5 Ways Obama's Budget Fights Climate Change and Expedites Renewable Energy
In the last few years this administration has cut carbon pollution from cars and trucks, proposed the first-ever federal standards limiting carbon pollution from existing power plants (the Clean Power Plan), set a raft of new energy-efficiency standards, proposed replacing the biggest uses of the HFC "super pollutants," and set a schedule for first steps on methane pollution.
This budget proposal continues these efforts while expanding efforts in resilience, investing in clean energy and taking a leadership role in global climate initiatives.
The president's commitment stands out in his Message to Congress:
No challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change. Fourteen of our planet's 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century. The world's best scientists are telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we'll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. And as discussed in the Budget, the significant costs to inaction on climate change hit the Federal Government's bottom-line directly, as worsening climate impacts create Government liabilities. That's why this Budget takes action on climate by supporting the Climate Action Plan that I released in 2013 with investments to accelerate carbon pollution reductions, to build on-the-ground partnerships with local communities and help them put in place strategies for greater resilience to climate change impacts, and to support America's leadership abroad on this important moral and fiscal issue.
Here's a quick tour of key climate budgetary highlights. (For a comprehensive summary, look here).
The president's budget includes $25 million in state grants to help states develop their own implementation strategies to clean up power plants, the nation's number one source of the pollution driving dangerous climate change.
The budget also proposes a $4 billion fund to encourage and reward states that go beyond the Clean Power Plan's minimum goals, or meet those goals ahead of schedule. For example, this fund could support job-creating wind and solar energy and energy efficiency investments, transmission and other infrastructure that reduces carbon pollution, or help clean up pollution that disproportionately affects low-income communities.
The budget includes funding for American leadership in clean energy technology development. It invests $7.4 billion, primarily through the Energy, Defense, and Agriculture Departments, in research, development, and deployment of technologies ranging from wind, solar, and energy efficiency to carbon capture and storage. The president proposes extending the production tax credits for new wind and solar energy installations.
To underscore the president's climate diplomacy and promote a global climate agreement in Paris this December, the budget requests $1.29 billion towards the Global Climate Change Initiative. This includes a $500 million installment towards the President's $3 billion pledge to contribute to the Green Climate Fund (GCF), an outgrowth of the international climate fund launched by President Bush and Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson in 2008.
The GCF is an important investment in maintaining the stability of the world's most vulnerable nations as they cope with disastrous storms, droughts, and other manifestations of a changing climate. It contributes to U.S. national security by preventing climate impacts from undermining the stability of vulnerable nations by aggravating civil conflicts or creating humanitarian and refugee crises.
The budget documents call attention to the enormous financial cost the federal government has incurred from climate change—more than $300 billion in direct costs over the last decade due to extreme weather and fire alone. To reduce future costs and danger across the United States, the budget proposes climate resilience investments across the departments to improve our understanding of projected climate change impacts while building resilience-enhancing infrastructure and activities.
The budget proposes $400 million in funding for National Flood Insurance risk mapping, which will help communities and businesses understand local flood risks. A new $50 million program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will help coastal regions plan and implement resilience plans. $20 million will go to the Climate Resilience Toolkit, a public resource that provides scientific tools and information to help Tribes, businesses, communities and citizens understand both the risks from climate change and the opportunities for action.
The president's climate budget proposals are a direct challenge to Congress's know-nothing/do-nothing leadership. Today, we heard only more of the same from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who announced that he's joining an appropriations subcommittee overseeing the Environmental Protection Agency. As reported by The Hill, McConnell said: "You can guarantee that I will continue to fight back against this Administration's anti-coal jobs regulations on behalf of the Kentuckians I represent in the U.S. Senate."
Votes taken last month on the Keystone XL pipeline bill call into question whether McConnell has the votes to block EPA from carrying out its climate responsibilities under the Clean Air Act. Five members of the Republican caucus broke ranks to recognize that human activity "significantly" contributes to climate change. Ten other Republicans backed another affirmation of climate science. Two Republican Senators voted against efforts to condemn the president's climate agreement with China and interfere with his diplomacy with other nations.
McConnell is short of 60 votes, and far short of the 67 he'd need to override presidential vetoes.
Just this weekend, the New York Times released the latest poll demonstrating that the American people overwhelmingly favor action on climate change. That includes a near-majority—47 percent—of Republicans. The Senate and House leadership's climate denialism is increasingly out of step.
If McConnell cannot block the Clean Power Plan entirely, will he seek to cut the funds that the president has proposed to help Kentucky businesses and consumers? Where will that kind of intransigence lead his party?
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Naomi Larsson
For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
Green groups applauded Sen. Jeff Merkley on Wednesday for introducing a pioneering pair of bills that aim to "protect the long-term health and well-being of the American people and their economy from the catastrophic effects of climate chaos" by preventing banks and international financial institutions from financing fossil fuels.