Manchin opposes Build Back Better and Biden’s climate agenda

December 21, 2021 by  
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One Democratic Party holdout has stopped Biden’s Build Back Better plan in its tracks. On Sunday, Senator Joe Manchin III (D-W. Va.) declined to support Build Back Better, leaving many worried about legislation partly designed to slow climate change. The Senate currently has 50 Republicans, 48 Democrats and two independents, who generally side with the Democrats. Manchin’s support was critical for Build Back Better. Related: Biden’s $2 trillion climate plan: create millions of jobs, reverse climate change The far-reaching plan included grants, tax credits and other policies to lower greenhouse gas emissions . Many environmentalists worry that now the US will fail to meet climate goals. “Without Build Back Better, the 2030 target is certainly still feasible, but it’s going to be a lot harder to reach,” said John Larsen, a director at the Rhodium Group, an independent energy research firm , as reported by the Washington Post. “In one action, the federal government was going to get halfway there.” In addition to funding the largest effort in U.S. history to combat climate change , Build Back Better promises two years of free preschool to every family, the biggest expansion of affordable health care coverage in a decade, programs to bring down costs for the middle class, a huge investment in childcare and eldercare, tax cuts for more than 35 million households and expands free school meal programs, among other things. Manchin’s lack of support can’t really come as a huge shock to other Democrats. The West Virginia senator said for months that he wouldn’t back the plan if it cost more than $1.5 trillion, which he later expanded to $1.75 trillion. Instead, Biden’s plan cost considerably more. Critics accuse Manchin of valuing the millions he makes from his family’s waste coal business and his support for the oil and gas industry, over a clean energy future for America. Manchin says the plan’s price tag is too high, making him worried about inflation. He also thinks the childcare subsidies, child tax credits and paid family leave are too generous. Nor does he like being pushed around. “I knew where they were, and I knew what they could and could not do,” said Manchin of his fellow Democrats on Monday in an interview with a West Virginia radio station. “They just never realized it, because they figured surely to God we can move one person, surely we can badger and beat one person up, surely we can get enough protesters to make that person uncomfortable enough [that] they’ll just say, ‘I’ll go for anything. Just quit.’ Well, guess what? I’m from West Virginia. I’m not from where they’re from and they can just beat the living crap out of people and think they’ll be submissive, period.” Now the US will have to see if Build Back Better can be salvaged, perhaps in a scaled down model that focuses on climate change rather than packing so many aims into one plan. Via Washington Post and White House

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This year’s warmer winter could create irreversible damage

December 21, 2021 by  
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February 2021 brought the planet’s 16th-warmest February, and this December is much warmer than it should be. Although warmer climates are being experienced across the world , experts say that the temperatures have a much bigger impact in regions that are usually cold. Further, experts say that the warm winter is likely to lead to more adverse weather patterns in the coming year. In addition to climate change, uneven warmer winter can trigger tornados and heavy storms, according to Kai Kornhuber, a postdoctoral researcher at Columbia University’s Earth Institute. Related: Denver’s snowless season has experts worried “One of the truisms in climate science is that cold places and cold times of year warm faster than the warmer places and warmer times of the year,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA. “Not only is the actual rate of warming faster in colder seasons and places – like the Arctic , which is warming three times faster than other places – but also a lot of impacts that are associated with warming are amplified.” Although global warming is a factor across the world, scientists have proven over time that colder regions warm much faster. This often means irregular precipitation, whether it is in terms of rain or snow . Further, the effects caused by even a slight increase in temperature can be far-reaching. For instance, if the temperature causes rain instead of snowfall, the effect will be that the rainwater washes away much faster than snow. “Winter warming affects the frozenness – or not – of things, which is ecologically important for the accumulation of snowpack and the water supply,” Swain explained. Extreme warm spells in winter can result in heat waves in summer. The warmth in this season can lead to premature snowmelt and even vegetation growth, which lowers moisture content in soils and increases the likelihood of extreme and persistent heatwaves in summer . Hot winters will also affect agriculture. Agriculture needs chill months to yield high outcomes. Fruits that require a long period of cold weather, such as apples, cherries and pears, will be hit the hardest. Via The Guardian Lead image via Pexels

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Turns out, many Americans actually do support climate action

November 23, 2021 by  
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Americans are open to new climate change policies as long as they offer environmental, social and economic benefits. This is according to social scientists Janet K. Swim and Nathaniel Geiger. According to the two, many Americans are willing to embrace positive climate change policies regardless of political affiliation. Swim, a professor of psychology at Penn State, and Geiger, assistant professor of communication at Indiana University, say that their studies sought to understand people’s opinions on climate issues. They found some climate policies to be more popular than others. In general, they observed that Americans are willing to accept policies that offer incentives, as opposed to policies that punish. Related: Australia’s climate policy ranks last out of 60 countries As they explain in Renewable Energy World, “For example, about one-third of the respondents thought the disincentives for individuals would have more social harms than benefits, while only about 10% thought the same for other policy options.” In two recent studies, the researchers sampled responses from over 265 participants, ranging from ages 18 to 80. The participants were diverse in terms of political affiliation. The researchers found that 87% of the respondents preferred policies that increase renewable energy over those that decrease energy use. At the same time, 77% of respondents also showed support for policies that require energy reduction. Many respondents also thought that policies that promote increased green energy production, such as solar and wind, were better than policies that require people to stop using air conditioning without providing an alternative. The researchers say they were surprised that respondents’ political affiliations did not have a big influence on their preferences. This is coming at a time when political leaders have been accused of polarizing their supporters against specific climate policies. This study helps shed some light on how policies can be framed for public appeal. Overall, the researchers say that while “it may not always make sense for politicians to promote climate policy with the greatest public support…changing policies to increase their positive social impact – a carbon tax that rebates the proceeds to citizens is an example – can help win public support.” Via Renewable Energy World Lead image via Pixabay

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14-day hunger strike ends following Biden’s COP26 promises

November 5, 2021 by  
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Four young activists on hunger strike outside the White House have ended their protest. In a tweet, the four announced on video that they will be ending their strike following president Joe Biden’s commitments at COP26 . They also said that they will be changing their approach to target Democratic Senator Joe Manchin. The four activists, Kidus Girma, 26, Ema Govea, 18, Julia Paramo, 24, and Abby Leedy, 20, began their hunger strike on Oct. 20 to pressure the Biden administration to take serious climate action . The strike was physically straining, which forced them to sit on wheelchairs due to a lack of strength. One of the activists, Girma, was hospitalized last week after passing out. Related: Activists on hunger strike for climate action outside White House The end to their strike comes a few days after another activist, Paul Campion, 24,  announced on Twitter  that he was ending his hunger strike after being diagnosed with bradycardia. The condition can be fatal and develops when one’s heart drops to extremely low rates. In a Twitter post, the activists noted that Biden’s pledge at COP26 to cut fossil fuel emissions by half by 2030 was part of their motivation to stop the strike. However, they promised to continue fighting, with their target being Sen. Manchin and other congress members responsible for stalling climate reforms. “We are ending our hunger strike to bring the fire to Joe Manchin and other folks in Congress that are more willing to fight for oil and gas billionaires and not for the young people and their communities,” Girma said in the video. Manchin, the Democratic Senator for West Virginia , has been a stumbling block in the way of climate reforms. Manchin, whose home state relies on fossil fuels, blocked the president’s Clean Electricity Program, which would see fossil fuel operators receive funding to shift to clean energy sources. Although the activists have ended their strike at the moment, they promised to continue fighting. They have not specified how, but they say their fight will depend on how Biden and other democrats handle the climate agenda. “Our survival depended on his commitment to climate action. This morning, he promised a 50% decrease in emissions by 2030. Today, we end our strike. But our survival still depends on Joe Biden and other Democrats like him,” the activists said in a tweet. Via HuffPost Lead image via Hunger Strike 4 Climate Justice

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Flying is even worse for the climate than previously known

November 5, 2021 by  
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A few years ago, flyskam, or flight shame, made headlines. Then the pandemic tamped down air travel. Now the  greenhouse gas -emitting horrors of airplanes are back in the news, as a new study shows that aviation contributes more to global warming than was previously known. According to a study published in  Environmental Research Letters , aviation has contributed about 4% to known human-induced climate warming to date, even though it was responsible for only 2.4% of global CO2 emissions. Why the gap? Because of the mix of climate pollutants that aviation generates. And as far as keeping to the  Paris agreement  goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050, aviation could gobble up 1/6 of that jump in temperature. Related: Turning food waste into aviation fuel could greatly reduce emissions “Any growth in  aviation  emissions has a disproportionate impact, causing lots of warming,” Professor Myles Allen, co-author of the study, said in a statement. “But any decline also has a disproportionate impact in the other direction. So the good news is that we don’t actually need to all stop flying immediately to stop aviation from causing further global warming – but we do clearly need a fundamental change in direction now, and radical innovation in the future.” Researchers responsible for the newly published study are based at the University of Oxford, Manchester Metropolitan University, and the NERC National Centre for Earth Observation. They developed a way to quantify how aviation emissions have historically contributed to temperature and examined both the CO2 and non-CO2 impacts. The researchers examined how CO2 combines with emissions of water vapors, particles and nitrogen oxides to alter the atmosphere’s chemical balance. This can affect cloudiness, thereby increasing aviation’s net warming. The study predicted how aviation could contribute to future  global warming , depending on how people address the climate crisis. “Our results show that aviation’s contribution to warming so far is approximately 4% and is increasing,” said Milan Klöwer, lead author of the study. “ COVID  reduced the amount people fly, but there is little chance for the aviation industry to meet any climate target if it aims for a return to normal.” Via Newswise Lead image via Pexels

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Will promises from world leaders at COP26 actually happen?

November 2, 2021 by  
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Leaders from around the world are meeting in Glasgow this week for a major summit on climate change. The 26th Conference of the Parties, or COP26 for short, includes almost every country in the world. In addition to world leaders, tens of thousands of government representatives, negotiators, businesspeople and concerned citizens have descended upon Scotland for twelve days of intense discussion. Here’s a little of what’s happened since COP26 started on Halloween. First of all, some important folks are missing. Many leaders of Pacific Island nations — those more directly affected by climate change because they’re likeliest to disappear — couldn’t overcome the economic barriers and pandemic restrictions to attend. Only the leaders of Fiji, Tuvalu, Papua New Guinea and Palau managed to get to Glasgow. Related: Officials worry COP26 climate conference is at “high risk of failure” Mia Mottley, prime minister of Barbados , spoke about overseeing an island threatened by rising seas. He also voiced frustrations that the most powerful countries weren’t doing enough to stem climate change. “Those who need to make the decisions are kicking the can down the road, and they believe that they can, because they are not seeing us — they see themselves,” she said, as reported by CNN. “For them, they don’t reach that period of peril for another 15 to 20 years… there are a lot of us who are going to be affected before Shanghai and Miami.”  Many countries are making promises, some more specific than others. The Brazilian delegation explained how they plan to end all illegal deforestation by 2028. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison talked about how Australia will lower its emissions 35% by 2030, which is actually one of the weaker pledges among developed nations. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged that India will hit net zero emissions by 2070. This is quite a while away, but as he pointed out, India is not chiefly responsible for the problem. “I’m happy to report that a developing country like India, which is working to lift millions out of poverty and working on their ease of living, accounts for 17% of the world’s population but only 5% of the world’s carbon emissions,” Modi said Monday, as reported by CNN. “But it has not left any stone unturned in fulfilling its promise, and the whole world agrees that India is the only big economy that has delivered on the Paris Agreement in letter and spirit.” China is currently the leading carbon emitter. President Xi Jinping is not attending COP26 in person. But he made vague promises in a written address about how China will “rein in the irrational development of energy-intensive and high-emission projects.” Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett discussed his plan for Israel to be a “climate innovation nation” and to phase out greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The small desert country has already proven itself innovative in water management. Bennett encouraged entrepreneurs around the world to launch startups that would address climate solutions.  “We’re in this together,” Mottley of Barbados emphasized. “If you haven’t learned from the pandemic that all of us are suffering, then you will not learn from anything. We need to move together.” Via CNN Lead image via Pexels

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Oil and meat producing countries attempt to weaken UN report

October 22, 2021 by  
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Greenpeace investigative team announced this week that oil, coal, beef and animal feed producing countries have been lobbying to tone down a major United Nations climate report. According to Greenpeace, fossil fuel producers, including Saudi Arabia, Australia, Japan and Iran, want the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to not recommend phasing out fossil fuels. Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) members second that. And then there are the meat and dairy kingpins like Brazil and Argentina, who don’t appreciate the UN connecting plant-based diets with climate benefits. In fact, the draft report of the IPCC working group had more than 32,000 comments by corporations, governments and other concerned parties, according to Greenpeace. Related: Leaked report details what must be done to stop climate change “These comments show the tactics some countries are willing to adopt to obstruct and delay action to cut emissions,” said Simon Lewis, professor of global change science at University College London, as reported by Unearthed. “Like most scientists, I’m uncomfortable with leaks of draft reports, as in an ideal world the scientists writing these reports should be able to do their job in peace. But we don’t live in an ideal world, and with emissions still increasing, the stakes couldn’t be higher.” So, do these comments have any weight? Not necessarily. According to Mark Maslin, an earth system science professor at University College London, countries always like to lobby for their interests on IPCC climate change reports. “But it has no effect on the reports,” said Maslin, as reported by The Guardian. “Scientists, social scientists and economists that work on these reports are led by the evidence and what is best for the world and all of its peoples. This is why the public and politicians all around the world trust scientists and the IPCC reports as they know they will not be influenced by petty politics.” Let’s hope he’s right. Via The Guardian Lead image via Pexels

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99.9% of scientists agree climate crisis is caused by humans

October 20, 2021 by  
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99.9% of scientists globally agree that burning fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal is the main cause of climate change. They also concur that climate change is caused by human actions, according to a new study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters. The case for global action at the COP26 summit in Glasgow, where world leaders will meet to discuss the climate crisis , is strengthened by the study. In 2013, a survey since 1991 culminated in the conclusion that 97% of scientists viewed that climate change was caused by human actions. The other three percent were of a contrary opinion. Related: United Nations rejects youth activist climate petition This study has been expanded by a recent  Cornell University  paper that shows a significant decline in dissenting voices. Over the years, evidence continues to mount, showing that global warming is being caused by burning fossil fuels. In the latest paper of peer review literature, several scientific studies were examined to determine those with contrary opinions. From 2012 to 2020, 3000 random sample studies were reviewed. Only four papers published in little-known journals turned out to be skeptical of the fact that climate change was being caused by humans. Furthermore, the researchers searched the full database of case studies within the highlighted periods for skeptical keywords such as “natural cycles” and “ cosmic rays ,” and only found 28 papers published in minor journals. These publications account for less than 1% of all the papers published. “It is really case closed. There is nobody of significance in the scientific community who doubts human-caused climate change,” said Mark Lynas, lead author and visiting fellow at Cornell University. Although the scientific community seems to be in agreement, the general public remains misled on issues of climate change. Big oil companies have been running advertisements that allude to a lack of consensus on the issues of climate change. In a similar manner, politicians have also managed to confuse the public about the matter. As reported by The Guardian, “only 27% of US adults believed that “almost all” scientists agreed the climate emergency was caused by human activity.” Additionally, most senior Republicans cast doubt on the link between human action and the climate crisis. 30 U.S. senators and 109 representatives still won’t acknowledge that human actions have caused climate change. Via The Guardian Lead image via Pexels

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Extreme heat pushes Biden administration to pursue worker protections

September 22, 2021 by  
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President Biden has directed labor officials to draft laws that will protect workers under extreme heat conditions. The directive comes months after a hot summer, in which several workers were reported dead due to extreme heat. The severity of heatwaves has been on the rise, thanks to climate change. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has been asked by the president to develop the new guidelines. The guidelines aim to protect workers threatened by heatwaves , such as construction, farm, and delivery workers. Further, regulations will also cater to the safety of indoor workers in places such as warehouses where there is no air conditioning. Related: Killer heatwaves threaten US farmworkers Biden said in a statement that his administration seeks to address the impacts of extreme weather experienced by minority groups across the country. “Over the past few weeks, I have traveled across the country to see firsthand the devastating human and economic toll of extreme weather exacerbated by climate change,” Biden said in a statement. “Rising temperatures pose an imminent threat to millions of American workers exposed to the elements, to kids in schools without air conditioning , to seniors in nursing homes without cooling resources, and particularly to disadvantaged communities.” Last summer, record-breaking heatwaves rocked the Pacific Northwest, leading to the death of at least two people. Other climate-related disasters, such as the storms in New York and Louisiana , were also recorded across the country. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 43 workers died in 2019 from heat-related illnesses . Due to such realities, employee rights advocates have been calling for laws that protect workers against the effects of extreme heat and other weather disasters. If formulated, the new OSHA rules would include breaks requirements and access to drinking water and shade. These laws would be applied when temperatures reach a certain threshold deemed dangerous for workers. Some states, such as California and Oregon, already have some laws to protect workers. These include rules forcing employers to provide cool water, shade and breaks. Via The Washington Post Lead image via U.S. Department of Agriculture

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Climate clock ticks out shame for rich nations

September 22, 2021 by  
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Activists in  New York  are trying to shame rich countries into keeping an expensive promise to the Global South. A new version of a digital “climate clock” displayed in Union Square shows a climate-action timeline along with an amount rich countries still owe. These richer countries promised to invest $100 billion annually in a global  green energy  fund to help developing nations. According to one photo taken of the digital clock, those countries are wondering about the whereabouts of the other roughly $90.5 billion promised this year. Related: NYC Metronome clock now displays deadline for irreversible global warming The climate clock forms part of the backdrop in which the United Nations General Assembly began its meeting in New York on Monday. The U.N. recently labeled the sorry state of our climate as a “code red for humanity.” According to the clock, we have about seven years and 300 days to slash emissions before facing the worst climate  emergency . “The new IPCC report sent a clear, unequivocal message: we are in a  climate  emergency, and without drastic corrective action on track for climate catastrophe,” said Laura Berry, Climate Clock research and advocacy director, in a statement, as reported by Common Dreams. The original climate clock was unveiled last September. Organizers of the display aren’t impressed by the progress made since then. They’re especially irate that the U.S. has failed to honor its  financial  obligations. “ Africa  needs countries like the U.S.—that are the greatest contributors to the problem—to also contribute the most to helping solve it,” said Climate Clock global ambassador Jerome Ringo. “The United States is only 5% of the world’s population but is responsible for 25% of the world’s carbon emissions. We must contribute our fair share to the Green Climate Fund.” A lot of individuals and organizations are pessimistic about whether the richer countries will step up. Oxfam International estimated that “wealthy nations are expected to fall up to $75 billion short of fulfilling their longstanding pledge to mobilize $100 billion each year from 2020 to 2025 to help the most vulnerable countries adapt to the dangerous effects of climate change and reduce their  emissions .” Via Common Dreams Lead image via Pixabay

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