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Our Daily Planet: Climate Change Poses Enormous Risk to US Economy, Exclusive Int'v w/Congressman Ted Deutch & Funniest Wildlife Photography
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 Climate Change and the Economy

Bottom Line:  Climate Change Will Shrink U.S. Economy Greatly

The most chilling conclusions from the Black Friday Report involved the quantification of the damage to the U.S. economy if we continue to emit greenhouse gasses at the current rate.  In our final installment of the Report’s “highlights” in its own words, today, we look at its predicted economic impacts.  The Report’s summary findings on the economy are:
  • In the absence of significant global mitigation action and regional adaptation efforts, rising temperatures, sea level rise, and changes in extreme events are expected to increasingly disrupt and damage critical infrastructure and property, labor productivity, and the vitality of our communities.
  • Regional economies and industries that depend on natural resources and favorable climate conditions, such as agriculture, tourism, and fisheries, are vulnerable to the growing impacts of climate change.
  • Rising temperatures are projected to reduce the efficiency of power generation while increasing energy demands, resulting in higher electricity costs.
  • The impacts of climate change beyond our borders are expected to increasingly affect our trade and economy, including import and export prices and U.S. businesses with overseas operations and supply chains.
  • Some aspects of our economy may see slight near-term improvements in a modestly warmer world.
  • However, the continued warming that is projected to occur without substantial and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions is expected to cause substantial net damage to the U.S. economy throughout this century, especially in the absence of increased adaptation efforts.
The bottom line is that if we continue to increase emissions in a business as usual fashion, “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.”  

Why This Matters:  The big price tag for failing to curb climate emissions is staggering.  But so are the estimated costs of particular impacts.  The New York Times  put it this way:  “The report puts the most precise price tags to date on the cost to the United States economy of projected climate impacts: $141 billion from heat-related deaths, $118 billion from sea level rise and $32 billion from infrastructure damage by the end of the century, among others.”  This is the number that really caught people’s attention — the report states that climate change could slash up to a tenth of gross domestic product by 2100, which, to put this into sharp perspective, would more than double the losses of the Great Recession a decade ago.  

To Go Deeper:  It is hard to summarize a 1600 page report!  But the regional impact summaries found in Chapters 18-27 are also worth your time.  

Deja Vu:  In a familiar echo of the climate science meddling of the Bush Administration, EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler stated that the Trump Administration would look at changing the way the next climate assessment is done.  But perhaps they won’t have the chance because the next one won’t be completed until 2022. 
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 People

Interview of the Week: Congressman Ted Deutch, (FL-22)

Congressman Deutch led a bipartisan group of Members of Congress that introduced this week a novel bill to address climate change through the imposition of a fee on carbon pollution.  

ODP:  What are the benefits you expect to accrue from the proposed carbon fee legislation — in terms of greenhouse gas emissions reduced, illnesses prevented, and jobs created? 
 
CTD:  Whether you see it on the news or in your backyard, most Americans can agree that climate change is an urgent threat that must be addressed. We’re seeing the effects every day – extreme storms, drier spells, pollution-caused illnesses, an encroaching sea. The status quo isn’t survivable. If we don’t act now, we are nearing a point of no return when it comes to our environment, when it comes to our health, and when it comes to our economy.  Our bill will lead to significant carbon emissions reduction – up to 45% by 2030 and 90% by 2050. By shifting to cleaner and renewable energy sources, it will help spur innovation and create jobs to meet the new demands.
 
ODP:  Does the $15 per metric ton of carbon emissions adequately recoup the costs of carbon pollution — how much will it discourage the use of fossil fuels?
 
CTD:  The fee on carbon begins at $15 per metric ton. But it very quickly increases – $10 per metric ton every year that targets are not met. This is a significant cost for using carbon, and we believe the cost will be oppressive enough to shift our country toward cleaner energy options. These companies won’t want to keep paying an increasingly expensive fee. This plan uses a market-based approach to discourage the use of carbon.
 
ODP:  The carbon dividend is a truly innovative proposal.  Who would administer it and how much do you think each American would receive each year?
 
CTD:  This is one way our bill is unique; 100% of the net revenue would go right back to the American people. That means that every American would receive a monthly rebate in the mail worth hundreds of dollars. Critics of carbon fee policies claim that the fee may lead to rising energy costs, which would hurt lower-income Americans more. But under our plan, we are ensuring Americans get a check in the mail to help offset these costs. And based on a Treasury Department report, returning 100% of net revenue back to the American people may actually increase the after-tax income of low- and middle-income families.
 
ODP;  The proposal would also roll back some carbon-reducing regulations that you expect would be redundant to industry — can you explain and provide an example? 
 
CTD:  This bill imposes a fee on carbon and quickly ratchets up the price until we see a sufficient drop in carbon emissions. We believe this increasing cost will move our country toward cleaner energy options and ultimately to renewable energy sources. Though the bill amends certain environmental regulations related to carbon emissions, if we don’t meet our goals, the bill also includes a 10-year kickback of Clean Air Act protections in order to bring us back in line with our emissions goals.
 
ODP:  You are introducing the bill in the 115th Congress – why now, and how soon do you plan to re-introduce it in the next Congress?
 
CTD:  The American people don’t care that it’s the end of the year; they want to see Congress act on climate change. We’re making clear to the country and our colleagues that we can achieve robust bipartisan action on climate change. Next year, we will see a more bipartisan Congress, with a Democratic House and a Republican Senate. This bill proves that there is a bipartisan way forward on climate change. And we will absolutely plan to re-introduce next Congress and encourage more of our colleagues to support this plan.

Thank you, Congressman Deutch, for your leadership.  We need more innovative and bold leaders like you and the other cosponsors of the bill — both Ds and Rs — to take on the challenge of climate change.  We will continue to follow your work next year and keep our readers updated!  
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 Oceans

Federal Court Upholds Ban on Certain Mexican Seafood

On Wednesday, conservationists working to save the world’s most endangered porpoise species won a key victory in a federal appeals court, when, over the Trump Administration’s repeated objections, the court refused to lift a court-ordered ban on seafood imported from Mexico’s Upper Gulf of California and caught with gillnets that drown the vaquita porpoise.  The environmental groups brought the suit last March to force the Trump Administration to impose the ban in accordance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which requires the U.S. government to bar the import of seafood from a country if there are high rates of marine mammals killed by a particular group of its fishermen.  The population of vaquitas has shrunk to less than 20 in the last 20 years because of the use of gillnets by a combination of local fishermen who catch a commercially valuable fish called the corvina, and poachers using the same nets at night to take part in the rampant illegal trade in another endangered fish called the totoaba, whose bladder is considered a delicacy in China.  

Scientists recommended that Mexico suspend the use of gillnets in order to allow the vaquita population to rebuild, but the government there has not maintained a gillnet ban.  Scientists believe that the species will be extinct by 2021 unless Mexican fishing practices and law enforcement efforts change. Conservationists want the US government to do everything it can to pressure the Mexican government to do more to save the remaining vaquita.  DJ Schubert, a marine mammal advocate with the Animal Welfare Institute, told Ecowatch that “[i]t’s time for the U.S. government to … ensure full implementation of the ban, and continue to work with the government of Mexico to save the vaquita.” 

Why This Matters:  The vaquita is known as the panda of the sea, and if it goes extinct it will be despite the repeated and increasingly loud warnings and pleas by scientists and conservationists over the last 10 years.  The Trump Administration is willing to pick many fights with the government of Mexico, but it is not willing to use trade sanctions to pressure them to save the vaquita.  Sadly, it may be too late to save the vaquita now, even with the import ban in place.  In desperation, the Mexican government is hoping that a highly experimental captive breeding program will stave off extinction for the vaquita.  

To Go Deeper:  We recommend this excellent new book by Brooke Bessesen entitled Vaquita: Science, Politics and Crime in the Sea of Cortez.

Last But Not Least: RIP Stephen Hillenburg, who created the beloved ocean character SpongeBob Squarepants.  He left us too soon, but will always be appreciated for bringing us his own special brand of nautical nonsense under the sea.  
Spongebob creator Stephen Hillenburg made ocean awareness part of pop culture.
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 Sustainability

Patagonia Gives Back $10 Million Tax Savings 

This week outdoor retail giant Patagonia announced that it will be donating all of the tax savings they received through President Trump’s controversial tax cut to various environmental groups. Patagonia CEO, Rose Marcario, wrote in a post that: 

“Based on last year’s irresponsible tax cut, Patagonia will owe less in taxes this year—$10 million less, in fact. Instead of putting the money back into our business, we’re responding by putting $10 million back into the planet. Our home planet needs it more than we do…We recognize that our planet is in peril. We are committing all $10 million to groups committed to protecting air, land and water and finding solutions to the climate crisis. We have always funded grassroots activism, and this $10 million will be on top of our ongoing 1% for the Planet giving.”

Why This Matters: Corporations did not end up making capital investments or hiring more people as they said they would and instead have spent the money they’ve saved with the Trump tax cuts to buy back their own stock. Patagonia is not just making a statement by donating the money to environmental causes but is also showing the nation that these tax cuts were nothing more than a handout to corporations by the Trump administration. 

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 Hero

Hero of the Week: Samir Lkhani

Samir Lakhani is a social entrepreneur dedicated to restoring health and dignity to developing countries. In 2014 he was working in Cambodia and watched a mother wash and bathe her new baby using laundry powder rather than soap is a vision that has stayed with him to this day. It was also the inspiration for his next business venture.

“I noticed that nobody seemed in good overall health — whether it was an infection that wouldn’t go away or a child with diarrhea,” he told Sustainable Brands in a recent interview.

Asking around the village, he encountered many other families who could only afford laundry powder and many more who had no soap at all, saying it was too expensive. Lakhani set out to change this by figuring out how to recycle hotel soap and distribute it to those in need. With that, Eco-Soap Bank was born; today, it has grown to a thriving non-profit operating throughout 10 countries and employing more than 150 women. They collect leftover hotel soap, recycle it, sterilize it and then distribute it into their villages for everyone to access.

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 Animals   

 “Caught In The Act” by Mary McGowan, winner of this year’s Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards
One Funny Thing: Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards Announced 

The world’s funniest wildlife photography contest for a cause announced the 2018’s winners this week and a very dramatic squirrel took the top prize. As NatGeo explained, founded by wildlife photographers and enthusiasts Tom Sullam and Paul Joynson-Hicks, the competition isn’t all about fun and jokes. They work alongside the Born Free Foundation to highlight the importance of conserving our planet’s wildlife. Take a look at this year’s finalists for a good laugh. 
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Happy Hanukkah to all our readers who will be celebrating the Festival of Lights starting Sunday night!
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