Senators Pitch Carbon Tax Legislation
By David Doniger
As the nation and the world swelter through another year of extraordinary heat, storms, drought and disrupted weather, Senators Sheldon Whitehouse and Brian Schatz introduced carbon fee legislation Wednesday to help curb the heat-trapping pollution that drives this dangerous climate disruption.
Representatives Earl Blumenauer and David Cicilline are introducing companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
Their bill, the "American Opportunity Carbon Fee Act," would stop America's carbon polluters from using our atmosphere as a free dump for their gaseous garbage.
Mauna Loa Observatory, NOAA
By charging fossil fuel producers and industrial polluters a rising fee per ton of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping pollutants, this legislation would complement the Clean Air Act and our energy laws, help meet our climate protection obligations, spur clean energy innovation, create millions of good new jobs and protect the pocketbooks of American families.
Here's a summary of the American Opportunity Carbon Fee Act, and how it compares with the carbon tax proposal from the Climate Leadership Council, a group of GOP elder statesmen, economists and business leaders earlier this year. (I wrote about that proposal here.)
Carbon Prices and Carbon Limits
The new legislation puts a fee on emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel combustion, to be paid by fossil fuel producers and importers, based on the carbon content of the fuels they mine, pump, refine or bring into the country. The fee would start at $49 per ton and rise annually until U.S. emissions are reduced by 80 percent below 2005 levels—the minimum needed to do America's part in avoiding catastrophic climate disruption, and to limit warming below 2°C, the objective of the Paris climate agreement.
Large industrial emitters of other heat-trapping pollutants would pay an equivalent fee, based on the relative heat-trapping power of those gases (measured by their global warming potential, or GWP). One group of extremely potent gases, fluorocarbons, gets a transitional period at discounted rates that phase away over about a dozen years. Credits are also provided for preventing emissions through carbon capture and underground disposal.
Putting a price on carbon pollution goes hand in hand with putting limits on carbon pollution through the Clean Air Act and our fuel economy and energy efficiency laws. The American Opportunity Carbon Fee Act bill does not propose to change those laws. Sen. Whitehouse, however, speaking Wednesday at the American Enterprise Institute, suggested a willingness to consider whether some regulations "might become unnecessary or duplicative" once a carbon fee is in place.
As I explained regarding the Climate Leadership Council proposal, a carbon fee would be a valuable addition to the toolbox, but not a replacement for the tools we already have. We shouldn't choose between carbon prices or carbon limits. We need all the tools in the toolbox.
A carbon tax can't be counted on to make the necessary carbon pollution reductions by itself, and it is not an acceptable replacement for carbon pollution limits under our current laws.
What matters to the atmosphere is how many tons of heat-trapping pollutants it is forced to carry. The climate doesn't care how much we charge for carbon pollution. The only thing it cares about is how much carbon pollution we produce. That's why we need science-driven limits on carbon pollution.
Economists can't guarantee what amounts of pollution will result from any given prices. Economic modeling provides only projections, not a guarantee.
The atmosphere needs a guarantee, and that's why we need firm carbon pollution limits, through the Clean Air Act and clean energy laws, in addition to carbon prices.
Carbon Dividends and Carbon Investments
The new legislation would dedicate about 70 percent of the revenue from the carbon fee to giving American families a carbon dividend that would offset the increase in energy prices. The bill also give grants to state and local governments.
The remainder—nearly 30 percent of the revenue—would be used for corporate tax relief. In this way they hope to gain support from Republicans looking for ways to fill the "revenue hole" from cutting corporate taxes.
A carbon dividend for American families is a good idea. Indeed, it's how the Climate Leadership Council proposal would use all of its revenue. Carbon dividends can offset increases in fuel costs for those who need the help most, and are a partial remedy for America's yawning income inequality.
Carbon revenue should also be used for two other purposes: to invest in clean energy and climate preparedness.
Investments in energy efficiency, wind and solar are saving consumers billions on their electric bills, creating millions of good paying, high skilled jobs that can't be outsourced to other countries. We can do even more. And American communities need billions in infrastructure investments to cope with climate change impacts that we will not be able to avoid—from sea level rise and flooding to drought and storms.
In our view, these are better uses of carbon revenue than corporate tax breaks.
President Trump and his cabinet of climate deniers are moving us only backwards, denying science, proposing regulatory rollbacks and savage budget cuts, and attacking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies that Americans rely on to protect their health and well-being.
The president's climate denial and retreat are deeply unpopular, however. In fact, in thumbing his nose at the Paris agreement, he has energized millions of Americans who are concerned for the future of their children, their communities and the planet.
Dozens of states, hundreds of cities, thousands of companies, and millions of citizens are stepping up to say "We're Still In" and committing to continue progress here at home. The President and his GOP allies ignore them at their peril.
Environmental protection used to be bipartisan and needs to be again. The House of Representatives' Noah's Ark Caucus grows slowly with pairs of Republicans and Democrats. President Trump's disastrous budget cuts hit Congress with a bipartisan thud, though not enough GOP members have yet stepped up to support adequate funding.
What's missing still is any Republican co-sponsor for significant climate action—whether carbon limits or carbon pricing. Where are the GOP leaders?
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By Matt Kasson, Brian Lovett and Carolee Bull
Home gardening is having a boom year across the U.S. Whether they're growing their own food in response to pandemic shortages or just looking for a diversion, numerous aspiring gardeners have constructed their first raised beds, and seeds are flying off suppliers' shelves. Now that gardens are largely planted, much of the work for the next several months revolves around keeping them healthy.
Start With Prevention<p>Just as preventive steps like maintaining a balanced diet help keep humans healthy, home growers can take many actions to help their gardens thrive.</p><p>One key step is assessing soil fertility – the ability of soil to sustain plant growth – which can vary widely depending on your location and soil type. Low soil fertility limits food production and predisposes plants to disease and pests. University extension <a href="https://soiltesting.wvu.edu/" target="_blank">soil testing labs</a> can help evaluate the quality of garden soil and identify nutrient deficiencies and acidic soils, often at no charge.</p>
Using weed barrier landscape cloth for planting rows and mulching between rows is an effective way to suppress weeds. Matt Kasson, CC BY-ND
Diagnosing Problems<p>Common plant pathogens include <a href="https://www.apsnet.org/edcenter/disandpath/viral/introduction/Pages/PlantViruses.aspx" target="_blank">viruses</a>, <a href="https://www.apsnet.org/edcenter/disandpath/prokaryote/intro/Pages/Bacteria.aspx" target="_blank">bacteria</a>, <a href="https://www.apsnet.org/edcenter/disandpath/nematode/intro/Pages/IntroNematodes.aspx" target="_blank">nematodes</a>, <a href="https://www.apsnet.org/edcenter/disandpath/oomycete/introduction/Pages/IntroOomycetes.aspx#:%7E:text=The%20oomycetes%2C%20also%20known%20as,foliar%20blights%20and%20downy%20mildews." target="_blank">oomycetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apsnet.org/edcenter/disandpath/fungalasco/intro/Pages/IntroFungi.aspx" target="_blank">fungi</a>. All of these microorganisms, especially at an early stage of infection, are too small to see. But when they proliferate, they cause changes in plants that we can recognize.</p><p>Unlike insects, which move around on six legs or on wings through the air, pathogens can move unseen and unchecked from leaf to leaf on the wind, through the soil or in droplets of water. Some microbes have even formed intimate relationships with insects and use them as vehicles to move from plant to plant, which makes these pathogens even more challenging to manage. Unfortunately, by the time some pathogens make their presence known, the damage is already done.</p><p>We recently conducted a <a href="https://twitter.com/kasson_wvu/status/1265989041725624323" target="_blank">Twitter poll</a> of gardeners nationwide to find out which culprits plagued their gardens. People named <a href="https://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/aphids" target="_blank">aphids</a>, <a href="https://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/squash-vine-borer" target="_blank">squash vine borers</a>, <a href="https://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/squash-bug" target="_blank">squash bugs</a> and <a href="https://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/flea-beetle" target="_blank">flea beetles</a> as the most problematic insect pests. Their most troublesome pathogens included <a href="https://extension.wvu.edu/lawn-gardening-pests/plant-disease/fruit-vegetable-diseases/powdery-mildew" target="_blank">powdery mildew</a>, <a href="https://plantpath.ifas.ufl.edu/rsol/Trainingmodules/BWTomato_Module.html" target="_blank">tomato bacterial wilt</a> and <a href="https://extension.wvu.edu/lawn-gardening-pests/plant-disease/fruit-vegetable-diseases/downy-mildew" target="_blank">cucurbit downy mildew</a>.</p><p>To manage such perennial challenges, the first step is to spend time closely looking at your plants. Do you notice any insects consistently hanging around, or molds colonizing leaves or other plant parts? How about symptoms such as blight, stunting, or leaves that are yellowing, browning or wilting?</p>
This white fungal growth is an early sign of powdery mildew on a leaf of susceptible summer squash. Matt Kasson, CC BY-ND
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By Emma Charlton
The effects of climate change may more far-reaching than you think.
Hotter temperatures have been linked to a rise in energy poverty, with more people struggling to meet their energy bills from their household income, according to a new study published on ScienceDirect by researchers from Italy's Ca' Foscari University.
Value of air conditioning imports in selected OECD countries. ScienceDirect
The ‘Golden Thread’<p>The <a href="https://www.endenergypoverty.org/reports" target="_blank">Global Commission to End Energy Poverty</a> calls access to energy the "golden thread" that weaves together economic growth, human development, and environmental sustainability. And one of the <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/archive/sdg-07-affordable-and-clean-energy" target="_blank">United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals</a> is to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030.</p><p>Sustainability also has a large role to play in the future of energy and failing to embed green policies in COVID-19 stimulus packages and underinvesting in green infrastructure are current risks, according to the <a href="http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_COVID_19_Risks_Outlook_Special_Edition_Pages.pdf" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</p><p>In its vision for a 'Great Reset' – building a better world after the pandemic – the Forum and the IMF jointly backed the <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/06/end-fossil-fuel-subsidies-economy-imf-georgieva-great-reset-climate/" target="_blank">transition to a green economy</a> and called for an end to fossil fuel subsidies.</p>
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Scores of people remained stranded in southern Japan on Sunday after heavy rain the day before caused deep flooding and mudslides that left at least 34 people confirmed or presumed dead.
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More Rain Forecast<p>The disaster in the Kumamoto prefecture on Kyushu island is the worst natural catastrophe since Typhoon Hagibis in October last year, which cost the lives of 90 people.</p><p>Although residents in Kumamoto prefecture were advised to evacuate their homes following the downpours on Friday evening into Saturday, many people chose not to leave for fear of contracting the coronavirus.</p><p>Officials say, however, that measures are in place at shelters to prevent the transmission of the disease.</p><p>More rain is predicted in the region, and the Japan Meteorological Agency has warned of the danger of further mudslides.</p>
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