A new report by a commission of health experts found 22,000 deaths in 2019 were caused by Trump's failed environmental policies alone.
The report was published this week by The Lancet, an esteemed medical journal whose "wade into the politics behind health policy is highly unusual," Bloomberg Green reported. But while the journal's editor Richard Horton has faced controversy before, the study was co-authored by 33 scientists, signaling "a changing time," Gretchen Goldman, a research director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told Bloomberg Green.
"If you told me four years ago that scientific journals would be speaking out against Trump, I wouldn't have believed you," Goldman told Bloomberg Green. "But since then, there has been quite a shift, reflecting both the severity of what Trump did as well as the changing willingness of the scientific community to engage in policy conversations."
During his administration, Trump rolled back 84 environmental regulations, the report notes as of July 2020 – rollbacks that ultimately "hastened global warming, and despoiled national monuments and lands sacred to Native people," the scientists wrote.
Loosened restrictions on fine particulate matter air pollution was probably the main cause of the thousands of deaths, according to the report, harming communities in midwestern and southern states, where coal mining, oil drilling and natural gas extraction are prevalent. Many of these same communities have also overwhelmingly supported Trump.
Trump's exploitation of these communities gripped white, low-income and middle-income people's anger over "their deteriorating life prospects," banking on racism and xenophobia to gather support for his policies, the report said. But the "disturbing truth" is that many of Trump's policies were not radically new trends in the country's economic, health and social-political history, the report finds.
The Trump administration's policies rather accelerated a "decades-long trend of lagging life expectancy," particularly among Black and Indigenous people, impacted by lax restrictions on air pollution which are linked to health issues like asthma and pneumonia among children, heart disease and lung cancer, the scientists wrote.
In addition to outlining Trump's environmental policy, the report includes lengthy sections on the COVID-19 pandemic, immigration and racial disparities in health care. "I really think one of the accomplishments of the report is its historical truth-telling," said Dr. Mary T Bassett, a commission member and director of Harvard University's FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, according to The Guardian.
The scientists in The Lancet report also recommend various policies the Biden administration could consider. They call for anti-racist frameworks that directly compensate communities who have long been disregarded in the country, and they call for the new administration to introduce measures that address the social and environmental inequalities that "exacerbate" health inequities.
So how quickly can we expect a new tide of equitable environmental policy in a new administration?
Americans should brace themselves because it may take a while, Kevin Minoli, who served as a lawyer at the U.S Environmental Protection Agency in the Clinton, Bush, Obama and Trump administrations, told The New York Times.
"It's very possible, more possible than not, that some of the Trump rules will still be in effect for a couple of years," he added.
With an entirely new administration, environmental policies could be designed to protect the communities it has long disadvantaged. Early decisions by the Biden administration to cancel the construction permit for the Keystone XL pipeline and plans to restore protections over national monuments, like Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah, are promising steps forward.
But reversing much of what has been done over the past four years is a big job. Going forward, the U.S. must do so with "humility, and ambition," said John Kerry, the new White House climate envoy, according to The New York Times. "We really don't have a minute to waste."
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Countries most vulnerable to climate change are often the ones with the least financial resources to respond, and rich countries, which are accountable for the majority of global greenhouse gas emissions, are failing to support them.
In response, six climate finance experts on Thursday called for radical reform to the ways in which international climate finance is organized, The Guardian reported. In their article published in Nature Climate Change, the experts suggest innovative finance options like taxing international transportation to create steady flows of finance to countries that need it most, The Guardian reported.
Despite a pledge made in the Copenhagen Accord of 2009, rich countries are failing to provide US$100 billion a year by 2020 to support poor countries dealing with climate change. This is partly due to undefined rules on what kind of climate finance counts, the experts wrote.
"The original pledge stated that "this funding will come from a wide variety of sources, public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including alternative sources of finance", but specified no rules on what could be counted in those categories," the experts wrote. Over a decade later, the experts warn that accounting climate finance remains "deeply flawed," The Guardian reported.
A small number of countries contribute to the majority of global greenhouse gas emissions, The World Resources Center reported. While China is the world's biggest emitter, it is followed by the U.S., emitting 13 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Yet countries with the smallest carbon footprints are still at risk for extreme weather and poverty, exacerbating global inequality.
A lack of action by developed countries could, for example, force 100 million people into extreme poverty by 2030, The Brooking Institute reported. In response, participating countries of COP 16, in 2010, created the Green Climate Fund, an entity meant to decide on climate finance policies and priorities, UNFCCC reported.
Yet this program, including the UN Environment and Development Programmes and the Global Environment Facility, remain underfunded, the experts added, and dysfunctional climate finance systems continue to stand in the way of global efforts to support the countries most at risk of climate change.
"There is not a clear accounting system. The definitions of what constitutes climate finance are vague, and there are many flaws and discrepancies," Romain Weikmans, a co-author of the article told The Guardian. "It is impossible for now to say whether the $100bn pledge has been met or not. The parameters are so vague that it is impossible to give a definitive answer."
The authors call for countries to first determine their climate pledge's based on a vulnerable country's needs and then create tangible plans to reach these funding goals. For example, charging a tax on international flights could create steady flows of climate finance to help poor countries, The Guardian reported.
Based on a 2011 study, published by the International Institute for Environment and Development, a small charge to travelers taking flights could help raise US$10 billion each year. Taxing bunker fuels, high-carbon fuels used by ships, could also supply steady income streams, The Guardian suggests.
Implementing innovative solutions to help countries transition off of fossil fuels and adapt to climate change could be led by the new U.S. administration. For example, John Kerry, President Biden's new climate envoy, told global leaders last month at the Climate Adaptation Summit that "We intend to make good on our climate finance pledge," Reuters reported.
This promise is followed by President Biden's recent executive order, "Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad," requiring his team to develop a climate finance plan.
"Developed countries continue to avoid fundamental accountability issues by taking advantage of ambiguous technicalities in reporting standards," the authors wrote. As the United States steps back into the Paris agreement, an organized climate finance system could help the world's second-largest emitter lead the way in supporting countries most at risk for climate change. "Now is the time to begin that effort with ambition and accountability to build enduring trust and resilience," the authors added.
From bamboo utensils to bamboo toothbrushes, household products made from bamboo are becoming more popular every year. If you have allergies, neck pain or wake up constantly to flip your pillow to the cold side, bamboo pillows have the potential to help you sleep peacefully through the night.
In this article, we'll explain the benefits of bamboo pillows and how they can help you on your journey to better sleep. We'll also recommend a few of the best pillows on the market so you can choose new bedding that's right for you.
Our Picks for the Top Bamboo Pillows
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. Learn more about our review methodology here. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn a commission.
- Best Overall: Sleepsia Bamboo Memory Foam Pillow
- Best Luxury Pillow: Cosy House Collection Luxury Bamboo Pillow
- Best Body Pillow: Snuggle-Pedic Full Body Pillow
- Best Bamboo Alternative: Avocado Green Pillow
Why Switch to Bamboo Pillows?
Bamboo may be thought of as a tree-like structure because of its resilience, but it's actually classified as grass, which can be spun and woven in a soft, spongy material much like cotton. The pillows are made with a bamboo-based outer sleeve and stuffed with foam pieces in order to mold to your head position. Bamboo is considered naturally hypoallergenic and doesn't attract pests, bacterias or other fungi like most other plants.
Bedding materials such as cotton and silk don't have the concise cellulose structure that bamboo does. The material's cell structure allows more oxygen circulation, which keeps it lightweight and breathable so your pillow stays cooler longer.
Other than the sleeping benefits of the pillows, bamboo is considered an extremely sustainable material through production. The adaptable plant works as a great renewable resource, as it can thrive in any soil type and it is considered one of the fastest-growing plants in the world. As the bamboo is grown, it produces more oxygen than its calculated carbon emissions. And the cultivation of bamboo doesn't require fertilizer or pesticides, so ecosystems around the bamboo farms can be left unharmed.
Although bamboo itself is a completely natural and sustainable material, it has to undergo a strong chemical process in order to become a textile. Bamboo viscose, which is a type of rayon, is controversial among environmentalists because of this process, but overall, bamboo derivatives still produce lower carbon emissions than traditional polyester bedding. New bamboo textile processes are also being developed to be much more eco-friendly.
Full Reviews of Our Top Picks
When choosing our top recommended bamboo pillows, we looked at factors including:
- Comfort: Quality comes first when choosing bedding. The bamboo pillows chosen contain soft and snug adjustable filling to adapt to your preferred firmness.
- Materials: Most traditional pillows are stuffed with synthetic foam that contains VOCs, also known as volatile organic compounds. We ensure both the bamboo fabric and foam used in our picks are toxin-free.
- Cost: Bamboo pillows are usually a little more expensive than regular polyester or feather pillows because of their superior comfort and eco-friendly properties. It's important that the product you spend your money on is worth the cost and will hold up long-term.
- Customer reviews: We look at real and verified reviews in order to make sure each product is genuinely beneficial to customers' sleep.
Best Overall: Sleepsia Bamboo Memory Foam Pillow
The Sleepsia Bamboo Memory Foam Pillow is our pick for the overall best bamboo pillow because it offers just the right amount of support for side sleepers, stomach sleepers and back sleepers. Unlike most memory foam pillows, which use a large compact memory foam base, the shredded memory foam in these sleeper pillows allows you to easily add or remove the filling to meet your optimal comfortability. This memory foam pillow can support your neck, shoulders and upper back muscles without putting stress on your spine.
The bamboo cover as well as the memory foam allow for better air circulation to keep you from feeling too warm. These bamboo pillowcases are antibacterial as well as machine washable, so you can always have a clean sleep. The sizes range from standard to king-size pillows and are sold in a compact box that can easily be reused or recycled after purchasing.
Customer Rating: 4.1 out of 5 stars with over 6,000 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: Sleepsia's memory foam pillow uses CertiPUR-US® certified safe foam to ensure low emissions and prohibits the use of harmful components.
Best Luxury Pillow: Cosy House Collection Luxury Bamboo Pillow
Cosy House's king- and queen-size pillows are made with high-quality, bamboo-derived rayon fabric. The premium bamboo fibers increase airflow and temperature control so you won't have to flip to the cool side of your pillow through the night. If the pillows get dirty or flat over time, simply throw them in the washer and dryer to make them feel brand new again.
These bamboo pillows have a middle layer of transitional foam for extra durability as well as a safe, non-toxic filling to ensure you can sleep comfortably. If you're not satisfied with the luxurious product, Cosy House offers a satisfaction guarantee and will answer any questions or concerns in a timely manner.
Customer Rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars with over 2,300 Amazon ratings.
Why Buy: Cosy House products are Amazon's Choice for luxury bamboo pillows and are CertiPUR-US certified. They contain premium materials to ensure you get the best possible sleep.
Best Body Pillow: Snuggle-Pedic Full Body Pillow
If you have back pain and neck pain, the Snuggle-Pedic Full Body Pillow will be able to support your full body to relieve tension while sleeping. The 4.5-foot-long pillow works great as a pregnancy pillow or for anyone seeking premium comfort and support.
The Snuggle-Pedic was developed by chiropractors who wanted to help restless patients get a good night's sleep. The doctors found that your body is able to evenly distribute its weight and naturally align your spine when hugging a body pillow. Inside the pillow is a cooling material that is designed to absorb heat and help people prone to night sweats and overheating. The shredded memory foam pillow can be easily maneuvered to your body's comfort and is fully machine washable if you want to clean or re-fluff it for long-lasting coziness.
Customer Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars with over 14,300 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: Made in the USA and GreenGuard Gold certified, Snuggle-Pedic ensures non-toxic stuffing.
Best alternative: Avocado Green Pillow
If bamboo pillows just aren't for you, Avocado's 100% organic cotton pillow is just as sustainable and comfy. When you open the sleeve, the pillow is divided into three main materials. The outer layer consists of a quilt-like cover made from high-quality cotton. The soft organic latex ribbons underneath provide structure and customizable firmness to support all sleep positions. Finally, the pillow is stuffed with eco-friendly kapok tree fiber which is hypoallergenic, biodegradable and never grown with pesticides.
Avocado provides an extra bag of filling if you want to adjust your volume for a softer or more extra firm pillow. You can wash your removable cotton pillow cover if needed, but there's no need to use bleach and hanging it to dry will keep it from naturally shrinking. The soft pillows come in every size necessary and pair well with Avocado's green mattress if you're determined to sleep well with sustainable peace of mind.
Customer Rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars with over 5,000 ratings on the Avocado website
Why Buy: Vegan, GreenGuard certified and considered a carbon-negative business, Avocado's Green Pillow has passed some of the most strict emissions and sustainability testing for sleeping products on the market today.
Frequently Asked Questions: Bamboo Pillows
Is a bamboo pillow sustainable?
Bamboo is considered a great renewable resource that can be used in many different household items and is a great alternative to traditional polyester bedding products. The fast-growing plant has such a high carbon to oxygen rate that it actually offsets carbon emissions, and it doesn't require any fertilization or pesticides that could potentially cause runoff production. However, the production process to turn bamboo into a textile can create toxins that leach into the environment. Still, it's a better alternative to full synthetic materials.
What is so special about bamboo pillows?Bamboo bed pillows are a great product to try if you have trouble sleeping because of allergy issues, breathing problems or overheating at night. They are known for their distinct fibers that encourage airflow and make the pillows so lightweight. The breathable features have shown evidence of hypoallergenic properties and create a natural cooling to help sleepers get a good night of rest.
By Bill Ritter Jr.
Joe Biden is preparing to deal with climate change in a way no U.S. president has done before – by mobilizing his entire administration to take on the challenge from every angle in a strategic, integrated way.
The strategy is evident in the people Biden has chosen for his Cabinet and senior leadership roles: Most have track records for incorporating climate change concerns into a wide range of policies, and they have experience partnering across agencies and levels of government.
Those skills are crucial, because slowing climate change will require a comprehensive and coordinated "all hands on deck" approach.
We did that with energy when I was governor of Colorado, and I can tell you it isn't simple. Energy policy isn't just about electricity. It's about how homes are built, how they generate power and feed it into the grid and how the transportation, industrial and agriculture sectors evolve. It's about regulations, trade rules, government purchases and funding for research for innovation. Coordination and collaboration among agencies and different levels of government is crucial.
A coordinated approach also helps ensure that vulnerable populations aren't overlooked. Biden has committed to help disadvantaged communities that have too often borne the brunt of fossil fuel industry pollution, as well as those that have been losing fossil fuel jobs.
The Biden-Harris team's depth of experience will be vital as they take over from a Trump administration that has been stripping government agencies of their expertise and eliminating environmental protections. With Democrats gaining control of both the House and Senate, the Biden administration may also have a better chance of overhauling laws, funding and tax incentives in ways that could fundamentally transform the U.S. approach to climate change.
Here are some of the biggest challenges ahead and what "all hands on deck" might mean.
Dealing With All Those Climate Policy Rollbacks
From its first days, the Trump administration began trying to nullify or weaken U.S. environmental regulations. It had rolled back 84 environmental rules by November 2020, including major climate policies, and more rollbacks were being pursued, according to a New York Times analysis of research from Harvard and Columbia law schools.
Many of these rules had been designed to reduce climate-warming pollution from power plants, cars and trucks. Several reduced emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from oil and gas production. The Trump administration also moved to open more land to more drilling, mining and pipelines.
Some rollbacks have been challenged in court and the rules then reinstated. Others are still being litigated. Many will require going through government rule-making processes that take years to reverse.
Pressuring Other Countries to Take Action
Biden can quickly bring the U.S. back into the international Paris climate agreement, through which countries worldwide agreed to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions driving global warming. But reestablishing the nation's leadership role with the international climate community is a much longer haul.
Former Secretary of State John Kerry will lead this effort as special envoy for climate change, a new Cabinet-level position with a seat on the National Security Council. Other parts of the government can also pressure countries to take action. International development funding can encourage climate-friendly actions, and trade agreements and tariffs can establish rules of conduct.
Cleaning Up the Power Sector
The Biden-Harris climate plan aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector to net zero by 2035.
While 62 major utilities in the U.S. have set their own emission reduction goals, most leaders in that sector would argue that requiring net zero emissions by 2035 is too much too fast.
One problem is that states are often more involved in regulating the power sector than the federal government. And, when federal regulations are passed, they are often challenged in court, meaning they can take years to implement.
Reducing greenhouse gases also requires modernizing the electricity transmission grid. The federal government can streamline the permitting process to allow more clean energy, like wind and solar power, onto the grid. Without that intervention, it could take a decade or more to permit a single transmission line.
The Falling Costs of Renewable Energy
A comparison of the average levelized cost of utility-scale power generation, without subsidies, shows how new solar and onshore wind became less expensive than coal generation. Costs are in U.S. dollars per megawatt-hour.
What to Do About Vehicles, Buildings and Ag
The power sector may be the easiest sector to "decarbonize." The transportation sector is another story.
Transportation is now the nation's leading emitter of carbon dioxide. Decarbonizing it will require a transition away from the internal combustion engine in a relatively short amount of time.
Again, this is a challenge that requires many parts and levels of government working toward the same goal. It will require expanding carbon-free transportation, including more electric vehicles, charging stations, better battery technology and clean energy. That involves regulations and funding for research and development from multiple departments, as well as trade agreements, tax incentives for electric vehicles and a shift in how government agencies buy vehicles. The EPA can facilitate these efforts or hamstring them, as happened when the Trump EPA revoked California's ability to set higher emissions standards – something the Biden administration is likely to quickly restore.
The other "hard to decarbonize" sectors – buildings, industry and agriculture – will require sophistication and collaboration among all federal departments and agencies unlike any previous efforts across government.
A New Comprehensive Climate Bill
The best way to tackle these sectors would be a comprehensive climate bill that uses some mechanism, like a clean energy standard, that sets a cap, or limit, on emissions and tightens it over time. Here, the problem lies more in the politics of the moment than anything else. Biden and his team will have to convince lawmakers from fossil fuel-producing states to work on these efforts.
Democratic control of the Senate raises the chances that Congress could pass comprehensive climate legislation, but that isn't a given. Until that happens, Biden will have to rely on agencies issuing new rules, which are vulnerable to being revoked by future administrations. It's a little like playing chess without a queen or rooks.
Years of delays have allowed global warming to progress so far that many of its impacts may soon become irreversible. To meet its ambitious goals, the administration will need everyone, progressives and conservatives, state and local leaders, and the private sector, to work with them.
Biden's Core Climate Team
President-elect Joe Biden's senior leadership picks have years of experience with climate policy. He and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris introduced these seven as their core climate team. Gina McCarthy, John Kerry and Ali Zaidi will not require Senate confirmation. The others will.
Bill Ritter Jr. is Director, Center for the New Energy Economy, Colorado State University.
Disclosure statement: Bill Ritter, Jr. is a former Governor of Colorado and is the Director of the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University. The Center is funded by various foundations.
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
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Passing with a 86-13 vote, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, now has the authority to make decisions on how the country moves, builds and travels, directing the department's 55,000 employees and a multi-billion dollar budget, AP reported.
Secretary Buttigieg will also be given a key leadership role in actualizing President Biden's ambitious climate plans, taking charge of a sector that accounts for nearly one-third of the nation's greenhouse gas emissions each year, The New York Times reported.
During his presidential bid, Secretary Buttigieg had his own ambitious climate goals, releasing a $1 trillion proposal to implement sustainable infrastructure and boost public transit and electric vehicles, Grist reported.
In his new role, rebuilding roads and bridges, expanding zero-emission mass transit and growing electric vehicle infrastructure are just a few tasks on Buttigieg's to-do list, AP reported.
While taking over the seat from his predecessor Elaine Cho, whose department had been accused of censoring the impacts of climate change, may already seem like a step in the right direction, Secretary Buttigieg will likely face a "political minefield" when passing new legislation, The New York Times noted.
Transportation in the U.S. faces multiple crises. Impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the sector depends heavily upon fossil fuels and is responsible for poor health conditions across the country, which are linked to bad air quality.
How Buttigieg decides to combat these crises could shape how the cabinet post is defined, now and going forward.
"Nobody has any idea what that job entails," Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, told The Washington Post. "If you're going to define a role, it's much easier than redefining a role."
So how can Buttigieg redefine the transportation sector?
He can start by helping cities make their transit systems more reliable and direct them toward communities who need it most, Ann Shikany, an infrastructure expert at the Natural Resources Defense Council told The New York Times. More accessible transportation could also encourage fewer to drive, reducing fossil fuel dependency.
"As Secretary, Buttigieg should follow through on Biden's commitment to provide every American city with 100,000 or more residents with high-quality public transit and low-carbon transportation options," the NRDC wrote on its blog. Buttigieg should prioritize investments in communities that have been harmed "by the car-dominated development of the last century," it added.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) is responsible for allotting $1 billion in competitive grants to help states and cities develop their own transportation projects. It could also direct those funds to projects that encourage clean transportation, such as new bike lanes and broader bus systems, The New York Times reported.
Environmental groups have so far been supportive of the new Transportation Secretary.
"Today's confirmation of Pete Buttigieg as Secretary of Transportation is a big step forward towards addressing the climate and health impacts of our polluting and inequitable transportation status quo," Gina Coplon-Newfield, director of Sierra Club's Clean Transportation for All campaign, said in a statement. "Secretary of Transportation Buttigieg has made clear his priorities for clean transportation for all."
Already breaking barriers as the first openly gay person confirmed to a cabinet position, Secretary Buttigieg could pioneer the DOT in an entirely new direction, prioritizing the climate and helping communities the sector has long disadvantaged.
"The Sierra Club looks forward to working with the new secretary and the Department of Transportation to clean up transportation pollution and make our transportation systems accessible for all," Coplon-Newfield added.
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By Ilana Cohen
Last November, youth climate activists helped elect U.S. President Joe Biden. The Green New Deal enthusiasts turned their peers out to the polls in record numbers, with youth of color making a key difference in battleground states. Many were motivated by Biden's historically bold climate agenda—which was shaped, in no small part, by the activism and input of youth climate activists. They were also moved by a strong desire to defeat climate science denier incumbent Donald Trump.
But the first few weeks of the Biden administration have given activists some reason to doubt that Biden will deliver serious climate action. While including progressive climate policy leaders on his team and issuing sweeping executive actions to combat climate change, Biden has also continued issuing dozens of new oil drilling permits.
Now, many youth climate activists are demanding a say in U.S. federal climate policy.
"We need to be given not just the mic but decision-making abilities," said Isabella Fallahi. The 17-year-old is the founder of Polluters Out, a global youth-led coalition targeting the fossil fuel industry. "We ought to be able to dictate what our future is going to look like."
A Formal Role?
Offering young climate activists an official seat at Biden's White House table could help secure Democratic support for upcoming elections. Such a position would also bring a fresh and likely more left-leaning perspective to federal climate policy.
Marcela Mulholland warned that "it's easy to pay lip service" to representing youth in policy making "without actually following through." Mulholland is Deputy Director for Climate at progressive think tank Data for Progress. "I would love to see more formalized structures… that make sure the youth climate perspective is represented in the policymaking process," she said.
Already, many youth climate activists are pointing to historical precedent for including young people in the work of local, state, national, and even international agencies. They hope that the White House will follow suit.
The 18-year-old climate activist Sophia Kianni, for instance, said she wanted to see the Biden administration adopt a model similar to the UN Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change, of which she is a U.S. representative. The group, initially formed last July, comprises seven 18 to 28-year-old climate leaders from around the world. The Advisory Group counsels UN Secretary-General António Guterres on international action to tackle the climate crisis.
Kianni suggested that the White House replicate this structure. She proposed assembling a diverse team of U.S. climate activists to advise climate policy czars Gina McCarthy and John Kerry, along with other federal agencies.
Sophia Kianni (middle, rightmost) attending a Zoom meeting for the UN Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (top middle box). UN Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change
Meanwhile, a coalition of youth-led groups including climate organizations Earth Guardians and Future Coalition has put forward a proposal for the administration to establish an independent "Office of Young Americans". Such an office would be situated within the Executive Office of the President. They also seek the appointment of a "Director of Youth Engagement" to oversee the office and engage with top executive agencies.
Going forward, "it should just be standard operating procedure" for the White House to engage with youth climate activists, says Natalie Mebane. Associate director of U.S. policy at 350 Action, Mebane believes that young people should be considered full stakeholders in climate policy. She added that longer-standing climate organizations like 350.org could help facilitate connections between the two.
A White House spokesperson didn't respond directly to questions about whether youth climate activists will have a formal role in the White House. But they stated that the administration "feels that youth climate activists will play an important role in tackling the climate crisis" and intends to work with them to do so.
If Biden doesn't deliver a bold enough climate agenda, youth climate activists will make their frustration known.
"What we're going to do is what we do best and that's disrupt," said Fallahi. "As you see our anger rising, you can expect that the next step is we're going to take action," she remarked.
Disruptive action seems more difficult, though, when in-person action remains limited amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The massive youth climate strikes that once galvanized international attention and led to a flurry of climate emergency declarations have become impracticable.
At the same time, digital communication has offered internet and social media-savvy youth climate activists unique opportunities to amplify their demands.
Young people celebrate Joe Biden and Kamala Harris' victory in the 2020 U.S. presidential election in Washington D.C. on November 7, 2020. Photo: Elvert Barnes. Lic: CC BY-SA 2.0
Invoking her experiences targeting fossil fuel companies with Polluters Out, Fallahi suggested that youth climate activists could create "cyber storms." Some strategies are calling the White House, bombarding federal aides with emails, and posting en masse on social media to drum up public pressure.
"Cyber storms" would likely be the least of Biden's problems if the White House fails to make youth climate activists like Fallahi feel heard. Such failure could also diminish support for Democratic majorities in Congress among a key block of voters ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, according to Mulholland of Data for Progress.
Failing to deliver could also jeopardize a potential 2024 presidential run by current Vice President Kamala Harris. Given that Biden is expected to serve only a single term in office, many see Harris as a natural successor.
"Young people are the future of this country," said Mulholland. "If you want to win elections, you should make sure that they feel their perspective is included," she continued.
The extent to which the Biden administration engages with the youth climate movement remains to be seen. What's certain is that young Americans will be keeping a close watch.
"We helped get Biden elected and this is not how our generation is going to be paid back—in scraps." Fallahi refuses action that's "more symbolic than effective." "And I have full faith that the youth will be able to get that message across. Not just to the Biden administration but to the rest of the country too," she added.
This story originally appeared in Climate Tracker, and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.
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By Jessica Corbett
In an example to the rest of the scientific community and an effort to wake up people — particularly policymakers — worldwide, 17 scientists penned a comprehensive assessment of the current state of the planet and what the future could hold due to biodiversity loss, climate disruption, human consumption and population growth.
"Ours is not a call to surrender — we aim to provide leaders with a realistic 'cold shower' of the state of the planet that is essential for planning to avoid a ghastly future," according to the perspective paper, co-authored by experts across Australia, Mexico, and the United States, and published in the journal Frontiers in Conservation Science.
Co-author Paul R. Ehrlich of Stanford University's Center for Conservation Biology — who has raised alarm about overpopulation for decades — told Common Dreams his colleagues "are all scared" about what's to come.
"Scientists have to learn to be communicators," said Ehrlich, citing James Hansen's warning about the consequences of "scientific reticence." Hansen, a professor at Columbia University's Earth Institute and former director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, testified to Congress about the climate crisis in 1988.
Ehrlich was straightforward about how "extremely dangerous things are" now and the necessity of a "World War II-type mobilization" to prevent predictions detailed in the paper: "a ghastly future of mass extinction, declining health, and climate-disruption upheavals (including looming massive migrations), and resource conflicts."
"What we are saying might not be popular, and indeed is frightening. But we need to be candid, accurate, and honest if humanity is to understand the enormity of the challenges we face in creating a sustainable future," said co-author Daniel T. Blumstein of the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at the University of California, Los Angeles, in a statement about the paper.
"By scientists' telling it like it is, we hope to empower politicians to work to represent their citizen, not corporate, constituents," he said in an email to Common Dreams.
The paper, Ehrlich and Blumstein pointed out, comes in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic — which, according to Johns Hopkins University, has killed nearly two million people. Over the past year, the Co-19 crisis has provoked calls for humanity to end its destruction of the natural world to prevent future public health catastrophes.
"We're all seeing the shocks to our global systems now from Covid and the rise of authoritarian leaders," Blumstein said. "Because our current ways of life are ecologically unsustainable (we're living in an ecological Ponzi scheme), we fully anticipate more — and more deadly — pandemics in the future. We expect civil unrest, wars, and famines. We are all shaken by the likelihood of the collapse of civilization as we know it."
From extreme hurricanes to droughts to wildfires, the climate crisis killed 262 people and cost $95 billion last ye… https://t.co/RwowWVlBZ9— Friends of the Earth (Action) (@Friends of the Earth (Action))1610505003.0
The new warning from scientists, Blumstein noted, cites over 150 other papers "documenting the diverse and shocking decline in biodiversity and planetary 'health' and their consequences." Among the cited sources is a World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) report that in September revealed an "average 68% decrease in population sizes of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and fish between 1970 and 2016."
"In the midst of a global pandemic, it is now more important than ever to take unprecedented and coordinated global action to halt and start to reverse the loss of biodiversity and wildlife populations across the globe by the end of the decade, and protect our future health and livelihoods," WWF International director general Marco Lambertini said at the time.
The co-authors — including William J. Ripple of Oregon State University, who last year led thousands of scientists in declaring a climate emergency and earlier this month led a call for "a massive-scale mobilization to address the climate crisis" — echoed Lambertini's message while also underscoring the importance of increasing awareness about what's actually needed.
"Humanity is causing a rapid loss of biodiversity and, with it, Earth's ability to support complex life. But the mainstream is having difficulty grasping the magnitude of this loss, despite the steady erosion of the fabric of human civilization," the paper says.
Biodiversity is the thread of life on Earth. 🦠️🦩🐜🍄🌱🦧🌽🍂🥦🐦🌺🐇🐝🌴🦒🌿🐋🌏 Learn more about what #biodiversity is and why… https://t.co/I5kht3RYnj— UN Biodiversity (@UN Biodiversity)1610179680.0
"In fact, the scale of the threats to the biosphere and all its lifeforms is so great that it is difficult to grasp for even well-informed experts," said lead author Corey Bradshaw of Australia's Flinders University in a statement. "The problem is compounded by ignorance and short-term self-interest, with the pursuit of wealth and political interests stymieing the action that is crucial for survival."
The paper explains that "while suggested solutions abound, the current scale of their implementation does not match the relentless progression of biodiversity loss and other existential threats tied to the continuous expansion of the human enterprise." According to its authors, "That we are already on the path of a sixth major extinction is now scientifically undeniable."
"With such a rapid, catastrophic loss of biodiversity, the ecosystem services it provides have also declined," the paper explains. Consequences include "reduced carbon sequestration, reduced pollination, soil degradation, poorer water and air quality, more frequent and intense flooding and fires, and compromised human health."
Highlighting estimates that the human population will near 10 billion by 2050, the scientists lay out how "large population size and continued growth are implicated in many societal problems," from food insecurity, soil degradation, biodiversity loss, and an increased chance of pandemics, to crowding, joblessness, deteriorating infrastructure, and bad governance.
The paper also details the planetary impacts of dirty energy and carbon-intensive food production, and says that "while climate change demands a full exit from fossil fuel use well before 2050, pressures on the biosphere are likely to mount prior to decarbonization as humanity brings energy alternatives online."
A section on failed international goals declares that "stopping biodiversity loss is nowhere close to the top of any country's priorities, trailing far behind other concerns such as employment, healthcare, economic growth, or currency stability."
"The dangerous effects of climate change are much more evident to people than those of biodiversity loss, but society is still finding it difficult to deal with them effectively," the scientists note, while decrying "utterly inadequate" efforts by governments to even try to meet the targets of the landmark Paris climate agreement.
They further decry the recent rise of right-wing, anti-environment agendas in countries including Australia, Brazil, and the United States — which recently denied President Donald Trump a second term. Ehrlich expressed hope that President-elect Joe Biden will work to deliver on the climate promises he made as a candidate.
Biden's vow to rejoin the Paris agreement "is positive news," but "it is a minuscule gesture given the scale of the challenge," Ehrlich said in a statement.
The president-elect "is moving in the right direction," Ehrlich told Common Dreams, pointing to the selection of former Secretary of State John Kerry as his climate envoy. However, "the Paris goals are increasingly looking inadequate," and "Biden's political opportunities to do anything major may be greatly constrained," he added.
What can Joe Biden do on climate change once he takes office? @DashaBurns looks into what he can accomplish with e… https://t.co/wBn29Ms1UX— NBC News NOW (@NBC News NOW)1610491169.0
Blumstein stressed that "recycling, using less plastic, eating less meat, taking public transportation, and flying less, while all important, will simply not create the rapid change we need now to save much of the Earth's biodiversity and our lives."
According to Blumstein, "We need rapid political change."
He urged voters to elect leaders who will end fossil fuel use as well as "eliminate perpetual economic growth and properly price externalities so that the environmental costs are built into the price of a product." He also emphasized the importance of access to education and reproductive control, and the need to rein in corporate lobbying and enact campaign finance reform so politicians serve citizens' needs.
"Ultimately," Blumstein added, "we must focus on making equity and well-being society's goals — not the constant accumulation of more junk."
In their paper, the UCLA scientist and his 16 co-authors "contend that only a realistic appreciation of the colossal challenges facing the international community might allow it to chart a less-ravaged future."
It is "incumbent on experts in any discipline that deals with the future of the biosphere and human well-being to eschew reticence, avoid sugar-coating the overwhelming challenges, ahead and 'tell it like it is,'" they conclude. "Anything else is misleading at best, or negligent and potentially lethal for the human enterprise at worst."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
U.S. President-elect Joe Biden has announced key members of his environmental team, saying that his administration would make a unified response to climate change a priority.
"Folks, we're in a crisis," Biden said at an event in Wilmington, Delaware. "We literally have no time to waste … Just like we need to be a unified nation to respond to COVID-19, we need a unified national response to climate change."
The nominees, he said, will "lead my administration's ambitious plan to address an existential threat of our time — climate change."
Biden has vowed to reverse many of the current Trump administration's initiatives that boosted oil and gas production and rolled back regulations intended to protect the environment.
The incoming president's decision to appoint an environmental team is in sharp contrast to the incumbent.
Who Is on the Team?
Representative Deb Haaland of New Mexico has been picked to lead the Interior Department, which oversees the U.S.'s natural resources that include national parks and wildlife refuges. The department has also wielded influence over the nation's tribes for generations.
If confirmed by the Senate, she would be the first Native American to hold a cabinet position.
Jennifer Granholm, former Governor of Michigan, has been tapped to be the next energy secretary. Since stepping down as governor, she has often spoken about the need to boldly rethink energy policy in light of climate change.
Michael Regan, North Carolina's top environmental regulator, has been nominated to run the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Regan made a name for himself by pursuing cleanups of industrial toxins and helping low-income and minority communities significantly affected by pollution.
If confirmed, he would be the first Black American to run the agency.
Brenda Mallory, an environmental attorney, will be Biden's nominee to direct the Council on Environmental Quality. The office oversees environmental reviews for virtually all major infrastructure projects and advises the president on major environmental issues.
If confirmed, she too would be the first Black American to hold the position since it was created more than half a century ago.
Gina McCarthy, the EPA administrator during former U.S. President Barack Obama's second term, will lead a new White House Office of Climate Policy, and serve as national climate adviser.
Her position would not need Senate confirmation.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
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By Ken Kimmell
2020 is coming to a close, and it can't end fast enough. But as the year winds down, I am buoyed by two big climate victories on the same day, perched atop a clear change in direction mandated by the election.
First, Congress just enacted a massive COVID relief and government spending package. While the COVID relief provisions are not adequate and need to be bolstered, the package includes important provisions on climate. Most significantly, Congress authorized the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to phase out hydrofluorocarbons (HFC's), a greenhouse gas that is approximately a thousand times more potent than carbon dioxide and is widely used in refrigerants and air conditioners.
A worldwide phase out of HFC's has the potential to reduce the overall warming from climate change by .5 degree centigrade. With this legislative authorization, the United States can not only do its part, but US businesses can play a leading role in supplying the world with alternatives to HFC's.
The congressional package also includes a much-needed extension of tax credits for clean energy. One of the biggest wins is for offshore wind energy, for which tax credits are extended for five years. In conjunction with timely and decisive permitting decisions from the federal government, this will propel a giant, job-creating investment in offshore wind along the Atlantic coast. Also included in the tax credit package are more modest extensions for solar and onshore wind, energy efficiency investments, and carbon capture and storage. On top of that, the bill steps up funding for the Department of Energy. Especially important is a $2.9 billion authorization for ARPA-E, a DOE program that funds cutting edge research and development for clean energy.
On the same day that Congress passed this bill, three northeastern states (MA, CT, and RI) and the District of Columbia launched a "cap and invest" program to cut greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector, about forty percent of these states' emissions. The program would place an overall cap on the emissions from transportation fuels sold in the region, require the distributors of the fuels to purchase "allowances" to sell the fuels, and use the proceeds to invest in equitable and clean transportation alternatives, such as public transport, electric buses, and electric cars and trucks. In a statement accompanying this MOU, these three states and DC joined eight other states in pledging to continue to work together on this initiative. There is every reason to expect that many if not all these eight additional states will eventually join the TCI program, making it one of the largest carbon-cutting measures implemented by a group of states.
These breakthroughs are heartening in and of themselves, but even more encouraging is that they are likely an early indicator of much more change to come in 2021. For the first election in history, climate change and respect for science were major issues on the ballot this year, and president-elect Biden won with a large majority by pledging to act swiftly on climate and pay close heed to the overwhelming scientific evidence on the issue. President-elect Biden has shown that he understands this obligation by nominating people of rich depth and experience to his climate team, including Gina McCarthy, John Kerry, Michael Regan, Jennifer Granholm, Deborah Haaland, Pete Buttigieg, and Brenda Mallory.
The climate provisions in this bill are a strong step forward—but just a step. The Biden administration, through executive orders, rulemaking, and leading by example, can and must go much farther than these steps, and Congress needs to enact many other measures, such as a national clean energy standard and support for electric cars, trucks and buses, to codify and make durable the nation's commitment to addressing climate change.
But in a year in which virtually every trendline was in the wrong direction, this change in direction was a welcomed gift.
Ken Kimmell is president of the Union of Concerned Scientists and has more than 30 years of experience in government, environmental policy, and advocacy.
By Dolf Gielen and Morgan Bazilian
John Kerry helped bring the world into the Paris climate agreement and expanded America's reputation as a climate leader. That reputation is now in tatters, and President-elect Joe Biden is asking Kerry to rebuild it again – this time as U.S. climate envoy.
It won't be easy, but Kerry's decades of experience and the international relationships he developed as a senator and secretary of state may give him a chance of making real progress, especially if that work is conducted in the spirit of mending relationships rather than "naming and shaming" other countries.
Over the past four years, the Trump administration pulled the U.S. out of the international Paris Agreement on climate change, rolled back policies that were designed to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and tried to prevent any discussion of climate change at international gatherings like the G-7 and G-20 summits.
The international community, meanwhile, largely moved forward. Many countries and regions have pledged to move their economies toward "net zero" greenhouse gas emissions by the middle of the century, including China, the European Union, South Korea and Japan. An increasing number of cities and states have set similar goals. Trump's hard-line stance may have actually emboldened some, notably China, to make such announcements.
Getting those pledges implemented is what matters now, and that will require leadership, detailed planning and careful diplomacy. The U.N. climate conference in November 2021 will be special. It will be the first time countries will evaluate their progress on the Paris Agreement, and they will be expected to strengthen their commitments. Biden has already signaled that he will bring the U.S. back into the agreement as soon as he takes office.
As energy policy experts who have been involved in international climate policy for over two decades, we have watched how countries responded to U.S. involvement, and how their views of America's ability to lead the world dimmed over the past four years.
The U.S. is the second largest greenhouse gas emitter worldwide after China. It is also the largest emitter historically. Concrete domestic action to reduce those emission will be critical to regaining trust and standing on the global stage.
Energy Is at the Center of the Climate Challenge
The effects of climate change are already evident across the globe, from extreme heat waves to sea level rise. But while the challenge is daunting, there is hope. Solar and wind power have become the cheapest forms of power generation globally, and technology progress and innovation continue apace to support a transition to clean energy.
In the U.S. under a Biden administration, long-term national climate legislation will depend on who controls the Senate, and that won't be clear until after two run-off elections in Georgia in January.
But there is no shortage of ideas for ways Biden could still take action even if his proposals are blocked in Congress. For example, he could use executive orders and direct government agencies to tighten regulations on greenhouse gas emissions; increase research and development in clean energy technologies; and empower states to exceed national standards, as California did in the past with auto emission standards. A focus on a just and equitable transition for communities and people affected by the decline of fossil fuels will also be key to creating a sustainable transition.
The U.S. position as the world's largest oil and gas producer and consumer creates political challenges for any administration. U.S. forays into European energy security are often treated with suspicion. Recently, France blocked a multi-billion dollar contract to buy U.S. liquefied natural gas because of concerns about limited emissions regulations in Texas.
Strengthening cooperation and partnerships with like-minded countries will be critical to bring about a transition to cleaner energy as well as sustainability in agriculture, forestry, water and other sectors of the global economy.
Creating a Global Sustainable Transition
How the world recovers from COVID-19's economic damage could help drive a lasting shift in the global energy mix.
Nearly one-third of Europe's US$2 trillion economic relief package involves investments that are also good for the climate. The European Union is also strengthening its 2030 climate targets, though each country's energy and climate plans will be critical for successfully implementing them. The Biden plan – including a $2 trillion commitment to developing sustainable energy and infrastructure – is aligned with a global energy transition, but its implementation is also uncertain.
Once Biden takes office, Kerry will be joining ongoing high-level discussions on the energy transition at the U.N. General Assembly and other gatherings of international leaders. With the U.S. no longer obstructing work on climate issues, the G-7 and G-20 have more potential for progress on energy and climate.
Lots of technical details still need to be worked out, including international trade frameworks and standards that can help countries lower greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep global warming in check. Carbon pricing and carbon border adjustment taxes, which create incentive for companies to reduce emissions, may be part of it. A consistent and comprehensive set of national energy transition plans will also be needed.
The global shift to clean energy will also have geopolitical implications for countries and regions, and this will have a profound impact on wider international relations. Kerry, with his experience as secretary of state in the Obama administration, and Biden's plan to make the climate envoy position part of the National Security Council, may help mend these relations. In doing so, the U.S. may again join the wider community of countries willing to lead.
Dolf Gielen is a Payne Institute Fellow, Colorado School of Mines.
Morgan Bazilian is a Professor of Public Policy and Director, Payne Institute, Colorado School of Mines.
Disclosure statement: The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
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By Kristy Dahl
In early January of this year, fresh off the experience of writing a year-end blog post for 2019, I started a project that I thought would make writing this year's year-end post easier. I created a little 2020 calendar on which I planned to record the one big thing that happened in the climate change space each day. In my mind I called it "The Daily Big Deal," and I could envision myself sitting here, as I am, on December 17, reviewing the year's climate-related events and deftly knitting them together in the blog post equivalent of a beautiful scarf made of reclaimed yarn. Or an ugly sweater. Or whatever.
You can see where this is going, of course. The calendar has exactly 17 entries, almost all of them before mid-March, when the U.S. shut down amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and 2020 began its seemingly never-ending nosedive. The story of 2020 will forever be one of the COVID-19 pandemic: a story of the lives lost, the heroic commitments of medical professionals, essential workers, and vaccine researchers, the deep crises of unemployment and hunger, the months of isolation from friends and family, the loss of normalcy, the failure of our federal government to stanch the spread of this deadly virus.
Despite my abandoned efforts to chronicle it, though, climate change was also deeply woven into the story of 2020. As we close out this year, these are the five climate lessons I'll be taking with me into 2021.
1. Climate change is showing up in our daily lives whether we recognize it or not
Climate change was on full display this year as a parade of extreme events marched its way around the globe. In what was a record-breaking wildfire year across the western U.S., over 4.2 million acres of California's land burned—an area larger than the state of Connecticut and more than burned during the entire decade of the 1990s. As dire as California's fires were, consider this: The year began with wildfires in Australia that burned 10 times more land than that (about 46 million acres in all). Combined with a record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season with multiple direct hits to Louisiana and Nicaragua, flooding in the U.S. Midwest, heat waves in the UK associated with more than 2,500 excess deaths, locust swarms in East Africa, devastating back-to-back typhoons in the Philippines, and countless other climate-related events, it's clear that climate change was staring us in the face—or more like screaming at us—all year long.
But climate change isn't just here in the form of these extreme events. It's here in the winter coats cast aside for a few days in the Northeast in January, when places like Pittsburgh hit 70°F. It's here in the strange, early blooms of confused spring flowers. And it's here in the lack of summertime fog in my notoriously/gloriously foggy neighborhood.
Indeed, one of the year's most chilling and powerful new studies concluded that from 2012 onward, the fingerprints of climate change can be detected from any single day in the global record. Whether it is glaringly obvious or not on any given day, climate change is already shaping our everyday lives in ways big and small.
2. When it comes to cascading risks, we need to be thinking much more broadly
Against the backdrop of the pandemic, this year's climate extremes exposed the many ways in which climate change intersects with civil unrest, water quality, financial insecurity, racial inequities in access to health care and secure housing, and countless other issues that might otherwise be perceived as being wholly unrelated.
Like pandemic preparedness, effective climate adaptation and planning will require us to think much more broadly about what climate change means than we have before.
For example, we have long recognized the interconnectedness of extreme weather and our energy systems—thousands if not millions of people lose power every year during snowstorms, hurricanes, thunderstorms, and the like. But when we look at what happened when Hurricane Laura hit Lake Charles, Louisiana, this summer, we can see that the cascading risks of climate-change-driven extreme weather extend far beyond the reach of our electricity system.
In the aftermath of Laura, hundreds of thousands of people were without power and water for days while a severe heat wave rode in on the storm's heels. Lake Charles' residents—about half of whom are Black and about 20 percent of whom live below the poverty line—had to somehow try to rebuild their homes and lives; keep themselves safe from the heat despite not being able to run their air conditioners or fans; and avoid contracting COVID-19 despite being unable to wash their hands. Add to that the financial insecurity many were experiencing after having been laid off during the pandemic shutdown, and we can see that the impacts of climate change reach deeply into so many different systems.
3. COVID-19 and climate change are racial injustices
The pandemic has touched all of our lives this year, but has taken a particularly devastating toll on Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous communities. In just one example, as of June, nearly one in three Black Americans personally knew someone who had died from COVID-19 compared with roughly one in 10 white Americans.
The disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 on communities of color are a crystal-clear manifestation of the deep racial inequities that have built up over centuries of systemic racism in the U.S. Millions of people around the world rose up this summer to protest another manifestation of those inequities: the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless other Black people by the police.
The disproportionate impacts of climate change are yet another injustice that racism inflicts on communities of color. My colleagues and I have written extensively about these issues recently, and, personally, I'm closing this year out with a deeper understanding of the fact that we cannot and will not be able to address challenges like climate change and COVID-19 without addressing the systemic racism that results in the disproportionate suffering of Black and brown people.
4. When it comes to emissions reductions, we need profound change, but not the kind of devastating change we experienced this year
This year we expect that carbon dioxide emissions—the primary contributor to human-caused climate change–will have dropped by about 7 percent globally and about 11 percent in the U.S., primarily as a result of the widespread economic and emotional pain caused by the pandemic. This is not the kind of transformative change, driven by deep and sustained policies, that we need to meet our climate goals—and it is likely to be short-lived.
Studies show that we'll need to accomplish decreases of roughly that same magnitude every year for the next 10 years to be on track to limit future warming to 1.5-2°C, and we'll have to do so in ways that encourage economic stability, improve the quality of life for people around the globe, reduce—rather than exacerbate—racial inequities, and ensure a just transition to safe, well-paying jobs for those whose livelihoods have been entwined with the production of fossil fuels.
It's a task that looks more and more daunting by the day, particularly because emissions are on track to increase by 2 percent per year globally between now and 2030 if we continue on a business-as-usual path.
But there are multiple technically feasible pathways to get to net-zero emissions by 2050, with steep near-term reductions in emissions. And economic recovery packages that invest in clean energy rather than continuing to prop up the loathsome fossil fuel industry (as they have thus far) could put us on a path toward accomplishing near- and long-term emissions reductions.
Financial commitments to the fossil fuel industry have far outpaced commitments to clean energy in G20 countries since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
5. In the U.S. and around the world there is cause for hope
In a clear signal of the importance of climate change in U.S. voters' minds, climate change was a prominent topic in the presidential and vice-presidential debates. Indeed, pre-election surveys showed that, particularly for voters identifying as Democrats climate change was a high-priority issue despite the many immediate challenges the country faces.
The country then went on to elect a president and vice president who understand the science behind climate change and embrace the need for rapid, transformative climate action. President-elect Biden has affirmed his commitment to climate action in announcing an exciting slate of nominees and appointees who have long focused on issues of climate change and justice, including Deb Haaland, John Kerry, Gina McCarthy, and Mike Regan.
On the international front, China's pledge to achieve net-zero emissions by 2060 along with signals of similarly ambitions pledges from the EU, UK, Japan, and South Korea all serve as challenges for other countries—particularly developed countries like the U.S.—to commit to aggressive emissions reduction plans.
While we can't erase the past years and decades of climate inaction, all of these are signs that we may begin to right our path in earnest in 2021.
I think I can speak for many in the climate community when I say that the last four years have been grueling. Many of the drastic climate impacts we've long been warning about are coming to pass sooner than we had expected yet we've had to continue to fight for the issue of climate change to be named and recognized at all by our federal government. But there's been a heartening crescendo of calls over the last few years for intersectional solutions to climate change, and the incoming Biden Administration seems to be hearing those calls. There is a tremendous amount of work ahead of us as individuals, as a nation, and as a global society. But for the first time in years, I find myself hopeful that we'll start to see more meaningful progress on climate action in 2021.
Reposted with permission from Union of Concerned Scientists.
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By Ajit Niranjan
World leaders could use the coronavirus pandemic to shave 25% off their greenhouse gas emissions with green recovery packages, according to a report released today by the UN Environment Program (UNEP).
But they have so far continued to make choices that push them further away from targets they agreed upon five years ago to protect the climate and their citizens. By burning fossil fuels and chopping down rainforests, countries are on track to heat the world by 3.2 degrees Celsius this century, despite committing to keep it well under 2C.
The annual emissions gap report, now in its 11th year, assesses the gap between what countries committed to doing under the Paris Agreement and what they need to do to keep temperatures in check. Despite recent pledges from major polluters to cut their emissions, the report describes concrete commitments as "woefully inadequate."
"The wealthy bear the greatest responsibility," wrote Inger Andersen, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program. The richest 1% of people, who emit more than double that of the poorest half of the global population, "will need to reduce their footprint by a factor of 30 to stay in line with the Paris Agreement targets."
Emissions Gap Wide Open
With factories closed, flights grounded and people buying fewer things, the pandemic is expected to lower carbon dioxide emissions by up to 7% this year, the report found. But the coronavirus pandemic will do little to help governments meet temperature targets unless world leaders prioritize a green recovery.
By investing in green jobs and infrastructure and choosing climate-friendly policies, world leaders could lower emissions by a quarter of what they would otherwise be by 2030, according to the report. Among the suggested solutions are ending fossil fuel subsidies, banning new coal plants and planting trees in deforested landscapes.
But the report says most rich countries are instead supporting a "high-carbon status quo" with some putting money into new fossil fuel projects.
"There's been a perception that, because we've been stuck at home and not able to travel, we were doing great and moving in the right direction," said Martina Caretta, assistant professor of geography at West Virginia University in the US and IPCC author, who was not involved in the report. "But the truth that comes out is that this is just like a blip."
The report also calls for more action on planes and ships, which together account for 5% of global emissions and growing. About two-thirds of these emissions are international and not directly covered by national climate action plans under the Paris Agreement.
Increase in Carbon-Neutral Pledges
Several countries have upped their ambitions in recent months.
China, the world's biggest polluter, said in October it will be carbon neutral by 2060. South Africa and South Korea have now committed to doing so by 2050, and US president-elect Joe Biden — who has promised to bring the US back into the Paris Agreement — has agreed to the same goal.
Japan has joined the EU in aiming for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by the middle of the century, which would mean also cutting down other pollutants like methane. Last week, the UK set itself the most ambitious short-term goal of any major economy, pledging to slash emissions by 68%— compared to 1990 levels — within this decade.
But none of these commitments have yet been translated into climate action plans known under the Paris Agreement as nationally determined contributions.
Burning fossil fuels has already warmed the Earth by more than 1C and this has made storms stronger, heat waves hotter and droughts longer. By emitting more CO2 with each passing year, world leaders are locking in deeper cuts to emissions in the future.
The level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere in 2019 reached the equivalent of 59.1 gigatons of CO2. While the pandemic has tightened the carbon tap, slowing the flow of pollutants temporarily, it did not stop it.
"Are we on track to bridging the gap?" the authors write. "Absolutely not."
Acting sooner rather than later will decrease the amount of CO2 that would need to be removed from the atmosphere. The negative emissions technologies needed to keep warming below 2C — without rapidly cutting emissions now — do not yet exist at scale.
The Paris Agreement temperature targets are a long way away but "actions in the form of emission reductions to achieve them need to start immediately," said Alaa Al Khourdajie, research fellow at the Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial College London and IPCC senior scientist, who was not involved in the report.
Personal and Policy Change Not Mutually Exclusive
The 132-page report also explores how to make lifestyles less carbon-intensive.
It highlights that two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions come from private households. This includes activities like eating beef, driving cars and heating homes. For instance, cutting meat out of a diet lowers emissions by about half a ton of CO2 a year — and going vegan reduces it by almost double that.
The report proposes policies for enabling lifestyle change that include laws restricting adverts for high-carbon foods, giving subsidies to people retrofitting homes with heat pumps and placing a levy on frequent flying.
Stopping climate change through personal choices or government policies is often "presented as a trade-off between two choices," the authors write. "However, system change and behavior change are two sides of the same coin."
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
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Ask a Scientist: What Should the Biden Administration and Congress Do to Address the Climate Crisis?
By Elliott Negin
What a difference an election makes. Thanks to the Biden-Harris victory in November, the next administration is poised to make a 180-degree turn to again address the climate crisis.
President Trump famously called climate change a "hoax," appointed fossil fuel industry lobbyists to key positions in his administration, rolled back the Obama-era rule that would have curbed power plant carbon emissions, and weakened Obama-era limits on vehicle carbon emissions. Just a day after last fall's election, he pulled the United States out of the international Paris climate agreement.
By contrast, President-elect Biden has endorsed a $2 trillion climate plan, and pledged to issue at least 10 executive orders to protect the climate and rejoin the Paris climate accord on Day One of his administration. He also has appointed an impressive and diverse climate change team to take key administration positions, including New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland, who co-sponsored the Green New Deal, to run the Interior Department; North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality head Michael Regan to lead the Environmental Protection Agency; former Environmental Protection Agency chief Gina McCarthy as national climate advisor; and former Secretary of State John Kerry, who helped negotiate the Paris climate agreement, to serve as his international climate envoy.
That's a welcome relief, because the world is running out of time. In 2020 alone, wildfires burned millions of acres in Australia and California to a crisp; heat waves scorched Europe, Asia and the Arctic; floods inundated the U.S. Midwest as well as nations in Africa and Asia; and a record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season battered the coasts of Central America, Caribbean islands and the United States.
But for all the promises President-elect Biden has made, some nagging questions remain: Given the constraints of a closely divided Congress, how much will the Biden administration truly be able to accomplish? And even with the United States rejoining the Paris accord, will countries live up to its promise to keep the Earth's temperature in check?
For some answers, I turned to Climate and Energy Program Policy Director Rachel Cleetus, who I last interviewed in May about what a post-pandemic economy should look like. The questions I posed to her this time around are a logical extension of the conversation we had then.
EN: Before we dig into what we can expect from the incoming Biden administration, let's talk about what Congress included in the pandemic relief package it passed just before Christmas. I don't know about you, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it included some good climate-related provisions. Does this suggest that the next Congress will take climate change seriously?
RC: The omnibus pandemic relief bill Congress just passed was long overdue and desperately needed, given the fact that millions of people are in increasingly dire economic straits. It also included a provision to dramatically reduce the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), extremely potent heat-trapping gases used in air conditioners and refrigerators; an extension of renewable electricity production and investment tax credits, which will help boost clean energy and create jobs; support for energy storage technology research and development; and increased funding for ARPA-E, the Department of Energy's technology innovation program. The bill also included a one-year extension of the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, a welcome but inadequate provision as black lung disease hits record levels in coal country.
The National Defense Authorization Act, which Congress just passed with an overwhelming bipartisan override of President Trump's veto, also includes provisions recognizing the impact of climate change on the military and the need to invest in resilience measures.
These provisions demonstrate that Congress can act in a bipartisan manner on clean energy and climate change issues. But much more will be needed in the months and years ahead to make steep cuts in global warming emissions and achieve comprehensive, bold and just climate policies that benefit everyone. Congress has yet to demonstrate the will to act commensurately with the scale of the challenges we face, which is why we will need to continue to pressure policymakers to do the right thing after the new Congress and administration take office.
EN: Notwithstanding the fact that leading Republicans supported the climate-related elements of the pandemic relief package, how much will the incoming Biden administration have to rely on executive orders to advance initiatives to combat climate change? After all, the oil and gas industry still has a great deal of influence over Congress.
RC: President Biden should send a clear and strong signal, early on, that he is committed to using his full powers to advance climate action through executive authorities and regulations. Here are some of the most important actions on climate that he should take, many of which could be done within the first 100 days and some which should happen via a Day One executive order on climate change:
- Set science-informed climate goals and commit the United States to reaching net-zero carbon emissions economywide no later than 2050, and at least 50 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.
- Direct all federal agencies to incorporate climate science into their actions and develop updated climate action plans.
- Initiate administrative and regulatory actions to sharply curtail heat-trapping emissions economywide and advance climate resilience, prioritizing investments in historically marginalized communities.
- Rejoin the Paris agreement, with an ambitious commitment to cut heat-trapping emissions and provide climate funding for developing countries, in line with the US fair share contribution to global climate goals.
- Reverse the Trump administration's egregious executive orders that have halted, undermined, and reversed climate action.
- Create White House-level offices focused on environmental justice and economic transition to elevate and mainstream these priorities.
As you note, opposition from the fossil fuel companies is not going away any time soon. They may continue to try to slow down or stop climate action, or at best support incremental policy changes that preserve their profits—even as they claim to endorse the Paris agreement's net-zero goal.
UCS and its coalition partners will continue to engage in sharp and strategic corporate campaigns to expose their disingenuous actions, curtail their Wall Street financing, and prod them to align their business models with what the science demonstrates is necessary. We will continue to push for companies to disclose their climate risks, and for financial regulators to require this. And we support the rights of affected parties to seek legal accountability for climate damages caused by fossil fuel companies.
EN: OK. So what can a narrowly divided Congress accomplish?
RC: Congress also will have to step up to play its part. We are coming off a year of record-breaking climate related disasters—including wildfires, hurricanes, floods, and heatwaves—which intersected cruelly with the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting ongoing economic crisis. People across the country need Congress to do its job. Securing robust, comprehensive, durable climate and clean energy policy will require legislation.
President Biden should immediately begin working with the new Congress to advance a suite of policies that ramp up clean energy, drive down carbon emissions economywide, and build climate resilience, while also addressing longstanding environmental injustices that have disproportionately affected low-income communities and communities of color and ensuring a fair transition for coal communities. Breaking through the long-standing political logjam won't be easy, but the needs are urgent and the economic, health and climate benefits of a low-carbon climate-resilient economy are clear.
Many of these policy priorities were highlighted in the Biden-Harris campaign platform. The incoming administration must do all it can to prod Congress to pass legislation addressing them. Here's just a partial list of what we need:
Additional pandemic relief and economic recovery packages. More funding for public health priorities and economic relief is desperately needed at the national, state and local level. Congress should include a robust "green" economic recovery package to jumpstart and foster a just and equitable economic recovery, with job creation driven by investments in clean energy and climate resilient infrastructure. Forty percent of these investments should directly benefit historically marginalized communities.
Fair transition for workers and communities. Congress should pass a comprehensive, well-funded transition package for displaced workers and communities hurt by the country's ongoing transition away from coal.
Environmental justice. Congress should strengthen public health safeguards, tighten enforcement, and invest in cleaning up the cumulative toxic burden of pollution in fence-line and frontline communities, which are disproportionately low-income communities and communities of color.
Recognition of climate change's financial and economic risks. Congress should pass legislation to ensure that financial regulators require corporations to disclose their climate risk to ensure they—and the market more broadly—are appropriately accounting for such risks and taking steps to mitigate it.
Guaranteed community access to the courts. As a mounting number of cities, counties and states seek to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for climate damages and fraud, here's one thing Congress should not do: pass laws attempting to limit or eliminate communities' access to the courts to seek redress.
EN: President-elect Biden recently proclaimed that he will "put America back in the business of leading the world on climate change." What should that mean in concrete terms? As the country responsible for the largest share of cumulative carbon emissions to date, what does the United States have to do regain international respect and provide leadership?
RC: To be perfectly frank, the Biden administration will have to do a lot more than trot out tired rhetoric about US leadership on climate action.
What the country and the rest of the world need is for the United States to take its place at the table, alongside and in cooperation with nations large and small, and do its part responsibly, fairly and consistently. The Biden administration and Congress need to enact strong national climate policies and make an ambitious, credible emissions reduction commitment ahead of the next international climate talks. They also must commit to scaled-up climate finance for developing countries. Finally, they have to work together with states, cities, tribal governments, businesses, and local stakeholders, many of whom have contributed to significant climate progress despite the absence of national leadership in the last four years. It's time—well past time, actually—for meaningful federal action.
Reposted with permission from Union of Concerned Scientists.
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