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By Justine Lopez
WASHINGTON – Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is challenging Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to acknowledge climate change amid talk about the Green New Deal.
“This is no game; this is no joke. Climate change is deadly serious and the time for all of us to treat it that way is now before it is too late,” Schumer (D-N.Y.) said during floor remarks on Thursday.
Green New Deal, a non-binding resolution Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) proposed on Feb. 7, seeks to reduce the U.S.’s carbon footprint by transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy. The goal is to reach net zero carbon emissions or “carbon neutrality” by the year 2050. Carbon neutrality seeks to offset the amount of carbon dioxide released into the environment as a result of using fossil fuel. The 14-page resolution calls for investing in electric cars and high-speed rail systems.
Since McConnell (R-Ky.) announced Tuesday that he is planning a vote on the deal, divisions remain strong down party lines on the issue of climate change. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass), co-sponsor of the Green New Deal, has accused McConnell of moving the bill through too quickly without enough time to garner support.
“Republicans want to avoid a true national debate and kill our efforts to organize,” Sen. Markey said in a tweet.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), however, took a different stance, telling TMN that the deal would only hinder the economy.
“I think it’s a preposterous proposal that has no basis in reality that would slow the United States economy to a crawl,” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn) said Thursday.
The measure is not expected to pass due to the Republican majority in the Senate. Some Senate Democrats told TMN that although the resolution is likely to fail, a vote offers a good opportunity to propel the climate-change dialogue forward.
“For 25 years they’ve mocked the seriousness of this problem,” Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said. “The truth is now we’re going to have an opportunity to debate the Republicans about an existential threat to the planet.”
Since Senator McConnell became @SenateMajLdr, there has not been one bill to meaningfully reduce carbon emissions.
I’m challenging @SenateGOP to agree to these 3 principles:
1. Climate change is real
2. It’s caused by humans
3. Congress needs to act https://t.co/smp0YEFtPu
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) February 14, 2019
UNITED NATIONS — A new study of American voters finds that belief in global warming among Democrats, Republicans and Independents is on the rise after briefly dipping in the first year of the Trump presidency.
According to the poll published Tuesday, belief in global warming among a sampling of nearly a thousand registered voters is at 74 percent. That figure goes as high as 98 percent among “liberal democrats” and as low as 42 percent among “conservative republicans.”
Over President Trump’s first year in office, belief in climate change among both conservative and moderate Republicans had started to drop, and as Trump abandoned the Paris Agreement and barred certain federal agencies from mentioning the term climate change, it appeared Republicans were taking what researchers described as “political elite cues” — molding their beliefs after watching the behavior of a political figure they admired.
“Political elite cues are important, because most people don’t know about this issue or lots of other issues, and so they tend to look to their leaders for guidance about whether this is an issue they should care about or not.”
Anthony Leiserowitz directs the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.
“But in this case, what we’re finding is that even though President Trump continues to basically question the reality or seriousness of climate change, Republicans are no longer really following his lead. In fact, they’re becoming more convinced that climate change is human-caused and worrisome, even though he continues to downplay it. So in this case, the political elite cues effect doesn’t seem to be working.”
So if voters aren’t racing to back Trump’s environmental views, what are they latching on to?
It turns out a policy from none other than freshman Democratic Congressman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez known as the “Green New Deal,” which enjoys support from 92 percent of Democrats and a surprising 64 percent of Republicans — a sign the severity of climate change might be just enough to defy America’s notoriously rigid partisan ideologies.
UNITED NATIONS — Researchers from around the world announced this week that the challenges of obesity, malnutrition and climate change can only be tackled if they’re thought of together as part of a single “global syndemic.”
Shiriki Kumanyika is a research professor of community health and prevention at Dornsife School of Public Health and Drexel University.
“’Syndemic’ is a term that we have taken over from the world of diseases.”
Consider contracting two separate diseases, with each magnifying the other and making you more than doubly sick.
Over several decades studying and working to confront obesity in the U.S., Kumanyika has seen those synergies firsthand:
“A lot of the foods that are the most affordable are also high in calories and poor in nutrients.”
Things aren’t going well in tackling those individual problems. Kumanyika and more than 40 colleagues write in the medical journal The Lancet that no country has succeeded in reversing rising obesity and that malnutrition remains “the leading cause of poor health globally.”
Climate change, meanwhile, is making everything worse, fueling crop failures, extreme weather, civil unrest and the spread of disease.
Kumanyika says seeing how the three pandemics feed each other is the best way to figure out how to intervene.
“We use the term ‘triple-duty actions’ or ‘triple-wins’ to say that if everybody is separately working on these things, it’s not as efficient or effective as realizing that when you work on one, you’re actually helping out with the other two.”
One “triple-duty action” would be “reducing subsidies to oil companies” and big agricultural firms, helping make healthier, local food economies more competitive.
Another possible fix is cutting back on red meat, helping lower the incidence of heart disease and obesity, and freeing up agricultural land — no small issue when livestock production generates a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gasses.
For a problem as large as The Global Syndemic, super-sized solutions might be the only remedy.
WASHINGTON — House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy rebuked freshman Democrat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) for comparing the threat posed by climate change to World War II.
“No. Not at all,” McCarthy (R-Calif.) told TMN at a news conference on Wednesday when asked if the two scenarios are comparable.
When asked if Ocasio-Cortez should apologize, McCarthy said: “She can use her own language, what she wants to do.”
McCarthy explained: “What we went through in World War II, the individuals who were being murdered and slaughtered just for their own faith … battling for the freedom of the world, when America rose to the occasion with many millions of others — I think does not hold a comparison.”
With regard to climate change, McCarthy said: “I think it’s important that we deal with what’s going on in our environment.” However, he added: “I do not believe it rises to the same occasion.”
At a rally on Monday in New York City in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ocasio-Cortez spoke of differences in generational attitudes toward climate change.
“Millennials and people, you know, Gen. Z and all these folks that will come after us, are looking up and we’re like: ‘The world is gonna end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change, and your biggest issue is how are we gonna pay for it?’ ”
She went on to say that for millennials, the effort to combat climate change is “our World War II.”
Though a freshman lawmaker, Ocasio-Cortez has been assigned to two of the most powerful committees in the House of Representatives. She will sit on the Financial Services Committee and the Oversight and Reform Committee.
President Donald Trump’s former attorney and personal “fixer” Michael Cohen is scheduled to testify before the Oversight Committee on Feb. 7.
WASHINGTON — About two-thirds of key Pentagon installations are likely to be vulnerable to climate change as soon as two decades, under threat from flooding, drought and other factors, according to a report sent to Congress.
The report, which was demanded by Congress, underscored what many in the military knew firsthand — where such key, historic installations such as Paris Island and Coronado Naval base are already battling Mother Nature.
“The effects of a changing climate are a national security issue with potential impacts to DOD missions, operational plans and installations,” Heather Babb, a Pentagon spokesperson, said Friday in an email, quoting from the 22-page report.
Congress had required the report in the 2018 defense bill, specifically requesting the top 10 at-risk bases from each military service, and steps underway to secure them against climate dangers.
The report does not provide that list.
It did say that 79 critical installations in the U.S. likely face climate change risks in the two decades. Of those, 53 — most of the East Coast — are already in danger of flooding from storm surge, with seven more getting close to a danger level, according to the report
A threat from wildfires now looms for 36 bases, with seven others close to being in danger. That threat is exacerbated by drought, which is causing problems for dozens of bases, the report said.
The Obama administration declared climate change a threat to the military infrastructure. The Trump administration removed climate changes as a threat from the 2017 National Security Strategy.
Democrats complained the report was thin on specifics and absent of recommendations and strategy.
“It fails to even minimally discuss a mitigation plan to address the vulnerabilities,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said in a statement to the meeting. Rep. James Langevin (D-R.I.), who pushed for the report, said the Pentagon ignored climate dangers to overseas U.S. installations “for no apparent reason.”
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal by Exxon Mobil, which sought to block the release of internal documents requested in a climate change investigation against the company.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey had requested the documents while investigating whether the oil giant covered up its own scientific research on the impact of fossil fuel production on global warming.
In 2016, Healey ordered the company to release information under the state’s consumer protection law, arguing Exxon had deceived consumers and investors about the long-term effects of the sale and use of fossil fuels.
Exxon asked a Massachusetts judge to block the request in 2017 but was denied. The company was ordered to turn over four decades of documents tied to its own climate change research for Healey’s investigation.
Exxon turned to the Supreme Court to hear the company’s appeal after the original court order was upheld by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, the state’s highest appeals court.
The high court’s decision not to take up the case paves the way for investigations by the attorneys general of both Massachusetts and New York, which is pursuing a separate similar lawsuit against the company.
WASHINGTON – The number of U.S. voters who think climate change is caused by human activity has increased 13 percent in the last three years, according to a poll released Thursday.
The Morning Consult/Politico poll found that 58 percent of the respondents said humans are responsible for climate change, whereas a 2015 Morning Consult survey found that 45 percent of the respondents said humans are responsible for climate.
Meanwhile, 67 percent said they are concerned by the findings of a U.S. government report on climate change that was released last month.
That includes 87 percent of Democrats, 47 percent of Republicans, and 65 percent of independent voters.
The sampling included 1,975 registered voters and was conducted on Dec. 4. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.
The report said the U.S. economy could take a substantial hit if action is not soon taken to reduce carbon emissions.
President Donald Trump has said he does not believe the findings of the report.
CHICAGO — Days ahead of annual climate talks in Poland, the U.N. reports that climate change is partly to blame for three consecutive years of increased global hunger — a major setback after decades of improving food security.
Cindy Holleman is a senior economist at the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome.
“This is what we call ‘chronic hunger.’ It’s not the big-scale emergencies of famine. Chronic hunger is more of those that throughout a year people have inadequate access to food, to really have a healthy, active life.”
While chronic hunger has long been tied to conflicts and economic downturns, it’s time to add climate change to the mix, as seasons shift and temperatures grow more extreme and unpredictable.
In Central America, droughts have decimated livestock and crops, and led to increased migration. In parts of Asia, meanwhile, storms and floods have jeopardized infrastructure and threatened farms that often form the backbone of the labor market.
Drought-resistant seeds and improved tilling techniques could lessen that damage, but technology isn’t a silver bullet.
“In some regions, there are limits to adaptation. There are areas that are too marginalized — they keep being hit by drought and insufficient rainfall — where it’s not really sustainable, even with technological solutions.”
In parts of the Horn of Africa, for instance, farming may not be viable again. But abandoning agriculture across wide swaths of the planet — where in many low-income countries, as much as 80 percent of populations remain in rural areas — isn’t an option either.
“It’s not practical to say we’re going to turn everything into high-production agriculture, big corporations producing food and move all the people to urban areas. There’s too many people whose livelihoods depend on it.”
The only solution, then, will be to stop the worst effects of climate change before they occur. To the climate negotiators gathering in Poland: No pressure.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday tersely rejected the findings of a major government study projecting massive damage to the U.S. economy if climate change continues to go unchecked.
“I don’t believe it,” Trump said from the White House South Lawn. “I don’t believe it.”
The National Climate Assessment was released on Friday, showcasing research compiled by 13 government agencies.
The report states that growing emissions could cost the U.S. hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century in addition to spurring severe, life-threatening changes to the environment.
Trump said Monday that he has read some of the report and that it was “fine.”
The president’s attitude drew criticism from environmental groups, with the Sierra Club noting that the president has already taken steps to protect his property from climate change.
“Trump is ignoring the alarm bells to protect our country from climate change, yet at the same time he is building seawalls in Scotland to protect his golf course from the rising sea,” Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in a statement. “Trump clearly understands the economic threat of climate disruption, at least as when it comes to his pocketbook, but he just doesn’t care enough to protect the American people.”
NEW YORK — I like it hot. I am only comfortable at about 80 degrees, so at first glance, climate change and the warming of the planet seem welcome.
That is until I begin to understand the fine print. There have been two climate change reports recently. One of them was released in October by the United Nations, and the other was released by the United States on Friday, during this weekend’s long holiday.
The United Nations report issued in October was issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The press release on the report says: “One of the key messages that comes out very strongly from this report is that we are already seeing the consequences of 1oC of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes,” said Panmao Zhai, co-chair of IPCC Working Group I.
“Every extra bit of warming matters, especially since warming of 1.5 oC or higher increases the risk associated with long-lasting or irreversible changes, such as the loss of some ecosystems,” said Hans-Otto Pörtner, co-chair of IPCC Working Group II.
Limiting global warming would also give people and ecosystems more room to adapt and remain below relevant risk thresholds, added Pörtner. The report also examines pathways available to limit warming to 1.5oC, what it would take to achieve them and what the consequences could be.
Two degrees centigrade might not seem like a lot, but it converts into more than 30o Fahrenheit. Another way to think about even a one-degree change in Fahrenheit is the way you feel even if you have a slight fever. Where the normal body temperature is 97 to 99oC, think about how you feel when your body temperature is even one degree above what your normal is. You feel rotten. So imagine how the coral feels if it gets overheated
This week’s United State report, although issued when most people were with their families and not paying attention, drew people to the reality of climate change. It is titled “Fourth National Climate Assessment Volume II” and written by 13 U.S. government agencies. The report is mandated by Congress, but it is the first to be issued in the Trump administration.
The National Academy of Sciences reviewed the report, and one of the members said this: “We have wasted 15 years of response time. If we waste another five years of response time, the story gets worse. The longer you wait, the faster you have to respond and the more expensive it will be.”
The Washington Post summarized what might happen in the next 25 years: “Key crops, including corn, wheat and soybeans, would see declining yields as temperatures rise during the growing season. The city of Phoenix, which experienced about 80 days per year over 100 degrees around the turn of the century, could see between 120 and 150 such days per year by the end of the century, depending on the pace of emissions.”
Then there was this from the report: “Global average temperature has increased by about 1.8 [degrees] from 1901 to 2016, and observational evidence does not support any credible natural explanations for this amount of warming. Instead, the evidence consistently points to human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse or heat-trapping gases, as the dominant cause.”
President Trump tweeted out this week when New York expected it to be one of coldest Thanksgivings: “Whatever happened to Global Warming?”
That is why it is called climate change. The fires that happened in California, the flooding that is taking place on the coasts, are the result of climate change. The Brookings Institution said: “The economic cost of climate change is high: an annual $12 billion increase in electricity bills due to added air conditioning; $66 billion to $106 billion worth of coastal property damage due to rising seas; and billions in lost wages for farmers and construction workers forced to take the day off or risk suffering from heat stroke or worse.”
We need to take the reports seriously. It doesn’t matter if the report is issued by the United Nations or the United States. If we are serious about providing a world for the next generation, we have to understand that we are heating up the oceans and the snow on the mountains to a place from which we can’t turn back. We need action now.