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“Republicans Want To Solve This Problem With Belief in The ‘Innovation Fairy’ — U.S. Senate Heats Up on Climate Change

Moments after blocking debate on the Green New Deal, the Senate took up a bill to fund federal assistance to U.S. communities struck by climate-related natural disasters, from hurricanes to wildfires to flooding.

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Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., hold a news conference for their proposed "Green New Deal" at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Feb. 7, 2019. The Republican-led Senate rejected the plan March 26, 2019. VOA

the U.S. Senate on Thursday completed its most momentous week on climate change in years, loudly swatting down an ambitious proposal to overhaul America’s economy to halt carbon emissions, while at the same time taking baby steps toward bipartisan agreement on the threats posed by a warming planet.

The Republican-led chamber on Tuesday rejected the Green New Deal, a resolution to stop greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and rewrite America’s social contract through a vast expansion of federal mandates.

The measure received zero votes in favor, as four Democrats joined a unified Republican caucus in opposing floor debate, while all other Democrats, including the resolution’s sponsors, voted “present.”

Despite the defeat, environmental activists found reasons to cheer.

“We’re delighted to see momentum in the U.S. Senate — this debate on climate change has been largely stalled for some while,” Elizabeth Gore, Environmental Defense Fund senior vice president for political affairs, told VOA.

Acknowledgment from McConnell

While engineering the swift demise of the Green New Deal, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky acknowledged that global warming is a genuine threat, breaking from President Donald Trump, who repeatedly has dismissed the scientific community’s warnings as “a hoax.”

FILE - Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 26, 2019.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 26, 2019. VOA

Asked by reporters Tuesday whether he believed climate change was real and man-made, McConnell said, “I do. The question is, how do you address it?”

Republicans lambasted the Green New Deal as a socialist pipe dream, arguing that eliminating combustion engines in a decade would destroy the U.S. economy and eradicate many Americans’ way of life.

“We need tractors to plant our crops. We need combines to harvest our crops. We need trucks to get it to the [grain] elevator — all of which are going to be pretty hard to operate if you don’t have fuel-fired engines,” said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.

Instead of costly governmental intervention, Republicans urged an unleashing of American innovation.

FILE - U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., speaks Dec. 17, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn.
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., speaks Dec. 17, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. VOA

“We should use American research and technology to provide the rest of the world with tools to create low-cost energy that emits fewer greenhouse gases,” Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said Monday, when he unveiled a proposal to double federal funding for low-carbon and carbon-free energy projects and research.

Alexander said his plan “would create breakthroughs in advanced nuclear reactors, natural gas, carbon capture, better batteries, greener buildings, electric vehicles, cheaper solar and fusion.”

Not enough

Senate Democrats mostly derided the Republican moves as too little, too late.

Noting McConnell’s acknowledgment of climate change, Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York somewhat sarcastically remarked, “Hallelujah. He answered ‘yes.’ ”

Others criticized an innovation-only strategy for combating global warming.

“Republicans want to solve this problem with belief in the ‘innovation fairy’ — that the innovation fairy is going to come and sprinkle innovation pixie dust on this problem and make it go away,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I. “If you put a price on carbon [emissions], you will see innovation happen in a minute. But you can’t just say the word ‘innovation.’ You’ve got to change the economic structure that will allow innovation to develop.”

FILE - Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 11, 2017.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 11, 2017. VOA

By contrast, Gore applauded any nascent bipartisan meeting of the minds on climate change.

“Acknowledging you have a problem is the first step in solving it,” she said. “Mitch McConnell has acknowledged something that has not been fully embraced by members of his party in recent years. I welcome the new voices to the table.”

Public opinion polls show Americans increasingly concerned about the effects of climate change, with a recent Reuters poll finding 72 percent of the public viewing warming temperatures as a threat.

Optimism, but not in short term

“I think a lot of what we saw in the Senate this week on climate change was both sides of the aisle responding to the broader political environment,” political analyst Molly Reynolds of the Washington-based Brookings Institution said. “If the Congress has the potential to act at all on large[-scale] climate legislation, it will almost certainly need some bipartisan support.”

But Reynolds added that prospects for sweeping legislation were dim for now.

“I’m not terribly optimistic about major legislation in Washington on anything over the next two years, climate or otherwise,” she said. “We have divided party control of Congress, and we are already well into what is going to be a contentious campaign for the White House in 2020. Those just aren’t terribly ripe conditions for much legislating on climate change.”

Senate Democrats all but conceded that point in unveiling their caucus’ special committee on the climate this week, suggesting that action was unlikely, so long as they were in the minority.

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“The truth is, we’re preparing to lay the predicate for action when and if Chuck Schumer becomes the majority leader of the Senate,” Hawaii Democrat Brian Schatz told reporters.

Moments after blocking debate on the Green New Deal, the Senate took up a bill to fund federal assistance to U.S. communities struck by climate-related natural disasters, from hurricanes to wildfires to flooding. (VOA)

Next Story

Global Warming Can Make You Fall ill More Often: Study

The study said that increased heat may cause illness through undernourishment in a number of ways: reducing appetites, provoking more alcohol consumption, reducing motivation or ability to shop and cook and exacerbate any undernutrition

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Global Warming
Global Warming is one of the biggest threats to the reduction of hunger and undernutrition, especially in low and middle-income countries. Pixabay

Global Warming is likely to increase illnesses caused by undernutrition, due to the effects of heat exposure, researchers have warned.

For the study published in the journal PLOS Medicine, the researhers analysed daily hospitalisation data covering almost 80 per cent of Brazil between 2000 and 2015.

They studied the link between daily mean temperatures and hospitalisation for undernourishment according to the International Classification of Diseases.

“The association between increased heat and hospitalisation for undernutrition was greatest for individuals aged over 80, and those 5 to 19 years,” said the researchers from Monash University, Australia.

The researchers found that for every 1 degree Celsius increase in daily mean temperature during the hot season, there was a 2.5 per cent increase in the number of hospitalisations for undernutrition.

“We estimated that 15.6 per cent of undernutrition hospitalisations could be attributed to heat exposure during the study period,” said study’s lead author Yuming Guo.

Global Warming
Global Warming is likely to increase illnesses caused by undernutrition, due to the effects of heat exposure, researchers have warned. Pixabay

The study said that increased heat may cause illness through undernourishment in a number of ways: reducing appetites, provoking more alcohol consumption, reducing motivation or ability to shop and cook and exacerbate any undernutrition, resulting in hospitalisation.

“Climate change is one of the biggest threats to the reduction of hunger and undernutrition, especially in low and middle-income countries. It has been estimated that climate change will reduce global food availability by 3.2 per cent and thus cause about 30,000 underweight-related deaths by 2050,” the report said.

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“It is plausible to speculate that climate changes could not only increase the rate of undernutrition in the most affected areas of the globe, but at the same time, impair individuals’ capacity to adapt to projected rises in temperature,” said the researchers. (IANS)