During today’s morning session, we had a speaker that talked about environmental policy and climate change. The speaker’s name was Bob Deans, the Director of Strategic Engagement at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). For the most part, Deans was there to inform us on the realities of climate change. First of all, he repudiated the claim that climate change is a hoax. 19 of the hottest years ever recorded have all been within the last 20 years, we have seen a 43% increase in carbon dioxide emissions in the last hundred years, and sea levels are expected to rise 3-9% by the end of this century. These are all scientific facts perpetuated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a legitimate government institution. The question that kept popping into my mind is how can someone reject scientific fact? How can someone write off the figures that the NOAA has released regarding the changing climate of our planet as “fake facts” or a “hoax”? To me, this is just a way for people to escape responsibility and therefore, try and stifle out the looming threat that global warming poses to our planet. In the past, Donald Trump has been quoted saying things such as “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” However, Trump has also acknowledged climate change’s legitimacy. A Politico article says, “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…to protect one of his golf courses from global warming and its effects.” So clearly, to some individuals, global warming is only legitimate when it’s convenient. According to Deans, Trump has also claimed that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations on businesses are “job killers”, when in fact, these regulations only account for three-tenths of 1% of layoffs. Deans told us a story about a woman from West Virginia who stood up for her community against a coal mining company who were initially denied the rights to blow up the mountains, but had legislative leverage which allowed them to proceed anyway. Deans told us that she said, “we have the best legislature that coal companies can buy.” If you think about it, that’s true to an extent. Some legislators are catering to coal companies and other fossil fuel companies in an effort to look out for their self interest rather than the welfare of our planet, and this should be troublesome to more people than it seems to be. When re-election is higher on the to-do list than saving the planet and preserving it for generations to come, that’s the point at which we need as citizens should speak up. Deans also talked about a couple of the misconceptions regarding climate change. He said that contrary to popular belief, our dependence on foreign oil production in the United States has been cut almost in half, and we actually produce 12.5 million barrels of oil per day in the U.S. We are often told that we need to accelerate our oil production in order to compete globally, but that’s simply not the case. Something that has become destructive to our progress on this issue is the fact that it has become a very polarized, hot button topic across party lines. We’ve gotten to the point that if you say that you believe in global warming you’re on one side of the aisle, and if you don’t you’re on the other side. Deans explained how we’ve had a long history of bipartisan common sense climate protection legislation, but somehow we’ve become divided on this very real issue. He closed by giving us an example: on average, 97 out of 100 scientists will tell you that global warming is real, and they can back it up with scientific figures. There are still 3 people who will denounce these facts. Deans says that this would be like going to the hospital, and 97 of 100 doctors tell you that you have a broken bone and need a cast. There will still be 3 people who say that they don’t need medical care, even though the evidence is stacked heavily against them. This is what it’s like when people refuse to believe that global warming is a true threat.
Later on, our small group visited the Brazilian Embassy to talk with the trade policy staff about our diplomatic relations with Brazil. We discussed things such as the geographic regions of Brazil, the GDP, inflation, interest rates, and the massive income inequality in Brazil. Something interesting that the staff member showed us was something called the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) “Better Life Index.” This illustration shows what each country believes is something that would make their country safer and more prosperous. This illustrates the differences between countries like Brazil and United States in terms of what they value, and what they choose to pursue as well as invest in.
The embassy staff explained that in terms of trade, Brazil doesn’t like to “put all of their eggs in one basket.” Brazil tries to balance ties with countries such as the U.S., China, and members of the European Union so they they don’t concentrate too much in one place. He went on to explain Brazil’s relations with the United States. He said that in 2014, Brazil was the U.S.’s 9th largest trading partner and our 7th largest export market. Brazil’s top exports to the United States are soybeans, oil and fuel, and airplanes. Another interesting fact is that Burger King along with Budweiser are both Brazilian investments in the United States. The staff in the embassy closed by saying that unlike several other countries, Brazil is not concerned about Trump’s administration changing things that would effect Brazil’s trade and investment in the United States. They expect Trump to work well with them as Obama has.
Tomorrow, our session will concentrate on the economy and budget. I can’t wait to see what our speakers have in store for us!