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

Not the best look.

NurPhoto/Getty

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.”

THANK YOU.

We recently wrapped up the crowdfunding campaign for our ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project, and it was a smashing success. About 10,364 readers pitched in with donations averaging $45, and together they contributed about $467,374 toward our $500,000 goal.

That's amazing. We still have donations from letters we sent in the mail coming back to us, so we're on pace to hit—if not exceed—that goal. Thank you so much. We'll keep you posted here as the project ramps up, and you can join the hundreds of readers who have alerted us to corruption to dig into.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight 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

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.