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Senate Approves $19.1 Billion in Disaster Funding After Years of Climate-Fueled Disasters
Update, May 31: Another Republican Congressman has foiled a third attempt by House Democrats to pass a $19.1 billion disaster package Thursday, Reuters reported. The Senate finally passed the long-delayed bill last week before lawmakers left Washington for the Memorial Day recess. The House has tried and failed three times since then to pass the bill by unanimous consent before Congress people return in early June, at which point it is expected to pass easily. The House did manage to pass a temporary extension of the national flood insurance program, which was set to expire Friday.
The Congressman who blocked Thursday's passage was freshman Tennessee Representative John Rose, who objected to approving such a large expenditure without a full vote, The Washington Post reported. Both Republicans and Democrats have criticized the objections of Rose and two other Republicans for holding up aid long-awaited by the survivors of various climate-change related disasters that have beset the U.S. in recent years.
"We were sent to Congress to solve problems, not to make them worse," New York Democratic Representative and House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey said, as The Washington Post reported. "Yet House Republicans have again delayed desperately needed relief for American families and communities — even as tornadoes and storms continue to hit the Midwest. It is beyond comprehension that anyone would think 15 minutes of fame is worth making disaster victims, like those in flood-battered Tennessee, wait even longer for the help they need."
President Donald Trump has agreed to sign a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill that will help Americans still recovering from the flooding, hurricanes and wildfires that have devastated parts of the country in the past two years. Senate Republicans said they struck a deal with the president to approve the measure, despite the fact that it did not include the funding he wanted for the U.S.-Mexican border, CNN reported.
"The U.S. Senate has just approved a 19 Billion Dollar Disaster Relief Bill, with my total approval. Great!" the president tweeted Thursday.
The bill passed the Senate 85 to 8 Thursday, just after a tornado warning sounded in the Capitol building, The New York Times reported. It also included $900 million to help Puerto Rico recover from Hurricane Maria, something Trump had initially objected to.
"It's a good deal," Republican Alabama Senator and Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Richard C. Shelby told reporters, as The New York Times reported. "This disaster issue has played on for months and months."
House leaders say they will try to pass the bill Friday using unanimous consent. Though if anyone objects, they will have to wait until representatives return from the Memorial Day recess in early June.
The bill is intended to meet the needs of Americans who have suffered the impacts of extreme weather events largely influenced by climate change. Global warming made some of the precipitation-heavy storms responsible for record Midwest flooding more likely, sparked the hot, dry conditions behind California's deadly 2018 wildfires, and played a role in the intensity and rainfall of Hurricanes Michael and Maria respectively.
Congress has not passed a disaster relief bill since February 2018, before Hurricanes Michael and Florence, California's 2018 wildfires and record Midwest flooding this year. Such bills usually pass quickly with bipartisan support, but this time there were difficulties, as Trump initially opposed more funding for Puerto Rico and then requested money for the influx of asylum seekers at the U.S.'s southern border.
"Each time the president messes in, things get messed up," Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said, as Reuters reported. "So I suggested this morning that we just do disaster aid and no border, and that's what we're doing ... We got all we wanted for Puerto Rico."
While negotiations continued, some food aid to Puerto Rico had expired in March, The New York Times said. The new bill includes more nutrition assistance for the island, Reuters reported.
CNN gave a run-down of the bill's contents:
A summary of the bill written by the office of Sen. Pat Leahy, the top Democrat on the Appropriations committee, said the deal included more than $3 billion to "repair damaged infrastructure" and to "reduce the risk" of floods and hurricanes in the future, about $3 billion to "rebuild our military bases and coast guard facilities," $3 billion to support farmers, $2.4 billion for Community Development Block Grants to "rebuild and mitigate future disaster," $605 million for food benefits to Puerto Rico and an additional $304 million in aid to Puerto Rico.
The Senate said it would tackle funding for the humanitarian situation at the border after the recess.
"Some of this money is badly needed, and there's no dispute about that," Leahy said, according to Reuters.
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Farms with just one or a handful of different crops encourage fewer species of pollinating and pest-controlling insects to linger, ultimately winnowing away crop yields, according to a new study.
Up to half of the detrimental impacts of the "landscape simplification" that monocropping entails come as a result of a diminished mix of ecosystem service-providing insects, a team of scientists reported Oct. 16 in the journal Science Advances.
Monocrop palm oil plantation Honduras.
SHARE Foundation / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0
"Our study shows that biodiversity is essential to ensure the provision of ecosystem services and to maintain a high and stable agricultural production," Matteo Dainese, the study's lead author and a biologist at Eurac Research in Bolzano, Italy, said in a statement.
It stands to reason that, with declines in the sheer numbers of insects that ferry pollen from plant to plant and keep crop-eating pests under control, these services will wane as well. But until now, it hasn't been clear how monocultures affect the number and mix of these species or how crop yields might change as a result.
Aiming to solve these questions, Dainese and his colleagues pulled together data from 89 studies cutting across a variety of landscapes, from the tropics of Asia and Africa to the higher latitudes of northern Europe. They tabulated the number of pollinating and pest-controlling insects at these sites — both the absolute number of individuals and the number of species — along with an assessment of the ecosystem services the insects provided.
In almost all of the studies they looked at, the team found that a more diverse pool of these species translated into more pollination and greater pest control. They also showed that simplified landscapes supported fewer species of service-providing insects, which ultimately led to lower crop yields.
The researchers also looked at a third measure of the makeup of insect populations — what they called "evenness." In natural ecosystems, a handful of dominant species with many more individuals typically live alongside a higher number of rarer species. The team found as landscapes became less diverse, dominant species numbers dwindled and rare species gained ground. This resulting, more equitable mix led to less pollination (though it didn't end up affecting pest control).
"Our study provides strong empirical support for the potential benefits of new pathways to sustainable agriculture that aim to reconcile the protection of biodiversity and the production of food for increasing human populations," Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter, one of the study's authors and an animal ecologist at the University of Würzburg in Germany, said in the statement.
The scientists figure that the richness of pollinator species explains around a third of the harmful impacts of less diverse landscapes, while the richness of pest-controlling species accounts for about half of the same measure. In their view, the results of their research point to the need to protect biodiversity on and around crops in an uncertain future.
"Under future conditions with ongoing global change and more frequent extreme climate events, the value of farmland biodiversity ensuring resilience against environmental disturbances will become even more important," Steffan-Dewenter said.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.
Ivory Coast's rainforests have been decimated by cocoa production and what is left is put in peril by a new law that will remove legal protections for thousands of square miles of forests, according to The Guardian.
By Karin Kirk
Greenland had quite the summer. It rose from peaceful obscurity to global headliner as ice melted so swiftly and massively that many were left grasping for adjectives. Then, Greenland's profile was further boosted, albeit not to its delight, when President Trump expressed interest in buying it, only to be summarily dismissed by the Danish prime minister.
During that time I happened to be in East Greenland, both as an observer of the stark effects of climate change and as a witness to local dialogue about presidential real estate aspirations, polar bear migrations and Greenland's sudden emergence as a trending topic.
Heavy metals that may damage a developing brain are present in 95 percent of baby foods on the market. Cirou Frederic / PhotoAlto Agency RF Collections / Getty Images
Heavy metals that may damage a developing brain are present in 95 percent of baby foods on the market, according to new research from the advocacy organization Healthy Babies Bright Futures (HBBF), which bills itself as an alliance of scientists, nonprofit organizations and donors trying to reduce exposures to neurotoxic chemicals during the first three years of development.
By Kerstin Palme
Creepy-crawlies are among the oldest life forms on this planet. Before dinosaurs ever walked the earth, insects were certainly already there. Some estimates date their origins to 400 million years ago. They're also extremely successful. Of the 7 to 8 million species documented on Earth, around three quarters are likely bugs.
But several insect species could disappear for good in the next few decades and that would have serious consequences for humans.
Volvo introduced its first-ever all-electric vehicle this week, kicking off an ambitious plan to slash emissions and phase out solely gas-powered vehicles starting this year.
The report, released Wednesday, found that almost every European who lives in a city is exposed to unhealthy air, Reuters reported.