Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

A 'Green Stimulus' Could Battle Three Crises: Coronavirus, Economic Injustice and Climate Emergency

Insights + Opinion
A 'Green Stimulus' Could Battle Three Crises: Coronavirus, Economic Injustice and Climate Emergency
A solar energy project manager carries a panel to the roof ridge of a home at OceanView at Falmouth in Portland, Maine on Aug. 2, 2017. Ben McCanna / Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

"As a nation we face three converging crises: the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic recession; the climate emergency; and extreme inequality."



That's the warning from progressive policy experts, climate leaders, and academics who have joined together to support a new "Green Stimulus" plan that calls for "at least $2 trillion that creates millions of family-sustaining green jobs, lifts standards of living, accelerates a just transition off fossil fuels, ensures a controlling stake for the public in all private sector bailout plans, and helps make our society and economy stronger and more resilient in the face of pandemic, recession, and climate emergency in the years ahead."

That's the warning from progressive policy experts, climate leaders, and academics who have joined together to support a new "Green Stimulus" plan that calls for "at least $2 trillion that creates millions of family-sustaining green jobs, lifts standards of living, accelerates a just transition off fossil fuels, ensures a controlling stake for the public in all private sector bailout plans, and helps make our society and economy stronger and more resilient in the face of pandemic, recession, and climate emergency in the years ahead."

The 11 co-authors — many of whom have ties to the think tank Data for Progress and various 2020 Democratic presidential campaigns — call for automatically renewing the stimulus at 4% of GDP annually, or about $850 billion, until the economy is fully decarbonized and the unemployment rate is below 3.5%. Their proposal aligns with the previously published "5 Principles for Just COVID-19 Relief and Stimulus" that's backed by more than 300 environmental, justice, labor and other progressive groups.

Given that other advocates and groups are working on emergency efforts to stabilize the economy to prevent harm from the ongoing pandemic in an equitable way, the Green Stimulus plan aims to address "the longer-term challenge of jumpstarting economic recovery and transitioning to a more sustainable economy."

According to the letter, posted to Medium: "This is an inflection point for our nation. This is a pivotal moment to put tens of millions of Americans back to work, building a healthy, clean, and just future."

The plan, which points to the popularity of the Green New Deal based on Data for Progress polling, sorts proposed policies into eight categories:

  1. Housing, Buildings, Civic Infrastructure, and Communities
  2. Transportation Workers, Systems, and Infrastructure
  3. Labor, Manufacturing, and Just Transition for Workers and Communities
  4. Energy System Workers and Infrastructure
  5. Farmers, Food Systems, and Rural Communities
  6. Green Infrastructure, Public Lands, and the Environment
  7. Regulations, Innovation, and Public Investment
  8. Green Foreign Policy

Housing and infrastructure recommendations include massively expanding the federal Weatherization Assistance Program, increasing funding to and beneficiaries of Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, enacting the Green New Deal for Public Housing Act and creating a Climate Justice Resiliency Fund.

Labor-related policies include giving grants and no-interest loans to transit agencies and local governments "to complete their backlog of shovel-ready ADA-compliance and Complete Streets projects" and providing "just transition benefits for all workers in fossil fuel industries, including five years of wage replacement for displaced workers, housing assistance, job training opportunities, health insurance coverage, pension support, and priority job placement for displaced workers."

In terms of the climate emergency, the plan calls for mandating "a rapid phaseout of fracking and offshore and onshore oil and gas drilling, end new extraction, and end fossil fuel exports." It also proposes creating a national clean energy standard through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency "that applies to all power providers including rural electric cooperatives, climbing steeply to 100% carbon-free energy by 2030."

As part of a nationwide renewable energy transition, the letter highlights the importance of protecting the rights of workers to unionize, incentivizing employee ownership, "respecting Indigenous sovereignty, and ensuring no sacrifice of public safety." The proposal also features sweeping agricultural reforms to help battle the climate crisis, improve the lives of farmworkers, and boost access to healthy, affordable food.

The letter recommends changes to managing public lands and the environment more broadly, from directing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers "to clear their backlog of beneficial dredge, habitat restoration, climate adaptation, and infrastructure maintenance projects" to giving state and local governments grants to create "'energy parks' that combine recreation (e.g., walking and biking trails, swimming areas, etc.) with clean energy generation, storage and transmission infrastructure (e.g., wind turbines, PV panels and battery centers)."

Globally, the plan calls for the U.S. to support the growth of green technology as well as local and sustainable farming worldwide; ensure fair trade agreements centered on worker and environmental protections; end funding for fossil fuel infrastructure; and contribute more to the Green Climate Fund, perhaps through a progressive tax on the highest carbon-emitting polluters.

The more than 100 signatories include 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben; former EPA administrator Gina McCarthy, now a professor at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health; climate economist Gernot Wagner of New York University; author Naomi Klein, co-founder of The Leap; filmmaker Avi Lewis, another co-founder of The Leap; economist Stephanie Kelton, a professor at Stony Brook University; Stephen M. Kretzmann of Oil Change U.S.; Andrew Bunker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research; and Drilled News editor-in-chief Amy Westervelt.

The proposal comes as U.S. federal lawmakers are negotiating a third package to address the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. Senate Democrats on Monday — for the second time in 24 hours — blocked a measure that critics charged was a bailout for corporations which did too little to help workers impacted by the public health crisis. Meanwhile, progressive continue to demand #AJustStimulus as a meaningful alternative that centers labor protections, struggling families, small businesses, and the nation's most vulnerable.

The Green Stimulus plan proposes requiring that "any bailouts or bridge loans to large corporations, like airlines and cruise lines, be contingent on economic, social, and ecological conditions: 10-year plan to substantially cut majority of carbon pollution with targets every two years; use funds to maintain payroll; government gaining long-term preferred shares or other equity in bailed out firms; provide $15 minimum wage within one year; no share buy-backs or dividends; set asides seats on corporate boards for labor representatives; maintain collective bargaining agreements."

Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A bald eagle flies over Lake Michigan. KURJANPHOTO / iStock / Getty Images Plus

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

Read More Show Less
The peloton ride passes through fire-ravaged Fox Creek Road in Adelaide Hills, South Australia, during the Tour Down Under cycling event on January 23, 2020. Brenton Edwards / AFP / Getty Images

A professional cycling race in Australia is under attack for its connections to a major oil and gas producer, the Guardian reports.

Read More Show Less
UQ study lead Francisca Ribeiro inspects oysters. The study of five different seafoods revealed plastic in every sample. University of Queensland

A new study of five different kinds of seafood revealed traces of plastic in every sample tested.

Read More Show Less
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

The environmental disaster that Mauritius is facing is starting to appear as its pristine waters turn black, its fish wash up dead, and its sea birds are unable to take flight, as they are limp under the weight of the fuel covering them. For all the damage to the centuries-old coral that surrounds the tiny island nation in the Indian Ocean, scientists are realizing that the damage could have been much worse and there are broad lessons for the shipping industry, according to Al Jazeera.

Read More Show Less

Trending

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.