A Biden administration source revealed to Fox News on Saturday that the very public callout of Facebook followed months of frustration with the platform for failing to stamp out “dangerous” information about the vaccinations that have spread online.
The White House has been seeking help from Facebook and other social media sites since February on stopping misinformation from going viral, such as the myth that getting the shot will cause infertility.
While Facebook has made positive public statements on how they’ve partnered with the government and taken aggressive action to curb vaccine misinformation, the White House believes that the Big Tech company has fallen short.
“They’ve been withholding information on what the rules are, what they have put in place to prevent dangerous misinformation from spreading [and] how they measure whether it’s working,” a Biden administration official told Fox News.
The tensions reached a boiling point amid the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant, vaccine hesitancy among young people and polls showing the majority of unvaccinated people believe myths about the vaccine.
As coronavirus cases are on the rise and vaccination rates have slowed in the United States, the White House launched this week an effort to crack down on misinformation, starting with a warning from U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy on Thursday that bogus information about coronavirus is an “urgent threat” to public health.
“We’re flagging problematic posts for Facebook that spread disinformation. We’re working with doctors and medical experts…who are popular with their audience with accurate information,” she said. “So, we’re helping get trusted content out there.”
Biden took the effort one step further Friday by claiming inaction by Facebook and other platforms to take down false information is costing people their lives to a preventable illness.
“The only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated, and they’re killing people,” Biden said.
The White House comments drew a quick rebuke from Facebook.
And while the White House is having a public spat with the Big Tech giant, some Republicans and critics are accusing the White House of being too cozy with Facebook in their efforts to take down posts they deem as problematic.
“Democrats are all about the First Amendment except when they don’t like what’s being said,” Rep. Lance Gooden, R-Texas, told Fox News Saturday. Gooden just recently formed a House caucus aimed at reining in Big Tech.
Twenty-four-year-old Republican Danielle Butcher is watching with anticipation as GOP leaders move from “outright denial to now having a climate caucus” — a move she sees as the first step in integrating climate action into formal party policy.
Butcher, the executive vice president of the American Conservation Coalition (ACC), spoke to The Hill’s Equilibrium on Tuesday, just a week after Rep. John Curtis (R-Utah) launched the Conservative Climate Caucus and the same day that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who serves on the House Climate Crisis Committee, unveiled a new task force on energy, climate and conservation.
“This is an excellent first step,” she continued. “The first thing you have to do in achieving climate action is start talking about these problems.”
To Butcher, integrating climate action into Republican politics speaks to her party’s historic conservation core — the GOP with a deep-seated, rural heritage, was responsible for creation of the National Park Service and the Environmental Protection Agency under former Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Richard Nixon.
“I also see this as us reclaiming our heritage,” she said.
The party has changed a lot since then, with former President Trump — who cast doubt on climate change and diluted multiple environmental regulations during his time in office — still the de facto leader of the party.
But with two-thirds of Americans indicating that the government should do more on climate change — a stance that Butcher observed “is especially true among young people” — she said Republicans need to be talking about these issues and involving the younger generation in the discussions.
As Butcher noted, a spring 2020 survey from the Pew Research Center showed that 65 percent of Americans felt that the federal government is doing too little to reduce the effects of climate change. Meanwhile, an April 2021 Gallup poll showed that 74 percent of Republicans — and 99 percent of Democrats — believe that global warming will eventually affect humans.
Nonetheless, according to Gallup, only 29 percent of Republicans said they believe that these effects have already begun, while 82 percent of Democrats believe that they have started, and just 11 percent of Republicans said they believe global warming will pose a serious threat in their own lifetime, while 67 percent of Democrats believe that it will do so.
Following the launch of the Conservative Climate Caucus Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), chair of the Select Committee on Climate Crisis, told The Associated Press that she hopes Republicans are serious about addressing climate change.
“There is no more time for half measures,” Castor said. “If my Republicans colleagues really want to do something, they need to start voting in favor of real solutions.”
Climate policy has been a sticking point in negotiations over President Biden‘s infrastructure plan this month, with multiple provisions left out of the deal made with Republicans.
For 22-year-old Justin Branum, the ACC’s Alabama chair, reaching fellow Republicans who are reluctant to acknowledge climate change means straying from tactics that he describes as “alarmism.” Residents of conservative states, he elaborated, care about wildlife and tend to see their land as a “gift from God,” but are often accustomed to seeing climate change associated with apocalypse on television.
This need to access older, climate hesitant Republicans has made both Branum and Butcher excited about the passing of a particular piece of legislation in the Senate last week, the bipartisan Growing Climate Solutions Act. The bill authorizes the Depart of Agriculture to establish a voluntary environmental credit market — through which farmers and private forest landowners who engage in sustainable land use can acquire and sell carbon credits.
The main purpose of the legislation, according to the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry Committee, is to “break down barriers for farmers and foresters interested in participating in carbon markets so they can be rewarded for climate-smart practices.” Some such practices include planting carbon-trapping crops to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.
But farmers across the Corn Belt are only planting a small fraction of the carbon-capturing “cover crops” touted by the bill, a new analysis published by the Environmental Working Group found, according to Inside Climate News.
The study showed that in 2019, only 3.2 million out of 68 million acres of corn and soybean included cover crops. To put a significant dent in U.S. emissions, the current “cover crop acres would have to increase fourteen-fold to get close to the number of acres needed to achieve a miniscule reduction,” according to the study.
The progressives, Butcher said, “are voting with some of the biggest climate deniers in the Senate.” She was referring to the three Republicans who also opposed the bill: Sens. Jim Inhofe (Okla.), Josh Hawley (Mo.) and Mike Lee (Utah).
Branum, the ACC chair from Alabama, likewise expressed his disappointment with the progressive rejection of their plan, stressing that he favors a bipartisan approach to climate action, such as the joint work of Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee.
“Climate change can’t be solved from just a Republican line vote or from a Democratic line vote — it can’t be challenged every time a new government comes,” Branum said, noting that the two parties need to come together on “the 80 percent we agree on to help the environment.”
In Branum’s opinion, that 80 percent does not include the Green New Deal and other progressive policies “based on bigger government” that “don’t technically deal with climate change.” Some examples of policies that would help curb climate change, according to Branum, would include the integration of more nuclear energy, the deregulation of the green energy sector and the continued existence of fossil fuels alongside renewables.
“We don’t have to transform society to reduce emissions,” Butcher added. “We want to improve everyone’s standard and quality of life, but we don’t want to take over the economy or ban companies.”
Great Britain had great plans for June 21. English citizens had been calling it “Freedom Day,” the day that nation’s COVID restrictions would be lifted after the pandemic’s long siege. A well-managed vaccine rollout has more than half the population fully inoculated, and everything appeared to be moving in the right direction.
Upon the emergence of the COVID-19 variant dubbed “Delta,” however, the U.K.’s plans have changed. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has delayed “Freedom Day” for another four weeks, with a potential for more if the variant is not better contained.
The Delta variant of COVID first emerged from the coronavirus wave that subsumed much of India earlier this spring. Reports strongly suggest that it is far more contagious than the original version of the virus, and is doing more damage to those who become infected. It took four weeks for Delta to become the dominant COVID strain in Great Britain, and at present it has spread to more than 60 countries worldwide.
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The U.S. is one of them. At present, the Delta variant represents approximately 10 percent of all new infections here, and that rate is doubling every two weeks. “Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said Sunday that a coronavirus strain known as the Delta variant is likely to become the dominant source of new infections in the U.S.,” reportsCNN, “and could lead to new outbreaks in the fall, with unvaccinated Americans being most at risk.”
There were almost 13,000 new cases of COVID diagnosed yesterday, and 145 recorded deaths. While these numbers represent an astonishing decrease from the horrific toll the nation endured last winter, the number of new daily infections remains simply unacceptable in a country so flush with vaccines that medical experts fear whole batches will go bad for lack of use.
As of Monday, almost 44 percent of the U.S. population over 12 years old has received both doses of the vaccine, and 52.5 percent has received one. Children under 12 remain completely unvaccinated. In a nation of 328 million people, slightly more than 174 million have gotten at least one dose. This, for lack of a better phrase, is a dramatic chink in our COVID armor, especially in the face of an exceptionally virulent variant like Delta.
As with all things these days, the question of “why?” boils down to the deliberately deluded garbage politics of the right. A Washington Postanalysis shows COVID rates plummeting in states with high numbers of vaccinated people, and rising in states with fewer vaccinated people. This is simple math, really, but disquieting to confront in the face of the highly contagious Delta variant.
So where are the politics? Where they always are: in the states. “The top 22 states (including D.C.) with the highest adult vaccination rates all went to Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election,” reportsNPR. “Some of the least vaccinated states are the most pro-Trump. Trump won 17 of the 18 states with the lowest adult vaccination rates.”The conspiracy theories that have enveloped the effective distribution of this medicine to Trump supporters have morphed into their own sort of bent, all-encompassing multiverse, where all the “answers” are spelled with the letter “Q.”
Adherence to nihilistic anti-science Trumpism is not the sole factor for the lower rates in these various states. Less than a quarter of Black people have received at least one shot as of last week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the lowest among the ethnic and racial groups listed. A large part of the problem is access: There have been a number of issues with the vaccine rollout, particularly impacting people who lack access to transportation or cannot take time off work to get a shot. Meanwhile, some vaccine hesitancy persists within Black communities; it is an understandable byproduct of generations of unspeakable abuses of that community by the medical field.
However, among the largely white Trump supporters who are refusing the vaccine, the hesitancy has a very different root. Many people across the country appear to be saying no to the vaccine because doing so will shore up their pro-Trump street cred. The conspiracy theories that have enveloped the effective distribution of this medicine to Trump supporters have morphed into their own sort of bent, all-encompassing multiverse, where all the “answers” are spelled with the letter “Q” and mask mandates are equated with the Holocaust.
It is not difficult to foresee what comes next. If COVID holds to its pattern of finding all the gaps in our defenses, and if Delta is as bad as they say, we can expect to witness the return of terrible infection numbers to the regions that continue to shun the vaccine. By all accounts, the vaccines remain highly effective in their ability to stave off the Delta variant, especially if those receiving two-dose vaccines make sure to get both shots.
The United States is reopening from shore to shore, and there is great gladness for it. Vaccinated people are being told with high confidence that they can return to a semblance of normal … but with less than half the country fully vaccinated, and with a stunning portion of that half clinging to their Trump-spawned delusions, I still fear that we are reopening too soon.
The rise of the Delta variant makes this concern all the more pressing. If Trump had a single care for the people who make him possible, he would embark on a vaccination campaign in all the states he carried in 2020, but he will not do this unless forced to. He will squat in his Bedminster lair plotting revenge, even as those he owes his power to die preventable deaths every day.
Images of Joe Biden giving speeches and shaking hands with foreign dignitaries during his ongoing trip to Europe will take up space in the news over the coming week. But once he returns to the United States, the pattern that’s prevailed over the past five months will likely resume.
Which means the president will once again disappear.
It was common for Democrats during the 2020 presidential campaign to talk encouragingly about how boring a Biden administration would be in comparison to the nonstop cycle of chaos, cruelty, and outrage that prevailed under President Trump. Where Trump tweeted partisan provocations day and night, keeping reporters and pundits furiously scribbling, analyzing, and denouncing 24/7, life under a Biden presidency would return to normal, with a slower pace and the president receding from public view, allowing other people and topics to proliferate, and our nation’s public life to settle down and heal, perhaps even with a modicum of unity returning.- ADVERTISEMENT -https://s.yimg.com/rq/darla/4-6-0/html/r-sf-flx.html
That isn’t what’s happened. Biden has indeed stepped back — in comparison to Trump, absolutely, but even compared to Barack Obama and George W. Bush. Biden simply doesn’t say or do very much in public. He’s content, instead, to allow surrogates, staffers, and Democrats in Congress to take the lead in getting the administration’s message out. The result is that it often feels as if we have no president at all.
Yet the nation hasn’t quieted. On the contrary, the virtual wars that roiled the country over the previous four years have continued. The primary difference is that the president plays very little part in them. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But it’s not especially encouraging either. Indeed, it points to deeper cultural and political changes that set the context for the presidency.
Beyond the desire to do the opposite of Trump, there are several strong arguments in favor of the president playing a smaller role in our politics. Treating the president like a monarch isn’t healthy for a democracy, so anything that reduces his role is good. A less prominent head of the executive branch might allow power to flow back to Congress or the states and away from the imperial presidency. A largely invisible president is less likely to whip up war hysteria.
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Former President Trump issued a statement Thursday dismissing the threat of climate change and saying that President Biden should fire the joint chiefs of staff if they view it as a big problem for the country.
The message from Trump, whose is still banned on Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms, comes as Biden makes his first foreign trip as president to Europe.
Biden is expected to discuss climate change during the trip with other European leaders.
Trump repeatedly downplayed climate change during his presidency, calling it a hoax and working to remove regulations put into place by the Obama administration to reduce U.S. carbon emissions. Biden in his first week in office returned the U.S. to the Paris climate agreement that Trump had removed the nation from.
Trump’s emailed statement on Thursday also took Biden’s comments out of context.
“Biden just said that he was told by the Joint Chiefs of Staff that Climate Change is our greatest threat. If that is the case, and they actually said this, he ought to immediately fire the Joint Chiefs of Staff for being incompetent!” Trump said in a statement on Thursday.
While the Joint Chiefs of Staff have repeatedly warned of the threat of climate change, Biden in his address Wednesday to American troops in the United Kingdom upon his arrival in Europe was referring to a warning the Joint Chiefs gave him at the start of his tenure as vice president.
“When I went over in the Tank in the Pentagon, when I first was elected vice president, with President Obama, the military sat us down to let us know what the greatest threats facing America were,” Biden said.
“And this is not a joke: You know what the Joint Chiefs told us the greatest threat facing America was? Global warming. Because there’ll be significant population movements, fights over land, millions of people leaving places because they’re literally sinking below the sea in Indonesia, because of the fights over what is arable land anymore,” he added.
Those officials are no longer in office, as the current Joint Chiefs were appointed by Trump.
The current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, testified before Congress on Friday that climate change was a threat.
“Climate change is a threat. Climate change has significant impact on military operations, and we have to take it into consideration,” he said. “Climate change is going to impact natural resources, for example. It’s going to impact increased instability in various parts of the world. It’s going to impact migrations and so on. And in addition to that, we have infrastructure challenges here at home, witness some of our hurricanes and stuff.
“But the president is looking at it at a much broader angle than I am. I’m looking at it from a strictly military standpoint. And from a strictly military standpoint, I’m putting China, Russia up there. That is not, however, in conflict with the acknowledgement that climate change or infrastructure or education systems — national security has a broad angle to it. I’m looking at it from a strictly military standard,” he added.
In response, Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said, “I just think it’s peculiar that the president would go to another continent and tell our service members there that the No. 1 threat is climate change, albeit a threat.”
“I had a long conversation for two hours recently with [Chinese] President Xi [Jinping], making it clear to him we could do nothing but speak out for human rights around the world because that’s who we are,” Biden said. “I’ll be meeting with [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin in a couple weeks in Geneva making it clear that we will not stand by and let him abuse those rights.”
Biden spoke at a Memorial Day service in Delaware on Sunday morning, where he offered comfort to the families of fallen service members and paid tribute to his late son Beau Biden, who served in the Iraq War.
“It’s also an important tradition in our family. As many of you know, this is a hard day for us. Six years ago today … I lost my son. In the first year of his passing back in 2016, Gen. [Frank] Vavala did a great honor in inviting us to a ceremony renaming the Delaware National Guard headquarters in Beau’s honor.”
President Joe Biden speaks with priests as he departs after attending Mass at St. Joseph on the Brandywine Catholic Church, Sunday, May 30, 2021, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
“We’re honored, but it’s a tough day, brings back everything,” Biden continued. “So I can’t thank you enough for your continued service to the country and your sons, your daughters, they live on in your hearts and in their children as well. And we have to carry on without them. But I know how hard it is for you. Beau didn’t die in the line of duty, but he was serving in Delaware National Guard unit in Iraq for a year. That was one of the proudest things he did in his life. So thank you for allowing us to grieve together today.”
“We haven’t ruled out anything yet,” principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters during Wednesday’s press briefing when asked whether the virus had emerged in a manner that was “deliberate or not an accident.”
“Would the president seek to punish China?” Fox News’ Peter Doocy asked Jean-Pierre.
President Joe Biden detailed topics including the COVID-19 pandemic, foreign policy, the American Rescue Plan and more in his first address to a joint session of Congress.SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea on Sunday warned the United States will face “a very grave situation” because President Joe Biden “made a big blunder” in his recent speech by calling the North a security threat and revealing his intent to maintain a hostile policy against it.
“It is certain that the U.S. chief executive made a big blunder in the light of the present-day viewpoint,” Kwon said. “Now that the keynote of the U.S. new DPRK policy has become clear, we will be compelled to press for corresponding measures, and with time the U.S. will find itself in a very grave situation.”
What could denuclearization look like on the Korean Peninsula?
Kwon still didn’t specify what steps North Korea would take, and his statement could be seen as an effort to apply pressure on the Biden administration as it’s shaping up its North Korea policy.
The White House said Friday administration officials had completed a review of U.S. policy toward North Korea, saying Biden plans to veer from the approaches of his two most recent predecessors as he tries to stop North Korea’s nuclear program. Press secretary Jen Psaki did not detail findings of the review, but suggested the administration would seek a middle ground between Donald Trump’s “grand bargain” and Barack Obama’s “strategic patience” approaches.
Kwon’s statement didn’t mention Psaki’s comments.
After a series of high-profile nuclear and missile tests in 2016-17, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un launched summit diplomacy with Trump on the future of his growing nuclear arsenal. But that diplomacy remains stalled for about two years over differences in how much sanctions relief North Korea could win in return for limited denuclearization steps.
In January, Kim threatened to enlarge his nuclear arsenal and build more high-tech weapons targeting the U.S. mainland, saying the fate of bilateral ties would depend on whether it abandons its hostile policy. In March, he conducted short-range ballistic missile tests for the first time in a year, though he still maintains a moratorium on bigger weapons launches.
“If Pyongyang agrees to working-level talks, the starting point of negotiations would be a freeze of North Korean testing and development of nuclear capabilities and delivery systems,” Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, said. “If, on the other hand, Kim shuns diplomacy and opts for provocative tests, Washington will likely expand sanctions enforcement and military exercises with allies.”
Also Sunday, an unidentified North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman vowed a strong, separate response to a recent State Department statement that it would push to promote “accountability for the Kim regime” over its “egregious human rights situation.” He called the statement a preparation for “all-out showdown with us.”
Kim’s powerful sister, Kim Yo Jong, also slammed South Korea over anti-Pyongyang leaflets floated across the border by a group of North Korean defectors in the South. The group’s leader, Park Sang-hak, said Friday he sent 500,000 leaflets by balloon last week, in a defiance of a new, contentious South Korean law that criminalizes such action.
“We regard the maneuvers committed by the human waste in the South as a serious provocation against our state and will look into corresponding action,” Kim Yo Jong said in a statement.
She accused the South Korean government of “winking at” the leaflets. Seoul’s Unification Ministry responded later Sunday saying it opposes any act that creates tensions on the Korean Peninsula and it will strive to achieve better ties with North Korea.
Easley said the North Korean statements by Kwon and Kim Yo Jong show that “Pyongyang is trying to drive a wedge between South Korea and the United States” ahead of the May 21 summit between Biden and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
The statement came as John Kerry, the climate czar of President Biden, concluded a trip to China, including two days with Chinese counterpart, Xie Zhenhua, in Shanghai. The statement was hailed because China is the biggest emitter in the world, and the United States is the second. Together, they account for almost half of global carbon emissions.https://www.dianomi.com/smartads.epl?id=3533
“This is the first time China has joined in saying it’s a crisis,” Kerry told reporters in Seoul last weekend. The American climate czar also said the United States and China agreed on “critical elements on where we have to go.” For all the talk of agreement, Kerry did not obtain a commitment that Beijing would make new pledges at President Biden’s virtual two-day climate summit this week, scheduled to start on Earth Day.
China, on the contrary, is signaling there will be no climate agreements soon. “For a big country with 1.4 billion people, these goals are not easily delivered,” Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng told the Associated Press at the end of last week. “Some countries are asking China to achieve the goals earlier. I am afraid this is not very realistic.” Countries, in the words of Associated Press, “are expected to announce more ambitious national targets for cutting carbon emissions ahead of or at the meeting, along with pledging financial help for climate efforts by less wealthy nations.”
Xi Jinping announced last year that China would achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. The U.S. target is 2050. At the moment, China’s climate promises are uninspiring. Beijing’s principal “nationally determined contribution” – its promise incorporated into the Paris Agreement – is to cap emissions “around 2030.” In other words, China has given itself an incentive to increase fouling the air until then.
As an initial matter, Beijing does not honor promises. So why bother trying to obtain them? “Unfortunately, there is no point giving up anything to get China to sign an international agreement,” Cleo Paskal of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies told The Hill, when asked about current American climate efforts. Beijing, Paskal says, is just employing its “unrestricted warfare playbook.” “Its goal is to get what concessions it can, hamstring its adversaries as much as possible, then invoke the agreement when convenient and ignore it when it’s not. Period.”
Chinese leaders, borrowing from the Soviet Union, are obsessed with comprehensive national power, an empirical framework to rank the strength of countries. Beijing, in its relentless campaign to become the most powerful country on the planet, can get there by either increasing China’s comprehensive national power or decreasing that of others. Climate is a perfect way to decrease the comprehensive national power of the United States, by getting American presidents to take measures undermining the size of their economy. Beijing views climate in competitive, and one can even say extremely selfish, terms.,
If China perceives the climate situation to be a “crisis,” as Kerry says, it is because the Chinese people relentlessly and noisily demand cleaner air. It is the Communist Party’s insecurity that motivates leaders to act. There is, in short, no reason to make concessions that China will make on its own.
So Kerry need not have traveled all the way to China to obtain Xi Jinping’s participation at Washington’s summit. Biden had invited 40 leaders, and Xi was not about to isolate himself. He in fact confirmed his participation at the last minute on Wednesday. The Chinese ruler was not going to give up the opportunity to speak.
Countries will also meet in November in Glasgow at the United Nations Climate Change Conference. There, at the 26th such international gathering, countries are supposed to increase pledges, to “ratchet up” in the lingo of the climate community. China may or may not ratchet up in Scotland, but does it really matter what it promises in that setting or others?
Until countries establish enforcement mechanisms in climate agreements, and maybe not even then, Beijing’s pledges are worth nothing. Chinese leaders will clean their air or not, for their own reasons. Not Kerry’s. Not Biden’s. Not the world’s.
Gordon Chang is a columnist and the author of “The Coming Collapse of China.” You can follow his updates online on Twitter at @GordonGChang.
Right now, in the conservation movement, a lot of people are fixated on a single number: 30.
The US and more than 50 other countries have pledged to conserve 30 percent of their land and water by 2030 as a means to help thwart the biodiversity crisis.
Biodiversity tends to increase with the area of land or water conserved, yet just 16 percent of global land is in protected areas today (in the US, it’s closer to 12 percent), according to the World Database on Protected Areas. Intact ecosystems also play a major role in mitigating climate change.
As conservationists have recognized the importance of protecting rich ecosystems before they’re bulldozed, drained, deforested, or abandoned, “30 by 30” has become a rallying call for the movement’s most influential organizations, political leaders, and advocates.
“This effort goes to the heart of our mission to protect the wonder of our world,” Jill Tiefenthaler, CEO of the National Geographic Society, a group backing the target, said in a 2020 interview.
So, what makes 30 percent the magic number? Is it some kind of biological threshold, above which nature will flourish and we will avert total ecological collapse?
As it turns out, “there’s no scientific basis for 30 percent,” Eric Dinerstein, the lead author of a widely referenced academic paper, “A Global Deal for Nature,” which calls for putting 30 percent of land in protected areas, told Vox.“It’s arbitrary.” (Disclosure: I briefly worked with Dinerstein several years ago when I was a research analyst at the World Resources Institute.)
Given the urgency of the situation, there’s an acute tension around how ambitious to be in conservation goal-setting. Often, targets laid out by scientists are at odds with what governments will find palatable. And for any goal to be successful, for that matter, many argue the world needs a new paradigm for conservation altogether — one that doesn’t exclude Indigenous people.
Why targets for protecting land and oceans are essential
As the human population has expanded, we’ve destroyed all kinds of habitats to construct housing, extract commodities like timber or gold, and grow food. That’s left us with rapidly shrinking patches of intact ecosystems that can — and do — support biodiversity, but with a fading effect.
To avert catastrophe, we’ll need to roll back that pattern and dedicate more land to support healthy, functioning ecosystems. And long ago, the conservation movement realized that to get there, countries would need to push each other to both make and keep commitments.
There are existing targets for the coverage of protected areas, set under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). CBD is an intergovernmental agreement, much like the Paris Agreement, but for biodiversity. In 2010, it set a number of conservation targets — including those that calledfor the protection of 17 percent of global land and 10 percent of oceans by 2020.
The reality, however, is that those smaller percentages simply aren’t enough, said Brian O’Donnell, director of the Campaign for Nature, a group spearheading the global 30 by 30 push. (The group is funded by the Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss and works in partnership with the National Geographic Society.)
30 by 30 is by no means the first effort to protect a large chunk of Earth for the sake of biodiversity. In his 2016 book Half-Earth, renowned ecologist Edward O. Wilson argued that “only by committing half of the planet’s surface to nature can we hope to save the immensity of life-forms that compose it.” (The concept of protecting 50 percent of the planet emerged decades earlier.)
But 30 by 30 is the first effort of its kind to gain such broad support.
While the target has been kicked around for years, it reached a milestone in January when a coalition of more than 50 countries led by Costa Rica, France, and the UK, called the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People, announced a commitment to 30 by 30.
“We know there is no pathway to tackling climate change that does not involve a massive increase in our efforts to protect and restore nature,” said Zac Goldsmith, the UK’s minister for Pacific and the environment, when the commitment was announced.
“There is growing scientific consensus that we must conserve more land and water, with 30 percent representing the minimum that experts think must be conserved in order to avoid the worst impacts of nature loss to our economies and well-being,” Tyler Cherry, a spokesperson for the agency, told Vox. “President Biden has set an ambitious but achievable goal that will lift up a wide range of locally supported conservation and restoration actions, with the support of a broad range of stakeholders.”
So, 30 has no shortage of followers. Which brings us back to the debate over whether or not it’s the right number.
Why some conservationists think the 30 percent target should be higher
If this were the 1950s, 30 percent as a target would be fine, said Dinerstein, who’s now the director of the Biodiversity and Wildlife Solutions program at Resolve, a Washington, DC,nonprofit. Back then, there was more time to avert an extinction crisis, and there were plenty of intact ecosystems left outside of protected areas, he said.
Now, he says, “we don’t have that luxury.” What we really need, Dinerstein believes — echoing E.O. Wilson — is to protect half of the planet.
But 50 percent is a big number to stomach, especially when only 16 percent of land worldwide currently has that status (that number is much smaller for oceans). Instead, the authors of the “Global Deal for Nature” paper called for putting 30 percent in protected areas and another 20 in what they called “climate stabilization areas” — less strictly protected areas that would help draw down emissions.
“The inside story is that we thought that 50 percent by 2030 would just be unpalatable,” Dinerstein said of the target.
By contrast, 30 percent, and the catchy “30 by 30” phrase, could attract the backing of lawmakers, even if it’s not some kind of precise threshold. Indeed, such a universal threshold doesn’t exist.
“There’s no threshold where suddenly you’re going to get a magic response,” said Corey Bradshaw, a professor of ecology at Flinders University. “You’ve got to play the politics with respect to assigning particular values to targets or thresholds. At the end of the day, it has nothing to do with biology.”
O’Donnell, however, argues that a floor of 30 percent is justified by science. What the research seems to show is that 30 percent is not a hard threshold — no one number applies across all regions. But reaching it would, indeed, benefit biodiversity, given thatless than half of that is protected today. Scientists tend to agree that anything much below 30 percent is not sufficient as well. (Bradshaw also points out that a focus on percent coverage alone obscures other important aspects of conservation planning, like connectivity among areas, which can have huge impacts.)
This debate is especially relevant now. The CBD’s 196 members are preparing to convene in October, at which point they’ll consider upping the target for protected areas to 30 percent. (Absent from that member list? You guessed it — the US.)
In a statement, Johan Hedlund, an information officer at CBD, told Vox that while the “location of protected areas and their effective and equitable management is more important than simple [percentage] of land or sea area,” the 30 percent target is in line with the convention’s vision for 2050. Yet, he added, the target is still under negotiation.
Indigenous activists are more concerned with avoiding “fortress conservation” than numbers
The simple catchphrase “30 by 30” belies the many challenges to establishing acres and acres of new protected areas (PAs).
For one, effective networks of PAs require careful planning. It’s important that they represent different ecosystems and provide pathways for animals to disperse, said Bradshaw. While the US protects 22 percent of its oceans, for example, most of the PAs are in one region — around Hawaii — leaving other important ecosystems at risk.
Protected areas are also not loved by all. In fact, many Indigenous communities initially opposed 30 by 30 because they worried it would put their land rights at risk, said Andy White, a coordinator at Rights and Resources Initiative, a nonprofit that advocates for land rights.
“Fundamentally, the problem is not so much the number as it is the approach,” White said.
The conservation movement has a long history of practicing “fortress conservation,” whereby sections of nature are blocked off at the expense of Indigenous people who use the land.
“Throughout conservation’s checkered history, we have seen exclusionary conservation as a gateway to human rights abuses and militarized forms of violence,” as José Francisco Cali Tzay, who is Maya Kaqchikel from Guatemala and the UN special rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous peoples, said last year.
Rights and Resources Initiative published a landmark study in 2020 showing that more than 1.6 billion Indigenous people, local communities, and Afro-descendants live in important areas for biodiversity conservation. Research has also shown that, in many cases, lands managed by Indigenous people hold as much biodiversity as protected areas.
“The right way to get to 30 percent is recognizing the rights of Indigenous people to their lands,” White said.
Considering Indigenous lands as part of global conservation efforts would easily breach the 30 percent target, White added. And the mainstream conservation movement appears ready to get behind this approach.
“We need more financial investments into securing land tenure rights,” O’Donnell said. “[Indigenous peoples’] rights and their approaches need to be at the forefront of 30 by 30.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday signed a law that will allow him to run for two more terms once his current one ends in 2024.
As reported by The Guardian, the law could potentially allow Putin, 68, to remain in office until 2036. He has been the de facto political leader of Russia since 2000.
The Guardian notes that should Putin stay in power until 2036, he would be the longest running leader of Russia since the Russian Empire, surpassing the tenure of dictator Joseph Stalin, who remained in power over the Soviet Union for 29 years.
Putin would be 84 years old when he left office should he decide to run for the two additional terms he is now allowed.
Putin is currently on his fourth term as president of Russia, being elected to office in 2000, 2004, 2012 and 2018, with a stint as Russian prime minister between 2008 and 2012 due to term limits at the time.
The law limits Russian citizens to two terms as president in their lifetime, though the legislation essentially serves as “reset” and does not apply to Putin’s four previous terms.
The Guardian reports that signing this legislation may not be an indication of the Russian leader’s desire to stay in power and may instead be a move to avoid a lame-duck presidency and a power struggle in his last term in office.
The new law also provides Putin and former President Dmitry Medvedev with lifetime immunity from prosecution.