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

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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.”

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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