Joe Biden’s Climate Plan Copied Language and “Inadvertently” Forgot Citations

Not the best look.

NurPhoto/Getty

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.

Hours after Democratic candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden released his plan to address climate change Tuesday, individuals and the media began to point out some questionable similarities between passages of the presidential frontrunner’s proposal, posted to his website, and materials from other organizations and websites. Biden’s plan has since been changed to reflect appropriate citations. 

While the candidate, of course, is almost certainly not directly responsible for writing and posting this himself, it’s still an embarrassing screw-up for the campaign—particularly as Biden’s run has been somewhat plagued by the memory of plagiarism accusations from his 1988 presidential bid. At the time, then-Senator Biden was accused of plagiarizing a speech from a British politician, though Biden has always claimed the incident was an oversight.

The recent accusations were first pointed out on Twitter by Josh Nelson, co-director of “progressive” telecommunications company CREDO Mobile. “The paragraph in Joe Biden’s climate plan about carbon capture and sequestration,” Nelson writes, includes language that “is remarkably similar to items published previously by the Blue Green Alliance and the Carbon Capture Coalition”—organizations that work at the intersection of environmental policy and labor.

Business Insider also reported another instance of alleged plagiarism in the climate plan. Here’s text from the original campaign proposal:

Biden’s goal is to make CCUS a widely available, cost-effective, and rapidly scalable solution to reduce carbon emissions to meet mid-century climate goals.

And here’s text, as Business Insider points out, from the “our work” section of the website for the Carbon Capture Coalition’s Center for Climate and Energy Solutions:

Its goal is to make carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS) a widely available, cost-effective, and rapidly scalable solution to reduce carbon emissions to meet mid-century climate goals.

The Daily Caller also noticed something familiar about a section from the Biden campaign about the disproportionate harms of climate change and pollution on communities of color. Here’s the Biden campaign again, the Daily Caller notes:

40% of the 567 federally recognized tribes in U.S. live in Alaska where the rapid pace of rising temperatures and melting sea ice and glaciers threaten the critical infrastructure and traditional livelihoods in the state.

Compare that with text from Climate.gov, a federal website:

Of the 567 federally recognized tribes in the United States, 40 percent (229 tribes) live in Alaska Native communities. The rapid pace of rising temperatures, melting sea ice and glaciers, and thawing permafrost in Alaska is having a significant negative impact on critical infrastructure and traditional livelihoods in the state.

The Biden campaign told Business Insider, “Several citations were inadvertently left out of the final version of the 22-page document. As soon as we were made aware of it, we updated to include the proper citations.” They have since been updated. When Mother Jones reached out for comment, the campaign said it had “nothing further to give.”

WE'RE TAKING A SHORT BREAK…

from the big banner at the top of our pages asking for the donations that make Mother Jones' nonprofit journalism possible. But we still have upwards of $300,000 to raise by June 30, whether we get there is going to come down to the wire, and we can't afford to come up short.

If you value the reporting you get from Mother Jones and you can right now, please join your fellow readers who pitch in from time to time to keep our democracy-advancing, justice-seeking journalism charging hard (and to help us avoid a real budget crunch as June 30 approaches and our fiscal year ends).

payment methods

WE'RE TAKING A SHORT BREAK…

from the big banner at the top of our pages asking for the donations that make Mother Jones' nonprofit journalism possible. But we still have upwards of $300,000 to raise by June 30, whether we get there is going to come down to the wire, and we can't afford to come up short.

If you value the reporting you get from Mother Jones and you can right now, please join your fellow readers who pitch in from time to time to keep our democracy-advancing, justice-seeking journalism charging hard (and to help us avoid a real budget crunch as June 30 approaches and our fiscal year ends).

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate