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Police Open Fire on Pollution Protesters in India, Killing at Least 9
A protest of a controversial copper smelter in the Tamil Nadu state on the southeastern tip of India took a violent turn Tuesday when police opened fire on demonstrators, killing at least nine, Reuters reported.
On Wednesday, as another person was killed and others injured by gunfire during continued unrest, the Madras High Court ordered the smelter to put plans to double its size on hold, Reuters further reported.
The smelter, located in the port city of Thootukudi, is one of the largest in the country and is run by the London-based Vedanta Resources, one of the largest mining companies in the world, according to The Guardian.
Community members and environmental activists have been protesting the plant and its proposed expansion for three months, saying that it emits air pollution and water pollution and is hurting the health of human residents and fish.
The protests come as India is struggling to combat deadly pollution. Early this month, The most recent World Health Organization report on air quality found that two of the world's six most polluted megacities are in India. According to a study by The Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health, 2.5 million people died in India due to pollution in 2015, the highest number of pollution-caused deaths in any country in the world, NDTV reported in 2017.
Wednesday's court order required authorities to hold a "mandatory" hearing open to the public on Vedanta's environmental clearance application and said the "appropriate authorities" would consider that application, Reuters reported.
Before the court's decision, the local pollution regulator had ordered the plant shut until June 6 for failing to comply with environmental rules. It has been shut for 50 days so far, but activists want to see it closed permanently.
"The inaction of the government has led to the people's protests, and police resorting to firing to control it. Action should be taken to shut down the plant immediately to address this issue," leader of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam opposition group M.K. Stalin said in a Facebook post, according to Reuters.
Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami said the police had no choice but to open fire after demonstrators burned cars and threw stones.
An anonymous company official told Reuters that demonstrators carrying black flags had rushed an apartment complex where Vedanta employees are living, as well as the district government headquarters.
But Rahul Gandhi, the leader of India's opposition Congress party condemned the killings.
"The gunning down by the police of nine people in ... Tamil Nadu, is a brutal example of state-sponsored terrorism. These citizens were murdered for protesting against injustice. My thoughts & prayers are with the families of these martyrs and the injured," he tweeted.
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By Julia Conley
Scientists at the United Nations' intergovernmental body focusing on biodiversity sounded alarms earlier this month with its report on the looming potential extinction of one million species — but few heard their calls, according to a German newspaper report.
The climate crisis is a major concern for American voters with nearly 40 percent reporting the issue will help determine how they cast their ballots in the upcoming 2020 presidential election, according to a report compiled by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.
Of more than 1,000 registered voters surveyed on global warming, climate and energy policies, as well as personal and collective action, 38 percent said that a candidate's position on climate change is "very important" when it comes to determining who will win their vote. Overall, democratic candidates are under more pressure to provide green solutions as part of their campaign promises with 64 percent of Democrat voters saying they prioritize the issue compared with just 34 percent of Independents and 12 percent of Republicans.
The climate crisis has become a driving and dividing factor in the political arena in recent years. According to the survey, almost three-quarters of respondents think global warming is happening (though that number varies across party lines) with more than half of registered voters agreeing that it is driven by human activities. As such, six-in-ten voters are worried about the current state of the climate — a marked increase from the last survey conducted in March 2018.
When asked how much they would support different strategies the government could use to reduce air pollution, more than three-quarters agreed that investing in renewable energy research and infrastructure and regulating pollution was a priority, as well as taxing pollution (requiring companies to pay a tax on pollution they emit to encourage a reduction in emissions). A majority of respondents also support more specific policies to reduce carbon pollution and promote clean energy, including a revenue-neutral carbon tax and a fee on carbon pollution that distributes money to U.S. citizens through monthly dividend checks. Furthermore, many support a Clean Power Plan that implements strict carbon dioxide emission limits on existing coal-fired power plants. A majority of voters also say they want policies that address the pollution that causes global warming and reduces pollution investments, regulations and taxes.
Climate change ranks as the 17th most important voting issue and is a more polarizing topic than abortion. So much so, that almost half of registered voters say they would support a president who declared global warming a national emergency if Congress does not act.
A handful of 2020 presidential candidates have put climate change at the forefront of their campaign platform as part of ongoing pressure to combat the effects of climate change. The Green New Deal, unveiled in part by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) earlier this year is a decade-long plan that will "mobilize every aspect of American society ... to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and create economic prosperity for all," according to a section of the resolution from her office posted by NPR.
Colorado Senator Michael Bennet, who introduced a plan just a few days ago to combat climate change. In it, Bennet calls for the establishment of a "Climate Bank" to use federal spending to incentivize the private sector to transition to net-zero emissions by 2050. His opponent, Governor Jay Inslee of Washington State, similarly announced a clean energy plan earlier this month dubbed the "100 Percent Clean Energy for America Plan" that would aim to phase out coal over the next decade and require all power production to be emissions-free by 2035.
Former Vice President Joe Biden also threw his name into the running hat but didn't mention climate change in his announcement. His overall stand on the Green New Deal and fossil fuel infrastructure is hazy. His campaign website promises environmental action but does not go into further detail. If elected president, Senator Elizabeth Warren has promised an executive order to ban new fossil fuel extraction leases in federal lands and waters.
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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.
"There was a lot of devastation throughout the state," Governor Mike Parson said at a Thursday morning press conference, as NPR reported. "We were very fortunate last night that we didn't have more injuries than what we had, and we didn't have more fatalities across the state. But three is too many."
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By Jennifer Molidor
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This research should serve as a rallying cry for polluting industries to make major changes now. Yet the agriculture industry continues to lag behind.
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