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Biden to place environmental justice at center of sweeping climate plan

President Biden made tackling America’s persistent racial and economic disparities a central part of his plan to combat climate change Wednesday, prioritizing environmental justice for the first time in a generation.

As part of an unprecedented push to cut the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions and create new jobs as the United States shifts toward cleaner energy, Biden directed agencies across the federal government to invest in low-income and minority communities that have traditionally borne the brunt of pollution.

“Lifting up these communities makes us all stronger as a nation and increases the health of everybody,” Biden said.

Biden signed an executive order establishing a White House interagency council on environmental justice, create an office of health and climate equity at the Health and Human Services Department, and form a separate environmental justice office at the Justice Department. The order also directs the government to spend 40 percent of its sustainability investments on disadvantaged communities.

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Photo Credit: David J. Phillip/AP

Homepage News Archive

Inside the climate battle quietly raging about US homes

Some challenges to US climate action are obvious – like when Donald Trump boasts about leaving the international Paris agreement and rolling back pollution rules.
But many more play out behind the scenes. One of those is the battle over efforts to make America’s new homes and buildings more energy-efficient.

Backyard Talk

2019 – What Do Think Will Happen? Here’s some thoughts.

If you think the last two years were bananas, 2019 is going to be a real doozy.
My colleague, James Mumm at People’s Action Institute, wrote this insightful forward looking piece and thought I’d share it with you.  I spent the last few hours of 2018 thinking about what we need to do next year to defeat Trump and Trumpism. We played solid defense this year. We created a #PeoplesWave to take back the House and many states in the midterms. But Trump is still president and McConnell and the GOP have a stronger grasp on the Senate.
Here is what I know. Trump blames everyone but himself when things go wrong. Now that the economy is off the rails thanks to his erratic international and domestic actions, he is pointing fingers in every direction except where it belongs (squarely at himself).
Trump tries to act big because he feels small inside. His edifice complex will not bring him the love of his mother or father, nor the majority of the American people. Truth is, his world is very small. A shrinking circle of yes men and women, campaign rallies with diehard fans, and a chorus of Fox News right-wing extremists.
If you think the last two years were bananas, 2019 is going to be a real doozy. With an incoming Democratic majority in the House and Mueller’s investigation coming to a crescendo, the walls are closing in on Trump. His entire world is shrinking and that makes him panic.

  1. Trump will double down on anti-immigrant white nationalist populism.Trump is going to lash out with all the power of his office against immigrants, women, LGBTQ communities, people of color, low-income families. We will need to play ferocious defense against these attacks.
  2. The Trump 2020 campaign will swing into high gear and make us all fear that he could win again.I learned a hard lesson in 2016. Michael Moore and my mom both said that Trump was going to win. I scoffed. Well, I scoff no more. This could happen and it terrifies me (you too I bet).
  3. Trump’s instability and chaos will cause a recession.One year ago, Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan rammed their tax scam through Congress. The result? Big corporations gave CEOs and investors one trillion dollars in the form of stock buybacks. The tax scam did not create jobs; it made millionaires and billionaires wealthier while creating a mountain of public debt that the rest of us have to pay off. Trump took a lot of unwarranted credit for the economy when it was booming. Now Trump will have to own the coming recession. And the next Democratic president will have to do something bold (see next prediction) to pull America out of a spiraling crisis.
  4. The word of the year in 2019 will be “Green New Deal.”This is a bold idea that Democratic presidential contenders will be wise to endorse. A Green New Deal that is 100% Just is a total winner. 100% Just means 100% renewable energy and 100% equitable for the communities of color and low-income communities on the frontlines of climate change. This could be the answer to how we save people and planet at the same time.
  5. Lightning will strike twice and the #PeoplesWave will continue with thousands of fearless progressive women, people of color and young people running for (and winning) local office. There are thousands of city council, county, school board, and more elections happening across the country next year. The country is changing from the bottom up and there is nothing that Trump and the GOP can do about that.
Backyard Talk

Climate Change: Universal Threat, Unequal Impacts

Last month, the  United States Global Change Research Program, a group made up of the United States EPA and seven other federal agencies, released the largest scientific assessment to date on the impacts of climate change on human health in the United States. The report focused on multiple impacts of climate change, including changes in severe weather events, from dangerous heat waves to hurricanes, and alterations in the spread of toxic algal blooms or waterborne diseases. climate change pic
The report predicts an increase in deaths and illness from temperature changes, effects which will fall most heavily on children, the elderly, and economically disadvantaged groups. Acute reactions from extreme heat and cold are of concern, but research also shows that temperature extremes can also worsen outcomes for a variety of chronic diseases. Climate change will also affect the levels of air pollutants, including ozone and fine particulate matter, while longer pollen seasons may result in adverse outcomes from allergies and asthma episodes. We have already seen an increase in extreme weather events, and these instances are likely to increase, resulting in compromised infrastructure and decreased access to food, water and medical care for vulnerable coastal populations.
Two chapters in the report focus on climate change impacts on the spread of disease. Climate change is likely to alter the transmission of diseases carried by mosquitoes, ticks and fleas, as seasonal temperature and precipitation patterns shift and alter the geographic range of these diseases. Water-related illnesses are also likely to increase, as temperature changes, changes in runoff patterns, and extreme weather events alter the spread of toxic agents.
Climate change is likely to affect food security on the local, regional and global levels, as carbon dioxide levels and rising temperatures alter the safety, nutrition and distribution of food, including reducing protein and essential minerals in some crop species. Increases in rates of foodborne illness and instances of chemical contamination in the food supply are also likely.
Lastly, the report focused on the impacts of climate change on mental health and well-being. They found that groups including children, the elderly, pregnant women, economically disadvantaged populations, the homeless, and first responders to weather-related disasters are most at risk for emotional and mental effects of climate change.
Climate change will affect us all, but the report summarizes several populations of concern that may be especially vulnerable to climate-related impacts. In addition to low-income populations, children, and the elderly, vulnerable populations include communities of color, immigrant groups, Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, and those with preexisting medical conditions. The authors wrote, “Characterizations of vulnerability should consider how populations of concern experience disproportionate, multiple and complex risks to their health and well-being in response to climate change.” With so many factors to consider, these characterizations of cumulative risk will not be easy to determine.
Though this report focused on impacts within the U.S., the consequences of climate change will fall on populations worldwide. Within our country and around the globe, we have a responsibility to prevent and adapt to as many climate-related changes as possible, because they will disproportionately impact the most vulnerable among us.
Read the Report:
USGCRP, 2016: The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment. Crimmins, A., J. Balbus, J.L. Gamble, C.B. Beard, J.E. Bell, D. Dodgen, R.J. Eisen, N. Fann, M.D. Hawkins, S.C. Herring, L. Jantarasami, D.M. Mills, S. Saha, M.C. Sarofim, J. Trtanj, and L. Ziska, Eds. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, 312 pp.