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Politics: Democrats are fumbling their chance at climate action — and we'll all pay the price

Biden's climate change agenda hangs in balance as Congress debates budget

  Biden's climate change agenda hangs in balance as Congress debates budget If Congress passes President Biden’s ambitious plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, he will go down in history as the nation’s first leader to usher in a transformative climate change agenda. “The urgency couldn’t be greater,” Matthew Davis, vice president of civic engagement at the League of Conservation Voters, told Yahoo News. As climate change makes extreme weather events such as this summer's record wildfires and hurricanes more common, numerous studies show that humanity will pay the price for inaction for decades to come. Democratic congressional leaders are echoing those findings.

For those of us who care about the fate of our planet (I hope that's everyone), watching what's been happening with the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the budget reconciliation bill in Congress the last few weeks is terrifying.

Democrats are fumbling their chance at climate action — and we'll all pay the price © Greg Nash/Getty Images Democrats are fumbling their chance at climate action — and we'll all pay the price

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) are threatening to sabotage the Democrats' chance at passing meaningful climate legislation, probably for many years to come. And given that we have zero years left with which to address the climate crises, we find ourselves in a serious situation.

How Republicans blocked cities from advancing climate solutions

  How Republicans blocked cities from advancing climate solutions The natural gas industry was losing in cities across the US. Then came an obscure tactic called preemption.While many answers to climate change require national and even international action, cities often have the unilateral power to craft local rules like building codes. But before the city of Tucson could even look at possible building reforms, the Republican-led state legislature took away its power to do so — by passing a state law that natural gas utilities are “not subject to further regulation by a municipality.

Now, as the politicians are continuing to do what they do best (not get things done), let's not forget other pressing climate news.

The good

President Biden recently announced plans to double the amount of funding to help poorer countries tackle climate change with $11.4 billion per year through 2024.

Even better, Chinese leader Xi Jinping announced last week that China will no longer finance any new coal projects in foreign countries. Given that 70 percent of the world's coal projects rely on Chinese financing - that's a big deal.

Not to be left out of all the fun, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday the UK will aim to hit 100 percent green energy production by 2035. Not too shabby. Not too shabby at all.

The bad

Biden specifically ran on a campaign promise to stop leasing federal lands for oil and gas drilling. However, his administration just opened up 80 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas drilling. The administration is pointing the finger at a federal judge in Louisiana saying "the government was required by law to offer acreage to the oil and gas industry."

Pressure builds to address climate-induced migration

  Pressure builds to address climate-induced migration When Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez, D-N.Y., witnessed the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, she noticed a connection between two of the thorniest issues facing lawmakers. A Puerto Rican native, Velázquez was struck by the move north of large numbers of Puerto Ricans in the aftermath of the devastating 2017 storm, and she told Speaker […] The post Pressure builds to address climate-induced migration appeared first on Roll Call.

Let me get this straight: Despite the world simultaneously burning and flooding, along with back-to-back extreme weather events - all made worse by fossil fuel-driven climate change - the leader of the free world just passed the buck on oil drilling? Biden is basically saying that even though he promised we'd stop destroying the planet, somewhere in our law books it says we have to keep on destroying the planet - so we will.

The ugly

Climate change poses a very clear and present danger in the United States. Over Labor Day last month, rather than enjoying a barbeque, people in four states were under a state of emergency due to extreme weather events fueled by climate change: California, Louisiana, New York and New Jersey.

Since 1980, the average number of billion-dollar disasters per year in the U.S. has been seven. In 2020, we had 22 billion-dollar disasters. That's a $96.4 billion price tag in weather and climate disasters in 2020 alone, not to mention the cost in human lives and suffering. It's estimated that if climate change is left unabated, it will cost "$551 trillion, which is more money than there is on earth," climate activist and author Bill McKibben points out.

Young activists bemoan climate inaction, demand more say

  Young activists bemoan climate inaction, demand more say MILAN (AP) — Youth climate activists Vanessa Nakate and Greta Thunberg chastized global leaders Tuesday for failing to meet funding pledges to help poor nations adapt to a warming Earth and for delivering too much “blah blah blah’’ as climate change wreaks havoc around the world. They even cast doubt on the intentions behind a youth climate gathering where they were speaking in Milan. Four hundred climate activists from 180 countries were invited to Italy’s financial capital for a three-day Youth4Climate summit that will send its recommendations to a major United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, that begins on Oct. 31.

Yet, despite the existential risk posed by climate change to all of us, Manchin and Sinema - and all 50 republican senators - believe that spending the $350 billion a year for 10 years to avoid the worst of the climate crisis is far too much to ask, as proposed in the budget reconciliation bill (and provide a ton of other awesome benefits like lowering prescription drug costs and universal pre-k).

While $350 billion might sound like a lot, keep in mind, the president is proposing we spend $750 billion on our military budget this year. This is more or less what Congress approves without batting an eyelash for the military every year. We literally spend more money on the military than the next seven countries combined.

In that context, how can these planet-saving funds be so difficult for Congress to approve? What threat could be so scary that the senators would risk not taking action on climate change in order to avoid it?

According to Manchin, it's good old inflation. Boy, do I hate inflation. You know what I hate more though? When my house burns down, or is lost in a flood, or my family member dies in a heatwave because the U.S. government knew about climate change for over 50 years and did nothing to stop it.

Activists call for EU ban on fossil fuel advertising

  Activists call for EU ban on fossil fuel advertising THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — A coalition of more than 20 environmental and climate groups launched a campaign Monday calling for a ban on fossil fuel advertising and sponsorship across the European Union, similar to bans on tobacco advertising. More than 80 Greenpeace activists blocked the entrance to Shell's oil refinery in the Dutch port of Rotterdam to draw attention to the launch of the European Citizens' Initiative calling for theMore than 80 Greenpeace activists blocked the entrance to Shell's oil refinery in the Dutch port of Rotterdam to draw attention to the launch of the European Citizens' Initiative calling for the advertising ban.

Perhaps inflation isn't really Manchin's top concern though. Perhaps it's that he owns a $5 million stake in a coal brokerage that he earns half a million dollars a year from. Or maybe it's something we don't know about that's being discussed during his frequent meetings with ExxonMobil lobbyists.

What might be the ugliest part of this whole mess is that while Democrats argue with themselves about whether these minimal amounts are worth paying to save the climate, they conveniently ignore that this could all be a heck of a lot cheaper by cutting fossil fuel subsidies.

Silly me, what was I thinking? Of course, they have to keep subsidizing fossil fuels!

Even in the most significant climate legislation we've ever seen, where Democrats have all the power to craft a bill and pass it as they see fit, they're still giving billions in corporate handouts to the fossil fuel industry.

If that doesn't tell you everything you need to know about the climate crisis, I don't know what will.

And if the impacts of fossil fuels on our climate weren't devastating enough, the industry also poses an immediate toxic pollution risk to our environment. Huntington Beach, California is currently facing 3,000 barrels worth of oil that spewed into the ocean Friday - the largest California oil spill in recent history.

Daily on Energy: Tina Smith plotting work with Joe Manchin on emissions plan

  Daily on Energy: Tina Smith plotting work with Joe Manchin on emissions plan Subscribe today to the Washington Examiner magazine and get Washington Briefing: politics and policy stories that will keep you up to date with what's going on in Washington. SUBSCRIBE NOW: Just $1.00 an issue! © Provided by Washington Examiner DOE Default Image - July 2021 SMITH PLANS WORK WITH MANCHIN: Sen. Tina Smith of Minnesota, the leader of Democrats’ push to increase the use of clean electricity, is betting she can find common cause with her colleague Joe Manchin, who has threatened to oppose policies that are overly prescriptive on curbing fossil fuel use.

It's not looking good, ladies and gentlemen.

It's not as though we are without alternatives to fossil fuels that pollute our environment and dangerously warm our planet: A study from Oxford last month found that the cost of solar panels are dropping to ridiculous new lows, faster than expected, and faster than most are realizing.

Next month the countries of the world will meet in Glasgow for the next UN Climate talk, COP 26. This will be the first COP with the U.S., the world's largest historic emitter, back at the table, since the U.S. withdrew from the Paris Agreement in 2017.

The United States is the biggest player in the climate conversation and this is the biggest stage. Can Biden and the Democrats wake up to the historic moment we're in, quit squabbling and use the authority the voters gave them to grow a spine and take some action? And in doing so, hopefully rally other countries to follow our lead? I sure hope so.

Andreas Karelas is author of the book "Climate Courage: How Tackling Climate Change Can Build Community, Transform the Economy, and Bridge the Political Divide in America" published by Beacon Press. He is also the founder and executive director of RE-volv, a nonprofit climate justice organization that helps fellow nonprofits across the country go solar. Follow him on Twitter: @AndreasKarelas

The AP Interview: Kerry says climate talks may miss target .
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. climate envoy John Kerry is tempering expectations for a U.N. climate summit sometimes billed as make-or-break for the Earth's future, conceding next month's talks likely will end with nations still short of the target of cuts in coal and petroleum emissions that are needed to stave off increasingly devastating levels of global warming. But in an interview with The Associated Press, Kerry also credited efforts by the United States, European Union, Japan and other allies ahead of next month’s climate negotiations in Glasgow, Scotland with getting the world much closer to the scale of big, fast fossil fuel cuts needed.

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