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'Climate Action Now' Act Is Not Enough to Answer Climate Emergency, Critics Warn

Politics
Rep. Kathy Castor, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats introduced the Climate Action Now Act on March 27. NowThis News / YouTube screenshot

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."

The legislation in question, the Climate Action Now Act (H.R. 9), was introduced in late March by Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.).

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."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

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A volcano erupts on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island on Dec. 9, 2019. Michael Schade / Twitter

A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."

The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.

Michael Schade / Twitter

At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.

The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.

"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."

The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.