'Climate Action Now' Act Is Not Enough to Answer Climate Emergency, Critics Warn
By Jessica Corbett
Progressives are urging federal lawmakers to pursue a "real solution" to the climate crisis while House Democrats gear up for a vote this week on a bill to block President Donald Trump from ditching the Paris agreement.
"This action from the House is better than no action at all, but not much better," Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter said in a statement Wednesday. "Given all that's known about the severity of the climate crisis we face, and the urgent, aggressive action required to stem it, this legislation is merely symbolic."
In June of 2017, Trump vowed to withdraw from the Paris agreement — but he can't officially take action until November of next year.
H.R. 9 would prevent the president from bailing on the accord — which is backed by every other country on the planet — and require his administration to develop a public plan detailing how the U.S. "will achieve an economy-wide target of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent below its 2005 level by 2025."
Although a primary priority of the bill is keeping the country signed on to the agreement that coordinates global efforts to combat the climate crisis, E&E News reported Wednesday that "during a closed-door caucus meeting yesterday ahead of floor action today on H.R. 9, leaders told the rank and file to focus on the economic benefits of climate action and not 'some international standards.'"
"It's all about unleashing the clean economy here in America," said Castor, who chairs the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. "That agreement would allow countries to create their own goals — America did and it has already created a wave of green jobs."
The bill's co-sponsors include Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who created the climate committee late last year, after Democrats took control the House in the midterms. Some progressives criticized the committee as a "weak" response to mounting demands for ambitious action on the scale of scientists' warnings about looming climate catastrophe — and they leveled similar criticism at H.R. 9 this week.
"Simply put, it's the junior varsity bill," RL Miller, chairman of the California Democratic Party's environmental caucus and co-founder of the political action committee Climate Hawks Vote, told Bloomberg. "It's nice but extremely insufficient."
Bloomberg reported Wednesday that "Pelosi is trying to head off her party's restive progressive caucus by invoking the legacy of President Barack Obama to build support for a climate change bill that falls well short of the ambitions of the Green New Deal," a resolution sponsored in the House by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).
Ocasio-Cortez told the outlet "there is no harm in passing" H.R. 9, but lawmakers can't stop there. "The idea that we can just reintroduce 2009 policies is not reflective of action that is necessary for now in the world of today," she said, reiterating the need for a Green New Deal.
The resolution that Ocasio-Cortez unveiled in February with Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) calls for transitioning the American energy system away from fossil fuels to 100 percent renewable sources over a decade, creating millions of green jobs, and providing for vulnerable communities impacted by the climate crisis.
The Green New Deal, backed by a youth-led grassroots movement, goes beyond the goals of the Paris agreement and more closely aligns with the demands of scientists and climate campaigners.
"The latest science is clear: In order to adequately address deepening climate chaos, we must transition completely to clean, renewable energy generation in little more than a decade," said Food & Water Watch's Hauter. "The terms of the Paris accord aren't low-hanging fruit, they're fruit that has fallen to the ground and begun to rot."
The House kicked off debate on H.R. 9 Wednesday, and is expected to pass the bill as early as Thursday. However, the Republican-controlled Senate is unlikely to send the legislation to Trump's desk — and even if it does, the White House already issued a veto threat.
Despite the bill's legislative barriers and the Paris agreement's limitations, as Alden Meyer wrote for the Union of Concerned Scientists Tuesday, the House's upcoming vote "will provide some hope to international observers that the United States may soon return to the fold of countries committed to climate action."
But symbolic gestures aren't enough for Hauter, who called on lawmakers to actually address the problem.
"Any meaningful response from Congress to the climate crisis we face must include a quick halt to new fossil fuel development, including bans on oil and gas exports, and drilling and fracking on federal lands," she said. "Anything less cannot be considered part of a real solution."
"2020 will be for climate what 1970 was for other environmental issues." In my 3rd @EcoWatch piece today, @EarthDayNetwork and @DenisHayes will tackle #climatechange on #EarthDay's 50th Anniversary: https://t.co/87I5TCU0oD— Olivia Rosane (@orosane) April 23, 2019
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
Yet another former Trump administration staffer has come out with an endorsement for former Vice President Joe Biden, this time in response to President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
- Trump Denies CDC Director's 2021 Timeline for Coronavirus Vaccine ›
- Trump Orders Hospitals to Stop Sending COVID-19 Data to CDC ... ›
- Two White House Staffers Test Positive for Coronavirus - EcoWatch ›
- Trump Admin to Disband Coronavirus Task Force - EcoWatch ›
- Pence Offers 'Prayers' as Hurricane Laura Hits Gulf Coast While ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Every September for the past 11 years, non-profit the Climate Group has hosted Climate Week NYC, a chance for business, government, activist and community leaders to come together and discuss solutions to the climate crisis.
- Covering the 2020 Elections as a Climate Story - EcoWatch ›
- Coronavirus Delays 2020 Earth Overshoot Day by Three Weeks ... ›
By Elliot Douglas
The coronavirus pandemic has altered economic priorities for governments around the world. But as wildfires tear up the west coast of the United States and Europe reels after one of its hottest summers on record, tackling climate change remains at the forefront of economic policy.
- German Business Leaders Call for Climate Action With COVID-19 ... ›
- Climate Activists Protest Germany's New Datteln 4 Coal Power Plant ... ›
By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.