Tim McDonnell joined Climate Desk after stints at Mother Jones and Sierra magazine. He remains a cheerful guy despite covering climate change all the time. Originally from Tucson, Tim loves tortillas and epic walks.
Last night Stephen Colbert premiered The Late Show on CBS, the talk-show staple he took over from David Letterman (who performed his final show in May). Colbert's guests included Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush, George Clooney, and a cursed ancient amulet with a taste for hummus (an ingenious play on Colbert's requirement to ruthlessly sell products to his new, larger late-night audience.)
Colbert's tone was predictably a departure from that of the buffoonish conservative zealot he played on The Colbert Report on Comedy Central. Here, while still a smart goofball, Colbert seemed delighted to shed a decade of playing just one character, and noticeably conscious of taking on a bigger stage, quite literally: The Ed Sullivan theater in Manhattan has been sumptuously renovated and decorated for the occasion.
One of the best segments, in an unpredictable and larger-than-life show jammed with jokes, was when Colbert ripped into everyone's favorite top-polling, golden-haired, low-hanging comedic fruit—Donald Trump—and satirized the media's gluttonous obsession with covering him (using another not-so-subtle product placement). Enjoy:
German well-wishers await migrants at Frankfurt's train station over the weekend.
Over the weekend, tens of thousands of migrants continued to push across Europe, most of them fleeing wars in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, as European leaders scrambled to agree on a way to equitably distribute the newcomers across the continent. For many of the migrants, Germany has emerged as the most desired location:
The numbers tell the story: 100 migrants are arriving in Germany every hour, according to the Telegraph. Yesterday, Germany's vice chancellor said his country can accommodate 500,000 migrants annually for the next several years, and that $6.6 billion has been set aside for costs related to processing and accommodating them. Up to 800,000 are expected to arrive this year alone, far more than in any other European nation. Already, Germany has Europe's largest population of migrants, just shy of 10 million in total, comprising about 11 percent of the country's population.
Why Germany? There are a few key reasons, said Jacqueline Bhabha, an expert on migration at Harvard's School of Public Health. The first is inertia: Because many migrants have already made it to Germany, other family members are likely to stick together and follow suit.
The second is economics: Germany has Europe's biggest economy and lowest unemployment rate. For migrants seeking jobs, Germany is probably the safest bet. In fact, some of the country's most prominent backers of refugee-friendly policies are industry groups, who have argued that migrants are needed to help fill a labor shortage. In a recent op-ed for Newsweek, the head of the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce wrote that "many companies are desperate to find trainees and qualified staff, while some refugees have qualifications that are dearly needed. This potential needs to be exploited to a much larger extent."
But perhaps most importantly, Germany has a legacy of opening its doors to refugees that dates back to World War II, when millions of refugees fled out of the country.
"Germany sees itself as having a historical commitment," Bhabha said.
For the last several years, as hundreds of thousands of migrants have fled turmoil in the Middle East, German politicians and the media have captured and pushed that notion with the buzzword "Willkommenskultur" ("welcoming culture"), meant to signify a cultural commitment to welcoming immigrants.
"Germany has traditionally been more generous than France or the UK, and people know that," Jacqueline Bhabha said.
"That has been perpetuated at a high level in Germany that you haven't seen elsewhere," said Susan Fratzke, an analyst at the Migration Policy Institute. "There's been this persistent, positive narrative that Germany needs more people."
For that reason, Fratzke said, Germany has a relative bounty of social services directed toward migrants: Subsidized housing, education, health care, and so on, and a streamlined process for filing immigration paperwork.
Bhabha added Germany has a relatively low bar when it comes to defining who qualifies as a refugee, under the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees, to which all the EU nations are signatories. That agreement stipulates that anyone who is fleeing persecution in their home country can seek refuge elsewhere, but it lets each host country decide independently which people qualify as refugees, as opposed to other categories of migrants.
"Germany has traditionally been more generous than France or the UK, and people know that," Bhabha said. "So if you get to Germany, then Germany will tend to accept you."
For Syrians specifically, German Chancellor Angela Merkel last month changed the country's rules so that Syrians can stay in the country while applying for asylum, rather than being turned back to the EU country where they first arrived.
Germany's pro-migrant attitude has been made manifest in train stations across the country over the last few days, as Germans turn up to offer tea, toys, and words of welcome to arriving migrants. But there could be darker consequences ahead, if the massive influx proves to be political ammunition for the country's right-wing nationalists who want more stringent immigration policies.
"There could be a backlash," Fratzke said. "It takes a while for the public to adjust to the new normal."
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said in a statement that the settlement with the family of Freddie Gray would be sent to the Baltimore Board of Estimates for a vote on Wednesday...
"The proposed settlement agreement going before the Board of Estimates should not be interpreted as a judgment on the guilt or innocence of the officers facing trial," Ms. Rawlings-Blake said. The proposed settlement will be paid as $2.8 million in the current fiscal year and $3.6 million in the year beginning in July of 2016.
Six Baltimore police officers are currently being tried on criminal charges relating to Gray's death, which sparked massive national protests in April.
The proposed settlement is close in amount to the $5.9 million agreement reached in July between New York City and the family of Eric Garner, who also died at the hands of the police, and eclipses the total $5.7 million that Baltimore has paid in all 102 alleged police misconduct cases since 2011, according to the Baltimore Sun.
Back in January, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) made a promise. His state, he said, would pursue a new package of climate goals that are the most ambitious in the nation (and among the most ambitious in the world). California was already a leader in efforts to slash greenhouse gas emissions and promote clean energy. Brown pledged to go further. By 2030, he declared, California would double the energy efficiency of state buildings; get half its electricity from renewables; and halve consumption of gasoline by cars and trucks.
At the time, all those nice-sounding goals were just words in a speech. But they could very soon become the law of the land. The state legislature is currently considering several bills (SB 350 is the most important) that would codify Brown's climate agenda. The legislation is widely expected to pass before the end of the legislative session next Friday, but not without a fight from the state's powerful oil lobby.
Before we get into the bills themselves, let's talk about California. Believe it or not, the state where America fell in love with cars and highways is now leading the nation, and the world, when it comes to climate action. And that matters, because California, the world's seventh-largest economy, is a world-class emitter of greenhouse gases. It ranks second for state emissions, behind Texas, and if it were its own nation, it would rank 20th globally, right between Italy and Spain. Still, it's remarkably clean for its size: On a per-capita basis, it ranks 45th among US states and 38th when compared with countries around the world. (Below, the bars represent total emissions and the dots represent per-capita emissions.)
California Air Resources Board
California is also special because of how much of its emissions come from road transportation (cars, trucks, buses, etc.), which is why a major reduction in gasoline use would be so significant. Nationally, just 27 percent of greenhouse gas emissions are from transportation; in California, it's 37 percent. Another way to crunch those numbers: One-tenth of the nation's road transport emissions come from California. Unsurprisingly, California is also the biggest consumer of gasoline, accounting for one-tenth of the national gas market. As a result, it also has an infamously aggressive oil lobby—more on that in a minute.
"If California can do this, it could really be the beginning of the snowball," Tim O'Connor said.
California first stepped onto the national climate stage back in 2006 during the Arnold Schwarzenegger administration, with the passage of AB32, known as the Global Warming Solutions Act. That law sets a target of reducing the state's economy-wide carbon footprint to 1990 levels by 2020. Since the bill was enacted, gasoline consumption in the state is down 9 percent—double the nationwide decline. Total carbon emissions are also down, while GDP and population are both on the rise. Roll those things together and you get the most impressive number: The carbon intensity of the state's economy (that is, emissions per unit of GDP) is down 28 percent. The upshot is that California has become a proving ground for the notion that strong economic growth and climate action can go hand in hand:
That's where the current bills come in. SB 350 would bring the state's gasoline consumption down to about where Florida's is now, while setting new targets for clean energy and energy efficiency projects. There's also SB32, which would build on Schwarzenegger's targets and require the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 (to meet that target, emissions have to start falling about five times faster than they currently are). That would be the most aggressive state target in the country; nationally, the furthest President Barack Obama has gone is to aim for a 26-28 percent reduction by 2025 (and that's not enshrined in law, either). Both bills passed the state Senate in June by a wide margin; they're due for a vote in the Assembly within the coming week. If they pass, they'll head to Brown's desk for a signature.
Neither bill includes specific prescriptions for how to meet the targets. Those are left to the state's Air Resources Board (CARB), which would be required to turn in an enforcement plan by 2017. The gas consumption target would likely require some combination of new fuel efficiency standards for cars, incentives for alternative fuels and biofuels, cooperation with local planning agencies to improve public transit and make communities less car-reliant, and a push to get people to buy more electric vehicles. (California is already home to half of the roughly 174,000 electric vehicles on the road in the United States.)
"If California can do this, it could really be the beginning of the snowball," said Tim O'Connor, director of California policy for the Environmental Defense Fund. "This is how California can really shake up the national conversation on climate."
The oil lobby has long been the most powerful special interest group in Sacramento.
Combined, these efforts are expected to create up to half a million jobs, according to a recent University of California-Berkeley study, and draw billions in clean tech investments (for which California is already the undisputed national champ). The bills' supporters in the California capitol also say they will save millions of dollars in traffic-related public health costs and result in reduced energy bills.
Because of the state's share of the gasoline market, and its robust oil and gas production industry, the oil lobby has long been the most powerful special interest in Sacramento. The biggest group, the Western States Petroleum Association, spent $8.9 million on lobbying last year. Now, Californians are getting blitzed by ads like the one below, from the so-called California Drivers Alliance (backed by WSPA, and representing "fuel users & providers"). The ad claims SB 350 will lead to gas rationing and is all about "limiting how far we can drive" and "penalizing drivers for using too much gas." The bill's sponsor, Sen. Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles), called the ad "absurd" and "fear-mongering."
"There's a significant amount of inertia protecting the industry," O'Connor said. "The lobby is putting its aim right at the center, at swing moderates" in the Assembly.
We'll have to wait and see how this pans out. But California has a strong history of leadership on climate policies—including carbon trading programs (it created the nation's first economy-wide cap-and-trade market in 2012) and clean vehicle standards—so the odds are pretty good.
"The governor has put his reputation on the line," O'Connor said. "It's hard to imagine 350 won't pass."