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This team of former campaign staffers has a plan to save the economy — and the planet

Jay Inslee, the Democratic governor of Washington state, distinguished himself as a presidential candidate last year by making climate change the foundational building block of his platform. Inslee has been out of the 2020 race for almost eight months now, but his green legacy and his team of climate wonks are still thriving.

On Wednesday, several key members of the governor’s presidential climate team, the crew that helped Inslee pump out hundreds of pages of policy proposals in a matter of months last year, announced that they’re forming a nonprofit called Evergreen to shape Democratic climate politics in the coronavirus era. Evergreen kicked things off by unveiling a green stimulus plan dubbed the Evergreen Action Plan that revamps Inslee’s proposals for the unique, pandemic-ravaged moment we’re in.

Evergreen’s bigger aim is to build out a platform that can be used by presumptive nominee Joe Biden and Democrats in Congress to keep climate policy on the front burner in the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis. Evergreen already sent its 85-page action plan to Biden’s team, in addition to the offices of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and the House and Senate climate crisis committees.

“This is a critical juncture for climate policy, especially as Congress is debating stimulus,” Jared Leopold, formerly senior communications advisor for Inslee and a member of the new initiative, told Grist. “It’s clear that the next president and Congress will have to revitalize the economy coming out of this health and economic crisis, and we think building a clean energy economy that’s oriented around the future is one of the best ways to put people to work and to address the climate crisis that can’t wait any longer.”

The plan was written by former Inslee campaign staffers Sam Ricketts, Bracken Hendricks, and Maggie Thomas (who joined Elizabeth Warren’s team after Inslee dropped out). Inslee himself is not directly affiliated with the new group, but his fingerprints are all over its proposals.

The plan contains a 12-part roadmap to revitalize the economy and address the climate crisis simultaneously and breathes new life into many of Inslee’s greatest hits from his campaign. The plan is even more comprehensive than Inslee’s campaign proposals, which were already borderline encyclopedic. It includes a regulatory strategy to transition the U.S. off of fossil fuels and onto renewable energy, a blueprint for mobilizing global climate action beyond what’s called for in the Paris Agreement, and a proposal to establish a climate conservation corps, which would put young Americans to work on sustainability solutions at home and abroad.

The Evergreen Action Plan also contains some ideas that didn’t make it into Inslee’s campaign proposals. For example, Ricketts, Hendricks, and Thomas make a case for the establishment of a White House Office of Climate Mobilization, similar to the World War II-era Office of War Mobilization, that would work with existing White House offices to enforce the president’s climate agenda across the entire federal government. Warren’s influence is evident in the plan, too. Her Blue New Deal proposal, aimed at protecting oceans and the flora and fauna living in them from climate change, has its own subsection.

Back in the Before Times, when more than 20 Democratic candidates were running for president, support for the Green New Deal was the de facto litmus test for whether a candidate was serious about climate change or not. Now, times have changed. The country is facing a historic recession, and economic recovery is the name of the game. But that doesn’t mean that the public’s appetite for climate policy has changed.

Democrats tried to attach climate conditions to the federal government’s airline bailouts in the recent coronavirus relief package, but President Trump and Senate Republicans blocked those efforts. Democrats might have more success incorporating climate policy into future economic stimulus legislation if the Senate or presidency flips blue in November. The question then is, will a President Biden seek to make incremental progress on climate change as the economy recovers, or will he go all in on the kind of sweeping green stimulus bill outlined in the Evergreen Action Plan?

“We feel good about the momentum behind this issue, and we think it’s an issue that can galvanize supporters around the country,” Leopold said. “I think it’s a smart issue for any candidate to lean into.”

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This team of former campaign staffers has a plan to save the economy — and the planet

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Green Preschools: An Early Start for Sustainable Living

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Young children’s minds are like sponges. They absorb just about everything — good and bad. Often, they pick up on things around them that we adults don’t even notice. Input from the world around them shapes young children’s lives, who they become as adults, and how they live.

Teaching a Healthy Lifestyle & Embracing Nature

That concept is reflected in Dawn Maxwell’s goal to run a preschool “… focused on living a healthy life, embracing nature and letting kids have fun.” Maxwell, a mother of four, said, “I just thought it would work. Their minds are so observant.” The Green House in Oklahoma City uses all-natural cleaners, rags instead of paper towels, eco-friendly toys, and serves only vegan, organic, gluten-free food. Whatever food is left over is recycled or composted. Dawn also teaches her students — who range in age from 3 to 6 — how to garden.

David Centola, whose daughter Clara attended The Green House, said he chose the school after exploring several other options. Ultimately, Centola picked The Green House because of its focus on teaching children about the environment. (Editor’s note, August 2019: It appears that The Green House preschool in Oklahoma City is no longer in business, but the nature-based preschool movement continues to grow.)

Growth of Nature-Based Preschools

Maxwell isn’t the only educator who believes in the benefits of learning sustainable lifestyle habits early. According to the North American Association for Environmental Education’s Natural Start Alliance, “The first nature-based preschool in the United States opened in 1966.” By 2012, there were more than 150 nature-based preschools across the country.

Some schools are taking basic steps towards a more environmentally friendly approach, while others have their entire curriculum based around nature. For example, Sunflower Preschool in Boulder, Colorado, teaches children about recycling, composting, and gardening. The outdoor curriculum at the school “honors the natural environment” and the staff encourages “a sense of wonder in the natural world” as well as active play and a child-directed classroom to stimulate development.

Do Parents Find the Difference Worth the Expense?

Peter J. Pizzolongo, a representative for the National Association for the Education of Young Children, says that the driving force behind the trend of nature-based education is the parents. “If it is something that families value, then they’re going to seek that out. … Largely, the movement within the school is recycling, reuse and alternate use, and cutting back on a lot of using of plastics and things that are thrown away.”

With the change in focus comes a slight change in price among most of the nature-based preschools. But, for the parents who are passionate about the nature-focused practices of these preschools, the difference is worth the cost.

It is never too early to start cultivating good habits and practices in children, especially since they will someday be the stewards of the planet. Teaching them how to take care of it now will eventually lead to a cleaner, greener planet.

Editor’s note: Originally published on September 16, 2014, this article was updated in August 2019.


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Green Preschools: An Early Start for Sustainable Living

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Climate change group scrapped by Trump reassembles to issue warning

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This story was originally published by the Guardian and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

A U.S. government climate change advisory group scrapped by Donald Trump has reassembled independently to call for better adaptation to the floods, wildfires, and other threats that increasingly loom over American communities.

The Trump administration disbanded the 15-person Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment in August 2017. The group, formed under Barack Obama’s presidency, provided guidance to the government based on the National Climate Assessment, a major compendium of climate science released every four years.

Documents released under freedom of information laws subsequently showed the Trump administration was concerned about the ideological makeup of the panel. “It only has one member from industry, and the process to gain more balance would take a couple of years to accomplish,” wrote George Kelly, then the deputy chief of staff at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in a June 2017 email.

The advisory group has since been resurrected, however, following an invitation from New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, and has been financially supported by Columbia University and the American Meteorological Society. It now has 20 expert members.

The panel is now known as the Science to Climate Action Network (SCAN) and has now completed work it would have finished for the federal government, releasing a report on Thursday warning that Americans are being put at risk from the impacts of a warming planet due to a muddled response to climate science.

“We were concerned that the federal government is missing an opportunity to get better information into the hands of those who prepare for what we have already unleashed,” said Richard Moss, a member of SCAN and a visiting scientist at Columbia University, who previously chaired the federal panel.

“We’re only just starting to see the effects of climate change, it’s only going to get much worse. But we haven’t yet rearranged our daily affairs to adapt to science we have,” he added.

The fourth National Climate Assessment, released on the day after Thanksgiving last year, detailed how climate change is already harming Americans, with sobering findings on future impacts. At the time, Trump said he didn’t believe the report.

“The impacts and costs of climate change are already being felt in the United States, and changes in the likelihood or severity of some recent extreme weather events can now be attributed with increasingly higher confidence to human-caused warming,” states the report, the work of 13 U.S. government agencies..

On current trends, the U.S. economy is set to lose $500 billion a year from crop damage, lost labor, and extreme weather damages, the report found. Rainfall levels and flooding have increased in much of the country, with the amount of the U.S. West consumed annually by wildfires set to increase as much as sixfold by 2050, according to the assessment.

But these warnings have been only intermittently heeded in decisions made by cities and states across the U.S., due to a lack of knowledge, political will, or funding. The U.S. has no national sea level rise plan, for example, and the Trump administration has scrapped rules around building infrastructure in areas deemed vulnerable to climate change. These circumstances have led to haphazard planning that results in certain dwellings repeatedly lost to flooding or fire.

“We live in an era of climate change and yet many of our systems, codes, and standards have not caught up,” said Daniel Zarrilli, chief climate adviser to New York City, one of the few U.S. cities with such a person. “Integrating climate science into everyday decisions is not just smart planning, it’s an urgent necessity.”

In its new report, the Science to Climate Action Network recommends the creation of a “civil-society-based climate assessment consortium” that would combine private and public interests to provide more localized help for communities menaced by floods, wildfires, or other perils.

“Imagine working in state or county government — you have a road that is flooding frequently and you get three design options all with different engineering,” Moss said. “You don’t have the capacity to know what is the best option to avoid flooding, you just know what costs more.

“Climate issues aren’t being raised in communities. They may know they are vulnerable but they don’t know whether to use, for example, wetlands or a flood wall to stop flooding. We need to establish best practices and guide people on how to apply that locally.

“This is extremely urgent. Every year that goes by means more people losing everything from flooding and fire, including the lives of loved ones. This needs to be addressed as rapidly as possible.”

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Climate change group scrapped by Trump reassembles to issue warning

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School strikes over climate change continue to snowball

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This story was originally published by the Guardian and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

The 16-year-old activist behind the fast-growing School Strikes 4 Climate Action has taken her campaign to the streets of Davos, to confront world leaders and business chiefs about the global emissions crisis.

Greta Thunberg, whose solo protest outside Sweden’s parliament has snowballed across the globe, will join a strike by Swiss school children in the ski resort on Friday — the final day of the World Economic Forum.

Thunberg traveled by train for 32 hours to reach Davos, and spent Wednesday night camped with climate scientists on the mountain slopes — where temperatures plunged to -18 degrees C (-0.4 degrees F).

Having already addressed the U.N. Climate Change COP 24 conference, Thunberg is rapidly becoming the voice for a generation who are demanding urgent action to slow the rise in global temperatures.

As she traveled down Davos’s funicular railway from the Arctic Base Camp — while more than 30,000 students were striking in Belgium — Thunberg said the rapid growth of her movement was “incredible.”

“There have been climate strikes, involving students and also adults, on every continent except Antarctica. It has involved tens of thousands of children.”

Thunberg started her protest by striking for three weeks outside the Swedish parliament, lobbying MPs to comply with the Paris Agreement. After the Swedish election, she continued to strike every Friday, where she is now joined by hundreds of people.

“This Friday I can’t be there,” she told the Guardian. “So I will have to do it here in Davos, and send a message that this is the only thing that matters.”

Students around the world have been inspired by Thunberg, with thousands skipping school in Australia in November. Last Friday there were strikes in Germany, Belgium, and Switzerland, where more than 20,000 students skipped school.

Missing gym class, geography, and religion each Friday is something of a sacrifice for Thunberg, who says she loves school and can’t pick a favorite subject.

“I like all subjects. I love learning, which people maybe don’t think about me.”

She’s also been forced to give up her hobbies, as climate change activism has taken more of her time. “I used to play theatre, sing, dance, play an instrument, ride horses, lots of things.”

She’s sanguine, though, pointing out that climate activism is much more important: “You have to see the bigger perspective.”

Thunberg said she would like more students to join her strike. “That would have a huge impact, but I’m not going to force anyone to do this.”

In the U.K., only a small number of students have so far begun strikes, including 13-year-old Holly Gillibrand in Fort William. But plans are now being made for a big strike on February 15. Thunberg predicts there will be protests in many locations.

She believes parents should be supportive if their children tell them they’re striking on Friday. “Everyone keeps saying that the young people should be more active, and they’re so lazy, but once we do something we get criticized.”

The world’s scientists warned in October that, without a dramatic ramping up of action to cut emissions, global temperatures would rise by more than 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) above pre-industrial levels, with severe consequences for humanity.

Thunberg believes the older generations need to acknowledge that they have failed to protect the environment.

“We need to hold the older generations accountable for the mess they have created, and expect us to live with. It is not fair that we have to pay for what they have caused,” she says.

Thunberg has also called on business leaders and politicians to commit to “real and bold climate action,” and focus on the “future living conditions of mankind” rather than economic goals and profits.

In a video address for leaders attending Davos, she says: “I ask you to stand on the right side of history. I ask you to pledge to do everything in your power to push your own business or government in line with a 1.5 C world.”

Thunberg has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, which she believes helps her see the problem of climate change clearly.

“My brain works a bit different and so I see things in black and white. Either we start a chain reaction with events beyond our control, or we don’t. Either we stop the emissions or we don’t. There are no grey areas when it comes to survival.”

The school strikes last Friday were by far the biggest to date. In Germany, an estimated 30,000 students left their schools in more than 50 cities to protest, carrying banners including: “Why learn without a future?” and “Grandpa, what is a snowman?” One 17-year-old student in Kiel, Moritz, told Deutsche Welle: “We want to help shape and secure our future so that there will be another world for us to live in in 60 years.”

In Belgium, 12,500 students went on strike last Thursday and plan to strike weekly until the E.U. elections in May. Some teachers were tolerant of the truancy. Patrick Lancksweerdt, in Brussels, said: “Education has to turn youngsters into mature citizens. By their actions, they proved that they are.”

School strikes also took place in 15 cities and towns in Switzerland. In Geneva, 12-year-old Selma Joly said: “Frankly, I would rather demand climate action than go to school. Otherwise, years from now, we may no longer be here.”

Janine O’Keeffe, who helps coordinate and keep track of the school strikes from her home in Stockholm, Sweden, was surprised at the scale of last week’s actions: “I am still in shock, actually — a nice kind of shock.”

Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace, says youth activism on climate change gives her hope. “The 15-year-olds just speak truth to power.”

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School strikes over climate change continue to snowball

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In natural disasters, a disability can be a death sentence

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This story was originally published by the HuffPost and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Several of the 88 people killed in the Camp Fire that devastated Butte County, California, in November had disabilities.

Their deaths were only the latest example of a tragic reality: When disaster strikes, people with disabilities are disproportionately affected. There are no statistics that show how many disabled people in the U.S. say they could easily evacuate in an emergency, but around the world, just 20 percent of disabled people say they would be able to do so. And only 31 percent said they would have someone to help them in an emergency, according to a 2013 United Nations global survey.

Surviving a disaster is a complicated process for disabled people, with barriers every step of the way. For visually and hearing impaired people, even being alerted to an emergency isn’t as simple as it is for everyone else. For physically disabled and low-mobility individuals, a quick evacuation is extremely difficult, if not impossible — especially in a natural disaster like the Camp Fire, which raged at the rate of destroying the equivalent of one football field per second.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. By inviting disabled people into conversations about disaster preparedness and response, investing in important equipment, and mandating that disaster response teams be knowledgeable on these issues, communities can reduce fatalities and offer a more humane and inclusive response to disasters.

Relying on luck

The Americans With Disabilities Act devotes chapters to emergency planning and recovery. However, states institute their own policies and codes for evacuation and emergency planning, and those policies aren’t always enforced, said Hector M. Ramirez, a Ventura County, California-based disabled man and board member of Disability Rights California.

Evacuation plans can be outdated, he said. And community members often aren’t aware of what those plans are even if they do exist. In fact, only 17 percent of disabled people were aware of their community’s emergency evacuation plan, according to the U.N. survey.

Some federal institutions, like the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have created online resources about emergency preparedness and response. But disabled people are both frequently left out of developing emergency preparation plans and not made aware of the ones that are put in place, Ramirez said.

Plus, on-the-ground disaster response is often facilitated by well-meaning volunteers who might not be well-versed in the specific needs of the disabled community.

Federal, state, county, and nonprofit institutions all provide emergency response, and Ramirez said they all “need to familiarize themselves with our issues.”

And for many disabled people, getting out of their homes is only the beginning. Shelters often lack necessary equipment and medications for disabled people who do evacuate, like hearing aids, walkers, wheelchairs, or ventilators, Ramirez said. The prospect of rebuilding a home that had been built around an individual disability can also be daunting and expensive — particularly considering disabled workers typically earn significantly less than their able-bodied counterparts.

Mobility is the top issue in preparing disabled people for a disaster, said Evan LeVang, director of Butte County’s Disability Action Center. He recalled a horrifying phone call during the Camp Fire, during which a quadriplegic man was stuck in his second-floor apartment with a broken elevator. The caller said his goodbyes because he thought he was going to die.

“You could hear the propane tanks going off in the background,” LeVang said. “It was emotional.”

LeVang’s team managed to contact a first responder on the ground in the town of Paradise, and the man was saved — but there had been no system in place to make that rescue happen, other than the luck of getting through to that first responder.

There were plenty of “heroic acts” in Paradise during the fire, but LeVang said the disabled community shouldn’t have to solely rely on individual acts of heroism to survive.

For now, though, he said, the unfortunate reality is that disabled people may be left to do their own emergency planning.

‘Disabled people need to be part of the planning’

Some communities have taken steps to support disabled people, but there’s still a tremendous need for wider inclusion.

In 2007, the city of Oakland implemented a Functional Needs Annex to its Mass Care and Shelter plan, ensuring that disabled community members weren’t left out in an emergency. The annex is updated every few years to stay relevant to the community, and initial reports show the program helped identify more accessible shelters and more accessible alert notification systems. Kentucky has updated its disaster alerts systems by incorporating community training and committing to notifying disabled people in-person at the onset of a disaster. Arizona’s state health department purchased equipment to meet the needs of 1,000 disabled people in an emergency.

These are small and important steps, but “planning for this level of natural disasters hasn’t really begun,” Ramirez said. And until it does, the disabled community will continue to suffer — especially, Ramirez said, as climate change makes these incidents more frequent and more severe.

“I think it’s really important for us to ask [ourselves]: Can we really afford to not be doing this, knowing what we know now?” Ramirez asked.

Systemic change certainly needs to happen, but advocates like Ramirez and LeVang also want to encourage able-bodied people to show up for their disabled friends, family, neighbors, and loved ones whenever there’s an emergency.

“Always ask people if they need help,” he said, noting that not every disability is apparent. “Recognize that that’s going to be a transitional phase. There’s going to be need for support on the long term, a continuum of care.”

Ultimately, inclusion — on both a systemic and individual level — matters most.

“I really think it’s important that people with disabilities be at the table making some of the decisions that impact our lives,” Ramirez said, “because when it doesn’t happen … a lot of the work falls short.”

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In natural disasters, a disability can be a death sentence

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Climate change activists vow to step up protests around world

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This story was originally published by the Guardian and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Civil society groups have pledged growing international protests to drive rapid action on global warming after the U.N. climate summit in Poland.

The summit agreed on rules for implementing the 2015 Paris agreement, which aims to keep global warming as close to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) as possible, but it made little progress in increasing governments’ commitments to cut emissions. The world remains on track for 3 degrees C of warming, which scientists says will bring catastrophic extreme weather.

Many NGOs said national leaders at the summit had failed to address the urgency of climate change, which is already making heatwaves and storms more frequent and intense, harming millions of people.

May Boeve, the executive director of the 350.org climate change campaign group, said: “Hope now rests on the shoulders of the many people who are rising to take action: the inspiring children who started an unprecedented wave of strikes in schools to support a fossil-free future; the 1,000-plus institutions that committed to pull their money out of coal, oil, and gas, and the many communities worldwide who keep resisting fossil fuel development.”

The school strikes began in August as a solo protest by 15-year-old Greta Thunberg in Sweden. Addressing the summit in Poland, she said: “If children can get headlines all over the world just by not going to school, then imagine what we could all do together if we really wanted to.”

“You say you love your children above all else,” Thunberg continued, “and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes. We have run out of excuses and we are running out of time. We have come here to let you know that change is coming, whether you like it or not. The real power belongs to the people.”

Members of the Extinction Rebellion (XR) movement said there was a rising tide of protest. “We pay tribute to activists, students, civil society, and the leaders of vulnerable countries who are rising up all over the world demanding more,” said Farhana Yamin, from XR U.K. “We need now to work together to build an emergency coalition focused squarely on tackling climate devastation.”

XR branches have been set up in 35 countries, organizers said. U.S. protesters aim to organize a day of action on January 26, 2019, and international activists are planning a global week of action from April 15, 2019. XR protests took place in more than a dozen towns across the U.K. over the weekend, from chalk-spraying a government building in Bristol to holding a “die-in” demonstration in Cambridge and handing out trees in Glasgow.

Patti Lynn, the executive director of the Corporate Accountability campaign group, said: “We will continue to build our movements at home and we will escalate global campaigns to hold big polluters accountable for their role in the climate crisis. The movement to demand climate justice has never been more united, organized, or determined. Our day is coming and we will win.”

Jennifer Morgan, the executive director of Greenpeace International, said: “People are fed up, outraged and are taking action to defend their homes and children and pushing their leaders to act. These people are the hope of our generation and governments must finally stand with them and give us all reasons for hope.”

In the U.S., Michael Brune, the head of the Sierra Club environmental campaign group, said: “The American people are joined by the rest of the world in signaling that they will not tolerate any more of Trump’s shameful blustering and inaction, and they have taken up the mantle of climate action while Trump abdicates any semblance of global leadership.” He said more than 100 U.S. cities had committed to 100 percent clean energy, covering 15 percent of the U.S. population.

Stephan Singer, a chief adviser at Climate Action Network, an umbrella group for 1,300 NGOs in more than 120 countries, pointed to the wide range of people taking action and demanding more, including youth and faith groups, indigenous peoples, health authorities, farmers, trade unions, city authorities, and some financial institutions. “All these actions and many more have to magnify and multiply in the next years,” he said.

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Climate change activists vow to step up protests around world

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Another 2 billion people are coming to dinner. How do we feed them?

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How do we feed the world’s growing population without wrecking the earth? It’s a question that looks especially urgent given estimates that some 9.8 billion people will inhabit the planet by 2050, up from 7.6 billion now. Without improving techniques and technology, feeding all of them would require putting an area twice the size of India under plow and pasture while emitting as much carbon as 13,000 coal plants running nonstop for a year, according to a report published on Wednesday by the World Resources Institute.

The Washington D.C.-based think tank has been working on this report for the last six years, looking for a solution to our existential triple challenge: feed everyone and shrink agricultural emissions to keep the world from heating more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, all without clearing more land for farming. The WRI’s report lays out a way that everyone could get enough to eat in 2050, even as we turn farmland into forest and allow carbon-sucking trees to spread their leaves over an area larger than Australia.

The report recommends an all-of-the-above approach starting with reducing the size of harvests needed. By eating less meat, leveling off population growth, reducing waste, and phasing out biofuels, we could reduce the amount of additional food needed by half:

World Resources Institute

But diminishing demand for meat by getting more people to go vegan just isn’t enough.

“There’s a tendency in this field for people to treat dietary change as a magic asterisk where somehow we wave our hands and there will be an overwhelming reduction in meat eating,” said Tim Searchinger the Princeton professor who led the research on this report. “We wanted to focus on things that were realistic and achievable.”

If we also develop better seeds and animal breeds and use existing farm and pasture-land more intensively, we could shrink our agricultural footprint by 800 million hectares, an area bigger than Texas.

That’s important, because the world needs to cover at least one Texas with trees to keep temperatures below 1.5 degrees of warming. And, as the chart below shows, we’d have to do all of the above and more if we want to make agriculture do its part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Pulling all this off seems daunting, but the researchers divided the action needed into a 22-item “menu” with discrete recommendations like eating less beef and lamb, and breeding crops that can withstand higher temperatures.

“Not everything on the menu is going to be for everyone,” said Richard Waite, a WRI researcher who worked on the study. “But there’s something for everyone whether you are just shopping for your family, or in charge of food procurement for a major company,”

The report also points out that very little of the $600 billion a year governments spend on agriculture goes toward the innovations that would give us a sustainable food system. Agricultural research and development gets just $50 billion a year — that’s including private funding and public support.

World Resources Institute

Most of the money for agriculture comes in the form of subsidies and price-supports that shelter farmers from changes in the industry. The report says if those funds were diverted to programs that reduce food waste, squeeze more food from the ground, and study how to improve soil health, the world could solve this three-headed monster of a problem.

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Another 2 billion people are coming to dinner. How do we feed them?

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With the world on the line, scientists outline the paths to survival

This week, scientists and representatives from every country on Earth are gathering in South Korea to put the finishing touches on a report that, if followed, would change the course of history.

The report is a roadmap for possible ways to keep climate change to 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels. Anything beyond that amount of warming, and the planet starts to really go haywire. So the International Panel on Climate Change — a U.N.-sponsored, Nobel Peace Prize-winning assemblage of scientists — wants to show how we can avoid that. To be clear, hitting that goal would require a radical rethink in almost every aspect of society. But the report finds that not meeting the goal would upend life as we know it, too.

“This will be one of the most important meetings in the IPCC’s history,” said Hoesung Lee, the group’s chair, in his opening address on Monday.

The report will be released on October 8. From leaked drafts, we know the basics of scientists’ findings: World greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2020 — just 15 months from now. The scientists also show the difference in impacts between 1.5 and 2 degrees would not be minor — it could be make-or-break for the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, for example, which would flood every coastal city on Earth should it collapse.

“The decisions we make now about whether we let 1.5 or 2 degrees or more happen will change the world enormously,” said Heleen de Coninck, a Dutch climate scientist and one of the report’s lead authors, in an interview with the BBC. “The lives of people will never be the same again either way, but we can influence which future we end up with.”

The report has been in the works since the 2015 Paris climate agreement. Three years ago, during the climate talks, leaders of a few dozen small island nations and other highly vulnerable nations, like Ethiopia, Bangladesh, and Vietnam, demanded the bolder 1.5 degrees C temperature target be included in the first-ever global climate pact. The group represents 1 billion people, and for some of the involved countries, like the Marshall Islands, their entire existence is at stake.

At the time, the lead negotiator from that tiny Pacific island nation used the word “genocide” to describe the inevitable process of forced abandonment of his country due to sea-level rise, should global temperature breach the 1.5 degree target.

Even taking into account the policies and pledges enacted globally since the Paris Agreement, the world is on course to warm between 2.6 to 3.2 degrees C by the end of the century, according to independent analysis by Climate Action Tracker.

According to a U.N. preview of the report, meeting the 1.5 goal would “require very fast changes in electricity production, transport, construction, agriculture and industry” worldwide, in a globally coordinated effort to bring about a zero-carbon economy as quickly as possible. It would also very likely require eventually removing huge amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere using technology that is not currently available at the scale that would be necessary. And there’s no time to waste: “The longer CO2 is emitted at today’s rate, the faster this decarbonization will need to be.”

The world has already warmed by about 1.1 degrees C, and the implications of that are increasingly obvious. In just the three years since the Paris Agreement was signed, we’ve seen thousand-year rainstorms by the dozens, the most destructive hurricane season in U.S. history, disastrous fires on almost every continent, and an unprecedented coral bleaching episode that affected 70 percent of the world’s reefs.

In this age of rapid warming, the IPCC report is inherently political — there are obvious winners and losers if the world fails to meet the 1.5-degree goal. If the world’s governments are to take the implications of IPCC’s findings seriously, it would be nothing less than revolutionary — a radical restructuring of human society on our planet.

Right now, scientists are trying to find the precise words to describe an impending catastrophe and the utterly heroic efforts it would take to avert it.

“We’re talking about the kind of crisis that forces us to rethink everything we’ve known so far on how to build a secure future,” Greenpeace’s Kaisa Kosonen told AFP in response to a draft of the report. “We have to try to make the impossible possible.”

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With the world on the line, scientists outline the paths to survival

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Citizens put renewable energy on this year’s ballots

This story was originally published by High Country News and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

The fossil fuel-friendly Trump administration has been busy rolling back environmental regulations and opening millions of acres of public land to oil and gas drilling. Just last week, the Interior Department announced plans to gut an Obama-era methane pollution rule, giving natural gas producers more leeway to emit the powerful greenhouse gas.

With the GOP controlling the executive branch and Congress, that means state-level ballot initiatives are one of the few tools progressives have left to advance their own energy agendas. Twenty-four states, including most Western ones, permit this type of “direct democracy,” which allows citizens who gather enough petition signatures to put new laws and regulations to a vote in general elections.

“In general, the process is used — and advocated for — by those not in power,” explains Josh Altic, the ballot measure project director for the website Ballotpedia. Nationwide, 64 citizen-driven initiatives will appear on state ballots this November, and in the West, many aim to encourage renewable energy development — and reduce reliance on fossil fuels.


Proposition 127, known as the Renewable Energy Standards Initiative, would require electric utilities to get half of their power from renewable sources like wind and solar — though not nuclear — by 2030. California billionaire Tom Steyer has contributed over $8 million to the campaign through his political action organization, NextGen Climate Action, which is funding a similar initiative in Nevada.

The parent company of Arizona Public Service, the state’s largest utility, tried to sabotage the initiative with a lawsuit arguing that over 300,000 petition signatures were invalid and that the petition language may have confused signers into thinking the mandate includes nuclear energy. APS gets most of its energy from the Palo Verde nuclear plant, and the initiative could hurt its revenue.


The progressive group Colorado Rising gathered enough signatures to put Proposition 112 — the Safer Setbacks for Fracking Initiative — to a vote this year. It would prohibit new oil and gas wells and production facilities within 2,500 feet of schools, houses, playgrounds, parks, drinking water sources, and more. State law currently requires setbacks of at least 500 feet from homes and 1,000 feet from schools. It’s opposed by the industry-backed group Protect Colorado, whose largest funder, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, attracted scrutiny last year after two people died in a home explosion linked to a leaking gas flow line from a nearby Anadarko well.

Amendment 74, sponsored by the Colorado Farm Bureau, would allow citizens to file claims for lost property value due to government action. It is largely seen as a response to Proposition 112, which the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission says would block development on 85 percent of state and private lands. The Farm Bureau’s Chad Vorthmann says Amendment 74 would amend the state Constitution to protect farmers and ranchers who wish to lease their land for oil and gas from “random” setbacks.

Critics argue that the amendment could lead to unintended consequences. In Oregon, for example, a similar amendment passed in 2004, resulting in over 7,000 claims — totaling billions of dollars — filed against local governments, according to the Colorado Independent. Voters then amended the constitution in 2007 to overturn most aspects of the amendment and invalidate many of these claims.


Two energy-related questions will appear on Nevada’s ballot: Question 6, known as the Renewable Energy Promotion Initiative, and Question 3, the Energy Choice Initiative. Funded by Steyer’s NextGen Climate Action, Question 6, which would require utilities to get 50 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030, faces little formal opposition.

Question 3, however, has attracted more attention — and controversy. The initiative was approved in 2016, but because it would amend the state constitution, voters must approve it a second time. It would allow consumers to choose who they buy power from. It’s spearheaded by big energy consumers, including Switch, a large data company, and luxury resort developer Las Vegas Sands Corporation, which want the freedom to buy cheaper power on the open market without penalty. But environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club and Western Resource Advocates, say the initiative threatens clean energy development. NV Energy, the regulated monopoly that provides 90 percent of Nevada’s electricity, has several solar projects planned but has said it would abandon some of these projects if the initiative passes due to costs.


Washington could become the first state to pass a so-called “carbon fee.” Initiative 1631 would create funding for investments in clean energy and pollution programs through a fee paid for by high carbon emitters like utilities and oil companies. In 2016, a similar initiative lost by almost 10 points. However, many former opponents are now supporters.

What changed? The 2016 initiative would have imposed a revenue-neutral tax instead of a fee, meaning the money generated by the tax would have been offset by a sales tax cut. Environmental groups felt that the initiative didn’t do enough to promote clean energy or to address the impacts of climate change on vulnerable communities. But the new fee would bankroll clean energy projects, as well as help polluted communities. The oil and gas industry is funding the opposition campaign, with Phillips 66 contributing $7.2 million so far.


Citizens put renewable energy on this year’s ballots

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Tons of promises were made at Jerry Brown’s climate summit, but only one requires rockets

California’s Governor Jerry Brown, once nicknamed “Governor Moonbeam,” announced on Friday that the state was launching its own satellite, a state-level space force to monitor greenhouse gas emissions. It was one of more than 500 commitments announced at the Global Climate Action Summit to cut pollution and protect the earth’s life-support systems, but Brown’s was the only one that required rockets.

With Brown sitting next to him on the last day of the summit, Washington Governor Jay Inslee told a few dozen reporters gathered on the sidelines of the summit a few reasons he’s hopeful for the future.

One has to do with the elections in November. Inslee expects the results will lead to more governors taking office who join the alliance of states that have stood behind the Paris climate agreement after President Donald Trump decided to pull the country out. Another reason has to do with how the world is still pushing forward.

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“Not one single mayor, not one single county executive, not one single governor in the world has followed Donald Trump … over the cliff of climate denial,” Inslee said.

While Trump undercuts international deals left and right (not just Paris, but agreements to phase out super-polluting hydroflurocarbons), Brown’s summit was aimed at demonstrating that there’s still a huge appetite for action, and that action is already underway. Some 27 cities announced that they have seen their emissions fall over the past five years—including Paris, London, and New York City.

“We will act when nations fail, including our own,” said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, offering one of the back-to-back rallying cries from the summit stage.

So what did they promise? Here’s a short list:

Sony, Tata, and a slew of other big companies vowed to get as much electricity from renewables as they use.
70 cities with a total population of 425 million, including Los Angeles, Tokyo, Mexico City, and Accra, Ghana committed to going carbon neutral by 2050.
Walmart, McDonald’s, and other corporations released detailed plans for protecting habitats and ending deforestation caused by farmers in their supply chains.
400 investment firms managing a total of $32 trillion said they would funnel money into climate action and into low-carbon replacements for fossil-fuel dependent parts of the economy.

To be sure, these big promises could go as unfulfilled as many others. During the Paris talks in 2015, rich nations committed to pay billions into the Green Climate Fund. They haven’t. Back in 2014, a bunch of big corporations pledged to end forest loss, then backed away when they realized the magnitude of that challenge.

“We’re falling behind, and there’s a real risk of missing the 2020 goals on the New York Declaration on Forests,” said Lou Leonard, the World Wildlife Fund’s senior vice president for climate change and energy.

Still, Leonard said, he’s hopeful because these pledges force leaders to engage with the challenges, make mistakes, and begin to learn from them.

A report from the United Nations, published just before the summit found that pledges from corporations, cities, states, and regional governments were, at most, a third as large as the national goals. That percentage will leap when the commitments made during this summit are added in. And if these efforts scale up to their full potential, according to the report, “this would be instrumental in bridging the emissions gap to ‘well below 2 degrees Celsius’”.

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Tons of promises were made at Jerry Brown’s climate summit, but only one requires rockets

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