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Climate Crisis Only Gets 7 Minutes of Airtime at First Dem Debate
Confronting the climate crisis is the No. 1 issue for 96 percent of Democratic voters, but it clocked only around seven minutes of airtime at the first Democratic Presidential debate Wednesday, Vox reported.
The small amount of time spent on climate change, and the fact that the first climate-centered questions came an hour and 22 minutes into the debate itself, as the Huffington Post reported, emphasized the need for a debate exclusively dedicated to the issue, something the Democratic National Committee (DNC) has so far refused.
"It's absurd to host a debate in Miami — a city where millions of people could lose their homes due to sea level rise that's also only 20 miles from the Everglades where massive fires are out of control — and spend only a few minutes on the climate crisis," Sunrise Movement Executive Director Varshini Prakash said in a post-debate statement. "Only four candidates had the opportunity to discuss it at all. This is downright irresponsible and shameful."
The group has been camping out in front of DNC headquarters since Tuesday to demand a climate debate. Climate-focused candidate Washington Governor Jay Inslee also repeated his call for a debate centered on the issue.
"It is clear that this deserves more debate and a much more intensive focus," Inslee told the Huffington Post. "And we do need a separate debate."
So what did the candidates get a chance to say about the issue?
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren mentioned it in her opening remarks, as the Huffington Post reported, when she said that the economy was "doing great for giant oil companies that want to drill everywhere, just not for the rest of us who are watching climate change bear down upon us."
She also answered an economy-focused question by mentioning a "worldwide need for green technology," according to The New Republic.
Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard mentioned the importance of environmental protection, and Inslee answered a jobs question with his $9 trillion plan to cut most emissions by 2030, as the Huffington Post reported.
"The next thing I'll do is put people to work in the jobs of the present and the future," Inslee said. "Donald Trump is simply wrong. He says wind turbines cause cancer. We know they cause jobs."
The first actual question on the issue came three-quarters into the debate from moderator Rachel Maddow and focused on the debate's host city of Miami.
"We are here in Miami experiencing serious flooding on sunny days as a result of sea level rise and parts of Miami Beach and the Keys could be underwater in our lifetimes. Does your plan save Miami?" Maddow asked Inslee, as Vox reported.
Inslee responded with his plan to end the Senate filibuster so that climate legislation could actually pass the chamber.
Former Texas Representative Beto O'Rourke spoke about how to balance fighting climate change with respecting people's desire not to be ordered around by the government.
"You have to bring everybody into the challenges we face," he said, according to Vox. "That's why we are traveling everywhere, listening to everyone."
Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro was asked who should provide funds for people whose homes are impacted by extreme weather events, but Castro objected to the question's framing, arguing that the focus should be on rebuilding resilient communities.
Ohio Representative Tim Ryan was asked how to fund climate policy if a carbon tax was not politically possible, and emphasized the importance of economic growth.
Four candidates — O'Rourke, Booker, Warren and Castro — later listed climate change as the greatest geopolitical threat faced by the U.S., the Huffington Post reported.
Overall, the issue got more focus than it had in the entire 2016 debate cycle between Trump and Hilary Clinton, but not enough time to really compare the candidates' stances, Vox concluded.
Wednesday's debate featured 10 of more than 20 candidates vying for the Democratic nomination, CNN reported. A second slate of candidates, including overall front-runner and former Vice President Joe Biden, will face off Thursday.
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By Will Sarni
It is far too easy to view scarcity and poor quality of water as issues solely affecting emerging economies. While the images of women and children fetching water in Africa and a lack of access to water in India are deeply disturbing, this is not the complete picture.
The Past is No Longer a Guide to the Future
We get ever closer to "day zeros" — the point at when municipal water supplies are switched off — and tragedies such as Flint. These are not isolated stories. Instead they are becoming routine, and the public sector and civil society are scrambling to address them. We are seeing "day zeros" in South Africa, India, Australia and elsewhere, and we are now detecting lead contamination in drinking water in cities across the U.S.
"Day zero" is the result of water planning by looking in the rear-view mirror. The past is no longer a guide to the future; water demand has outstripped supplies because we are tied to business-as-usual planning practices and water prices, and this goes hand-in-hand with the inability of the public sector to factor the impacts of climate change into long-term water planning. Lead in drinking water is the result of lead pipe service lines that have not been replaced and in many cases only recently identified by utilities, governments and customers. An estimated 22 million people in the US are potentially using lead water service lines. This aging infrastructure won't repair or replace itself.
One of the most troubling aspects of the global water crisis is that those least able to afford access to water are also the ones who pay a disproportionately high percentage of their income for it. A report by WaterAid revealed that a standard water bill in developed countries is as little as 0.1 percent of the income of someone earning the minimum wage, while in a country like Madagascar a person reliant on a tanker truck for their water supply would spend as much as 45 percent of their daily income on water to get just the recommended daily minimum supply. In Mozambique, families relying on black-market vendors will spend up to 100 times as much on water as those reached by government-subsidized water supplies.
Finally, we need to understand that the discussion of a projected gap between supply and demand is misleading. There is no gap, only poor choices around allocation. The wealthy will have access to water, and the poor will pay more for water of questionable quality. From Flint residents using bottled water and paying high water utility rates, to the poor in South Africa waiting in line for their allocation of water — inequity is everywhere.
Water Inequity Requires Global Action — Now.
These troubling scenarios beg the obvious question: What to do? We do know that ongoing reports on the 'water crisis' are not going to catalyze action to address water scarcity, poor quality, access and affordability. Ensuring the human right to water feels distant at times.
We need to mobilize an ecosystem of stakeholders to be fully engaged in developing and scaling solutions. The public sector, private sector, NGOs, entrepreneurs, investors, academics and civil society must all be engaged in solving water scarcity and quality problems. Each stakeholder brings unique skills, scale and speed of impact (for example, entrepreneurs are fast but lack scale, while conversely the public sector is slow but has scale).
We also urgently need to change how we talk about water. We consistently talk about droughts happening across the globe — but what we are really dealing with is an overallocation of water due to business-as-usual practices and the impacts of climate change.
We need to democratize access to water data and actionable information. Imagine providing anyone with a smartphone the ability to know, on a real-time basis, the quality of their drinking water and actions to secure safe water. Putting this information in the hands of civil society instead or solely relying on centralized regulatory agencies and utilities will change public policies.
Will Sarni is the founder and CEO of Water Foundry.
Note: This post also appears on the World Economic Forum.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Circle of Blue.
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