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3 Ways a Republican-Controlled Congress Can Herald Action on Climate Change
Its here. The day the newly elected, Republican-dominated Congress takes office. The shift understandably has many folks concerned about the future of our climate. After all, Republicans don’t exactly have a strong reputation for supporting climate policy.
Greenpeace and Tcktcktck volunteers raise a wind turbine on the beach at dawn in Durban, South Africa. Photo credit: Shayne Robinson / Greenpeace
Still, don’t put aside all hopes for climate action in the next two years. Here are three reasons a Republican congress could oversee progress.
1. There’s still a lot President Obama can do without Congress.
Prime on this list is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed carbon rule on existing power plants. Released by the Obama administration this past June, the regulation would require all power plants to reduce their carbon emissions up to 15 percent from today’s levels by 2030.
The U.S. EPA will still need to finalize the plan, and the rule’s carbon reduction goal is roughly a quarter of what Greenpeace analysis shows is possible. But with 40 percent of U.S. carbon emissions coming from power plants, the rule is still a pollution cut worth making—and one that doesn’t require a vote by Congress.
The Obama administration also holds big keys to the climate through its federal land leasing program. Leasing of federal land is a major lifeline to the struggling coal mining industry, which depends on scandalously cheap leases from the Department of Interior. Interior agencies also handle oil leases of Arctic seabeds off the coast of Alaska, a deal that Shell has tried (and failed) to cash in on.
Greenpeace activists dressed as polar bears protest at a Shell petrol station in Malmö against Shell's plan to drill for oil in the Arctic seas off the coast of Alaska. Photo credit: Christian Aslund / Greenpeace
Stopping such leases would not only avert billions of tons of eventual carbon pollution (more than the entire European Union), but directly protect the health of people and ecosystems.
2. All sorts of important things are happening on climate change outside the federal government.
Starting with state and local governments. California Governor Jerry Brown just declared that his state, the nation’s most populous, will get half its power from renewables by 2030. On the local level, New York mayor Bill de Blasio recently vowed to cut his city’s climate change emissions 80 percent by 2050.
Then there’s the private sector, where the plummeting cost of solar panels, along with new financing models, have fueled an explosion in rooftop solar installations. Analysts project that prices for rooftop solar will either equal or dip below the average electricity bill in 47 states by 2016. The Department of Energy predicts that 4 million homes could have rooftop solar by 2020.
Finally, even conservatives are bypassing the Republican party on climate. In Georgia, Florida and Wisconsin, Tea Party activists are lobbying for greater access to distributed electricity like rooftop solar because, dammit, it’s a free market, and who made monopoly utilities king?
3. If there ever was a time for Republicans to change their tune on climate, it’s now.
But after dominating their elections this fall, some Republicans may feel they finally have the political leash to say what they may have been thinking all along: that climate change is real, and we’re responsible.
Look to moderate Republicans in purple and blue states to possibly reel back their denialism, says Greenpeace Senior Legislative Analyst Kyle Ash. A climate disaster such as a flood or an unusual hurricane in a Republican’s home state, Ash adds, could also make climate denialism an unattractive claim.
That may not translate into a comprehensive bill on climate change this Congress, but could set the stage for a big bill in another. The House version of the 2009 climate bill only passed by 7 votes. The bill was flawed, and died in the Senate. But if the political balance on climate was ever tippable, it might be now, in this Republican Congress.
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A garbage yard in Lucknow, India where plastic bottles are dumped before being sent to recycling. Abhimanyu Kumar Sharma / Moment / Getty Images
Scientists have engineered a mutant enzyme that converts 90 percent of plastic bottles back to pristine starting materials that can then be used to produce new high-quality bottles in just hours. The discovery could revolutionize the recycling industry, which currently saves about 30 percent of PET plastics from landfills, reported Science Magazine.
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Cabin fever is often associated with being cooped up on a rainy weekend or stuck inside during a winter blizzard.
In reality, though, it can actually occur anytime you feel isolated or disconnected from the outside world.
What is cabin fever?<p>In popular expressions, cabin fever is used to explain feeling bored or listless because you've been stuck inside for a few hours or days. But that's not the reality of the symptoms.</p><p>Instead, cabin fever is a series of negative emotions and distressing sensations people may face if they're isolated or feeling cut off from the world.</p><p>These feelings of isolation and loneliness are more likely in times of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/yes-covid-19-cases-are-rising-why-you-still-need-to-practice-social-distancing" target="_blank">social distancing</a>, self-quarantining during a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/what-is-a-pandemic" target="_blank">pandemic</a>, or sheltering in place because of severe weather.</p><p>Indeed, cabin fever can lead to a series of symptoms that can be difficult to manage without proper coping techniques.</p><p>Cabin fever isn't a recognized psychological disorder, but that doesn't mean the feelings aren't real. The distress is very real. It can make fulfilling the requirements of everyday life difficult.</p>
What are the symptoms?<p>Symptoms of cabin fever go far beyond feeling bored or "stuck" at home. They're rooted in an intense feeling of isolation and may include:</p><ul><li>restlessness</li><li>decreased motivation</li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/irritability" target="_blank">irritability</a></li><li>hopelessness</li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/unable-to-concentrate" target="_blank">difficulty concentrating</a></li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/irregular-sleep-wake-syndrome" target="_blank">irregular sleep patterns</a>, including sleepiness or sleeplessness</li><li>difficulty waking up</li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/lethargy" target="_blank">lethargy</a></li><li>distrust of people around you</li><li>lack of patience</li><li>persistent <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/depression-vs-sadness" target="_blank">sadness or depression<br></a></li></ul>
What can help you cope with cabin fever?<p>Because cabin fever isn't a recognized psychological condition, there's no standard "treatment." However, mental health professionals do recognize that the symptoms are very real.</p><p>The coping mechanism that works best for you will have a lot to do with your personal situation and the reason you're secluded in the first place.</p><p>Finding meaningful ways to engage your brain and occupy your time can help alleviate the distress and irritability that cabin fever brings.</p><p>The following ideas are a good place to start.</p>
When to get help<p>Cabin fever is often a fleeting feeling. You may feel irritable or frustrated for a few hours, but having a virtual chat with a friend or finding a task to distract your mind may help erase the frustrations you felt earlier.</p><p>Sometimes, however, the feelings may grow stronger, and no coping mechanisms may be able to successfully help you eliminate your feelings of isolation, sadness, or depression.</p><p>What's more, if your time indoors is prolonged by outside forces, like weather or extended shelter-in-place orders from your local government, feelings of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety" target="_blank">anxiety</a> and fear are valid.</p><p>In fact, anxiety may be at the root of some cabin fever symptoms. This may make symptoms worse.</p><p>If you feel that your symptoms are getting worse, consider reaching out to a mental health professional who can help you understand what you're experiencing. Together, you can identify ways to overcome the feelings and anxiety.</p><p>Of course, if you're in isolation or practicing social distancing, you'll need to look for alternative means for seeing a mental health expert.</p><p>Telehealth options may be available to connect you with your therapist if you already have one. If you don't, reach out to your doctor for recommendations about mental health specialists who can connect with you online.</p><p>If you don't want to talk to a therapist, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/top-iphone-android-apps" target="_blank">smartphone apps for depression</a> may provide a complementary option for addressing your cabin fever symptoms.</p>
The bottom line<p>Isolation isn't a natural state for many people. We are, for the most part, social animals. We enjoy each other's company. That's what can make staying at home for extended periods of time difficult.</p><p>However, whether you're sheltering at home to avoid dangerous weather conditions or heeding the guidelines to help minimize the spread of a disease, staying at home is often an important thing we must do for ourselves and our communities.</p><p>If and when it's necessary, finding ways to engage your brain and occupy your time may help bat back cabin fever and the feelings of isolation and restlessness that often accompany it.</p>
Pope Francis spoke about the novel coronavirus, suggesting that the global pandemic might be one of nature's responses to the man-made climate crisis.