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The Big Question in U.S.; Does Stopping Global Warming Mean Wrecking The Economy?

Nine U.S. states price carbon through a cap-and-trade system, a market-based approach in which polluters buy permits for each ton of carbon dioxide they emit. California has its own program.

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Students hold banners and posters during a demonstration against climate change in New York, March 15, 2019. VOA

When Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey introduced their Green New Deal resolution, Markey said it would be “the greatest blue-collar job creation program in a generation.”

President Donald Trump, on the other hand, said it would “put millions of Americans out of work.”

Battle lines have been drawn with the first major U.S. proposal to tackle climate change in nearly a decade: Does stopping global warming mean wrecking the economy? Or is failing to act worse?

In the coming months, Voice of America will explore the prospects for salvaging the environment without killing off jobs.

We will meet winners and losers in the energy transition. Our first stop will be in Markey’s home state of Massachusetts, where an energy transition is well underway. We will visit a town where one of the state’s last coal-fired power plants closed, shedding coal jobs but gaining a cutting-edge solar farm. We will see how Massachusetts’ investments in the green economy are paying dividends in jobs and economic growth.

FILE - U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) hold a news conference for their proposed Green New Deal to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in 10 years, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Feb. 7, 2019.
U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) hold a news conference for their proposed Green New Deal to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in 10 years, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Feb. 7, 2019. VOA

Though the Senate has voted down Markey and Ocasio-Cortez’s nonbinding Green New Deal resolution, the proposal has put climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions back on the agenda on Capitol HIll. Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a steadfast opponent of measures to reduce carbon emissions, now acknowledges global warming is a real and human-induced threat.

Trump, by contrast, has called climate change a hoax and sees unfettered production of coal, oil and natural gas as the path to economic expansion.

Graph Showing rate of prevention. VOA
Graph Showing rate of prevention. VOA

Hotter, drier, wetter

Pressure is growing on elected officials to do something. The impacts of climate change are increasingly obvious.

Eight of the 10 hottest years on record have piled up in just the last decade.

Hotter and drier conditions in California helped spread the wildfires that caused $24 billion in damage and claimed 106 lives last year. Those fires broke the record for area burned, a record that was set just the year before.

A warmer atmosphere holds more water, making epic soakers like last year’s Hurricane Florence more likely. That $24 billion disaster followed 2017’s Hurricane Harvey, which did $127.5 billion in damage to Houston and the surrounding areas.

And this is just the beginning. Scientists from 13 government agencies estimated that if emissions remain high, extreme heat would slice $155 billion annually from labor productivity by 2090 as more days are too hot to work. Dwindling water supplies for cities and industries would take a $316 billion toll each year. Annual health care costs for West Nile Virus, just one of several diseases expected to rise with warming temperatures, would be $3 billion higher.

Polls show Americans feel the threat of a changing climate more strongly than ever. Seventy-three percent say global warming is happening, and 62 percent say it is mostly human-caused. Both figures are the highest since the Yale Program on Climate Communication started polling in 2008.

Two-thirds say they are “worried” or “very worried” about global warming. For the first time, that includes a third of conservative Republicans.

The graph showing voters concern.
The graph showing voters concern. VOA

Meanwhile, the federal government is moving in the opposite direction. Trump has moved to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate treaty. His administration is working to loosen Obama administration regulations limiting greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and vehicles.

That has left states, local governments and businesses to fill in the gap. But it will not be easy or cheap.

Pricing pollution

One possible tool: Put a price on the carbon pollution that is causing global warming in the first place.

Raising the price reduces demand for more-polluting fuels and encourages companies and consumers to find cheaper, cleaner alternatives, economists say.

Pricing carbon would also raise revenue that can be returned to taxpayers or invested in reducing emissions.

Participants walk past the main entrance of the One Planet Summit, in Boulogne-Billancourt near Paris, France, Dec. 12, 2017.
Participants walk past the main entrance of the One Planet Summit, in Boulogne-Billancourt near Paris, France, Dec. 12, 2017. VOA
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Nine U.S. states price carbon through a cap-and-trade system, a market-based approach in which polluters buy permits for each ton of carbon dioxide they emit. California has its own program.

And economic growth in these states has continued as greenhouse gas emissions have declined.

“There’s a lot of rhetoric about how a carbon tax or a greenhouse gas tax would wreck the economy,” said Brookings Institution economist Adele Morris. “There’s absolutely no peer-reviewed evidence that supports that assertion.”

But these policies are not politically popular. A national cap-and-trade proposal died in Congress in 2010. Last November, Washington state voters rejected a carbon tax.

And they would not solve the problem on their own. Pledges the United States and others made in Paris will not achieve the ultimate goal of the accord: Keep global warming to “well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.”

That would take a carbon price of at least $40 to $80 per ton, rising to $50 to $100 by 2030, according to a World Bank-backed commission. It’s only about $15 per ton in California, and $5 in the nine-state market.

“There’s an open question whether politically, it’s achievable to hit some of the temperature targets that scientists have recommended,” Morris said. “That’s the conundrum. What’s the willingness to pay (in carbon taxes) of the American electorate? How far can we go before we hit a wall?”

FILE - Kristin Cook, right, of Potomac, Md., joins a rally outside the White House in Washington.
Kristin Cook, right, of Potomac, Md., joins a rally outside the White House in Washington. VOA

Filling the federal vacuum

As Trump moves to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate treaty, many states are moving forward on their own.

Most require power providers to source a percentage of their energy from renewable or zero-carbon sources. Several have recently increased these requirements. New Mexico recently joined California in aiming to be 100 percent renewable by mid-century.

And the private sector is stepping up, as well.

After Trump announced the United States would withdraw from the Paris agreement, more than 2,000 businesses and investors declared that they continue to support the climate accord.

Also Read: Here Is A Wellness Guide For You To Quit Smoking And Drinking!

 

For investors, Lubber says, the economic risk comes not from fighting climate change.

“If we don’t stop global warming, we wreck the economy,” she said. (VOA)

Next Story

U.S. To Expands Indefinite Detention for Asylum-Seekers

The decision will have no impact on unaccompanied migrant children, who are exempt from expedited removal. Most families are also paroled because of a lack of facilities to hold parents and children together.

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U.S.
Attorney General William Barr appears before a House Appropriations subcommittee to make his Justice Department budget request, April 9, 2019, in Washington. VOA

The U.S. Attorney General on Tuesday struck down a decision that had allowed some asylum-seekers to ask for bond in front of an immigration judge, in a ruling that expands indefinite detention for some migrants who must wait months or years for their cases to be heard.

The first immigration court ruling from President Donald Trump’s newly appointed Attorney General William Barr is in keeping with the administration’s moves to clamp down on the asylum process as tens of thousands of mostly Central Americans cross into the United States asking for refuge. U.S. immigration courts are overseen by the Justice Department and the Attorney General can rule in cases to set legal precedent.

Barr’s ruling is the latest instance of the Trump administration taking a hard line on immigration. This year the administration implemented a policy to return some asylum-seekers to Mexico while their cases work their way through backlogged courts, a policy that has been challenged with a lawsuit.

Several top officials at the Department of Homeland Security were forced out this month over Trump’s frustrations with an influx of migrants seeking refuge at the U.S. southern border.

U.S. Border Patrol agents apprehend undocumented migrants after they illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border in Mission, Texas, April 9, 2019.
U.S. Border Patrol agents apprehend undocumented migrants after they illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border in Mission, Texas, April 9, 2019. VOA

Migrants crossing illegally

Barr’s decision applies to migrants who crossed illegally into the United States.

Typically, those migrants are placed in “expedited removal” proceedings, a faster form of deportation reserved for people who illegally entered the country within the last two weeks and are detained within 100 miles (160 km) of a land border.

Migrants who present themselves at ports of entry and ask for asylum are not eligible for bond.

But before Barr’s ruling, those who had crossed the border between official entry points and asked for asylum were eligible for bond, once they had proved to asylum officers they had a credible fear of persecution.

“I conclude that such aliens remain ineligible for bond, whether they are arriving at the border or are apprehended in the United States,” Barr wrote.

Barr said such people can be held in immigration detention until their cases conclude, or if the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) decides to release them by granting them “parole.” DHS has the discretion to parole people who are not eligible for bond and frequently does so because of insufficient detention space or other humanitarian reasons.

Effective date delayed

Barr said he was delaying the effective date by 90 days “so that DHS may conduct the necessary operational planning for additional detention and parole decisions.”

The decision’s full impact is not yet clear, because it will in large part depend on DHS’ ability to expand detention, said Steve Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas.

“The number of asylum-seekers who will remain in potentially indefinite detention pending disposition of their cases will be almost entirely a question of DHS’ detention capacity, and not whether the individual circumstances of individual cases warrant release or detention,” Vladeck said.

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The decision will have no impact on unaccompanied migrant children, who are exempt from expedited removal. Most families are also paroled because of a lack of facilities to hold parents and children together. Pixabay

DHS officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the decision. The agency had written in a brief in the case arguing that eliminating bond hearings for the asylum seekers would have “an immediate and significant impact on … detention operations.”

Record detentions

In early March, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the DHS agency responsible for detaining and deporting immigrants in the country illegally, said the average daily population of immigrants in detention topped 46,000 for the 2019 fiscal year, the highest level since the agency was created in 2003. Last year, Reuters reported that ICE had modified a tool officers have been using since 2013 when deciding whether an immigrant should be detained or released on bond, making the process more restrictive.

The decision will have no impact on unaccompanied migrant children, who are exempt from expedited removal. Most families are also paroled because of a lack of facilities to hold parents and children together.

Also Read: U.S. President Donald Trump Vetoes Measure to End U..S Involvement in Yemen War

Michael Tan, from the American Civil Liberties Union, said the rights group intended to sue the Trump administration over the decision, and immigrant advocates decried the decision.

Barr’s decision came after former Attorney General Jeff Sessions decided to review the case in October. Sessions resigned from his position in November, leaving the case to Barr to decide. (VOA)