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While some of his Democratic colleagues joined with Republicans in pushing the Keystone XL pipeline, Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz had something different in mind. Today they unveiled the American Opportunity Carbon Fee Act.
Whitehouse, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety, has long been an advocate for climate action. His official website features a page called “Climate Change: Time to Wake Up” and he has made 80 speeches in the Senate on the topic, giving one per week. In late October, he announced that he would propose a carbon pollution fee, with details to be introduced in the next few weeks. Today he revealed those details.
In his speech today, he pointed out the environmental impact of carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels. He said it is "changing the atmosphere and the oceans. We see it in storm-damaged homes and flooded cities. We see it in drought-stricken farms and raging wildfires. We see it in fish disappearing from warming, acidifying waters. We see it in shifting habitats and migrating contagions." And those things, he said, carry costs to homeowners, businesses and taxpayers—the "social cost of carbon."
"None of those costs from carbon pollution are factored into the price of the coal, oil or natural gas that releases this carbon," he said. "The fossil fuel companies have offloaded those costs onto society. That's just not fair. By making their carbon pollution free, we subsidize fossil fuel companies to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars annually. By making their carbon pollution free, we rig the game, giving polluters an unfair advantage over newer and cleaner technologies. It’s a form of cheating, and corporate polluters love it because it gives them advantage. But it's wrong."
The American Opportunity Carbon Fee Act would attempt to restore some justice in factoring those costs. It would also assess a fee for other greenhouse gas emissions in addition to carbon, but only on the largest polluters who emit more than 25,000 tons a year. And it proposes a tariff on products from countries that don't price carbon, in order not to put U.S. businesses at a competitive disadvantage. The bill, Whitehouse said, would level the playing field for clean technologies like wind and solar to compete with dirty energy sources.
Whitehouse estimated the tax could generate between $1.5 trillion and $2 trillion in the first decade. The bill would establish the American Opportunity Trust Fund to return the money to citizens in a variety of possible ways. They could, he said "include tax cuts, student loan debt relief, increased Social Security benefits for seniors, transition assistance to workers in fossil-fuel industries or even direct dividends to American families."
Whitehouse referenced conservative voices in defense of his idea, including the late economist Milton Friedman, President Reagan's economic adviser Art Laffer and President George W. Bush's Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, whom he quotes as saying earlier this year, "A tax on carbon emissions will unleash a wave of innovation to develop technologies, lower the costs of clean energy and create jobs as we and other nations develop new energy products and infrastructure. Republicans must not shrink from this issue. Risk management is a conservative principle.”
"We simply need conscientious Republicans and Democrats to work together, in good faith, on a platform of fact and common sense," said Whitehouse, pointing to past bipartisan efforts to address carbon pollution. "We know it can be done, because it’s been done."
Whether it can still be done with the new, more extreme crop of climate deniers coming into office in January remains to be seen. But environmental groups greeted the bill with enthusiasm.
“Senators Whitehouse and Schatz have been steadfast leaders in the efforts to take meaningful action on climate, both administratively and legislatively," said Martin Hayden, vice president of policy and legislation at Earthjustice.
"They have been instrumental in supporting and defending the President’s Clean Power Plan and the ongoing efforts to get this critical safeguard finalized and implemented. The American Opportunity Carbon Fee Act will put a price tag on carbon pollution. Funds generated by any carbon fee must provide for climate justice, aid those most impacted by climate change and not subsidize pollution released into our air.”
"The American Opportunity Carbon Fee Act would both ensure polluters pay for their carbon emissions and generate significant economic benefits for the American economy," said Kyle Ash, Greenpeace senior legislative representative. "For years, the biggest corporate polluters have avoided the costs associated with their carbon pollution, putting the burden on the rest of us. It's time to support a way forward that holds industry accountable for the damage they are doing to our planet and our health."
Watch Senator Whitehouse introduce the American Opportunity Carbon Fee Act:
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The supply chain that provides medical supplies to the world is favoring the U.S. and Europe, which are outbidding poorer nations for masks, gowns, gloves and ventilators during the coronavirus pandemic, according to NPR.
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.