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WASHINGTON – Climate is a hot topic in Congress.
On Tuesday, the Senate voted down a measure parallel to progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-N.Y.) Green New Deal, by a vote of 57-0, with all 53 Republicans, 3 Democrats and 1 Independent voting nay while 43 Democrats voted present.
Additionally, Democrats had attempted to put forth a resolution that would create a bipartisan Senate committee on climate change. Senate Republicans blocked that resolution.
Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), the chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, argued that this committee would “essentially try to strip” his panel of its authority and that the resolution “is an attempt by the Democrats to once again duck and dodge and distant themselves from the Green New Deal.”
Then Wednesday, Senate Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), flanked by 10 senior democratic senators, announced a new Democratic Special Committee on the Climate Crisis. Rep. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), the designated leader, declared:
Later Wednesday afternoon, House Republicans pushed back against Democratic climate initiatives, declaring them to be economically devastating.
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) created the House Energy Action Team, or HEAT, and declared from the House Triangle, “When a leftist bill is too radical even for Barack Obama, you know it must be bad policy.
Looking forward, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is trying to force President Donald Trump return the U.S. to the Paris climate agreement with the introduction of H.R. 9, the Climate Action Now Act.
Doug Christian, Capitol Hill
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is caught between political crosswinds as it attempts to navigate the issue of climate change and its impact on readiness and military basis.
The two pulls were illustrated Wednesday. The Air Force asked Congress for additional funds to fix bases damaged by flood waters and hurricanes while the full Pentagon continued to slow-walk a request by Congress regarding what installations are most threatened by those very same destructive elements.
“The (Pentagon’s) methodology remains opaque,” Rep. James Langevin (R-R.I.) said a statement. “The revised report continues to leave off overseas bases, and it fails to include massive military installations like Camp Lejeune. Most importantly, it continues to lack any assessment of the funds Congress will need to appropriate to mitigate the ever-increasing risks to our service member.”
Langevin compared the Pentagon to what “a student rushing to finish a term paper” would submit, in remarks first reported by The Hill.
The report, which was to refine a more general one sent to Congress in January, arrived on Capitol Hill in advance of Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson saying the Air Force needs almost $5 billion over the next three years to rebuild bases in Florida and Nebraska severely damaged by hurricanes and floods in the past six months.
Speaking at the Heritage Foundation, Wilson said if the Air Force does not receive $1.2 billion of those funds by June for repairs at Tyndall Air Force Base and Offutt Air Force Base, projects at bases in 18 states would be sliced and 18,000 pilot training hours canceled.
Neither of those bases made the list of facilities most threatened by climate change.
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.