Biden to Set Goal for Half of All Vehicle Sales to Be Electric by...

Environment & Health New COVID Variants Threaten to Make Pandemic Permanent Economy & Labor COVID Relief Packages Dramatically Reduced Poverty. They Should Be Permanent. Economy & Labor Predatory Banks at Walmarts Made Over 100 Percent of Profits From Overdraft Fees Environment & Health Biden to Set Goal for Half of All Vehicle Sales to Be Electric by 2030 Environment & Health MO Coroner Says He Alters Death Certificates If Families Dislike COVID Inclusion Environment & Health Biden Made Big Compromises on Climate — and Movements That Backed Him Are Livid President Joe Biden is launching a push on Thursday to curb vehicle emissions and set a benchmark for the U.S. to begin phasing out gas vehicles. Biden is expected to sign an executive order setting a goal for half of all vehicles sold in the United States to be electric by 2030, which will likely play a key role in helping the U.S. meet Biden’s climate goals. He is also expected to reinstate and tighten tailpipe emission standards set under President Barack Obama (but rolled back by Trump) to cut greenhouse gas emissions and ramp up vehicle efficiency. The transportation sector is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., making up 29 percent of emissions in 2019, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Without swift vehicle electrification, climate goals set by the administration like cutting emissions to 50 percent of 2005 levels by 2030 will be hard to reach, experts say, Still, Biden’s announced goal for vehicle electrification will be difficult to achieve, logistically and politically. “There’s a battle on every front. There’s a battle in Congress. There’s a battle in the courts. There’s a battle against time,” Jody Freeman, Harvard Law School environmental and energy law director, told The Washington Post. Indeed, as this summer’s climate events have demonstrated, time is of the essence on climate legislation. And with climate measures being carved out of the infrastructure plan, there are few options left for legislators who want to curb the climate crisis to do so. In the latest and possibly final version of the bipartisan infrastructure bill, electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure funding ended up being cut by nearly 96 percent of Biden’s original proposal. Vehicle manufacturers have said that their compliance with Biden’s order hinges on funding and support for building more charging stations from Congress. The latest bipartisan bill calls for only $7.5 billion for electric vehicle charging stations, half of the $15 that was allocated for charging stations in the June bipartisan framework. Car manufacturers like Ford, General Motors and Honda have signalled their support for Biden’s electrification goals. But the American manufacturers and United Auto Workers will only take the pledge to make 40 to 50 percent of their new car sales electric if the bipartisan bill passes with the $7.5 billion in EV charging funding. Biden will also reinstate vehicle mileage standards rolled back by Donald Trump. Starting with 2023 car models, Biden will propose higher mileage standards in hopes of cutting emissions by 3.7 percent a year, mirroring a California vehicle emissions reduction plan. In 2025, the emissions cuts will ramp up by a 5 percent increase annually, and possibly more after that, the Associated Press reports. Climate and environment groups have shared mixed views on Biden’s plans. “This proposal is headed in a better direction, but the Biden administration can and should be more ambitious,” Environment America Carbon Campaign Director Morgan Folger said in a statement. “Over 5 years ago, the Obama-Biden administration took the strongest federal action to reduce global warming pollution in history, only to be stalled out by the automakers reneging on their promise…. We can’t turn back the clock 5 years, so we have to go even faster to zero out pollution from our cars and trucks and solve this climate crisis.” Simon Mui, deputy director for clean vehicles and fuels at the Natural Resources Defense Council, praised the administration for taking action but told The Washington Post, “This proposal delivers less carbon pollution reductions than the Obama-era standards and includes unfortunate loopholes that undercut progress.” Climate advocates have also recently taken umbrage with Biden for making major compromises on climate despite early promises for ambitious emissions reductions. “Today, the prospect of serious action on the scale needed to address the climate emergency, and the image of the Biden administration as being committed to climate action, are both in shambles,” wrote Basav Sen for Truthout. Copyright © Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

84 Democrats Sign Letter Demanding Civilian Climate Corps in Reconciliation Bill

As Democratic leaders hash out the details of the upcoming $3.5 trillion reconciliation deal, dozens of Democratic lawmakers are uniting behind a proposal to create a Civilian Climate Corps and rallying for its inclusion in the bill. Eighty-four Democrats signed a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) urging them to incorporate their proposal for the Corps on Tuesday.

Manchin Wants to Invest More Taxpayer Money in Propping Up Fossil Fuel Industry

The time has come for Democrats in Congress to debate the future of the fossil fuel industry as they write sweeping climate legislation that could define President Joe Biden’s legacy. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), a conservative Democrat and a key vote in the Senate, drew a line in the sand this week, telling fellow Democrats and media outlets that eliminating fossil fuels is off the table. Instead of phasing out fossil fuels and investing heavily in cleaner energy sources such as wind and solar, Manchin and his allies in the Senate are pushing a plan to invest billions of federal tax dollars into nuclear energy and controversial technologies such as “carbon capture” that would allow industrial polluters to continue extracting and burning fossil fuels for years to come.

Belgium Court Declares Inadequate Climate Policy a Human Rights Violation

Climate campaigners claimed a “historic victory” after a Brussels court on Thursday condemned Belgium for its climate policy that breaches the country’s duty of care and human rights obligations. The verdict from the Court of First Instance followed a six-year legal battle first launched by non-profit group Klimaatzaak (Climate Case) representing over 58,000 citizens.

EPA Workers Demand the Removal of Fossil Fuel Stocks From Their Retirement Plans

This article was originally published at Labor Notes. Not long ago, workers at the Environmental Protection Agency were battling the Trump Administration’s many attempts to interfere with both their agency’s mission and their rights on the job.

Right-Wing Disinformation Campaigns Are Targeting State Climate Initiatives

Environment & Health Right-Wing Disinformation Campaigns Are Targeting State Climate Initiatives Environment & Health COVID Isn’t Over — the US Must Do More to Combat It Worldwide War & Peace Barbara Lee Introduces Bill to Help Vietnamese Victims of Agent Orange Economy & Labor Report Shows Stimulus Checks Significantly Reduced Hardship for Families Politics & Elections The Fight Against Fascism Isn’t Over Politics & Elections 100+ Democracy Scholars Issue Dire Warning About Threats to Voting Rights in US As Republicans in Washington propose to further strip an already pared-down jobs and infrastructure package that activists warn is not bold enough to deliver Biden’s promises of “real change,” lawmakers with ties to oil and gas interests are obstructing action at the state level by misrepresenting regional climate bills as gas taxes. In April, GOP lawmakers in Connecticut launched a “Stop the Gas and Food Tax” campaign, which characterizes an effort by 13 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as a plan to “punish” the middle class. The effort their ire was directed at, the Transportation and Climate Initiative Program (TCI-P), contains provisions to cap and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector. “I think one sign of the desperation of the [GOP] opposition is that they’re really resorting now to things that are factually untrue,” Charles Rothenberger, climate and energy attorney at Save the Sound, told Connecticut Mirror, referring to how the TCI-P categorically does not levy a tax on consumers at the pump. Progressive groups including the Climate Justice Alliance have also opposed the program, but on the grounds that it distracts from reforms that center the needs of communities on the frontlines of pollution and climate crises, such as overhauling the mass transit system. Right-wing groups have relied on disinformation and economic alarmism to promote the fossil fuel industry’s agenda for decades, advocates say. For example, in 2015, a multimillion-dollar PR campaign by a front group for the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) surfaced in California when lawmakers were getting close to passing the state’s Clean Energy and Pollution Act. The Union of Concerned Scientists’ Adrienne Alvord described the WSPA radio spots and glossy mailers calling on Californians to “stop the hidden gas tax” as “one of the most extreme examples of fossil fuel-interest misinformation I’ve ever seen.” Now, efforts have arisen in New York state to quash what would be the most progressive state-level climate jobs bill in the U.S. The Climate and Community Investment Act (CCIA) is a novel proposal that provides a roadmap for funding the state’s 2019 commitment to 100 percent zero-emission electricity by 2040, by establishing a new state authority that proponents estimate would generate between $11 billion and $15 billion annually by calling on polluters to pay a $55 fee on each ton of climate pollution emitted, which would rise to $74 by 2030. The bill also calls for additional fees on co-pollutants that are harmful to human health, like ozone and the microscopic particulate pollution known as PM2.5, which is highly correlated with asthma and other respiratory problems. Unlike TCI-P or cap-and-trade schemes, the CCIA is designed by and for the almost 300 community organizations that worked with state lawmakers to introduce it, under a multiracial, multi-sector coalition called NY Renews. According to a report by the coalition, the legislation would support more than 160,000 ongoing jobs, including 4,560 jobs manufacturing electric buses, 11,700 jobs retrofitting buildings to increase energy efficiency and 11,404 jobs in the care economy. The fund would also provide tax rebates to low- and middle-income New Yorkers to cover fluctuating energy costs amid the transition away from fossil fuels. The CCIA would direct 33 percent of revenue, or an estimated $4 billion annually to a community-led just transition fund, and 7 percent, or an estimated $1 billion annually, to a fund to support workers and communities that will need to transition away from livelihoods in the fossil fuel sector. Lawmakers with ties to oil and gas interests are obstructing action at the state level by misrepresenting regional climate bills as gas taxes. Organizers began facing a barrage of pushback beginning in April, after vice president of the corporate lobbying group Business Council of New York State Ken Pokalsky testified against the bill, estimating a 55 cent per gallon fee on gasoline and a 26 percent rise in the cost of natural gas for home heating. According to watchdog group the Public Accountability Initiative and database LittleSis, the Business Council is heavily backed by fossil fuel interests, with members including pipeline conglomerate Kinder Morgan, Exxon subsidiary XTO Energy and the American Petroleum Institute. Vocal opposition from Republican lawmakers followed days later, including from New York state senators Daphne Jordan and Thomas F. O’Mara, whose top campaign contributors during the 2020 election cycle included the Business Council. Local papers across the state, such as The Island Now and the Saratogian amplified the framing of the bill as a “gas tax” by linking concern over rising prices at the pump to a recent cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline. A similar message has continued to be broadcast on TV stations and an NPR affiliate station. Stephan Edel, coalition coordinator with NY Renews, told Truthout the gas tax rhetoric is disingenuous and distracts from what the bill actually offers communities across the state. “We put the fee upstream on importers and major fossil fuel companies. Some of those companies will choose to pass those costs onto consumers even though they don’t have to,” he explained. NY Renews has conducted multiple analyses of the legislation’s impact on New Yorkers, which have all concluded that tax rebates of $700-$1,200 per household to help with energy costs would cover or exceed the potential impact of rising fuel costs passed to consumers, leaving 60 percent of New Yorkers with more money. “Those things are completely lost when the conversation focuses on ‘will the price at the pump go up?’” Edel added. The Climate and Community Investment Act … is designed by and for the almost 300 community organizations … under a multiracial, multi-sector coalition called NY Renews. The bill’s potential passage comes at a critical time given the federal gridlock. Tamara Toles O’Laughlin, a national climate strategist, told Truthout the CCIA and efforts to stamp it out could set a precedent for what will play out elsewhere. “New York is always a trendsetter and as a state laboratory is often a good place to learn about the nuance from financing to accountability in the State Attorney General, the regulatory space and in the streets,” she said. Sacoby Wilson, a professor of environmental health at the University of Maryland, says the CCIA would serve as a model for other regions in the U.S. that have yet to develop such a dense environmental justice network and presence in the halls of power. “That bill has the opportunity to bring justice forward and really target communities with the most needs,” he said, noting that without legislation like the CCIA, aggressive action on climate issues at the state and federal levels could result in just another “massive transfer of wealth” that further harms low-income and communities of color, which Wilson says “have been dumped on for years and excluded from economic opportunity.” The executive director of the Brooklyn-based community development organization UPROSE, Elizabeth Yeampierre, took part in preventing just this kind of wealth transfer in 2019, when her organization helped fight off an attempt by real estate developers to rezone an industrial waterfront area in Brooklyn for high-rise apartments and hotels. The proposed development was slated for the Sunset Park neighborhood, where 29 percent of residents, the majority of whom are Latinx or Asian, live below the poverty level. Now, instead of hosting luxury apartments that organizers say would have gentrified the neighborhood, Sunset Park is slated to serve as a manufacturing hub for offshore wind turbines, where the Norwegian company Equinor has committed $50 million to workforce development. As Inside Climate News reports, residents have expressed excitement about the possibility of over 1,000 high-paying jobs as an alternative to retail or service gigs or working in dirtier industries. “New York is really the belly of the beast when it comes to capitalism,” Yeampierre told Truthout, noting how the CCIA is designed to help organizers tap into funding for clean energy and climate resilience projects that build neighborhood wealth, like what’s now happening in Sunset Park. The climate bill faces some opposition on Long Island and upstate, yet almost two-thirds of New Yorkers acknowledge that climate change is already hurting people in the U.S., and 75 percent of residents think corporations should do more to address global warming. Yeampierre said she believes necessary constituents and lawmakers might back the bill — if they weren’t facing the oil and gas industry’s alternative facts. “I would think that people would be excited to hear about communities leading with solutions that are viable, operational and that address the disparities of fossil fuel extraction and racism,” she said. “If you address the needs of the most vulnerable, everyone will benefit.” The proposed legislation currently has 28 co-sponsors in the Senate and 49 co-sponsors in the State Assembly. In the remaining days of the legislative session, which ends on June 10, Clarke Gocker, an organizer with PUSH Buffalo, said activists will continue reaching deeper into communities to educate policy makers, residents and small businesses on what’s actually in the bill. For example, the bill includes billions annually in funding for projects like Buffalo’s School 77: a formerly abandoned building on the city’s west side that is now home to affordable apartments, a Black theater collective, a community gym, and a space that served as a COVID-19 mutual aid hub last summer, all powered by a 65-kilowatt solar array installed and maintained by local workers. “There’s a lot of popular education that needs to happen to dispel this disinformation and misinformation,” Gocker said. “The CCIA is a novel legislative intervention and I don’t think there’s a lot of precedent, which is why it’s so exciting.” Copyright © Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Study Warns That Arctic Has Been Warming 3 Times Faster Than Rest of Earth

Over the past five decades, the Arctic has warmed three times faster than the world as a whole, leading to rapid and widespread melting of ice and other far-reaching consequences that are important not only to local communities and ecosystems but to the fate of life on planet Earth. The Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP) issued that warning on Thursday in a new report (pdf) that summarizes the latest findings on Arctic change and projections of future transformations under different climate scenarios. The publication of AMAP’s report coincides with this week’s meeting of the Arctic Council in Reykjavík, Iceland, which brings together policymakers from countries bordering the region.

Hawaii Poised to Become First State to Declare Climate Emergency

The Hawaii state legislature is set to make history later on Thursday by becoming the first state in the country to pass a resolution declaring a climate emergency. Hawaii lawmakers will declare in a nonbinding resolution that the current global climate crisis is a threat to both humankind and the environment. The text of the resolution calls for a collaborative effort to address the effects of the crisis and come up with ways to halt the increase of global temperatures.

Climate Crisis Has Shifted the Earth’s Axis, Study Shows

Racial Justice Commission Finds Anti-Black Police Violence Constitutes Crimes Against Humanity Politics & Elections Tucker Carlson Is Emblematic of Today’s Republican Party Prisons & Policing Police Convictions Are Not the Goal. Abolitionists Have Bigger Dreams. Environment & Health Prescription Drugs in US Are Quadruple What They Cost Elsewhere, Report Finds Politics & Elections Biden Unveils American Families Plan, Which Would Establish Paid Leave Program Environment & Health No, Biden’s Not Banning Burgers — But Meat Is a Real Climate Problem 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. The massive melting of glaciers as a result of global heating has caused marked shifts in the Earth’s axis of rotation since the 1990s, research has shown. It demonstrates the profound impact humans are having on the planet, scientists said. The planet’s geographic north and south poles are the point where its axis of rotation intersects the surface, but they are not fixed. Changes in how the Earth’s mass is distributed around the planet cause the axis, and therefore the poles, to move. In the past, only natural factors such as ocean currents and the convection of hot rock in the deep Earth contributed to the drifting position of the poles. But the new research shows that since the 1990s, the loss of hundreds of billions of tonnes of ice a year into the oceans resulting from the climate crisis has caused the poles to move in new directions. The scientists found the direction of polar drift shifted from southward to eastward in 1995 and that the average speed of drift from 1995 to 2020 was 17 times faster than from 1981 to 1995. Since 1980, the position of the poles has moved about 4 metres in distance. “The accelerated decline [in water stored on land] resulting from glacial ice melting is the main driver of the rapid polar drift after the 1990s,” concluded the team, led by Shanshan Deng, from the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Gravity data from the Grace satellite, launched in 2002, had been used to link glacial melting to movements of the pole in 2005 and 2012, both following increases in ice losses. But Deng’s research breaks new ground by extending the link to before the satellite’s launch, showing human activities have been shifting the poles since the 1990s, almost three decades ago. The research, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, showed glacial losses accounted for most of the shift, but it is likely that the pumping up of groundwater also contributed to the movements. Groundwater is stored under land but, once pumped up for drinking or agriculture, most eventually flows to sea, redistributing its weight around the world. In the past 50 years, humanity has removed 18 trillion tonnes of water from deep underground reservoirs without it being replaced. Vincent Humphrey, at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, and not involved in the new research said it showed how human activities have redistributed huge amounts of water around the planet: “It tells you how strong this mass change is — it’s so big that it can change the axis of the Earth.” However, the movement of the Earth’s axis is not large enough to affect daily life, he said: it could change the length of a day, but only by milliseconds. Prof Jonathan Overpeck, at the University of Arizona, US, told the Guardian previously that changes to the Earth’s axis highlighted “how real and profoundly large an impact humans are having on the planet”. Some scientists argue that the scale of this impact means a new geological epoch — the Anthropocene — needs to be declared. Since the mid-20th century, there has been a marked acceleration of carbon dioxide emissions and sea level rise, the destruction of wildlife and the transformation of land by farming, deforestation and development. This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

Homelessness and Extreme Weather Are Converging Climate Crises

Domer, 62, an Iowa native, has spent her life watching thunderstorms gather and tornadoes dash across rolling hills. Last August, when the midday sky darkened over the riverside homeless encampment where Domer and four other people spent most nights — built on a sandy bank near downtown, under tall trees — she quickly set about covering up their supplies.