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Biden Announces $2 Trillion Climate and Green Recovery Plan

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Biden Announces $2 Trillion Climate and Green Recovery Plan
Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks at a "Build Back Better" Clean Energy event on July 14, 2020 at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Delaware. Joe Biden / Facebook

Presidential hopeful Joe Biden announced a $2 trillion plan Tuesday to boost American investment in clean energy and infrastructure.


His plan would spend the money over the next four years to boost the transportation, electricity and building sectors' clean energy profiles. It is also part of a plan to create new economic opportunities, improve the nation's aging infrastructure, and to combat the climate crisis, as The New York Times reported.

Biden's sweeping proposals would put an end to all greenhouse gas emissions spewed by U.S. power plants by 2035, arguing that large-scale dramatic moves are necessary to tackle the impending threat of the climate crisis and to revive the economy after the coronavirus pandemic, as The Associated Press reported. It would also ban fracking on public lands.

Speaking near his home in Wilmington, Delaware, Biden also sought to reframe the discussion around the climate crisis, moving it away from a moral imperative and toward an economic one, dismissing Trump's and the Republicans' arguments that investments in green energy would cost jobs. Biden looked to play up how many jobs clean energy creates.

"When Donald Trump thinks about climate change, the only word he can muster is 'hoax,'" Biden told reporters, The Associated Press reported. "When I think about climate change, what I think of is jobs."

Biden's climate initiative calls to chart the U.S. on "an irreversible path" to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. In addition to achieving a carbon-free power grid by 2035, Biden's plan calls for upgrades to 4 million buildings and to weatherize 2 million homes over four years to increase energy efficiency, as NPR reported. Homeowners would be given cash rebates to upgrade home appliances and install more efficient windows. Car owners would receive rebates to swap their old, less efficient cars for newer ones that release fewer pollutants, according to The Washington Post.

The proposal, Biden's campaign said, would aim to shift major cities towards increased use of public transportation and "create millions of good, union jobs rebuilding America's crumbling infrastructure," according to NPR.

"We're not just going to tinker around the edges," Biden said his speech. "We're going to make historic investments and seize the opportunity and meet this moment in history."

Environmentalists and liberals quickly praised the climate initiative as a step forward in the climate effort. Predictably, Republicans quickly denounced it as an unwieldy plan that would raise energy costs, as The Washington Post reported.

The new goals align Biden more closely with three primary opponents: Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Washington Governor Jay Inslee. They follow the recommendations of a unity task force of Sanders and Biden supporters that was co-chaired by New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who co-sponsored the Green New Deal, according to The Guardian.

"This is not a status quo plan," said Inslee, as The New York Times reported. "It is comprehensive. This is not some sort of, 'Let me just throw a bone to those who care about climate change.'"

Inslee called the proposal "visionary."

Gina McCarthy, the former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator who is now president of the Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund, told The Guardian that the plan was "by a long shot – the most ambitious we have ever seen from any president in our nation's history."

In the proposal, Biden also linked environmental advocacy with racial justice, noting that pollution and other toxins disproportionately affect communities of color. His plan calls for establishing an office of environmental and climate justice within the Justice Department and developing a broad set of tools to address how "environmental policy decisions of the past have failed communities of color," according to The New York Times.

Varshini Prakash, co-founder of the youth-led Sunrise Movement, said, as The Guardian reported, that Biden's plan responds to many of the group's previous criticisms by "dramatically increasing the scale and urgency of investments, filling in details on how he'd achieve environmental justice and create good union jobs, and promising immediate action — on day 1, in his first 100 days, in his first term, in the next decade — not just some far off goals."

A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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