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Global Power

One million plant and animal species are on the verge of extinction and facing an unparalleled rate of decline, driven in party by global warming, according to a landmark United Nations report released on Monday.

The 1,500 page report, compiled by 150 authors from 50 nations, showed that losses in biodiversity around the world caused by human activity (farming, poaching, fishing, mining, logging, and other unsustainable practices for a population of 7 billion people) has been exacerbated by the effects of human-caused climate change, painting a devastating picture of the Earth's ecosystem if countries do not dramatically increase conservation efforts. 

  • “Unless nations step up their efforts to protect what natural habitats are left, they could witness the disappearance of 40 percent of amphibian species, one-third of marine mammals and one-third of reef-forming corals. More than 500,000 land species, the report said, do not have enough natural habitat left to ensure their long-term survival,” according to the New York Times's Brad Plumer. 

The human toll: The loss of species “means grave impacts on people around the world are now likely.” 

  • “The most important thing isn’t necessarily that we’re losing . . . 1 million species — although that’s important, don’t misunderstand me,” said Robert Watson, a British chemist who served as the panel's chairman, according to my colleague Darryl Fears“The bigger issue is the way it will affect human well-being, as we’ve said many times — food, water, energy, human health.”
  • “We care about nature, but we care about human well-being,” Watson added. “We need to link it to human well-being; that’s the crucial thing. Otherwise we’re going to look like a bunch of tree-huggers.”

Not too late: “It is not too late to make a difference,” say the report's authors. But that would require countries implement “transformative changes.”

  • " . . . piecemeal efforts to protect individual species or to set up wildlife refuges will no longer be sufficient. Instead, [the report's authors] call for 'transformative changes' that include curbing wasteful consumption, slimming down agriculture’s environmental footprint and cracking down on illegal logging and fishing,” according to Plumer. 
  • The report suggests “a shift beyond standard economic indicators such as gross domestic product to include those able to capture more holistic, long-term views of economics and quality of life.”

Kicker: “Since 1992, we’ve been telling the world we have a problem,” Watson said. “Now what’s different? It’s much worse today than it was in 1992. We’ve wasted all of the time . . . the last 25 years.”

 

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In the Agencies

Transformative change on climate policy, brought to you by the U.S. at least, seems like a far-fetched notion at the moment.

In a ministerial statement released this morning by the Arctic Council, a group of eight Arctic countries and indigenous peoples, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is attending a meeting of those countries in Finland, there was zero mention of "climate change," despite evidence sea ice there is rapidly melting.

  • Key point: “Finnish Foreign Minister Timo Soini said Tuesday there will be no joint declaration as the summit couldn’t get the United States to agree on a text that includes language about climate change. Instead, he said there would be statements from ministers and Finland which currently holds the chair of the Arctic Council," the AP reported.

Say what? In a speech yesterday to the council, Pompeo suggested the Arctic's melting ice caps were good for trade. 

  • “Steady reductions in sea ice are opening new passageways and new opportunities for trade,” Pompeo told the room of diplomats. “This could potentially slash the time it takes to travel between Asia and the West by as much as 20 days.”

The room was well aware of U.S. climate skepticism in the Trump administration. But Pompeo still managed to stun diplomats by delivering a call to keep China and Russia's “aggressive behavior” in check by touting a fortified U.S. military presence in the region. 

Pompeo suggested the Arctic Council look beyond “environmental research into events that may or may not occur in 100 years," his closest reference to the phrase “climate change.” 

  • “Everything has been focused on constructive cooperation where you don’t bring outside problems in,” Malgorzata Smieszek, a political scientist and a fellow at the International Arctic Science Committee, told the New York Times's Somini Sengupta. “All of a sudden, the speech today shifted everyone’s attention to, ‘Are we looking at next conflict in Arctic?’ when the real issue here is still climate change. No speech will change that.”

Leading up to Pompeo's trip, The Post's Anne Gearan, Carol Morello and John Hudson reported the Trump administration “sought to remove references to climate change from an international statement on Arctic policy that [Pompeo] is expected to endorse . . . leading to sometimes testy negotiations over how much to emphasize an issue considered a crisis for the region.” The U.S. also pushed for no mention of the Paris climate agreement in the joint statement that will be issued by Finland. 

  • One official predicted to Anne, Carol and John that “the final document will include something 'substantive' and 'robust' on the impact of climate change in the Arctic, although he was not sure whether the phrase ‘climate change’ itself would be used.” 
  • Seems like that didn't happen.

At the Pentagon

That's not to say that there isn't a new battleground developing in the Arctic as polar ice melts, exposing new waterways for maritime trade. The Post's Dan Lamothe has reported extensively on the Pentagon's efforts to keep up with the changing Arctic and moves by China — they've outlined a push for a “Polar Silk Road” — and Russia to tap into the regions natural resources.

  • Lamothe reported in March the Trump administration is drafting a new Arctic defense strategy “focusing heavily on competition with China” that will be delivered to Congress by June. 
  • The U.S. Coast Guard announced a new strategy for the Arctic last month that calls for “upgrading ships, aircraft and unmanned systems there, an effort to make sure the United States is 'projecting sovereignty' into an area increasingly contested by Russia and China, the service’s top officer said,” per Lamothe. 
  • “We want the Arctic to be a peaceful place where we work to cross international lines here with partner nations that share interests in a transparent fashion,” Adm. Karl Schultz, the commandant of the Coast Guard, said in an interview with Lamothe. “But I think if you’re looking around at what’s going on in the Arctic, I would say it’s maybe trending in a slightly different direction. This will pivot with a little more focus on projecting.”

Brrr!: Foreign Policy's Robbie Gramer traveled to Resolute Bay, Nunavut, “a frigid outpost of civilization deep inside the Arctic Circle and home to a small Canadian military base,” to report on Canada's race to respond to China and Russia's expanding influence. 

  • “In response to the growing concern over Russia and China, plus the new demands for search and rescue and other patrols, Ottawa is currently spending billions of dollars to beef up its military capabilities in the Arctic,” Robbie reports. “The Navy is adding more Arctic patrol vessels, its Coast Guard received the first of three new icebreakers last December, the Air Force has purchased more aircraft for search and rescue operations, and the Army is boosting military training exercises like the one in Resolute Bay.”

At the White House

TRUMP'S TRIAL BALLOON: Over the weekend, Trump retweeted Jerry Falwell Jr.'s suggestion that “Trump should have 2 yrs. added to his 1st term as pay back for time stolen by this corrupt failed coup,” referring to the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. 

The White House claims that Trump is joking and not serious about “an extension that would violate the Constitution and has no historical precedent,” but my colleague Ashley Parker reports on the underlying concern from various factions that Trump "“may decide to contest the legitimacy of the election in 2020 if he is defeated or otherwise argue for an extended time in office.”

  • “Everything that he says is a trial balloon — even his, quote, jokes are trial balloons,” said Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a New York University professor who studies authoritarian rulers. “But if you look at what he jokes about, it’s always things like this — it’s the extension of his rights, it’s the infringement of liberties. And authoritarians are continually testing the boundaries to see what they can get away with, and everything he does is a challenge to Democrats to mount some response against him.” 

Trump's allies like Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) chalked the retweet up to Trump's “sort of dry sense of humor” and frustration with special counsel Bob Mueller's two-year long investigation. 

  • “How hilariously ironic that it’s the Democrats who refuse to accept the results of a free and fair presidential election in 2016, refuse to accept the clear results of a nearly 400-page report that showed no collusion and no obstruction, but now, they have the audacity to question the president ‘accepting results?’ — give me a break,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley responded. 

The Investigations

MNUCHIN REFUSES TO TURN OVER TRUMP’S TAXES: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told a top House Democrat on Monday the IRS will not be turning over the president’s tax returns. The decision, while expected, almost certainly guarantees a subpoena and a court fight.

  • House Democrats had tried to focus their appeals to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, but Mnuchin delivered the news in a letter to House Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.), whose panel had requested six years of the president’s personal returns along with some returns from Trump’s businesses.
  • The Justice Department steps in: Mnuchin’s letter states the DOJ will back up the refusal to release returns in a “published legal opinion as soon as practicable.” (We have yet to see it.)
  • Neal had been slammed by some progressive groups for not requesting the returns sooner, but the he defended his approach as laying the groundwork for a possible court fight.

Our colleagues Damian Paletta and Jeff Stein report that a legal battle could go all the way to the Supreme Court, “House Democrats have insisted they are on strong legal footing in their request for the tax returns, and several lawmakers said they expect to file a lawsuit so that a federal judge will rule on the matter. This process could take months, though, and ultimately end up before the Supreme Court.”

The People

BOOKER UNVEILS SWEEPING GUN LAW PROPOSAL: New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker called for a national gun licensing program, part of a 14-point plan that also includes a ban on assault weapons and on high-capacity magazines. While the NRA has remained silent on the proposal for now, some of Booker’s Republican colleagues slammed the 2020 contender's idea.

The details:

  • The licensing component, according to Booker’s campaign, would treat gun ownership like “applying for or renewing a passport” by requiring would-be gun owners to submit fingerprints, provide basic background information and complete a gun-safety course.The license would last up to five years. 
  • Bans and limits: The plan calls for a ban of assault weapons and bump stocks. Gun owners would also be limited to buying one handgun per month.
  • The NRA: Booker has promised a fight “like the NRA has never seen before.” His plans also calls for the IRS to review the group’s nonprofit status.
  • Read the full plan here: https://bit.ly/302PRXt

While some of the points would require congressional approval, Booker promises executive action “beginning on day one” if he's installed in the White House in 2021.

Booker’s plan was praised by a number of activist groups, including Giffords: Courage to Fight Gun Violence, the organization founded by former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords, and Brady, formerly known as the Brady Campaign Against Gun Violence.

Booker did face opposition from Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) who slammed the proposal on Twitter:

In the Media

GREAT NEWS: Two Reuters journalists jailed in Myanmar after they were convicted of breaking the Official Secrets Act walked free from a prison on the outskirts of Yangon on Tuesday after spending more than 500 days behind bars,” Reuters's Simon Lewis and Shoon Naing report from Yangon, Myanmar. 

  • “I’m really happy and excited to see my family and my colleagues. I can’t wait to go to my newsroom,” Wa Lone said as they joyously walked through the gates of Insein Prison. 

  • Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested in December 2017 in the midst of their investigation into “the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys by security forces and Buddhist civilians in western Myanmar’s Rakhine State during an army crackdown that began in August 2017.”

  • The report the two men authored, featuring testimony from perpetrators, witnesses and families of the victims, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting in May, adding to a number of accolades received by the pair for their journalism.”

Earning It: Morning Joe's Mika Brzezinski and booking producer Daniela Pierre-Bravo are out with their book today, 'Earn It!,' a millennial's guidebook to navigating your career.

  • The premise is based off Pierre-Bravo's own experience as an undocumented immigrant who struggled to break into an industry as an “outsider” and from Pierre-Bravo's desire to bridge the gap between an individual's capabilities and a network that can feel out of reach. 

The duo commissioned Harvard University to conduct a poll on some of the roadblocks that young women face as they're breaking into their careers. The advice that Brzezinski and Pierre-Bravo provide, along with firsthand anecdotes from leaders and CEOs across a range of fields, provide tangible ways of addressing some of these issues: 

  • “Research from Harvard’s Institute of Politics confirms that among young women entering the workplace, members of the Latino community are far less likely than others to have been raised with parents who have a college degree.” 
  • 75 percent of millennial women do not feel confident negotiating their salary; Only about a third (35 percent) of millennial women between 20 and 29 feel confident networking.
  • 29 percent of young women between 18 and 30 do not believe they are paid fairly compared to others in their company in similar roles.
Daniela told Power Up that Vimeo CEO Anjali Sud's advice on negotiation tactics resonated the most: “When you encounter subconscious bias, it’s something subjective. So it’s important to bring objective work to the table to override any subjectivity.”

Viral

One of our favorite lewks from the First Monday in May: