The election results, reported by several outlets including The Associated Press, pave the way for a dramatic shift in U.S. policy on the climate crisis and the coronavirus pandemic. While Trump repeatedly denied the reality of climate change and downplayed the severity of COVID-19, both Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris emphasized tackling the two crises with a science-based approach during their victory speeches Saturday.
"Americans have called on us to marshal the forces of decency and the forces of fairness. To marshal the forces of science and the forces of hope in the great battles of our time," Biden said during his speech in Wilmington, Delaware Saturday. "The battle to control the virus, the battle to build prosperity, the battle to secure your family's health care, the battle to achieve racial justice and root out systemic racism in this country, and the battle to save our planet by getting the climate under control."
In his speech, Biden promised to hit the ground running on controlling the pandemic, which has killed more than 237,000 U.S. residents and infected nearly 10 million, according to The Associated Press. He said he would name a group of public health experts Monday to be ready to guide his administration's coronavirus response once he takes office Jan. 20.
On Monday, Biden named the 13-member Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board. It will be co-chaired by former Bush Sr. and Clinton Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. David Kessler, former Obama Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy and Yale public health expert Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith.
Other notable members include surgeon and writer Dr. Atul Gawande and former Trump administration whistleblower Dr. Rick Bright. Bright was reassigned from his position at the Health and Human Services Department after he objected to Trump's pushing of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for COVId-19.
"The inclusion of Bright, who said that he was met with skepticism by Trump administration officials when he raised concerns in the early throes of the pandemic about critical supplies shortages, is a clear signal of the contrasted direction that Biden intends to take his administration when it comes to dealing with the pandemic," CNN's Sarah Mucha pointed out.
Even before a winner was declared in the election, Biden reaffirmed his commitment to rejoining the Paris climate agreement on the first day of his presidency. His win means the Trump-initiated U.S. departure, which went into effect Tuesday, will be short lived.
For anyone who doesn't know, @CFigueres Christiana Figueres is a key architect of the Paris climate accords, which… https://t.co/g6IfvsYMWE— Bill McKibben (@Bill McKibben)1604784420.0
Biden's climate plan includes a $2 trillion dollar investment in greening infrastructure and achieving a zero-carbon energy sector by 2035, The Washington Post reported further. However, this will be difficult to pass if Republicans maintain control of the Senate, something which will be decided by two run-off elections in Georgia in January. If the Senate stays in Republican hands, Biden will have to rely more on executive actions to fulfill his climate agenda. He has promised to reverse the Trump administration rollback of 100 Obama-era environmental and public health regulations. He can limit oil and gas drilling on public lands, restore federal vehicle emissions standards and stop fossil fuel pipelines such as the controversial Keystone XL from being built, among other measures.
"Joe Biden ran on climate. How great is this?" Obama-era Environmental Protection Agency head and current Natural Resources Defense Council leader Gina McCarthy told The Washington Post. "It'll be time for the White House to finally get back to leading the charge against the central environmental crisis of our time."
There is evidence that Biden really does have a climate mandate from voters: 74 percent of Biden voters said that the climate crisis was a very important factor in their choice, according to Morning Consult.
Climate was also a key issue for the young voters who turned out for Biden by a large margin and may have played a deciding role in battleground states, as InsideClimate News reported.
"I fundamentally believe this is the first climate election, as far as climate playing a huge role during the election even with everything else going on," Climate Power 2020 Executive Director Lori Lodes told E&E News. "There's not going to be another election in U.S. history, another presidential election, where climate does not play as big or bigger of a role. This is only the beginning."
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By Oliver Milman
The climate crisis is set to be a significant factor in a U.S. presidential election for the first time, with new polling showing a clear majority of American voters want decisive action to deal with the threats posed by global heating.
Seven in 10 voters support government action to address climate change, with three-quarters wanting the U.S. to generate all of its electricity from renewable sources such as solar and wind within 15 years.
Nearly two-thirds of respondents said they would be more likely to vote for a presidential candidate who supports the complete shift to clean energy, with a further seven in 10 voters supporting US involvement in the Paris climate agreement, which commits countries to tackling dangerous heating. Two-thirds of voters said climate should be a priority for whoever wins the election.
"There may be a divide on Capitol Hill but the large majority of us are worried about climate change and want to see leaders deal with it," said Ed Maibach, director of George Mason University's Center for Climate Change Communication. "This is the first election where climate change has featured heavily. It's unlike anything we've seen in American politics before."
Over the past decade, the crisis has become a sharply partisan political topic as Republicans embraced denial and obfuscation of the escalating crisis. Donald Trump called climate science a "hoax" and his administration set about dismantling every policy put in place by Barack Obama to reduce planet-heating emissions.
However, the new polling, on behalf of the Guardian, Vice Media Group and Covering Climate Now, by Climate Nexus, the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication, shows that the political landscape among voters appears to be shifting.
Do you support or oppose each of the following policies as part of the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic?
Democrats are becoming increasingly alarmed over the climate crisis, with 90% describing it as either a "very serious" or "somewhat serious" problem and more than eight in 10 supporting a Green New Deal, a vast government-led climate program, to combat it.
This concern is filtering through, to a lesser degree, to Republican voters. More than half say climate change is a very or somewhat serious problem, with 41% backing the Green New Deal, despite it being widely vilified by Republican party leaders. A further 51% of Republican voters support U.S. involvement in the Paris climate accords.
The polling suggests Trump, who has triggered the U.S. withdrawal from the agreement and routinely disparages climate science, will be the first U.S. president to face a voter backlash over the climate crisis. His Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, meanwhile, has vowed to reduce U.S. energy emissions to net zero by 2050 and promised a $2tn investment to create millions of new jobs in clean energy industries.
"Republican officeholders really do have to worry about this," said Maibach. "Young Republicans are becoming less accepting of the party line that climate change isn't real or isn't a serious problem. They don't want climate denial any more, moderate Republicans don't want climate denial any more and women voters largely don't want to support climate denialist candidates any more either."
The surge in voter appetite for climate action follows a barrage of disasters that have hit the U.S. recently, including huge wildfires that have scorched the west coast and powerful hurricanes that have pummeled the U.S. south. Scientists say rising global temperatures, caused by humans burning fossil fuels, are aiding the spread of wildfires and making hurricanes more intense.
Trump's first term in office has also seen a growing youth-led climate protest movement, with the Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg as its figurehead. Younger U.S. voters see the climate crisis as a top-tier issue, polling has shown, while the latest opinion research shows broad support for a greater focus on the issue in the media.
More than six in 10 respondents said the media should explicitly outline the link between extreme weather events and the climate crisis, while nearly three-quarters want moderators to ask questions about the climate crisis during the three televised presidential debates, which start next week. In 2016, no questions were asked about climate during the debates between Trump and Hillary Clinton.
This story originally appeared in The Guardian and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.
Many homeowners can benefit from installing solar panels, harnessing the sun's energy to help reduce or even eliminate their dependence on traditional utilities. Although solar panels can be expensive, solar loans make residential systems more accessible to homeowners.
Indeed, if you live in an area that gets consistent year-round exposure to the sun, solar panels can be an effective way to lower your home's energy costs while minimizing your environmental footprint. The biggest obstacle to solar adoption is the initial cost of solar panels.
All in, solar panel installation costs typically range from $10,000 to $35,000. In this article, we'll explain how solar loans can make that initial investment much easier to handle.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on for and is not intended to provide accounting, legal or tax advice.
Solar Loan Basics
So, how do solar loans work, exactly? Well, they're similar to home improvement loans, or any other type of purchase loan: They enable you to buy a residential solar system and pay it off over time.
There are plenty of solar loan options to choose from. For example, to finance solar panels, you can typically choose from any of the following:
- An unsecured personal loan
- A home equity loan or line of credit
- In-house financing through your solar installation company
For the most part, the terms and conditions of solar loans mimic those of any other standard loan. Specifically:
- Getting a lower interest rate means having a lower overall cost to borrow.
- A shorter loan term generally means higher monthly loan payments but a lower overall cost to borrow.
- Loans are available in a wide array of interest rates, term lengths, loan amounts, credit requirements, etc.
An important thing to note is that homeowners who finance their solar energy systems with a loan are still eligible for the federal solar tax credit. This gives you a credit worth 26% of your total solar installation costs.
How to Choose the Right Solar Loan
As you seek the best solar loan for your situation, there are a number of factors to keep in mind. These include:
- Monthly payment amount: If you end up choosing a shorter loan term (i.e., a loan that you must pay off in a shorter amount of time), your monthly payments will probably be higher. The overall cost of the loan will be lower, but it's nevertheless important to consider the impact on your household budget.
- Down payment amount: Depending on the loan you choose, you may or may not be required to put down a payment on the solar panels. Generally, larger down payments will mean lower interest rates and a more affordable loan overall.
- Fees: Some solar lenders may charge prepayment penalties or monthly fees in addition to your monthly principal and interest payments. Always make sure you get fee information upfront, so as to ensure there are no surprises on your loan statement.
Secured Vs. Unsecured Solar Loans
Another important factor to consider is whether you'll get a secured solar loan or an unsecured solar loan. Here's what homeowners should know about these two options:
- Secured loans are usually connected to some piece of collateral, such as a piece of equity in your house; this provides the lender with some protection. If you fail to make your payments, the lender can claim their piece of collateral. Because the lender has some insurance, secured loans usually offer lower interest rates and more favorable terms overall.
- Unsecured loans do not have any collateral or security provisions for the lender. They represent a greater risk on the lender's part, and thus usually come with higher interest rates and less favorable terms.
Ultimately, the decision about which type of loan to seek comes down to this question: Do you have enough equity in your home to take out a secured loan? If so, and if you are willing to use some of that home equity to pay for solar panels, then a secured loan may be the smarter choice overall.
How to Get Low Interest Rates for Solar Loans
In addition to choosing the right type of loan, there are other steps you can take to keep your interest rates manageable when you finance a solar panel system:
- Shop around: It's usually best not to go with the very first lender you find. Spend some time shopping around and comparing rates. Most lenders will give you a free quote that's good for a number of days while you compare offers from other companies.
- Have someone co-sign: Having a co-signer on your solar loan — especially one with excellent credit — creates extra assurances for the lender and will usually result in more favorable rates.
- Improve your credit score: There are several ways to improve your credit score to get a lower interest rate on a solar loan. For example, you can pay down old debts and credit card balances, be on time with monthly bill payments, and ensure you don't open any new credit cards as you apply for your solar loan.
Also be aware that there are things you can do to pay less over time other than getting a lower interest rate. Examples include choosing a shorter repayment period, looking for discounts like paperless or auto-pay discounts, avoiding loans with high fees and, if applicable, making a more substantial down payment.
Local Solar Loan Programs
Homeowners who are interested in going solar should also know about Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) loan programs. According to the Department of Energy, PACE programs "allow a property owner to finance the up-front cost of energy or other eligible improvements on a property and then pay the costs back over time through a voluntary assessment." What makes these programs unique is that the assessment is tied to the property itself, not to the individual.
PACE financing legislation exists in some form in 36 states plus Washington D.C. A handful of states have separate loan programs for homeowners interested in solar. Here are some current programs worth knowing about:
|State||Solar Loan Program||
|Connecticut||Energy Conservation Loan Program||$25,000||0% to 7%||12 years|
|Louisiana||Home Energy Loan Program (HELP)||$6,000||2%||5 years|
|Michigan||Michigan Saves Home Energy Financing||$50,000||4.44% to 7.90%||15 years|
|North Carolina||State-regulated municipal loan options||Varies||Up to 8%||20 years|
Energy Conservation for Ohioans
3% APR reduction
on bank loans
Additionally, certain municipalities and local utility companies may offer low-interest solar loans. We recommend researching your specific area before turning to banks or credit institutions.
Where to Get a Solar Loan
If your state doesn't have its own solar energy loan program or you're not eligible for enrollment, there are plenty of other places to get solar loans. Some of the best places to check include:
- Credit unions
- Lending institutions
- In-house financing through your solar installer (which will come from a third-party solar lender)
Again, it's crucial to shop around and compare rates before deciding on which solar lender is the best fit for your needs. To get started with a free quote and find solar loan information from a top solar company in your area, you can fill out the form below.
Frequently Asked Questions: Solar Loans
Are solar loans worth it?
There are various factors to consider as you decide whether getting a solar loan is worth it. Solar loans help you increase the value of your property, lower utility bills, minimize your impact on the environment and potentially claim some tax incentives. Then again, financing does decrease your overall savings, and extends the break-even point for your residential solar system.
Do banks do solar loans?
Some banks do offer solar loans, though often with interest rates that exceed what you'd pay elsewhere. It may be worth checking with your local bank, but always remember to shop around and compare.
What is the best way to finance solar?
If you have sufficient home equity, a secured solar loan is often the most cost-effective approach. If you don't have sufficient home equity, an unsecured solar loan can work just fine.
What type of loan is a solar panel loan?
Solar panel loans are generally considered to be a type of personal loan, similar to a home improvement loan.
Can you buy a solar battery with a solar loan?
Most often the answer is yes, but make sure you double-check the terms of your loan.
By Alexander Freund
The World Health Organization, along with its global partners in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, has announced that it will provide 120 million rapid-diagnostic antigen tests to people in lower- and middle-income countries over the next six months. The tests represent a "massive increase" in testing worldwide, according to the Global Fund, a partnership that works to end epidemics.
"We have an agreement, we have seed funding and now we need the full amount of funds to buy these tests," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Monday, without providing further details. The program will initially require $600 million and is planned to start as early as October.
This mass testing campaign is part of a global initiative launched in April by the WHO, the European Commission, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the French government. Additional partner organizations include the Global Fund, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Clinton Health Access Initiative, the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) and Unitaid.
The test manufacturers, South Korea's SD BioSensor and U.S.-based Abbott Laboratories, have agreed to provide 20% of their test kits to lower- and middle-income countries. The remainder will be made available to wealthier nations, some of whom are helping to finance the test drive. Germany, for example, has already ordered some 20 million test kits.
Quick Test Can Break Infection Chains
"These tests provide reliable results in approximately 15 to 30 minutes, rather than hours or days, at a lower price with less sophisticated equipment," said WHO head Tedros, adding that the tests would cost as little as $5 each, and could become cheaper still. He said the rapid tests would help expand testing to hard-to-reach areas which aren't as well-equipped, or which are lacking trained health workers.
"High-quality rapid tests show us where the virus is hiding, which is key to quickly tracing and isolating contacts and breaking the chains of transmission," said Tedros. "The tests are a critical tool for governments as they look to reopen economies and ultimately save both lives and livelihoods."
Catharina Boehme, head of FIND, also welcomed the widespread rollout of cheap test kits. "This really shows what can be achieved when the world and leading global health partners come together with a common priority," she said.
How Do COVID-19 Antigen Tests Work?
There are currently three different types of coronavirus diagnostic tests on the market: antigen tests, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and serology tests (ELISA).
Rapid antigen tests target virus proteins, and somewhat resemble pregnancy tests. They aren't yet available at pharmacies and can only be administered by trained medical personnel. With a nasal or throat swab, testers can find out within approximately 15 minutes whether a patient has contracted the SARS-CoV-2 virus and is infectious and must be quarantined.
The advantage of rapid antigen tests is that they can be conducted quickly and on the spot.
It's hoped that this will help save the lives of thousands of people and slow the spread of the pandemic in the world's poorest countries. Rapid antigen tests can be used to carry out mass screenings among health care workers in low-income countries, who are at greater risk of death from COVID-19. These tests could also be used in schools, in the workplace and in nursing and retirement homes.
The major disadvantage of rapid antigen tests is that they're less reliable than PCR tests, which are conducted in labs and designed to detect the virus' genetic material. Rapid antigen tests may also be less effective in detecting infections in the early stages.
Still, a growing number of medical experts are backing the mass rollout of antigen tests, as they allow infected people to be identified even before they show symptoms, when individuals have a high viral load and are especially infectious.
Not All Rapid Test Kits Are Reliable
Hundreds of rapid COVID-19 test kits have come on the market recently. Many of them are reliable, but not all. In March, for example, Spain sent back two batches of unlicensed Chinese test kits because they were flawed.
The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control has pointed out that even though many tests have been approved for sale on the European market, very few clinical studies show whether they are actually effective.
The 120 million test kits set to be rolled out by the WHO are the first to meet all of the organization's standards; test makers SD BioSensor and Abbott were granted emergency approval by the WHO last week.
The manufacturers claim their tests are up to 97% reliable in lab conditions; in the real world, the tests are said to be between 80% and 90% reliable. While this is good, it also means some 20% of patients will receive negative results despite being infected, which could lead to further spread of the virus.
What Are the Alternatives to Antigen Tests?
Rapid antigen tests are ideal to test scores of patients quickly, simply and cheaply. Lab-based PCR tests, however, are superior in terms of reliability.
The PCR test detects genetic material, or RNA, from the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Patients are asked to provide a throat swab. One part of the person's genetic material is then synthesized, after which a biochemical process known as agarose gel electrophoresis is used to detect if the sample contains virus RNA. These tests are highly reliable but can only be conducted in specialized labs.
Serologic testing, on the other hand, detects antibodies in a person's blood that form when the immune system responds to a certain pathogen. This indicates that a person has already been exposed to the virus. While quick test kits are available for this method, these are mainly used for scientific studies.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
As Biden Embraces More Ambitious Climate Plan, Fossil Fuel Execs Donate to Trump 'With Greater Zeal' Than in 2016
By Jake Johnson
With presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden's climate platform becoming increasingly ambitious thanks to nonstop grassroots pressure, fossil fuel executives and lobbyists are pouring money into the coffers of President Donald Trump's reelection campaign in the hopes of keeping an outspoken and dedicated ally of dirty energy in the White House.
The Houston Chronicle reported Monday that oil and gas executives "are writing checks to President Donald Trump with greater zeal than they did four years ago, as Biden campaigns on a climate plan that seeks to eliminate carbon emissions by mid-century."
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Trump's reelection campaign has thus far raised over $936,000 from the oil and gas industry — more than three times the $265,000 the industry has donated to Biden as of July 21. By contrast, the Chronicle noted, Trump only narrowly led Hillary Clinton in fossil fuel industry donations during the 2016 campaign cycle.
"As the incumbent, Trump might seem a surer bet for companies than he was as a political outsider four years ago," the Chronicle reported. "At the same time, Biden's recent climate stance is very different from Clinton's, who as secretary of state had promoted the U.S. fracking industry overseas — Biden has sworn off donations from the oil and gas sector, though through loopholes executives are still giving."
Trump, for his part, is openly courting the oil and gas industry by warning that a Biden presidency would spell disaster for the fossil fuel sector, which has been hammered by the coronavirus pandemic.
"If these far-left politicians ever get into power, they will demolish not only your industry but the entire U.S. economy," Trump said at the site of an active oil rig in Midland, Texas last week. The president went on to falsely claim that Biden supports a total ban on fracking. (Biden only supports banning fracking on public lands.)
"No fracking, no drilling, no oil," Trump said of the former vice president's position.
While Biden's refusal to commit to the Green New Deal and a complete fracking ban has drawn the ire of environmentalists and advocacy groups, the former vice president's release last month of a $2 trillion green energy plan was celebrated as an encouraging step in the right direction.
Biden's plan, as Common Dreams reported, calls for 100% clean electricity by 2035 and sweeping infrastructure upgrades that would create millions of new jobs.
"We've seen a pretty huge transformation in Biden's climate plan," Varshini Prakash, co-founder and executive director of the Sunrise Movement, told The Washington Post on Sunday. "What I've seen in the last six to eight weeks is a pretty big transition in upping his ambition and centering environmental justice."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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By Lisa Newcomb
As wildfires burn through California and the western United States, the Gulf Coast prepares for two potential hurricanes within a 48-hour timeframe, and record high temperatures dominate the summer, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders on Tuesday noted the resounding absence of any mention of the climate crisis during the first night of the Republican National Convention.
"You wouldn't know it if you watched the first night of the Republican National Convention, but we are in the middle of a climate emergency with scientists telling us we have just a few years to act in order to save our planet for future generations," Sanders said in an email to supporters Tuesday.
In what NowThis described as a "Carnival of Misinformation," the GOP managed to attack Sanders and other progressive political leaders Monday night, calling them "radical" and "Marxist," and to vilify the state of California—which has lost 1.4 million acres to wildfires so far this year—but failed to even mention climate or environmental concerns.
There wasn't a single mention of climate change during the #RNC2020 last night. But we know exactly where Trump and… https://t.co/AkNRbvDs6c— Climate Power (@Climate Power)1598376600.0
"Don't tell me the Green New Deal is radical," Sanders continued in his email. "What is radical is doing nothing to take on the existential threat of climate change while the world burns."
President Donald Trump criticized Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom and his state's wildfire mitigation strategies earlier this month, harkening to comments the president has made in the past about clearing forest floors of debris as the key to preventing the destruction caused across the west in recent years.
"I see again the forest fires are starting," the president said at a rally in Pennsylvania. "They're starting again in California. I said, you gotta clean your floors, you gotta clean your forests—there are many, many years of leaves and broken trees and they're like, like, so flammable, you touch them and it goes up." Trump went on to threaten withholding federal funds, though he did promise aid last weekend.
The president, a notorious denier of human-caused climate change, has called the crisis a "hoax invented by the Chinese."
"Here is the truth," Sanders wrote. "In the midst of everything going on right now, a global pandemic, an economic meltdown, a struggle for racial justice, and more, we simply cannot lose sight of the existential threat of climate change which puts at risk the very survival of this planet."
The senator from Vermont, a champion of the Green New Deal, warned that the time of incremental action in dealing with the climate crisis has passed.
"We cannot go far enough or be too aggressive on this issue," he said.
We cannot accept that our children and grandchildren must face worse fires, worse hurricanes, worse floods and more… https://t.co/5cVBtP0J6o— Bernie Sanders (@Bernie Sanders)1598281975.0
Sanders isn't the only one who noticed the RNC's dismissal of environmental and climate concerns Monday night. Conservative climate activist Benji Backer expressed his frustration on Twitter, saying he's "feeling as disenfranchised as ever."
I've dedicated my life to conservative politics...thousands of hours knocking doors/making phone calls. I've gone t… https://t.co/iUfcg0PSKb— Benji Backer (@Benji Backer)1598291360.0
Rep. John Curtis (R-Utah), whom League of Conservation Voters gives a 3% rating on its environmental scorecard, told attendees at an unrelated event Monday that his party has to start taking the climate crisis seriously.
"As a conservative, I regret that we have let ourselves be branded as not caring about the Earth," Curtis said. "It's time to stop being on the defensive and go on the offensive."
He continued: "We don't need to destroy the U.S. economy to be successful. As a matter of fact, I believe a once-in-a-generation opportunity is in front of us."
But Curtis remains in the minority of Republican lawmakers, and, Sanders wrote, tackling the climate crisis is a duty we share as global citizens.
"We are custodians of the Earth," he wrote. "All of us. And it would be a moral disgrace if we left to future generations a planet and that was unhealthy, unsafe, and uninhabitable."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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By Yvette Cabrera
This story was originally published on Grist on July 30, 2020
Fifteen years ago, Kamala Harris — San Francisco's District Attorney at the time — created an environmental justice unit in her office. The goal was to go after the perpetrators of environmental crimes that were hurting some of the city's poorest residents.
The state attorney general's office had emphasized the need for state and local law enforcement to step up because of a void left by federal authorities in the Bush administration who were busy rolling back environmental protections. "One of the best tools out there to go after polluters is to go after them on a criminal basis," a spokesperson for then–State Attorney General Bill Lockyer told SFGate in 2005. Across the country, communities burdened by pollution and contamination have been calling for that type of accountability at the federal level for decades.
Now, even as the Trump administration continues to aggressively roll back environmental regulations, that dream has a better chance of materializing. Harris, as California's junior senator, is fighting for a comprehensive piece of legislation that will give vulnerable communities the tools they need to address environmental disparities. On Thursday, Harris plans to introduce a companion bill in the Senate to the Environmental Justice for All Act introduced earlier this year in the House of Representatives by Democrats A. Donald McEachin of Virginia and Raúl M. Grijalva of Arizona.
"Environmental justice is interconnected with every aspect of our fight for justice. From racial justice and economic justice, to housing justice and educational justice, we cannot disentangle the environment people live in from the lives they live," Harris told Grist in an email. "These crises we are experiencing have exposed injustices in our nation that many of us have known and fought our entire lives."
The Senate bill, whose lead cosponsors are Democrats Cory Booker of New Jersey and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, acknowledges how factors such as segregation and racist zoning codes have rendered communities of color more vulnerable to the effects of climate change and left them with limited resources to address ongoing environmental health disparities. To address this, the act aims broadly to meaningfully engage impacted communities in government decision-making processes, such as federal permitting decisions for infrastructure projects, the creation of climate resiliency plans, and the transition to clean energy.
For more than two years, Grijalva and McEachin have worked alongside environmental justice advocates to address these inequities during the drafting of the act. That work was underway well before the COVID-19 pandemic struck and before the death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd at the hands of a police officer this spring, which unleashed massive protests calling for the country to reckon with systemic racism. While the health crisis and movement for racial justice has put vulnerable communities in the spotlight, Grijalva told Grist that their aim was always to deliver a comprehensive environmental justice bill that could help these communities.
"The premise was … that we were going to deal with the systemic root causes, with the systemic solutions, not just cover up the problem or change one little thing or create another task force," said Grijalva, who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee. "There had to be codified into law a systemic response to that systemic racism that created the situation."
The Environmental Justice for All Act would amend the Civil Rights Act to allow private citizens and organizations that experience discrimination to seek legal remedies when a program, policy, or practice causes a disparate impact. It would also require federal agencies to consider health effects that might compound over time when making permitting decisions under the federal Clean Air and Clean Water acts. In addition, it would fund research on and programs to reduce health disparities and improve public health in disadvantaged communities. Under the act, new fees on oil, gas, and coal companies would go toward a fund to support workers and communities transitioning away from fossil fuel jobs. Finally, the act also intends to codify and make enforceable a longstanding executive order on environmental justice that then–President Bill Clinton signed in 1994.
McEachin told Grist that the House and Senate bills acknowledge the racist roots of environmental burdens in low-income communities and communities of color. "This is a moment in time that does not just focus on police brutality, does not just focus on confederate memorabilia. The focus is on 401 years of racial injustice in this nation, and part of that has to be environmental justice," said McEachin. "If we're going to achieve a clean energy future, climate justice, and relief for those communities, the frontline community has to be the very centerpiece of that plan."
The Black Lives Matter movement has helped the act gain momentum toward passage in the House — Grijalva is optimistic that he'll be able to bring the bill to the floor of the House for a vote by September. Some of the act has also been incorporated into other Democratic proposals, like the 538-page climate plan recently released by the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. Some of the act's proposals are also reflected in the environmental justice plan released by presumed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, said Grijalva.
For example, Biden plans to revise and reinvigorate Clinton's executive order that directs federal agencies to review programs that may have disproportionately high or adverse health and environmental effects. Historically, the agencies have been inconsistent in addressing environmental justice within their strategic plans.
Environmental advocates who were involved in the creation of the House bill expressed enthusiasm for Harris' sponsorship of the bill in the Senate and said that the legislation could be a game-changer for frontline communities. Kerene Nicole Tayloe, director of federal legislative affairs for the New York City–based nonprofit WE ACT for Environmental Justice, said that the consideration of cumulative health impacts during permitting processes would be particularly important, especially in states like Louisiana that don't have meaningful environmental legislation on the books.
"Having something like the EJ for All bill, to consider cumulative effects in Cancer Alley and all of those kinds of places that have long been a dumping ground for companies and industry, I think would start to give communities the legal protections they need and put the tools in place," said Tayloe.
Angelo Logan, who is the campaign director of the Los-Angeles-based Moving Forward Network and who was also involved in crafting the House bill, told Grist that he hopes the act sets the stage for more community involvement in creating legislation at the local, state, and federal levels. "I think there'll be a dramatic change, a complete positive impact on communities that are the most impacted by environmental racism," said Logan. "And the multiplying effects that it would have on communities is tremendous."
As a presidential candidate, Harris made acting on climate change a top priority. Last year, while running for president, she unveiled a climate equity plan with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and created a climate agenda that would address the climate crisis and environmental injustices while building a clean economy with well-paying jobs. As California's attorney general, she defended the state's landmark climate laws in court and sued Chevron U.S.A. Inc. for damaging the environment. Holding polluters accountable will be critical moving forward, and the Environmental Justice for All Act will help communities do just that, Harris told Grist via email.
Race, she noted, is the No. 1 predictor of where polluting facilities in America are located. And 70 percent of Americans who live in the highest air pollution areas of our country are people of color. "These disparities were in part intentionally created and so we must intentionally address them," said Harris. "That's what this bill does."
Reposted with permission from Grist.
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What does the climate crisis look like? As wildfires continue to rage up and down the U.S. West Coast, we have some terrifying answers: orange skies; burnt-out buildings; a horse, seemingly abandoned, running past a stall as the hill above erupts in flames. These images help to ground an unfathomable reality.
More than 100 major fires in California, Oregon and Washington have forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes during a pandemic, destroyed entire towns and claimed at least 23 lives, USA Today reported Friday. The flames have charred more than three million acres in California alone, a record for the state, The New York Times reported.
While the individual fires have different causes, including a gender-reveal party, scientists agree that changes in the climate make larger fires like the ones burning now more likely. This is because warmer temperatures mean more extreme heat waves and drier air and vegetation, creating ideal conditions for fires to spread, as CBS News explained. While climate change can feel abstract and distant as a prediction, these seven photos of the West Coast fires make it devastatingly real.
A boat motors by as the Bidwell Bar Bridge is surrounded by fire in Lake Oroville during the Bear Fire in Oroville, California on Sept. 9, 2020. Josh Edelson / AFP / Getty Images
People in Northern California looked out their windows Wednesday to a scene out of a science-fiction movie as the sky glowed orange. Clouds of smoke covering the state filtered the sun's light and energy, tinting skies and lowering temperatures, Al Jazeera reported. In San Francisco, the unusual color was a combination of ash from the Bear Fire mixed with the marine layer that provides the city's famous fog, ABC 7 News explained. The effect was so remarkable that Hillary Clinton shared the image above, taken in Oroville, on her Instagram. "None of this is normal, and confronting climate change is on the ballot this year. Vote, as early as you can, for a habitable planet," she wrote.
Creek Fire Destruction
A community of forest homes lies in ruins along Auberry Road in the Meadow Lakes area after the Creek Fire swept through on Sept. 8, 2020 near Shaver Lake, California. David McNew / Getty Images
The Creek Fire started on Friday, Sept. 4, just as large swaths of California were facing record-breaking heat for Labor Day weekend. The fire spread quickly through the western edge of the Sierra National Forest. Hundreds of people were airlifted away from the fast-spreading fire earlier in the week, according to KABC in Los Angeles. So far, the fire has burned through 175,893 acres and was only 6 percent contained Thursday, according to the Fresno Bee. Cal Fire's statistics say the fire, which has ripped through the remote mountain town of Big Creek, has destroyed hundreds of homes and buildings. "My family has been part of this community since 1929 and knowing it's probably never going to be the same is just gut-wrenching," said Toby Walt, the superintendent of Big Creek School District, to CNN.
Mass Evacuations in Washington
Tinted orange by wildfire smoke from Oregon and southern Washington, the sun sets behind a hill on Sept. 9, 2020 in Kalama, Washington. David Ryder / Getty Images
As of Wednesday, wildfires had scorched 587,000 acres of Washington state, nearly half the area of land that burned during the entire record-setting fire season of 2015, The Seattle Times reported. The fires prompted Washington Governor Jay Inslee to sign an emergency declaration Wednesday, and to promise cash assistance for people who have lost their homes to the flames. Hundreds of families have had to evacuate, including residents of Tacoma suburb Bonney Lake. One of them was Christian Deoliveira, who fled his home with his fiancé and five-year-old son early Tuesday morning. "I woke up at about 3 a.m. to a neighbor knocking on the door, saying the whole hillside's on fire," Deoliveira told The News Tribune.
Animals Affected by Wildfires
A horse runs by a stall as flames from the Hennessey fire approach a property in the Spanish Flat area of Napa, California on Aug. 18, 2020. Josh Edelson / AFP / Getty Images
Wild animals in the West are accustomed to wildfires as a natural part of the ecosystem. Some even need the burnt-out areas for their breeding grounds, while other predators will lie in wait for prey fleeing the fire. But the size and intensity of the current fires is beyond what most animals have adapted to. While scientists do not have a count of how many animals die in wildfires, they do know that smoke, fire and heat are extremely dangerous for animals that can't escape fast enough, particularly young and small animals, according to National Geographic. It's not just wild animals that suffer. Domestic pets are also left behind to fend for themselves as fire approaches and pet owners need to evacuate. Animal rescue crews are scrambling to find cats and dogs that were left behind. After finding one dog, Farshad Azad of the North Valley Animal Disaster Group told the Vallejo Times-Herald, "Everything around him was incinerated." He added, "People are really afraid. And people are hurting because their animals are missing."
The Human Toll
Resident Austin Giannuzzi cries while embracing family members at the burnt remains of their home during the LNU Lightning Complex fire in Vacaville, California on Aug. 23, 2020. Josh Edelson / AFP / Getty Images
The fires have claimed at least 23 lives and destroyed hundreds of homes in all three states. One of the hardest hit areas has been California's Butte County, which was also the site of 2018's Camp Fire, the fire that scorched the town of Paradise and was the deadliest and most destructive in the state's history. Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said Thursday at least 10 people in his county had died in the North Complex fires, while dozens were missing and hundreds of homes were feared lost, according to USA Today. The blaze even menaced Paradise again, though The Mercury News reported evacuation orders for part of the town had been lifted. But Paradise's experience was repeated in the Butte County community of Berry Creek, which was obliterated by a part of the North Complex Fire Tuesday night. "The school is gone, the fire department's gone, the bar's gone, the laundromat's gone, the general store's gone," 50-year-resident John Sykes, who watched the blaze from a mile away, told The Sacramento Bee. "I'll never go back. I don't want to see it. That's why I'm leaving. I never want to see California again."
Communities Threatened and Destroyed in Oregon
A sprinkler wets the exterior of a home as wildfires approach nearby in Clackamas County on Sept. 9, 2020 in Oregon City, Oregon. David Ryder / Getty Images
High winds have fueled the rapid spread of the wildfires in Oregon, which are threatening the Western part of the state at an unprecedented rate. More than a half-million people have fled from the fires, which makes up more than 10 percent of the state's population of 4.2 million, according to the BBC. As of Thursday, there were 37 different blazes in the state, affecting people along the Interstate 5 corridor from Ashland in the south to Portland in the north. That includes Salem and Eugene. The blazes, which are only 1 percent contained, have decimated the towns of Phoenix and Talent, destroying hundreds of homes. "We have never seen this amount of uncontained fire across the state," said Governor Kate Brown, as the BBC reported. "This will not be a one-time event. Unfortunately, it is the bellwether of the future. We're feeling the acute impacts of climate change."
Wildfires During a Pandemic
A sign warning people about COVID-19 is surrounded by flames during the Hennessey Fire near Lake Berryessa in Napa, California on Aug. 18, 2020. Josh Edelson / AFP / Getty Images
The intense fires in the midst of a pandemic that requires social distancing is complicating evacuation strategies. Usually, people fleeing fires will huddle together in school gymnasiums. The COVID-19 pandemic has made that a no-no. The same restrictions apply to firefighters who would usually bunk together in small spaces, according to HuffPost. Complicating matters further is that the poor air quality from the smoke may affect recovery from COVID-19. "We know that wildfire exposure to communities increases the risk of lower respiratory tract infection," such as acute bronchitis and pneumonia, said Dr. John Balmes, a physician at the University of California, San Francisco, as HuffPost reported. "So there's concern in the context of the pandemic that wildfire smoke exposure would increase the risk of moving from mild to more severe COVID-19."
Note: This article has been updated to clarify that orange skies are being seen in areas of Northern California including Oroville and San Francisco.
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By Michael Addonizio
Safely resuming in-person instruction at U.S. public schools is important for the academic, physical, emotional and social well-being of children and their families. It's also a key factor for the nation's economic recovery.
But in mid-July, despite considerable pressure from the Trump administration, many school systems around the nation had announced that they didn't yet believe that anything close to resembling a traditional schedule would be feasible before the 2020-21 school year starts. Many school districts, including those in Los Angeles, San Diego and Houston, three of the nation's largest, were planning to be fully online.
Others, such as those serving New York City and Clinton, Mississippi, currently plan to follow hybrid approaches that combine distance learning and in-person learning. The goal in those cases is to reduce the spread of coronavirus by keeping students several feet apart from each other at all times and the only way to do that is to have fewer children in school at any given time.
Some states, including Florida, are trying to demand that local school systems at least offer families a chance for in-person daily instruction. But it's unlikely that all schools schools in those states will have on-site instruction, especially in COVID-19 hotspots.
Pressure from teachers has contributed to decisions to refrain from holding classes in person everywhere from Southern California to Northern Virginia. Based on my research regarding educational leadership and school policies, I believe that those moves reflect how teachers are insisting that schools only be reopened once staff and student safety can be more assured.
In June, a survey of the members of the American Federation of Teachers, a union with 1.6 million members, found that only 21% of K-12 teachers preferred to resume school on a traditional schedule. Another 42% supported a hybrid approach combining in-person and distance learning and 29% wanted to continue with distance learning exclusively and the rest didn't express a preference.
Fully 62% of the teachers responding to the survey expressed concerns over school safety tied to the COVID-19 pandemic.
One reason for this trepidation is demographic. More than 1 in 4 of the nation's 3.7 million public school teachers are 50 years old or older. That means they have a high risk of getting severe symptoms if they contract COVID-19.
Countless other teachers live with someone who is in a high-risk category due to their age or have underlying conditions that put them at a greater risk should they get sick.
A recent effort to at least bring teachers together while they taught young students online over the summer didn't bode well. Three teachers shared a classroom at an Arizona public school. Although all three wore masks and gloves, used hand sanitizer and socially distanced, they all got infected with the coronavirus. One of them, who was 61, died in June.
Even experts do not yet have a good understanding of the likely risks tied to reopening K-12 school buildings. Much remains unknown about the degree to which kids, who appear to be unlikely to develop COVID-19 symptoms, can spread the coronavirus. It's unclear whether the heating and cooling systems in school buildings function adequately enough to rely on during a pandemic. And no one knows how the alternative scheduling scenarios taking shape might affect student and staff safety since for the most part they are unprecedented.
This pushback from teachers is in keeping with a recent wave of mass mobilization by educators.
In 2018 and 2019, tens of thousands of public school teachers, both unionized and not, walked out of their classrooms. In states like Kentucky, Arizona, California and Illinois, they protested low salaries, large class sizes and cuts to school budgets that have forced many teachers to spend their own money on classroom materials.
From these walkouts, some statewide and others limited to specific school districts, teachers won better pay and working conditions. They also garnered considerable public support that may have bolstered educators' political clout in decisions being made about how to carry on with K-12 schooling in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Teaching is challenging in the best of times. Now teachers are being asked and told to do more than ever: prepare in-person, online and hybrid lessons, allay students' anxieties, and risk their own and their families' health while serving students and families, often in communities where the pandemic isn't anywhere near under control.
Should school systems not heed teacher safety concerns, there's a risk that large numbers of educators might retire early or quit until conditions are safer.
A wave of resignations could have major consequences for school quality. Teacher experience makes a big difference, in terms of both measured student achievement and student behavior. And replacing them with inexperienced substitute teachers and others far less qualified and issued emergency credentials would surely take a toll on the quality of education children get, whether it happens online or in classrooms.
In my view, the educational costs of losing scores of veteran teachers over personal health concerns would be incalculable.
Michael Addonizio is a professor of educational leadership and policy studies at the Wayne State University.
Disclosure statement: Michael Addonizio does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
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By Leanna First-Arai
In a push to capture the rural vote, 62 percent of which went to Trump in 2016, both the Trump and Biden campaigns are ramping up efforts to appeal to farmers and ranchers.
On September 22, the Biden campaign launched a new radio ad blitz in eight battleground states, in which Biden appeals to older voters whose families have lived in rural areas for generations. "No longer are we going to be faced with children or grandchildren believing that the only way they can make it is to leave home and go somewhere else to get that good job," Biden's voice assures. "There's no reason why it can't happen here."
In a contrasting approach, at a rally in North Carolina, just a few hours ahead of the opening of the Republican National Convention in August, Trump claimed that, under his administration, "The American farmer has done very well. I never hear any complaints from the American farmer." Remarks later that week during the convention followed suit. "The economy is coming up very rapidly, our farmers are doing well because I got China to give them $28 billion because they were targeted by China," Trump said on the first night of the convention.
But that assessment doesn't square with the hardship many U.S. farmers are facing — particularly small farmers. U.S. farm bankruptcies increased 20 percent in 2019, reaching an eight-year high, on account of factors like the trade war, increasing costs of production and crop loss related to the climate crisis.
Since April 2020, farmer support for the incumbent president has fallen from 89 percent to 71 percent, according to an August 2020 survey by DTN/The Progressive Farmer. A recent report by the Government Accountability Office revealed that under the Trump administration, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Market Facilitation Program payments to farmers harmed by the trade war went disproportionately to large-scale cotton and soybean farmers, ignoring the needs of small farmers who grow food. On account of Trump administration changes in payment maximums for the USDA's Market Facilitation Program, the top 1.3 percent of payment recipients received an additional $519 million, while the average individual farmer in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania got $11,829 and $8,661, respectively. The finding is in line with earlier analyses revealing Trump's disproportionate financial support for the largest capitalist farmers.
According to the USDA, more than half of the 2 million farms in the United States are "very small farms," grossing less than $10,000 annually. When asked what political capital this group could hold, Wingate University Assistant Professor of Political Science Chelsea Kaufman told Truthout that the increased pressure small farmers face from forces like the overlapping COVID-19 pandemic and climate crisis could make them a "relatively unique" political force, as has been the case with farmers experiencing economic shocks during past election cycles.
In 1932, incumbent President Herbert Hoover lost votes from normally Republican-voting northern farmers, and the same happened for Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956. Academics attribute this to low crop prices during election years. According to the Cook Political Report, many of what are expected to be key battleground states in 2020, like Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, are also top agricultural producers.
The majority of the smaller farmers Truthout spoke with for this story want to see a federal government that tackles climate change head-on and restructures agriculture to be a solution by encouraging diversified farming that stores (rather than releases) carbon. Industrial agriculture is a major contributor to climate change, through its reliance on chemical fertilizers, the manufacturing of which releases carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, and depletes the soil of nutrients. It's a system that farmers are "stuck in," says Tom Rosenfeld, who grows apples, blueberries, strawberries and peaches on 120 acres of farmland in southwest Michigan. Rosenfeld purchased a conventional orchard in 2005 and has been converting it to organic ever since, which he says has been a challenge in a system that prioritizes conventional practices. Dealing with climate change has made it even more difficult, a sentiment that reflects a wider experience among farmers. In 2018, 75 percent of Farm Aid hotline calls were related to extreme weather and weather-related crises like wildfires.
Rosenfeld says more frequent late freezes due to climate change have been all but impossible to bounce back from. After temperatures dropped to 25 degrees Fahrenheit in May 2020, he lost 65 percent of his strawberries, 40 percent of his blueberries and all of his Red Delicious, Gala, Empire and McIntosh apples. On top of that, the changing climate has brought new pests to the region, like the apple flea weevil, which destroyed a full season's worth of crops when it first appeared in 2010. "Every year I keep thinking, is this it?" he tells Truthout. "I can't afford this financially; I can't afford the time and energy and it doesn't seem to be getting to any kind of manageable place."
In 2018, when President Trump signed the latest Farm Bill, he reauthorized the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), which provides financial and technical assistance to farmers who implement certain conservation practices like mulching to protect soil, or "karst sinkhole treatment" to protect runoff from reaching groundwater supply.
But Rosenfeld, who is in the midst of transitioning all 110 acres from conventional to organic, says the program doesn't offer the kind of assistance he needs. When government representatives paid his farm a visit to assess what kind of EQIP program they might support, Rosenfeld says they proposed he build a retention wall near where he fills his sprayer, to help catch runoff. "But what good does that do?" he said, referring to his ultimate goal of moving away from using any kind of hazardous material on his land. "They're not offering the types of programs that are relevant to me as an organic grower."
Rosenfeld says he wants to shift away from using diesel and gas-fueled tractors and to have on-site renewable energy to power his farm. But no existing government programs make that financially feasible. When he considered investing in solar panels a few years ago, he found one program that would have cost him around $30,000, but with the kind of crop loss he has experienced, he couldn't afford it.
Two hours north of Rosenfeld's farm, in White Cloud, Michigan, Luke Eising is a farmer who uses silvopasture techniques, letting cows, pigs and chickens graze together amid integrated forest and plant landscapes. Rotating the animals to different pastures encourages plants to develop more robust root systems, which returns carbon to the soil and improves soil quality. In addition to producing food for his community, Eising says, being able to help sequester carbon and rebuild degraded soil is a major reason he chose to be a farmer. According to the 2018 United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, sequestering carbon in the soil is the most cost-effective option for economic activity generating "negative emissions." "I very much see it as a solution for food systems," Eising told Truthout.
Eising would like to see subsidies for corn and soy cut, because he thinks regenerative practices like his would become competitive. "We're fighting an uphill battle when I can see chicken breasts or pork chops in the store for less than I pay to process [my product]," he says, referring to animals raised in confinement and fed monoculture corn and soy feed the federal government subsidizes. Another issue the current administration hasn't helped with, Eising says, is a major meat processing backlog. Whereas Eising can usually get a date within six to eight weeks at a meat processing plant, given meat plant shutdowns amid COVID-19, leading to short supply of meat processing facilities, it's been hard to find a date any time before 2022. "This is not okay. I have animals outside that are ready to process, I have customers lining up because they're hungry and I have a freezer that's empty," he says. Existing laws prohibit small, local butchers from processing meat headed for market.
Eising tends to vote for conservative or libertarian candidates in local and national elections. In 2016, he voted for libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. But Eising says he'll likely vote for Biden if polling remains close in Michigan. "Nobody else is at all interested in what regenerative farming could do for this country," he says. Biden has recently talked about paying farmers for "planting certain crops that in fact absorb carbon from the air," but his climate plan makes no mention of organic, diversified or regenerative farming. According to a report by Data For Progress, conventional farming practices that rely on pesticides and monoculture practices are linked to $44 billion in annual damage related to soil erosion in the United States, which is perhaps felt most acutely in areas where soil can no longer retain moisture in the advent of a heavy rain, leading to catastrophic flooding.
Ecologically minded farmers in swing states outside of Michigan similarly reflect a desire for leadership that addresses climate through agricultural reform. Kemper Burt began farming 40 years ago in California. He now lives in Arizona, where he grows lettuce and other produce on a 40-acre farm powered by solar energy. Burt points out that tackling climate change will entail decolonizing the way we produce food, in direct contrast with the "feed the world" mentality behind the so-called "Green Revolution" of the 1970s, which led to the fertilizer and pesticide-heavy monoculture farming he and other small-scale farmers want to break away from. "Let's just try feeding our community, then let's just try feeding our state, and then let's just try feeding other states," Burt says. Burt is registered as an independent, though he wouldn't say exactly how he'll vote in November. "I look to what people are doing to help protect nature, which then in turn protects you and I," he said.
Many small farmers say they've yet to see a presidential candidate or down-ballot candidate fully address their needs in this election cycle. President Trump's reelection campaign has not yet put out a climate plan. And Biden's climate plan does not yet spell out what small-scale farmers say they want, like a return to the New Deal-era concept of "parity," a supply-management strategy designed to prevent the kind of wasteful over-production of soybeans and corn that wipes the land of biodiversity and results in unstable prices. Rosenfeld wants to see a shift away from crop insurance, which comprised one-third of farmers' income in 2019, toward income insurance, which would provide financial support for people growing food, rather than cash crops.
As long as agriculture is considered a solution to the climate crisis, whether in a Green New Deal or as part of another climate plan, says Maine farmer Craig Hickman, he'd consider it a step forward, noting that he thinks his neighbors in Maine, many of whom are libertarians, would agree. "Investing in food infrastructure is as important as roads and bridges," he told Truthout.
In 2019, Maine, a "purple" state, passed the first state-level Green New Deal backed by labor unions. Facing increased pressure from forces like climate change, the potential "farm vote" could build swing power, "although it is not clear whether that would happen in 2020 or a later election year," Kaufman said. "We can look to the lessons of history: Farmers had quite unique behavior at points in time where they faced economic instability, which led them to support candidates and parties that addressed these issues."
This story originally appeared in Truthout 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 Varshini Prakash and John Podesta
At the 2019 Republican Retreat, Donald Trump promised his allies that he would make this election about climate change: "I want to bring them way down the pike," he said, "before we start criticizing the Green New Deal."
At his Tulsa rally in June, and in many of the campaign "speeches" he's given since then, the president's long riff on the climate proved he hasn't forgotten the promise he made to Republicans. Trump's obsession with the Green New Deal—from his fixation on the completely debunked notion that windmills cause cancer, to his nonsense about cows and hamburgers, to his racist and misogynistic ramblings about Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who introduced the Green New Deal Resolution—is much more central to his reelection effort than it appears at first glance.
For whatever reason, Trump has decided that the Green New Deal—a proposal to save our country from environmental and economic disaster—is going to be his main electoral punching bag in the 2020 campaign.
If that's the fight he wants to pick, we say: Bring it on. And new polling shows the Democratic Party should welcome the fight, too.
Trump and the GOP appear poised to spend the election attacking Joe Biden's plan to create millions of high-paying jobs by falsely arguing that it will cost $100 trillion, and destroy all the cows, cars, and airplanes. The goal of these absurd lies is to distract us from the truth: He and his party have no plan to address the climate crisis aside from further lining the pockets of oil and gas executives. But the American people want climate action.
New polling from Climate Power 2020 finds 71 percent favor bold government action on climate change, while only 18 percent oppose it. And talking about climate moves votes for Democrats. When presented as a choice between a Democratic congressional candidate in favor of bold climate action and an anti-action Republican, the vote moves 14 points in the Democrat's favor. This jump is even bigger—21 points—for centrist Republican and Democratic voters. These numbers are astronomical, and they make clear that running aggressively on climate is the Democratic Party's biggest political opportunity this election.
Trump's record on climate is damning. He put oil and coal lobbyists in charge of protecting our environment—and they immediately went to work rolling back over 100 environmental safeguards, allowing corporate polluters to pump more toxic pollution and chemicals into our air and water. So that companies like Chevron can keep making billions in profits and pay zero in federal taxes, he's waged a war on our clean energy industry that's cost our economy over 1.1 million jobs. Future generations will face devastating health impacts and extreme weather disasters, all because Trump spent four years allowing fossil fuel lobbyists to dictate his every move on the climate, clean energy, and the environment.
Trump is picking this fight because he thinks he can convince voters that bold climate action is a threat, not a necessity. But hyperbolic attacks don't work. Polling shows the American people see it for what it is: another distraction from the same guy who's called both climate change and the novel coronavirus a hoax, who had the audacity to claim that thousands of Americans did not die under his watch in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, and who never listens to scientists, experts—or even his own military leaders at the Pentagon, which have recognized climate change as a national security threat for years.
But here's the deal: Running boldly on tackling the climate crisis, running on a Green New Deal, these are policies that can be popular in all 50 states. Democrats should run toward, not away from these fights. The evidence is clear: If we loudly make the case for bold climate action, we will win.
John's gray hair is a testament to our 44-year difference in age. Those familiar with each of us may not think we have a lot in common. One of us chaired Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign, and one of us was Bernie Sanders's leading climate surrogate in 2020. But we're both clear: We've never seen our country so eager to elect leaders who will take bold action to stop the climate crisis.
Neither have we ever known a country in such dire need of such bold action. In a moment of historic unemployment, Democrats want to put millions of people back to work now by investing in bold climate action that would create millions of clean energy jobs and begin to repair decades of environmental injustice. That's what the American people want too. By 23 points, voters support investing trillions of dollars in clean energy infrastructure.
We have paid an inconceivable price for Trump's refusal to heed experts and science in a crisis. But as Americans claw out of unemployment, as folks scrape together the money to properly honor the lives they have lost, we have become unified by our acute fear of living through another crisis of this scale.
The climate crisis is the crisis we fear. Trump wants to fight about it. That's good. So do we.
This story originally appeared in The Nation 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 Elizabeth M. De Santo, Elizabeth Mendenhall and Elizabeth Nyman
Mining the ocean floor for submerged minerals is a little-known, experimental industry. But soon it will take place on the deep seabed, which belongs to everyone, according to international law.
Seabed mining for valuable materials like copper, zinc and lithium already takes place within countries' marine territories. As soon as 2025, larger projects could start in international waters – areas more than 200 nautical miles from shore, beyond national jurisdictions.
We study ocean policy, marine resource management, international ocean governance and environmental regimes, and are researching political processes that govern deep seabed mining. Our main interests are the environmental impacts of seabed mining, ways of sharing marine resources equitably and the use of tools like marine protected areas to protect rare, vulnerable and fragile species and ecosystems.
Today countries are working together on rules for seabed mining. In our opinion, there is still time to develop a framework that will enable nations to share resources and prevent permanent damage to the deep sea. But that will happen only if countries are willing to cooperate and make sacrifices for the greater good.
An Old Treaty With a New Purpose
Countries regulate seabed mining within their marine territories. Farther out, in areas beyond national jurisdiction, they cooperate through the Law of the Sea Convention, which has been ratified by 167 countries and the European Union, but not the U.S.
The treaty created the International Seabed Authority, headquartered in Jamaica, to manage seabed mining in international waters. This organization's workload is about to balloon.
Under the treaty, activities conducted in areas beyond national jurisdiction must be for "the benefit of mankind as a whole." These benefits could include economic profit, scientific research findings, specialized technology and recovery of historical objects. The convention calls on governments to share them fairly, with special attention to developing countries' interests and needs.
The United States was involved in negotiating the convention and signed it but has not ratified it, due to concerns that it puts too many limits on exploitation of deep sea resources. As a result, the U.S. is not bound by the treaty, although it follows most of its rules independently. Recent administrations, including those of Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, sought to ratify the treaty, but failed to muster a two-thirds majority in the Senate to support it.
Locations of three main types of marine mineral deposits: polymetallic nodules (blue); polymetallic or seafloor massive sulfides (orange); and cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts (yellow). Miller et al., 2018, https://doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2017.00418, CC BY 4.0
Powering Digital Devices
Scientists and industry leaders have known that there are valuable minerals on the seafloor for over a century, but it hasn't been technologically or economically feasible to go after them until the past decade. Widespread growth of battery-driven technologies such as smartphones, computers, wind turbines and solar panels is changing this calculation as the world runs low on land-based deposits of copper, nickel, aluminum, manganese, zinc, lithium and cobalt.
These minerals are found in potato-shaped "nodules" on the seafloor, as well as in and around hydrothermal vents, seamounts and midocean ridges. Energy companies and their governments are also interested in extracting methane hydrates – frozen deposits of natural gas on the seafloor.
Scientists still have a lot to learn about these habitats and the species that live there. Research expeditions are continually discovering new species in deep-sea habitats.
Korea and China Seek the Most Contracts
Mining the deep ocean requires permission from the International Seabed Authority. Exploration contracts provide the right to explore a specific part of the seabed for 15 years. As of mid-2020, 30 mining groups have signed exploration contracts, including governments, public-private partnerships, international consortiums and private multinational companies.
Two entities hold the most exploration contracts (three each): the government of Korea and the China Ocean Mineral Resources R&D Association, a state-owned company. Since the U.S. is not a member of the Law of the Sea treaty, it cannot apply for contracts. But U.S. companies are investing in others' projects. For example, the American defense company Lockheed Martin owns UK Seabed Resources, which holds two exploration contracts.
Once an exploration contract expires, as several have since 2015, mining companies must broker an exploitation contract with the International Seabed Authority to allow for commercial-scale extraction. The agency is working on rules for mining, which will shape individual contracts.
It was meant to be a pivotal year for deep-seabed mining. But the coronavirus pandemic is threatening the drafting… https://t.co/sI7NZ6VGhW— China Dialogue (@China Dialogue)1589216642.0
Unknown Ecological Impacts
Deep-sea mining technology is still in development but will probably include vacuuming nodules from the seafloor. Scraping and vacuuming the seafloor can destroy habitats and release plumes of sediment that blanket or choke filter-feeding species on the seafloor and fish swimming in the water column.
Mining also introduces noise, vibration and light pollution in a zone that normally is silent, still and dark. And depending on the type of mining taking place, it could lead to chemical leaks and spills.
Many deep-sea species are unique and found nowhere else. We agree with the scientific community and environmental advocates that it is critically important to analyze the potential effects of seabed mining thoroughly. Studies also should inform decision-makers about how to manage the process.
This is a key moment for the International Seabed Authority. It is currently writing the rules for environmental protection but doesn't have enough information about the deep ocean and the impacts of mining. Today the agency relies on seabed mining companies to report on and monitor themselves, and on academic researchers to provide baseline ecosystem data.
We believe that national governments acting through the International Seabed Authority should require more scientific research and monitoring, and better support the agency's efforts to analyze and act on that information. Such action would make it possible to slow the process down and make better decisions about when, where and how to mine the deep seabed.
Balancing Risks and Benefits
The race for deep-sea minerals is imminent. There are compelling arguments for mining the seabed, such as supporting the transition to renewable energy, which some companies assert will be a net gain for the environment. But balancing benefits and impacts will require proactive and thorough study before the industry takes off.
We also believe that the U.S. should ratify the Law of the Sea treaty so that it can help to lead on this issue. The oceans provide humans with food and oxygen and regulate Earth's climate. Choices being made now could affect them far into the future in ways that aren't yet understood.
Dr. Rachel Tiller, Senior Research Scientist with SINTEF Ocean, Norway, contributed to this article.
Elizabeth M. De Santo is an Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, Franklin & Marshall College.
Elizabeth Mendenhall is an Assistant Professor of Marine Affairs and Political Science, University of Rhode Island.
Elizabeth Nyman is an Assistant Professor of Maritime Policy, Texas A&M University.
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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While the nation struggles to find ways to put money in peoples' pockets and to ramp up the economy so people can get back to work, over $43 billion in low-interest loans earmarked for clean energy projects sits undistributed by the Trump administration, according to The New York Times.
The president has long questioned the efficacy of renewable energy sources, has suggested that wind turbines cause cancer, and championed coal as a clean and efficient source of power. Despite his reluctance to champion green energy infrastructure, some lawmakers and energy experts think it is unacceptable that tens of billions of dollars that Congress long ago authorized, with bipartisan support, has not been dispersed.
"We're searching high and low all over Washington, DC, for money to put people back to work and here we have more than $40 billion," said Dan Reicher, executive director of the Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance at Stanford University, who served at the Energy Department in the Clinton administration, to The New York Times. "This is the moment to really put these programs back in gear."
The loans passed through Congress well before the coronavirus forced nearly 30 million people into unemployment. However, they have been held up by the Energy Department.
"They haven't put out any or almost any of these loans since he's become president," said Representative Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, as The New York Times reported. "There's an ideological or political aspect to this. The president is not someone who seeks to promote the clean energy sector."
Holding up the loans during the pandemic seems particularly strange since the money could help many people to start working. Anne Reynolds with the Alliance for Clean Energy told POLITICO that energy efficiency companies have laid off between 40 and 50 percent of their workforce.
In New York, for example, the state saw layoffs to nearly 5,000 clean energy jobs in March. Congressman Pallone said that the renewable energy sector had created more than 3 million jobs.
"These utility-led programs could drive significant job and economic growth statewide as we step out of our current pause," said Reynolds, as POLITICO reported. "We are at risk of losing a skilled and trained workforce as work is stalled, and job losses and furloughs accelerate."
While an injection of capital would help restart green energy projects and allow companies to hire back employees, there is little reason to believe the Trump administration will issue any of the loans.The last new project to be approved under the loan program was in 2016, under the Obama administration. To get the money out of the government's hands and into an investment in renewable energy infrastructure, Pallone said he plans to find a way to address the unspent loans in the next stimulus.
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