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Green New Deal Champion AOC Will Serve on Biden Climate Panel

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Green New Deal Champion AOC Will Serve on Biden Climate Panel
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. and Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., along with affordable housing advocates and climate change activists announce the introduction of public housing legislation as part of the Green New Deal outside the Capitol on Nov. 14, 2019. Bill Clark / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

When former Vice President Joe Biden effectively clinched the Democratic nomination in April, one major concern for the climate movement was the fact that his plan for tackling the issue was less ambitious than that of some of his primary rivals.


But Biden signaled a willingness to boost his climate platform. And now, Green-New-Deal champion Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has agreed to serve on a panel helping him shape his plan to address the climate crisis.

"She made the decision with members of the Climate Justice community — and she will be fully accountable to them and the larger advocacy community during this process," a representative of the Congresswoman told Reuters by email Tuesday. "She believes the movement will only be successful if we continue to apply pressure both inside and outside the system."

Ocasio-Cortez has made a name for herself in Congress as an advocate for a Green New Deal to transition the U.S. away from fossil fuels while providing jobs and supporting greater equality. In the primaries, she endorsed Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, whose climate plan promised $16.3 trillion for a Green New Deal-type mobilization and earned a 94 out of 100 on Greenpeace's climate scorecard. Biden's initial plan, meanwhile, promised only $1.7 trillion and earned a 72 from Greenpeace.

But when Sanders, the last major primary contender to drop out, endorsed Biden, the campaign announced a series of task forces that would work to bring together supporters of the two candidates on issues from health care to criminal justice to the economy, CNN explained. It is the climate-centered of these task forces that Ocasio-Cortez will be serving on, as Biden himself confirmed in an interview with News8 in Las Vegas Tuesday.

"I'm working with Bernie and with his people. And so, and we've made some changes. We've listened to Bernie supporters and, you know, for example, we have Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez, she is on one of the panels," Biden said.

A source with direct knowledge of the matter told CNN that Ocasio-Cortez would actually be co-chairing the panel.

Ocasio-Cortez spokeswoman Lauren Hitt told NBC News the Congresswoman would be representing Sanders on the panel.

When the panels were first announced, Sanders explained them as a way to unify the Democratic party's progressive and moderate wings.

"It's no great secret out there, Joe, that you and I have our differences, and we're not going to paper them over. That's real," Sanders said, as CNN reported. "But I hope that these task forces will come together utilizing the best minds and people in your campaign and in my campaign to work out real solutions to these very, very important problems."

Biden told News8 he was reaching out to Sanders supporters, but said their positions were not as far as voters may have believed.

"My message to all — and what they're finding out now that the nomination process is de facto over, they're finding out the positions I had on an awful lot of things were not accurately characterized and they're feeling more comfortable with it," Biden said, as NBC News reported. "But I'm listening. I'm here, I need them, and I hope they all will join us."

President Donald Trump, who Biden will be running against in November, has not taken any steps to address the climate crisis and has a Greenpeace score of zero.

"Trump denies the reality of the climate crisis and is actively promoting fossil fuels while weakening existing climate protections. His Cabinet is filled with former coal and oil lobbyists. Trump gets an 'F' for putting our most vulnerable communities — and our very futures — at risk," Greenpeace wrote.

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A Michigan bald eagle proved that nature can still triumph over machines when it attacked and drowned a nearly $1,000 government drone.

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Cottongrass blows in the wind at the edge of Etivlik Lake, Alaska. Western Arctic National Parklands / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 2.0

By Tara Lohan

Warming temperatures on land and in the water are already forcing many species to seek out more hospitable environments. Atlantic mackerel are swimming farther north; mountain-dwelling pikas are moving upslope; some migratory birds are altering the timing of their flights.

Numerous studies have tracked these shifting ranges, looked at the importance of wildlife corridors to protect these migrations, and identified climate refugia where some species may find a safer climatic haven.

"There's a huge amount of scientific literature about where species will have to move as the climate warms," says U.C. Berkeley biogeographer Matthew Kling. "But there hasn't been much work in terms of actually thinking about how they're going to get there — at least not when it comes to wind-dispersed plants."

Kling and David Ackerly, professor and dean of the College of Natural Resources at U.C. Berkeley, have taken a stab at filling this knowledge gap. Their recent study, published in Nature Climate Change, looks at the vulnerability of wind-dispersed species to climate change.

It's an important field of research, because while a fish can more easily swim toward colder waters, a tree may find its wind-blown seeds landing in places and conditions where they're not adapted to grow.

Kling is careful to point out that the researchers weren't asking how climate change was going to change wind; other research suggests there likely won't be big shifts in global wind patterns.

Instead the study involved exploring those wind patterns — including direction, speed and variability — across the globe. The wind data was then integrated with data on climate variation to build models trying to predict vulnerability patterns showing where wind may either help or hinder biodiversity from responding to climate change.

One of the study's findings was that wind-dispersed or wind-pollinated trees in the tropics and on the windward sides of mountain ranges are more likely to be vulnerable, since the wind isn't likely to move those dispersers in the right direction for a climate-friendly environment.

The researchers also looked specifically at lodgepole pines, a species that's both wind-dispersed and wind-pollinated.

They found that populations of lodgepole pines that already grow along the warmer and drier edges of the species' current range could very well be under threat due to rising temperatures and related climate alterations.

"As temperature increases, we need to think about how the genes that are evolved to tolerate drought and heat are going to get to the portions of the species' range that are going to be getting drier and hotter," says Kling. "So that's what we were able to take a stab at predicting and estimating with these wind models — which populations are mostly likely to receive those beneficial genes in the future."

That's important, he says, because wind-dispersed species like pines, willows and poplars are often keystone species whole ecosystems depend upon — especially in temperate and boreal forests.

And there are even more plants that rely on pollen dispersal by wind.

"That's going to be important for moving genes from the warmer parts of a species' range to the cooler parts of the species' range," he says. "This is not just about species' ranges shifting, but also genetic changes within species."

Kling says this line of research is just beginning, and much more needs to be done to test these models in the field. But there could be important conservation-related benefits to that work.

"All these species and genes need to migrate long distances and we can be thinking more about habitat connectivity and the vulnerability of these systems," he says.

The more we learn, the more we may be able to do to help species adapt.

"The idea is that there will be some landscapes where the wind is likely to help these systems naturally adapt to climate change without much intervention, and other places where land managers might really need to intervene," he says. "That could involve using assisted migration or assisted gene flow to actually get in there, moving seeds or planting trees to help them keep up with rapid climate change."


Tara Lohan is deputy editor of The Revelator and has worked for more than a decade as a digital editor and environmental journalist focused on the intersections of energy, water and climate. Her work has been published by The Nation, American Prospect, High Country News, Grist, Pacific Standard and others. She is the editor of two books on the global water crisis. http://twitter.com/TaraLohan

Reposted with permission from The Revelator.

An illustration depicts the extinct woolly rhino. Heinrich Harder / Wikimedia Commons

The last Ice Age eliminated some giant mammals, like the woolly rhino. Conventional thinking initially attributed their extinction to hunting. While overhunting may have contributed, a new study pinpointed a different reason for the woolly rhinos' extinction: climate change.

The last of the woolly rhinos went extinct in Siberia nearly 14,000 years ago, just when the Earth's climate began changing from its frozen conditions to something warmer, wetter and less favorable to the large land mammal. DNA tests conducted by scientists on 14 well-preserved rhinos point to rapid warming as the culprit, CNN reported.

"Humans are well known to alter their environment and so the assumption is that if it was a large animal it would have been useful to people as food and that must have caused its demise," says Edana Lord, a graduate student at the Center for Paleogenetics in Stockholm, Sweden, and co-first author of the paper, Smithsonian Magazine reported. "But our findings highlight the role of rapid climate change in the woolly rhino's extinction."

The study, published in Current Biology, notes that the rhino population stayed fairly consistent for tens of thousands of years until 18,500 years ago. That means that people and rhinos lived together in Northern Siberia for roughly 13,000 years before rhinos went extinct, Science News reported.

The findings are an ominous harbinger for large species during the current climate crisis. As EcoWatch reported, nearly 1,000 species are expected to go extinct within the next 100 years due to their inability to adapt to a rapidly changing climate. Tigers, eagles and rhinos are especially vulnerable.

The difference between now and the phenomenon 14,000 years ago is that human activity is directly responsible for the current climate crisis.

To figure out the cause of the woolly rhinos' extinction, scientists examined DNA from different rhinos across Siberia. The tissue, bone and hair samples allowed them to deduce the population size and diversity for tens of thousands of years prior to extinction, CNN reported.

Researchers spent years exploring the Siberian permafrost to find enough samples. Then they had to look for pristine genetic material, Smithsonian Magazine reported.

It turns out the wooly rhinos actually thrived as they lived alongside humans.

"It was initially thought that humans appeared in northeastern Siberia fourteen or fifteen thousand years ago, around when the woolly rhinoceros went extinct. But recently, there have been several discoveries of much older human occupation sites, the most famous of which is around thirty thousand years old," senior author Love Dalén, a professor of evolutionary genetics at the Center for Paleogenetics, said in a press release.

"This paper shows that woolly rhino coexisted with people for millennia without any significant impact on their population," Grant Zazula, a paleontologist for Canada's Yukon territory and Simon Fraser University who was not involved in the research, told Smithsonian Magazine. "Then all of a sudden the climate changed and they went extinct."

A large patch of leaked oil and the vessel MV Wakashio near Blue Bay Marine Park off the coast of southeast Mauritius on Aug. 6, 2020. AFP via Getty Images

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A quality engineer examines new solar panels in a factory. alvarez / Getty Images

Transitioning to renewable energy can help reduce global warming, and Jennie Stephens of Northeastern University says it can also drive social change.

For example, she says that locally owned businesses can lead the local clean energy economy and create new jobs in underserved communities.

"We really need to think about … connecting climate and energy with other issues that people wake up every day really worried about," she says, "whether it be jobs, housing, transportation, health and well-being."

To maximize that potential, she says the energy sector must have more women and people of color in positions of influence. Research shows that leadership in the solar industry, for example, is currently dominated by white men.

"I think that a more inclusive, diverse leadership is essential to be able to effectively make these connections," Stephens says. "Diversity is not just about who people are and their identity, but the ideas and the priorities and the approaches and the lens that they bring to the world."

So she says by elevating diverse voices, organizations can better connect the climate benefits of clean energy with social and economic transformation.

Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.