Sanders and Biden Debate Public Health, Climate Crisis
With their podiums placed six feet apart as a precaution against the coronavirus, the two leading Democratic presidential primary candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Vice President Joe Biden faced off on public health and the climate crisis at the 11th Democratic debate.
Sunday's debate came two days after President Donald Trump declared a national emergency to combat the new disease known as COVID-19, which has so far sickened nearly 165,000 people in 146 countries and led to 6,470 deaths. To help stop the spread of the virus, debate organizers CNN, Univision, the Democratic National Committee and the campaigns moved the venue from Phoenix, Arizona to CNN's studio in Washington, DC and broadcast the debate without an audience, as moderator Ilia Calderón of Univision explained in a debate transcript provided by Rev.
But the unusual set-up led to one of the most in-depth climate discussions to date, as Grist's Shannon Osaka pointed out.
"It only took 10 debates, a worldwide pandemic, and the winnowing of the Democratic field down to two men in their late 70s — but on Sunday night, for about 12 minutes, the American public finally got to hear a substantive debate about climate change," Osaka wrote.
But first the candidates were asked how they would respond to the new disease. Biden called for more testing and hospital beds to be made ready, and also spoke of the need to assist people impacted by the economic cost of the pandemic, such as providing interest-free loans to small businesses.
Sanders emphasized the need to ensure that no one would have to pay for treatment if they fell ill, called for more ventilators in hospitals and also spoke of the need for economic relief.
Sanders also criticized Trump for his misleading statements about the coronavirus, such as stating that Americans with the illness would be well enough to go to work.
"Well, first thing we have got to do, whether or not I'm president, is to shut this president up right now, because he is undermining the doctors and the scientists who are trying to help the American people," he said.
The first climate question came nearly 14 minutes into the second half of the debate. CNN's Jake Tapper asked the candidates how their climate plans would address the fact that the climate crisis is also a "health crisis" that could lead to the spread of infectious diseases, as the World Health Organization has warned.
However, neither candidate directly answered the question. Instead, both spoke in more general terms about the seriousness of the climate crisis and the need to act immediately, though Biden did mention that the crisis already had health costs.
"[T]here's an awful lot of people today who are in fact getting ill because of the changes in the environment," he said.
The debate then shifted to whose plan would tackle the crisis most effectively,
Tapper noticed the price-tag gap between Sanders' $16.3 trillion plan and Biden's $1.7 trillion plan.
"Is your plan ambitious enough to tackle this crisis?" Tapper asked.
Biden insisted it was, saying he would reinstate the environmental regulations rolled back under Trump, install 500,000 new electric vehicle charging stations, rejoin the Paris agreement and work with other world leaders to provide $20 billion to Brazil to help protect the Amazon rainforest.
Sanders countered that Biden's plan was "nowhere near enough." He likened climate change to the threat posed by the coronavirus.
"[W]e started this debate talking about a warlike situation in terms of the coronavirus and we said, 'We have to act accordingly.' You said it. I think you're right. I said it. We have to act dramatically, boldly, if we're going to save lives in this country and around the world," Sanders said. "I look at climate change in exactly the same way."
Sanders emphasized the need to end subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, stop all oil and gas drilling and push for international action that goes beyond the Paris agreement.
Biden defended himself based on his experience of tackling the climate crisis, pointing to the fact that he wrote the first climate change bill introduced to the Senate in 1986.
"I've been way ahead of this curve," he said. "This idea that all of a sudden Bernie found this out is amazing to me."Voters in Illinois, Florida, Arizona and Ohio will have a chance to decide which candidate's approach they prefer when they vote in their states' primaries Tuesday. So far, Biden is leading Sanders in the delegate count 880 to 706, according to NBC News. A candidate needs 1,991 of 3,979 total delegates to secure the nomination.
Yet another former Trump administration staffer has come out with an endorsement for former Vice President Joe Biden, this time in response to President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.