Can We Do It? — Robinson Meyer in The Atlantic looks at the promises and the challenges in the Paris climate change agreement.
With the swing of a gavel on Saturday, the world’s nations adopted the first international agreement to limit the causes of anthropogenic climate change. For the first time in history, more than 150 countries have promised to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide they emit into the atmosphere and to increase these reductions over time.
If ratified, the agreement will include a greater swath of countries than any previous pact, encompassing not only the rich, northern nations that put most of the carbon into the atmosphere, but also the rapidly developing southern states whose emissions could soon dwarf the rest of the world’s.
The document also nods to a more ambitious ultimate goal than any previous agreement. While reinforcing the long-stated international aim of keeping the rise in average global temperatures below two degrees Celsius, it encourages a new push to cap warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius.
“If adopted, countries have united around a historic agreement that marks a turning point in the climate crisis,” said Jennifer Morgan, who directs the climate program at the World Resources Institute, after the final text was announced.
In order to get to this point, national negotiating teams had to resolve many intricate and complicated issues central to international climate diplomacy. But if you have only been following the talks somewhat, you may be more interested in a de facto question posed by Venezuela’s lead climate negotiator, Claudia Salerno. Two hours into the most acrimonious public meeting that occurred during the talks, a nearly four-hour plenary on Wednesday, she described her hope for after the talks.
“I want to go back home, and look my daughters in the face, and say, ‘It’s all going to be fine,’” she told the other negotiators. “‘You’re going to be fine.’”
Venezuela, a petroleum producer, does not have a spotless climate record, and Salerno has pulled stunts at the climate talks before. But in her way, she was stating the prime question behind our roiling crisis. It was the only question that people asked me when I said I had been covering the Paris talks all week:
Are we going to be okay?
The answer is more complicated than yes or no.
Over the past half decade, more money has been committed to renewable energy than ever before, and the prices of solar and wind energy have fallen precipitously. But in order to halt climate change, many more billions will need to be expended. Research and development budgets, at both governments and companies, must quadruple or sextuple in size. And meanwhile investors must divest themselves of investment in fossil fuels.
The Paris agreement is meant to spur that great re-investment, by signaling the imminent end of the fossil-fuel business and the fantastic opportunity in renewable energy. It hopes to address the boardrooms of the world and say: Keep it up.
Which is good, because in no way are the emissions reductions that countries have made right now adequate. The carbon dioxide cuts specified at Paris will not keep the planet to 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming; they will not even keep it to two. If these cuts were made and no more, the world would warm about 2.7 degrees by 2100. That’s better than the track we’ve been on for a long time, but it is still a catastrophic event.
Everyone knows this. Christiana Figueres, the UN’s lead climate change negotiator and the impresario of Paris, told The New Yorker earlier this year that, “If anyone comes to Paris and has a eureka moment—‘Oh, my God, the [national cutbacks] do not take us to two degrees!’—I will chop the head off whoever publishes that. Because I’ve been saying this for a year and a half.”
The hope of the Paris talks is that it will not matter, that future technological advancements and reduction commitments will get us below the line. And part of the success of the talks is that there will likely be future cutbacks. Because, in a larger sense, the Paris talks have sounded a new era in how the world—as a global system of nation-states—manages climate change.
Time To Worry About Trump — John Cassidy in The New Yorker.
For months now, there has been a disjuncture at the heart of the Republican Presidential race. The opinion polls have had Donald Trump leading handily, but the pundits and prediction (or betting) markets have been saying that it is unlikely he will win the nomination. Even today, this is true.
A new CBS News/New York Times poll shows Trump pulling further ahead of his rivals, with the support of thirty-five per cent of likely voters in the G.O.P. primaries. The survey placed Trump’s nearest challenger, Ted Cruz, almost twenty percentage points behind him. Other recent polls have produced similar results. The Real Clear Politics poll average shows Trump at 30.4 per cent, Cruz at 15.6 per cent, and Ben Carson at 13.6 per cent.
But if you go to online betting sites, where people can wager real money on this stuff, you will get a very different impression of the race. Marco Rubio, who got just nine per cent in the CBS News/Times poll, is still regarded as the strong favorite to land the nomination. At some bookies, the odds of Rubio winning are just 5/4, meaning you have to wager forty dollars to win fifty. Trump is the second-favorite, but gamblers can still obtain odds of 3/1 (or even 4/1) on him being the candidate. Predictwise, an online site that combines information from the betting markets and the polls, reckons the likelihood of Trump winning is just twenty per cent, whereas the probability of Rubio winning is forty-one per cent.
How can these numbers be explained? A bit of history is instructive. At this stage in 2003, Howard Dean was leading John Kerry in the polls by eight percentage points. In mid-December, 2007, Hillary Clinton was leading Barack Obama by eighteen points, and on the Republican side Rudy Giuliani had a five-point lead. On December 11, 2011, the Real Clear Politics poll average showed Newt Gingrich with a twelve-point lead over Mitt Romney: 32.8 per cent to 20.8 per cent. None of these leaders went onto win a nomination, which suggests the national polls shouldn’t be taken too seriously.
Moreover, the arguments for Rubio can sound compelling. He’s young and fresh-faced, a good communicator, and the other contenders in the moderate-conservative lane—Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and John Kasich—are all struggling. If they eventually drop out, much of their support could go to Rubio. Arguably, the senator from Florida also has the background, and political skills, to pick up some ultra-conservative voters: when he was elected to the Senate, in 2010, he was widely perceived as a Tea Party candidate. Right now, nobody else in the Republican field looks capable of putting together such a coalition.
Except for Trump, that is.
Even though early polls often turn out to be unreliable, it’s hard to ignore the fact that he’s been leading in them for five months now. If this is a blip, it is a very extended one. And during the past few weeks, two things have happened which also suggest it is time to reassess Trump’s prospects. First, more evidence has emerged that he isn’t just picking up the support of furious white men in pickup trucks who see the country slipping away from them: his support is a good deal broader than that. And second, the murderous attacks in Paris and San Bernardino have changed the dynamics of the Republican race, bringing the threat of terrorism to the fore. So far, Trump appears to be the principal beneficiary.
Take New Hampshire, where polls show Trump well ahead. A new CNN/WMUR survey of people likely to vote in the G.O.P. primary, which takes place on February 9th, shows him garnering support from virtually all corners of the Republican Party. To be sure, he gets his highest favorability ratings from men, self-identified conservatives, and people who didn’t attend college. But among self-identified moderates, forty-seven per cent have a favorable opinion of Trump, compared to forty-three per cent who view him unfavorably. Among women, forty-nine per cent think positively of Trump, and forty-three per cent have a negative opinion. Among college graduates, fifty-eight per cent express a favorable opinion of him, and thirty five per cent a negative opinion.
So much for the angry-white-guy thesis. At the national level, a recent Quinnipiac University survey of Republicans and Republican leaners produced similar findings. Trump was ahead among voters who described themselves as Tea Party members or extremely conservative, but also among those who described themselves as moderate or liberal. When the pollsters asked Republicans if there were any candidates for whom they definitely wouldn’t vote, Trump was the most popular choice. Twenty-six per cent of respondents ruled out backing him. That confirms he’s a polarizing figure, but it also implies that he hasn’t necessarily reached his ceiling.
And now there is the fear of terrorism to consider. Since the November 13th attacks in Paris, Trump’s poll numbers have risen steadily. While many commentators are outraged by his calls for religious profiling, registries of Muslims, and, most recently, an outright ban on Muslims entering the United States, Trump’s strident language clearly resonates with many Republicans, and even some non-Republicans. In the CBS News/Times poll, seventy-nine per cent of Americans said they believe another terrorist attack is very likely or somewhat likely in the next few months, the highest figure since 9/11. And eighty-nine per cent of the people polled said they are concerned about the threat of homegrown terrorists inspired by foreign extremists.
In terms of inspiring confidence on this issue, Trump ranks highest among the Republican candidates. Seventy-one per cent of Republican primary voters are very confident or somewhat confident in his ability to handle the threat of terrorism, the CBS News/Times poll found. Other surveys have produced similar findings. Asked which candidate could best handle ISIS, forty-six per cent of registered Republicans sampled in a recent national poll from CNN picked Trump. Ted Cruz came in second, but he was trailing Trump by thirty-one percentage points on this key issue.
As of yet, it is too early to say exactly how the furor over Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims will play out. The CBS News/Times poll was carried out largely before he issued his statement on Monday. What scattered evidence there is, such as a Fox News poll from South Carolina and another new poll from New Hampshire, both of which did some sampling on Tuesday, suggest Trump is maintaining—and perhaps even extending—his lead among Republicans. “The question that people have been asking this week is whether the comments that Donald Trump made earlier this week would hurt him,” said Steve Koczela, the pollster who carried out the latest poll in the Granite State for the public-radio station WBUR. “And what this poll shows is that in New Hampshire that certainly was not the case.”
Appearing on Fox on Thursday, Frank Luntz, the G.O.P. pollster who a few days ago conducted a focus group with Trump supporters that received quite a bit of attention, said it is “time for the Republican establishment to accept the fact that Trump is not only a viable candidate, but this lead is real.” Notwithstanding the fate of previous primary front-runners, the same point could be applied to pundits and everybody else. Right now the question isn’t whether Trump could win the Republican nomination; it’s: What is it going to take to stop him?
Armed and Quite Possibly Dangerous — How easy is it to get a concealed carry permit? Tim Murphy of Mother Jones finds out.
According to the state of Utah, I earned the right to carry a concealed handgun on a Saturday morning in a suburban shopping center outside Baltimore. Toward the back, next to a pawnshop and White Trash Matt’s tattoo parlor, is the global headquarters of Dukes Defense World, a mom-and-pop firearms instruction shop certified by the Utah Bureau of Criminal Identification to teach nonresidents firearm safety as a prerequisite for obtaining a concealed-carry permit.
My achievement doesn’t make sense for a number of reasons. One, I don’t live in Utah. I’m a resident of Washington, DC, a city that holds concealed handguns in roughly the same esteem as working escalators. I’ve never shot a gun. And in distinctly un-Utahn fashion, I’m nursing a hangover. Fortunately, none of that matters here. After four hours at Dukes Defense, I have a completed application and a snazzy graduation certificate for my wall. Sixty days after my application is processed, I’ll be able to carry a concealed weapon in no fewer than 32 states. It’s great for road trips.
Over the last two decades, Utah’s concealed-carry permit has emerged as a de facto national ID for handgun owners. It typifies a new era of arming Americans in public: 40 states now recognize some or all out-of-state permits, and 8 have made it legal in all or some circumstances to carry a concealed handgun without any permit at all. In April, the Senate came just three votes short of passing a measure that would have mandated reciprocity for concealed-carry permits—including the ones Utah so freely hands out—nationwide.
As part of a National Rifle Association-backed movement to roll back concealed-carry restrictions, in the mid-1990s Utah became a “shall issue” state. That means it grants concealed-carry permits unless it has a compelling reason (such as a felony record) not to do so. Licensees don’t need to demonstrate proficiency with a handgun, and they don’t even need to set foot in the Beehive State. They just have to take a class on firearm safety and pay a processing fee (approximately $50) and some of the cheapest renewal fees in the business (as little as 75 cents every five years).
The result has been a boom in out-of-state residents seeking permits and the birth of a cottage industry catering to them. As of June, nonresidents held more than 60 percent of Utah’s 473,476 valid concealed-carry permits. Maryland alone has 33 Utah-certified instructors. One, Mid-Atlantic Firearms Training, boasts “No Firearm Qualification Needed”; another, Semper Fidelis Consulting, touts its NRA ties and its convenience. (It makes house calls.)
My instructor is Kevin Dukes, a 20-year Army veteran who runs Dukes Defense World with his wife, Jenny. He’s ready for battle in cargo pants, a black polo, hiking boots, and black-rimmed hipster glasses that match his gray goatee. A handgun is on his hip. A black-and-white portrait of shotgun-pumping Hatfields—icons of responsible gun ownership if ever there were—sits in the corner. Across the room is a table with a paper invitation that will be his first topic of discussion: “Join the NRA.”
The pitch is straightforward. It costs just $35 to sign on with America’s top gun lobbying group, and membership comes with $2,500 of insurance in case anything happens to your piece. Dukes concedes that not everyone is a fan of the NRA’s politics, but in his view the group puts together smart training programs and its aim is true—”320 million people a year are being saved by guns, because they’re not being killed,” he tells us.
Utah lawmakers’ latest idea is to eliminate the requirement for a permit within the state’s borders entirely—what’s known as “constitutional carry.” In March, Republican Gov. Gary Herbert vetoed such a bill, but gun lobbyists are planning to make another push. Constitutional-carry-type laws already exist in eight states, including Arizona, where former Rep. Gabby Giffords’ assailant was exercising his legal right to carry a Glock 19 and high-capacity magazines. When I asked Carrick Cook, a spokesman for the Arizona Department of Public Safety, what it takes to carry a concealed handgun in Arizona, his response was brief: “Pretty much nothing.” (Residents in constitutional-carry jurisdictions may need to get a permit if they want to cross state lines with a weapon, but that’s usually a formality.)
As Dukes walks us through a long list of precautions, it’s clear that he’s passionate about safety. It’s equally clear that I don’t know the first thing about how to responsibly handle a firearm, let alone carry one in public. Jenny invites us to come up front to practice loading a handgun with fake rounds. When my turn comes, I struggle to load more than a few before they’re ejected halfway across the room. But that’s not going to stop Utah from giving me a permit.
A few weeks after my graduation, I call up Dukes. My application is still being processed, but a question has been nagging at me: What did a seasoned instructor think about the fact that pretty much anyone could walk in and get a Utah permit without demonstrating a lick of proficiency with a gun? While he seems disappointed that I signed up for the class with no actual desire to protect myself, he hardly hesitates: “The Constitution doesn’t say you need it.”
Doonesbury — Anybody can do it.