deep sea mining are numerous and potentially disastrous.”

The oceans have already been stressed beyond recognition and denuded of so many species. The immune system of Earth's oceans is on life support . By 2100, half of all marine species may disappear. Some of the priceless eco-systems like the Barrier Reef are scarcely holding on to dear life. We may well be beyond our depths with respect to deep sea mining. We need an international moratorium now while we still have the oceans beating the original life pulse of the world.

The great prophetic writer Loren Eiseley divined truths unmatched in our time, revelations that science is only coming to understand very late in the game. “ Can it be, one inevitably wonders, that man is so linked to a prehensile, grasping hand giving him power over his environment- that he is unable to comprehend the intellectual life of a highly endowed creature from another domain such as the sea? “ On the eve of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Kunming, China, humanity has to make the right decisions. This is the last decade in which we can come to our senses. The plundering of the seas, cannot be allowed to match what we have done to the land. Or we will drown.