Emission Critical | Crooked Media
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April 23, 2021
What A Day
Emission Critical

In This Episode

  • President Biden and 40 heads of state met for the first day of a virtual climate summit, yesterday, and he pledged to cut America’s greenhouse gases in half from where they were in 2005 by 2030. Biden also announced a plan for the US to double the amount of money it gives to other countries to help them lower their own emissions.
  • COVID cases are still surging worldwide, with a record 5.24 million new cases recorded just last week. The State Department issued 116 “Do No Travel” advisories to discourage Americans from traveling to most of the world.
  • And in headlines: the House approves a bill that would make DC a state, the Supreme Court rules to restore life without parole for juvenile offenders, and Meghan McCain’s cyberpunk hairstyles are on purpose.




Akilah Hughes: It’s Friday, April 23rd, I’m Akilah Hughes.


Gideon Resnick: And I’m Gideon Resnick, and this is What A Day, a podcast that was created mainly to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Beyoncé’s Lemonade.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, it’s not like I do it every day, but I do it every day. So it just feels like another day for me.


Gideon Resnick: Mm hmm.


Akilah Hughes: On today’s show, your passport can continue to relax in a drawer because the US just recommended that you basically go nowhere outside the country any time soon. Then some headlines. But first, the latest:


[clip of President Biden] By maintaining those investments and putting these people to work, the United States sets out on the road to cut greenhouse gases in half, in half by the end of this decade. That’s where we’re headed as a nation.


Akilah Hughes: That was President Biden speaking yesterday during a virtual climate change summit. The event featured 40 heads of state from across the globe as part of Earth Day. But what were some of the other big takeaways from what Biden said?


Gideon Resnick: Yeah. So, let’s just start with that pledge when he said, quote “cutting it in half” that is measured against the greenhouse gas emissions America was spewing out in 2005. So that year was picked for the U.S. because it is when fossil fuel emissions reached a peak.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah. It was definitely Hummer-time. I remember everybody had those Hummers.


Gideon Resnick: Yes. Multiple H2s rolling up at once to the mall. Also, the year Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith came out. But one of the other key bits of info from Biden was that by 2024, the US plans to double the amount of money it gives to other countries to help them lower their emissions. Those are the initial plans that he laid out yesterday, but we are anticipating more details later this year. And there will be a bigger UN conference in Scotland this November where more details from everyone have to be shared, according to the Paris agreement. And the stakes, of course, literally could not be higher. The U.N. report on climate change said that global emissions need to drop to net zero by 2050, that is to stave off warming by 1.5 degrees Celsius—which does not sound like a ton, but to ice caps and our global weather patterns and to food resources and to the animals that we know and love and way way more, it absolutely is. I.E. we need to get a jump on this years and years ago.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, so that is the goal now, but what does that look like in America? You know, like how do we get there? And by we, I mean, you know, the industries—not individuals—who are actually responsible for most emissions.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, that’s right. I mean 75% of those gases come from transportation, electricity producers and industries that make goods. So NPR had a good article that we can link to that goes through some of these possibilities, but here are a few scenarios. So to start with transportation, more electric cars: by the end of this decade, make them half of new car sales instead of the paltry 2% that they represent now. Then for electricity: solar, wind and other renewables would have to make up something like half of the country’s electricity by 2030. Meanwhile, another goal: no coal. Some other bright ideas include changes to industrial factories, to the energy that’s used in homes, and to how we conserve forests and use farmland. And naturally, in an ideal world, those all would have happened many years ago.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, so many things could have happened before and they haven’t. But of course, the U.S. isn’t the only thing in the world. Right? Although, you know, pointing fingers here, America is historically a big part of the reason we got into this mess. So what were some of the pledges by other world leaders in yesterday’s summit?


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, in many ways we are the driver and we need to encourage some other people to help turn the car around with us. So President Xi Jinping of China said that the country would, quote “strictly limit increasing coal consumption” in the next five years, and then phase it down in the next five after that. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada talked about reducing his country’s emissions by 2030 also. And Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi promised to up the country’s renewable energy capacity by then as well. But overall, on China and India, there were no new commitments to actually ramp up over that period of time. Also, Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro, who has overseen massive destruction of the Amazon—the kind that is not owned by Bezos just yet—promised to get rid of illegal deforestation. I count myself among the many people who are skeptical of that.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, I think that Bolsonaro probably thought they were talking about what they weren’t going to do [laughs] and that’s what he’s talking about. But what were some of the responses from activists to what Biden was saying?


Gideon Resnick: Well, for one thing, the organization Sunrise Movement said that Biden needs to just do more, in part to get the world to follow suit. Others have talked about something more like a 70% cut in emissions, for instance. And then, of course, reminder that on our own home turf we have lawmakers like Representative Ocasio Cortez and Senator Markey who have reintroduced Green New Deal legislation. But ultimately, it really is going to take global efforts to have any hope of avoiding an even further hellscape future.


Akilah Hughes: Mm hmm.


Gideon Resnick: On that bright note, the U.S. might need to step up with its resources to help on the other global crisis: the pandemic.


Akilah Hughes: The latest COVID development seems to be that it’s the U.S. versus the world, not in a good way—not that it ever really is except for the Olympics. But while the U.S. has seen that mostly positive signs from our robust vaccine rollout, you know, 70% fewer hospitalizations among older Americans and fewer deaths, with over 80% of seniors receiving at least one shot, the rest of the world is actually not doing so hot.


Gideon Resnick: And the rest of the U.S. that hasn’t had their chance, really needs to get to and quite soon.


Akilah Hughes: That’s right. And according to the World Health Organization, COVID records are still being set, with 5.24 million new cases just last week. In fact, India alone hit a one day global record with over 314,000 cases in a single day.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, crazy, crazy stuff. And there were updates from our own government about this very issue of global infections yesterday. But not the sharing is caring sentiment that we might have hoped for.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, you know, we’re kind of vaccine hoarders at this point, which is good if we never want to leave the country ever again, but bad in pretty much every other scenario. So yesterday, the State Department issued 116 “do not travel” advisories to discourage Americans from traveling to most of the world. Bhutan, a country on the edge of the Himalayas, is the only country in the safest Level 1 category. So it looks like that’s where I’m going on vacation this year, if at all.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I think I read something about them vaccinating like 2/3rds of their population in about two weeks. Obviously it’s small, but that was really wild.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, it’s pretty tight. So if you like hiking, join me. Hanging tough in the Level 4 Do Not Travel advisory lists are Canada, Mexico, Israel and most of Europe. And before this updated list, the State Department only listed 34 countries as Do Not Travel. But with these new additions, they now list over 150 countries total at Level 4 and they still could add more.


Gideon Resnick: Man. And as we all know, viruses are typically the most respectful of borders. Is there any sense of solutions to all the bad news for everyone outside of the USA these days?


Akilah Hughes: Well, if the CDC recommends reinstating the Johnson & Johnson vaccine with updated warnings, that would at least make more vaccinations possible because the world is waiting to see what the U.S. does. And we may get that recommendation as soon as today. And in that same vein, CSIS, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, put out a report last week calling for the U.S. to lead vaccine distribution globally as an act of goodwill and diplomacy. And this isn’t just some random group of people with a good idea, CSIS is a bipartisan nonprofit policy research organization that’s had a major impact in recent years, testifying to Congress 18 times in 2020 alone. So fingers crossed for humanity, and doing the right thing. Looking at you, Biden. But that’s the latest for now.


Akilah Hughes: It’s Friday, WAD Squad, and for today’s temp check, we are returning to a movie that taught us to be ourselves.


[clip from Shrek] Fiona . . . yes, Shrek . . . I love you . . . Really? . . . Really, really . . .I love you to.


Gideon Resnick: Wow, beautiful,


Akilah Hughes: Beautiful, shedding tears all over the makeshift studio. OK, so obviously it is Shrek, which premiered 20 years ago yesterday, engraving Smash Mouth’s “All Star” in our brains forever, and redefining the way we looked at onions and/or parfaits. So in celebration, we’re going to do what I’m calling a Temp Shrek, and talk about our favorite little-known Shrek facts from the movie. Giddy, do you want to kick us off?


Gideon Resnick: Yes, I do. So I learned this today when we were talking about this. Shrek was originally voiced by Chris Farley, who recorded a bunch of dialog for like a big portion of the movie and then tragically died in 1997. And it sounds crazy to hear it.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, it’s wild. He’s really out here.


[clip from Shrek with Eddie Murphy and Chris Farley] Why do you have problems expressing your wants? . . . I don’t, I want you to shut up—see, no problem . . . You’re just displacing your anger . . . Believe me, it’s properly placed  . . . You’re really mad at whoever did this to you . . . No one did anything to me . . . Yes, yes. Yes. Someone hurt you so bad. Someone hurt you many years ago . . . Leave my parents out of this!


Akilah Hughes: Oh, wow.


Gideon Resnick: Just a totally different energy. Not a bad one, but like. Yeah.


Akilah Hughes: You know, man rest in peace. Well, do you have one more fun fact for the audience?


Gideon Resnick: OK, one more. One more. One more. OK, so this one is insane: Nicolas Cage has said he was offered the role of Shrek, but turned it down because he didn’t want kids to see him as an ogre. I think that’s the right choice for children.


Akilah Hughes: I mean, yeah, I guess. But, like, it wasn’t going to, like his face was going to be on Shrek’s body.


Gideon Resnick: This is true. That would have been a much more disturbing movie. I think if he had played Shrek, it would have way kick-started the weird Nicolas Cage phase, like a lot fast—like it would have been full-on like mandy mode, you know, in like the late ’90s instead of whatever he was doing then, which was like “Face Off.” Like, was he choosing between this and Face Off? I don’t know.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah. I mean, you know, we all made choices. If he chose Face Off, it wasn’t the right one. But just like that, we have Shreked our temps. [laughs] Stay safe. Watch some Shrek, you know, get back in those good, good vibes, and we’ll be back after some ads.


[ad break]


Akilah Hughes:  Let’s wrap up with some headlines.


[sung] Headlines.


Gideon Resnick: A federal judge in Los Angeles ruled that the city must offer some kind of shelter or housing to its most densely-populated community of unhoused people. The order gives the city and county 180 days to offer shelter to people experiencing homelessness on Skid Row. Even though this might seem like a good thing for a city with a rapidly growing unhoused population, advocates have pointed out some of the lawsuits sinister implications. First off, the suit was filed by a coalition of landlords and business owners with the sole purpose of clearing the streets without unhoused people’s best interests in mind. Secondly, the tight time frame means people will likely be offered prison-like temporary shelters instead of permanent housing. Neighborhood advocates are calling for permanent homes to be built for Skid Row residents, and fast.


Akilah Hughes: D.C. is one step closer to becoming a state. Yesterday, the House approved a bill that would make Washington, D.C., the country’s 51st state. The vote broke down strictly along party lines, with Republicans voting against it—probably because the new state would be overwhelmingly Democratic. Read: Black. Now the bill heads to the Senate, where it will likely fight an uphill battle, and full support from the Democrats is not guaranteed. Meanwhile, the Senate yesterday passed a measure to help combat hate crimes against Asian-Americans. The law would designate a Justice Department official to speed up the review of hate crimes and require the Attorney General to guide state and local law enforcements on how to handle reports and data on hate crimes. The House has a similar version of the bill that’s currently still waiting for a vote.


Gideon Resnick: Brett Kavanaugh’s famous calendar had one event yesterday, and it was “juice up the carceral state.” So he and five other conservative Supreme Court justices ruled against placing limits on sentences of life without parole for juvenile offenders, effectively reinstating this kind of sentence. The case in front of the court concerned a 15-year old boy who killed his grandfather. That teenager argued that his sentence of life without parole violated the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment because the judge had not found that he was, quote, “permanently incorrigible” meaning beyond rehabilitation despite his young age. Writing the majority opinion, Kavanaugh said the ruling didn’t violate the Eighth Amendment. The decision bucks a trend over the last 20 years toward SCOTUS rulings that grants leniency to young people with convictions. You know, someone needs to remind me whether Kavanaugh was perfect as a teenager. I don’t remember.


Akilah Hughes: I don’t think he was. I got to say, I don’t he was. [laughs] For the past few months, Meghan McCain’s hairstyles on The View have offered us a window into our cyberpunk future. Her Princess Leia-esque space buns and gem-encrusted middle parts have communicated the clear message that we’re living in a simulation and she is the master of it. And it’s also led many to speculate that her hair and makeup team have made it their mission to embarrass her on TV. Well, a recent interview with her stylist puts that theory to rest. It confirms that the Blade Megan 2049 that we’ve come to know is the result of a conscious collaboration between artist and subject. The interview was published in The Cut, and it contains this quote about McCain and her hair. Quote “I want her to feel comfortable, I want her to feel confident with what I’m doing, and I want her to like it overall, and she does.”


Gideon Resnick: Okay.


Akilah Hughes: So there you have it. No funny business here. Just a yelling lady on The View, working with a stylist to make hair-story.


Gideon Resnick: You know, if somebody is doing a bit, I don’t know which one is, but I will find out. I will.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, I just, I wish that they would communicate their eccentric nature to the clothing, because it’s a lot of insane hair on top and no choices on the bottom. But those are the headlines.


Akilah Hughes: One more thing before we go. We have been nominated for a Webby for Best News and Politics podcast.


Gideon Resnick: That’s right. It’s really important that we win so that our enemies will finally fear and respect us.


Akilah Hughes: That’s right.


Gideon Resnick: And if you want to help us out, you can vote for us until May 6th. As we tell you all the time, voting is very important.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, we’ll put a link in our show notes. If you happen to have a hundred extra email addresses, or some sort of bot army, now is your chance to put them all to work. We have to win.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah. By the way, that last part is off the record, and we never said it. That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, celebrate the anniversaries of two seminal works, and tell your friends to listen.


Akilah Hughes: And if you’re into reading, and not just instructions from the future on how to braid hair like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Akilah Hughes.


Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.


[together] And stop yelling lady on The View!


Akilah Hughes: Quiet down.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, it doesn’t all have to be so much energy so early in the morning. You know.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah. Just think about our ears, like . . .


Akilah Hughes: What a day is a production of Crooked Media.


Gideon Resnick: It’s recorded and mixed by Charlotte Landes.


Akilah Hughes: Sonia Htoon is our assistant producer.


Gideon Resnick: Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Katie Long, Akilah Hughes and me.


Akilah Hughes: Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.