Posts tagged with "Texas"

Grim climate report galvanizes incoming Democrats

November 27, 2018

Federal scientists warned in a new report released on November 23 that “more frequent and intense extreme weather- and climate-related events, as well as changes in average climate conditions, are expected to continue to damage infrastructure, ecosystems, and social systems that provide essential benefits to communities nationwide” in the coming years—with costs threatening to reach hundreds of billions of dollars annually by the middle of this century.

The message, echoing decades of sobering conclusions from the world’s leading climate scientists, is at odds with President Donald Trump’s repeated denial of global warming, Politico reported; noting that the administration chose to release it on Black Friday, the busiest shopping day and one of the slowest news days of the year.

But despite the timing, the report—Fourth National Climate Assessment—is bound to energize the new class of progressive Democrats set to take control of the House in January, the political news outlet predicted—saying that “Many of them, led by incoming Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-14th District, New York) already are pushing for an expansive “Green New Deal” as one of the rallying cries the party would take into the 2020 campaign.

The 1,600-plus-page document is the just the most recent to warn that the planet will see devastating changes. Indeed, the researchers warned, “Extreme weather and climate-related impacts on one system can result in increased risks or failures in other critical systems—including water resources, food production and distribution, energy and transportation, public health, international trade, and national security.”

The effects of global warming are expected to alter the coastlines, worsen droughts and storms, and foster the outbreaks of dangerous diseases as temperatures climb.

And while the report said that quick action to reduce greenhouse gas pollution could dramatically affect the state of the planet by the end of the century, many of the impacts the U.S. will see in the next two decades appear irreversible—both on the environment and on the economy. “With continued growth in emissions at historic rates, annual losses in some economic sectors are projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century—more than the current gross domestic product (GDP) of many U.S. states.”

Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-30th District, Texas) who is set to take the gavel at the House Science Committee, said it’s time to start addressing the causes of the wildfires, devastating storms, coastal flooding and toxic algae blooms that plagued much of the U.S. this year, Politico reported. “That is why I have made climate change one of my top priorities for the Committee going in to the next Congress,” she said in a statement.

The government officials who oversaw the report said there had been no political influence over its findings, but they sidestepped questions about whether the White House sought to bury the report by releasing it in the middle of a long holiday weekend, Politico said.

“We hope you will focus on the content of the report,” David Reidmiller, the director of the National Climate Assessment, told reporters. “We think the report speaks for itself.”

Ocasio-Cortez pressed the case in a tweet, taking her Democratic colleagues to task: “People are going to die if we don’t start addressing climate change ASAP. It’s not enough to think it’s ‘important.’ We must make it urgent,” she wrote. “That’s why we need a Select Committee on a Green New Deal, & why fossil fuel-funded officials shouldn’t be writing climate change policy.

The White House tried to downplay the new report’s conclusions Friday, claiming that they are “largely based on most extreme scenarios.” The White House also noted that U.S. greenhouse gas pollution has declined 14% since 2005—although the causes of that drop include trends that Trump opposes, such as a shift away from coal-fired power plants.

The new report, which Congress requires to be issued every four years, was released by U.S. Global Change Research Program. It is the product of 300 scientific experts under the guidance of a 60-member federal advisory committee, and it was open to review by the public, 13 federal agencies, and a panel at the National Academy of Sciences.

Research contact: @dailym1

Pundits shift nine House races toward Democrats

November 6, 2018

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report shifted nine House races toward Democrats in a new forecast published on November 5—the day before the midterm elections—The Hill reported.

The changes predicted by Cook are as follows:

Three races — in Texas’s 6th and 10th Congressional Districts and in West Virginia’s 2nd — moved from solid Republican to likely Republican. Two other races—Florida’s 25th and 6th districts, went from likely Republican to leaning Republican.

The movement is the latest indication that Democrats still have the upper-hand in the House prior to Tuesday’s midterms, when Democrats need to pick up 23 seats to regain control of the lower chamber. 

Research contact: @thehill

Hen party: U.S. cities allow residents to raise chickens

July 20, 2018

Talk about “urban chic.” Or should we say “urban chick”? Cities from Ann Arbor, Michigan to Ft. Collins, Colorado, are voting to allow residents to raise backyard poultry, according to a July 19 report by Worldwatch Institute.

It’s a serious issue – it’s no yolk,” Mayor Dave Cieslewicz of Madison, Wisconsin commented when his city reversed its poultry ban in 2004. “Chickens are really bringing us together as a community. For too long, they’ve been cooped up.”

Raising backyard chickens is an extension of an urban farming movement that has gained popularity nationwide. “Fresh is not what you buy at the grocery store. Fresh is when you go into your backyard, put it in your bag, and eat it,” said Carol-Ann Sayle, co-owner of a five-acre farm in Austin, Texas. “Everyone should have their own henhouse in their own backyard.”

In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, raising chickens has been legal since August 30, 2010. Since then Cedar Rapids’ urban chicken ordinance has been used as a model for other municipalities nationwide. The ordinance—which Rebecca Mumaw of the advocacy organization, Citizens for the Legalization of Urban Chickens (or CLUC) helped to draft, provides the following guidelines:

  • Residents are allowed to keep up to six hens (no roosters) on single family dwelling properties;
  • Permits are required for an annual fee of $25;
  • Applicants for permits are required to notify their neighbors of their intent to obtain a permit and to complete an approved two-hour class on raising chickens in an urban setting (cost $10-$12);
  • Chickens must be kept in an enclosed or fenced area and secured from predators at night;
  • Henhouses must provide at least four square feet of space per bird and meet certain design requirements;
  • Chicken enclosures must be kept in the backyard—located at least 10 feet from the property line and 25 feet from neighboring homes;
  • Chickens must be provided with adequate food and water—and kept in a manner to minimize noise, odor, and attraction of pests and predators; and
  • Slaughtering of chickens is not allowed.

Indeed, Mumaw told the local newspaper, the Dispatch Argus, “Raising a limited number of egg-laying hens will allow residents to raise their own food, just as they do in vegetable gardens now.”

“Buying local” also provides an alternative to factory farms that pollute local ecosystems with significant amounts of animal waste – which can at times exceed the waste from a small U.S. city, a government report revealed last month. In the United States alone, industrial livestock production generates 500 million tons of manure every year. The waste also emits potent greenhouse gases—especially methane, which has 23 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.

Meanwhile, advocates insist that birds raised on a small scale are less likely to carry diseases than factory-farmed poultry, although some public health officials are concerned that backyard chickens could elevate avian flu risks.

The USDA is not yet providing specific figures on the number of chickens being raised in urban environments.

Research contact: worldwatch@worldwatch.org

Maddow breaks down on-air over plight of immigrant babies

June 21, 2018

MSNBC’s star moderator Rachel Maddow dissolved in tears at the end of her show on June 19 when trying to read breaking news from the Associated Press about the whereabouts of babies separated from their parents at the southern U.S. border under President Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policy. She handed the program off to Lawrence O’Donnell, host of The Last Word, who was on-site at a Border Patrol Processing Center for children in McAllen, Texas, Mediaite reports.

The AP story read, in part:

Trump administration officials have been sending babies and other young children forcibly separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border to at least three “tender age” shelters in South Texas, The Associated Press has learned.

Lawyers and medical providers who have visited the Rio Grande Valley [Texas] shelters described playrooms of crying preschool-age children in crisis. The government also plans to open a fourth shelter to house hundreds of young migrant children in Houston, where city leaders denounced the move Tuesday.

Since the White House announced its zero tolerance policy in early May, more than 2,300 children have been taken from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, resulting in a new influx of young children requiring government care. The government has faced withering critiques over images of some of the children in cages inside U.S. Border Patrol processing stations.

When Maddow could not read the script, she asked for a graphic to be shown on the screen instead. When that was unavailable, she said, tears flowing, “I think I’m going to have to hand this off. I’m sorry.”

O’Donnell did succeed in reading the full story on-air.

Later, Maddow apologized on Twitter:  “Ugh, I’m sorry. If nothing else, it is my job to actually be able to speak while I’m on TV,” she wrote. Then, after concluding what she was trying to say, she added: “Again, I apologize for losing it there for a moment. Not the way I intended that to go, not by a mile.”

Since the White House announced its zero tolerance policy in early May, AP notes, more than 2,300 children have been taken from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, resulting in an influx of young children requiring government care.

Research contact: @garanceburke