'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.
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By Kristen Fischer
It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
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By Eoin Higgins
Over 300 groups on Monday urged Senate leadership to reject a bill currently under consideration that would incentivize communities to sell off their public water supplies to private companies for pennies on the dollar.
<div id="fea63" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9a6f211c2bc5aedd34837944cb8eeedf"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1281000111481294849" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Water in Illinois is overwhelmingly public. Why is Tammy Duckworth sponsoring a bill that aims to change that? https://t.co/1V36Kkd99s</div> — The American Prospect (@The American Prospect)<a href="https://twitter.com/TheProspect/statuses/1281000111481294849">1594249201.0</a></blockquote></div>
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