The controversy surrounding Melania Trump's GOP convention speech has dominated the media for the past 36 hours. Side-by-side comparisons with Michelle Obama's 2008 convention speech have been shown again and again on cable news.
It's not just the national media, however. As the absolutely brutal clip above makes clear, this is one of the select group of political controversies that breaks through to local newscasts. KUSA 9News—the largest NBC station in the swing state of Colorado—interviewed Maggie Flynn, a 7th grade English teacher, to determine once and for all whether Trump's speech was plagiarized. With red pen in hand, Flynn marks up the speech and gives Trump a failing grade. She even announces that the controversy has provided her with a brand new "easy way to teach what plagiarism looks like." You can watch the segment above.
And, just to show you how big this story has become, here's yet another 9News segment. This one examines the long history of political plagiarism scandals, including ones involving President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
More recently, Trump has claimed that this tweet was some sort of joke, but regardless, he's repeatedly called global warming a "hoax." So it was astounding to read in Politico Monday morning that the real estate mogul is trying to persuade government officials in Ireland to allow him to "build a sea wall designed to protect one of his golf courses from 'global warming and its effects.'" According to Politico:
The New York billionaire is applying for permission to erect a coastal protection works to prevent erosion at his seaside golf resort, Trump International Golf Links & Hotel Ireland, in County Clare.
A permit application for the wall, filed by Trump International Golf Links Ireland and reviewed by POLITICO, explicitly cites global warming and its consequences—increased erosion due to rising sea levels and extreme weather this century—as a chief justification for building the structure.
Days before he concluded his purchase [of the golf club in 2014], a single storm eroded as much as eight meters of frontage in some parts of the golf course. Since acquiring the property, Trump has been trying to build coastal protection works to prevent further erosion.
Earlier this month, Trump's golf club submitted an application to local officials in County Clare, Ireland, in an attempt to gain approval for the sea wall. An environmental impact statement accompanying the filing argued that if little or nothing is done to combat the coastal erosion, "the existing erosion rate will continue and worsen, due to sea level rise, in the next coming years, posing a real and immediate risk to most of the golf course frontage and assets."
Trump's spokesperson didn't respond to Politico's request for comment, and she didn't immediately respond to me, either. But it's pretty hard to see how anyone could reconcile Trump's sudden interest in climate resilience with, say, this:
NBC News just called it the great freeze - coldest weather in years. Is our country still spending money on the GLOBAL WARMING HOAX?
And it's not just sea level rise that apparently has Trump concerned. Politico reports that the golf club distributed a document to residents of the area warning that coastal protections will also be needed to defend against "more frequent storm events [that] will increase the rate of erosion throughout the 21st century." Which seems like a bit of a departure from this:
Any and all weather events are used by the GLOBAL WARMING HOAXSTERS to justify higher taxes to save our planet! They don't believe it $$$$!
Of course, this isn't the only Trump-branded facility that is threatened by climate change. Check out these amazing gifs that BuzzFeed created to show what sea level rise could do to Trump resorts in the United States.
Climate change, deforestation, and pollution are wreaking havoc on the Earth's vegetation.
Jeremy SchulmanMay 12, 2016 8:31 AM
One out of every five plant species on Earth is now threatened with extinction. That's the disturbing conclusion of a major report released this week by scientists at Britain's Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. The planet's vegetation—from grasslands to deserts to tropical rainforests—is being hit hard by human activity. And deforestation, pollution, agriculture, and climate change are all playing a role.
"My job is to leave some evidence for future generations that there was somebody who cared while we were destroying everything."
The sliver of good news, though, is that some researchers are hopeful that people will be able to act in time to avert the worst of the impending crisis. "I am reasonably optimistic," said Kathy Willis, Kew's science director, in an interview with our partners at the Guardian. "Once you know [about a problem], you can do something about it. The biggest problem is not knowing."
But others take a darker view. "Regardless of what humans do to the climate, there will still be a rock orbiting the sun," said University of Hawaii scientist Hope Jahren in a recent interview with Indre Viskotas on the Inquiring Minds podcast. Jahren is a geobiologist—she studies how the earth ("geo") and life ("bio") come together to shape our world. "I'm interested in how the parts of the planet that aren't alive—rocks and rivers and rain and clouds—turn into the…parts of the world that are alive: leaves and moss and the things that eat those things," she explains. And what she's seeing isn't good. "We are already seeing extinctions," she says. "We're already seeing the balance of who can thrive and who can't thrive in…the plant world radically shifted. In a lot of ways, I think that train has passed." You can listen to her full interview below:
Jahren, who is the author of a new book called Lab Girl, was recently included on Time magazine's list of the 100 most influential people. She's also an outspoken voice for gender equality and the fight against sexual harassment and assault in the scientific community.
Part of Jahren's work has focused on reconstructing the climate of the Eocene, the geologic epoch that lasted from about 56 million years ago to about 34 million years ago. In the middle of that period, about 45 million years ago, the world was so warm that massive deciduous forests were growing above the Arctic Circle—despite the fact that, as Jahren points out, the region saw little-to-no sunshine for part of the year. Jahren and her colleagues study fossilized plant tissues left over from these ancient forests in order to understand how the climatic factors of the time—light levels, atmospheric composition, water, etc.—combined to "make possible this life in the darkness." She compares her work to investigating a crime scene. "Almost anything you come upon could have information in it," she says.
Jahren's description of a lush Arctic full of plants and animals is striking. Imagining that world, she says, is "a really neat thing to do when you're…juxtaposing that image against that fact that you're near the North Pole, and there's not a soul in sight for thousands of miles, and there's not a green thing in sight for hundreds of miles." That may be one of the reasons why she speaks so passionately about environmental destruction in the present day. "The world breaks a little bit every time we cut down a tree," she says. "It's so much easier to cut one down than to grow one. And so it's worth interrogating every time we do it."
In the end, though, Jahren isn't sure that science will lead humanity to make better decisions about the planet. Instead, she says, "I think my job is to leave some evidence for future generations that there was somebody who cared while we were destroying everything."
Inquiring Minds is a podcast hosted by neuroscientist and musician Indre Viskontas and Kishore Hari, the director of the Bay Area Science Festival. To catch future shows right when they are released, subscribe to Inquiring Minds via iTunes orRSS. You can follow the show on Twitter at @inquiringshow, like us on Facebook, and check out show notes and other cool stuff on Tumblr.
Dusty DeVinney loads "vote here" signs onto a cart in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, ahead of Tuesday's primary.
Residents of five Northeastern states are voting Tuesday in crucial presidential primary contests. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton has a chance to all but clinch the nomination with a strong showing. On the Republican side, Donald Trump is looking for massive victories that could put him one step closer to securing a majority of the delegates at the GOP convention in Cleveland.
Back on March 1—as a dozen or so states around the country voted on Super Tuesday—we pointed out that the electorate that day contained an awful lot of deniers. Less than half of adults in those states—48 percent—agreed with the scientific consensus that humans are mostly responsible for recent warming, according to data from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. Drawing from more than 13,000 interviews, the Yale researchers used a complicated statistical model to estimate the 2014 views of residents of every state, county, and congressional district on key climate science and policy questions.
This Tuesday, the voters look a bit different than they did on March 1. Residents of the Northeast hold some of the country's most progressive (and accurate) views on climate change, according to the Yale study. Small majorities in most of Tuesday's state's—as well as in nearby New York, which voted last week—embrace the scientific consensus.
Here's another way to crunch the same data. The researchers combined people who said global warming is caused mostly by humans with those who attribute it to both humans and nature. They also combined two kinds of climate science deniers: people who think the warming is natural and those who don't think the planet is getting warmer at all.
Those numbers look pretty good for science, especially when you compare them with those from some of the Southern states that voted on Super Tuesday.
But here's the thing: Trump may insist global warming is a "hoax," but that isn't stopping him from winning in states where most people understand he's wrong. He won Massachusetts and Vermont on Super Tuesday. He won overwhelmingly in New York last week. And he's leading in the polls in every state voting Tuesday.
That's probably because voters in Republican primaries don't have the same views on science as the average resident of their states. In New Hampshire, for instance, large majorities of Democrats and independents say humans are the main cause of global warming. But only a small minority of Republicans agree. Trump won New Hampshire by 20 percentage points.
Now, a new report from Media Matters for America (my former employer) reveals just how bad the problem has been. According to Media Matters, there have been a whopping 1,477 questions asked during the 20 Republican and Democratic debates so far. Just 22 of those questions—or about 1.5 percent—have been about climate change. Nine of the debates, including one that took place four days after the historic Paris climate agreement, included no global warming questions whatsoever.
The performance of the networks has varied substantially. ABC has hosted two debates, and PBS has hosted one; neither network asked a single climate question, according to Media Matters. Fox News and its sister network, Fox Business, have hosted five debates; less than 1 percent of their questions have been about climate. The same is true for CBS, which has hosted two debates. CNN (six debates) and the various NBC-affiliated networks (three debates) have done a bit better. Univision, by contrast, focused on climate change in more than 7 percent of the questions in its recent Democratic debate.
Some debate moderators have paid far more attention to climate than others. According to data provided by Media Matters, CNN's Jake Tapper asked five climate questions—nearly a quarter of all the climate questions so far. CNN's Anderson Cooper asked four, and the Washington Post's Karen Tumulty, who co-moderated the Univision debate, asked three.
Questions in the Democratic debates were more than twice as likely to focus on climate as questions in the Republican debates, according to Media Matters. What's more, the GOP's climate science-denying front-runners, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, have not had to answer a single question about the issue. (Cruz was asked about his position on ethanol mandates.)
The Media Matters study doesn't include the GOP's so-called "undercard" debates, which featured an assortment of low-polling candidates and tended to air during the West Coast's workday. Those debates actually featured some of the most interesting exchanges on climate. Here's former New York Gov. George Pataki in CNBC's October 28 undercard debate, criticizing his fellow Republicans for refusing the accept the scientific consensus: