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Andrew Yang takes innovative approach to combating climate change

Austin Wang

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2020 Democratic Presidential candidate Andrew Yang once again stands out in the Democratic field by suggesting geoengineering as a solution to climate change. Yang, known for his out-of-the-box ideas like Universal Basic Income and lowering the voting age to 16, now hopes to gain an edge with his climate policy.

Yang’s plan for geoengineering potentially entails spending billions, if not trillions, of U.S. dollars to dramatically alter the environment. But given the severe consequences of climate change, should more politicians be on board?

What is Geoengineering?

Geoengineering focuses on dramatically altering the environment, rather than relying on changing patterns of human activity, to stop climate change. Previously proposed geoengineering plans include creating an enormous solar parasol to block out some sun rays, painting vast areas of the world white, releasing sulfur aerosols into the stratosphere, and creating artificial clouds over the ocean.

These plans are costly and could have enormous consequences on the environment. However, due to the lack of policy action on climate change and Earth’s rapidly rising temperatures, some scientists and politicians have argued that geoengineering must be looked at more seriously.

Andrew Yang’s Vision

On his website, Yang advocates for investing heavily in carbon capture and geoengineering technologies. While other Democratic candidates also include climate change policy in their platforms, Yang takes a unique approach by focusing on climate change reversal.

Andrew Yang advocates for investing heavily in carbon capture technologies.
Andrew Yang advocates for investing heavily in carbon capture technologies.

He suggests that the United States invest in innovations, including cloud-seeding technology, that can potentially reverse environmental damages.

Yang also mentions shoring up glaciers and reducing the amount of sunlight that reaches the Earth’s surface. In particular, Yang has mentioned launching a gigantic mirror into space to reflect sunlight.

Capitol Hill’s View On Geoengineering

Though Yang’s backing of geoengineering is novel, he isn’t the only one to propose policy to support the idea. In 2017, California representative Jeremy McNerney introduced a bill that would provide funding for geoengineering research. Although the bill didn’t pass, geoengineering has gained some political legitimacy since then.

It has since spurred various organizations to get involved in making geoengineering real. The International Panel on Climate Change and the U.S. National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine committed to researching geoengineering in the coming years.

Conclusions

When Yang takes the debate stage on the 27th, it will be interesting to see if he’ll have the opportunity to share more about his climate policy. More specifically, gauging voter appeal for funding geoengineering research on a federal level will be important.

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Australia Gets Flamed For Neglecting The Climate Emergency In The Pacific

Rich Bowden

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Australia gets flamed for its climate inaction

Former Tuvalu Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga has re-opened the controversy over Australia’s high-handed approach at this year’s Pacific Islands Forum. Australia has been accused of trying to silence Pacific leaders, like Sopoaga, who are demanding it to do more to combat climate change.

Tuvalu hosted the Pacific Islands Forum in August. 

At the forum, Australia pressured Sopoaga among other pro-climate action leaders from the Pacific, to accept a watered-down communique. Many leaders believe it would do little to combat the climate emergency in the Pacific.

Australia not tackling the Pacific’s unique climate challenges

Sopoaga told Australia’s SBS News he thought hosting the PIF forum in Tuvalu would highlight the challenges facing smaller Pacific nations. He said he sought to show countries like Australia the existential threat climate change poses to low-lying countries like Tuvalu.

However, he regretted that support was not forthcoming. Further, he didn’t like that Pacific leaders who spoke out on climate change had the chance to accept hush money.

“Putting this money on the table … and then expecting Pacific Island countries like Tuvalu to say ‘OK, we’ll stop talking about climate change’ … is completely irresponsible,” he added.

Sopoaga said action was needed at domestic level in countries such as Australia to have any effect.

“Any amount of money that is coming with the Step-Up [Pacific aid program] cannot be seen as an excuse for no action at a domestic level to cut down on greenhouse emissions.”

Climate change poses an existential threat to Tuvalu

Tuvalu, like a number of low-lying Pacific micro-nations, is under threat from climate change. The sea has almost claimed two of the nine islands. And with the highest point only 4.6 meters above sea level, locals fear they will one day be completely swamped. 

Home to just 11,000 people and an average of just 6.6 feet above sea level, Tuvalu is in danger. In fact, its people are already making plans to evacuate should sea levels rise further.

Sopoaga has previously rejected offers to relocate the people, saying it won’t make a significant difference.

“Moving outside of Tuvalu will not solve any climate change issues,” Sopoaga says. He adds, “If you put these people in the middle of industrialized countries it will simply boost their consumptions and increase greenhouse gas emissions,” as he told The Guardian in May. 

Sopoaga’s term as Tuvalu PM came to an end last month after losing a vote in the country’s parliament. The expectation is that his successor, Kausea Natano, will continue the call to action from the world on climate change.

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Brexit Is Overshadowing Climate Activism

Haider Sarwar

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Brexit

Due to the ongoing Brexit crisis in the United Kingdom, discussions regarding climate change legislation has been postponed. The European Union meets four times a year in Brussels, Belgium, and this past week the British Parliament asked for yet another extension on formulating a plan to decarbonize by 2050.

The 2050 Plan

In November 2018, the EU proposed to have its total carbon emissions reach a net-zero by 2050. This was a move unique to the EU, and it sought to motivate other countries such as the US and Brazil to follow its footsteps. Over half the members of the EU, including the UK, have signed onto this plan.

Critics have deemed this plan as ambitious and near impossible. Moreover, there is a lot of pressure on European governments from large industries. Still, there is hope for the EU to reach this goal as many of the members are adamant about decarbonizing all of Europe. The biggest obstacle to this plan, however, is the countries’ internal affairs. The prime example of this is the UK’s notorious Brexit plan.

Brexit’s Prolonged Existence

In June 2016, a referendum on whether to leave the European Union was held in the UK. Then, 51.6% of people voted to leave. Ever since, deals illustrating better ways for the UK to leave the EU have been proposed. Both the EU and the UK have shared and torn apart these deals. Today, the disagreements persist with a very obscure future. 

It is partly because of this ongoing issue that the EU was unable to present a proper plan for decarbonization at the UN climate summit last month. The aforementioned meeting in Brussels also illustrated that the UK won’t adopt the decarbonization plan. Many EU officials have expressed annoyance towards the UK for this reason. Climate activist Greta Thunberg further argued that if politicians and governments were serious about tackling climate change, they would not spend their time “talking about taxes and Brexit.”

The adoption of the 2050 plan from the UK is being pushed to take place in 2020. The EU has little interest in refusing the UK of an extension, too. This is because a chaotic no-deal scenario would be initiated by the EU, which would be less than advantageous. 

Internal issues such as Brexit have been an obstacle to the EU’s proposed climate action for years, now. It is essential for Great Britain to pull itself out of the ongoing issue to create a plan for the future.

Will The UK Set Aside Politics To Focus On Climate Change?

Many activists wish to see countries such as the UK set aside their politics to focus on more important issues like climate change. It is unclear how long it will take for the UK and the EU to finally reach an agreement about Brexit, but there is hope that this extension will be the last one.

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Congress Unveils First Bill To Address Climate Refugee Crisis

Ari Kelo

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Climate refugee

On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives introduced a new bill to protect climate refugees.

The Climate Displaced Persons Act, written by Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.), would create a new federal program specifically for refugees displaced by climate change. If enacted into law, the U.S. would take in at least 50,000 climate refugees each year, beginning in 2020.

Although long overdue, backlash from both President Trump and the Republican-led Senate may stall any attempts to turn this bill into law. Regardless, this bill provides an important blueprint for future policies on climate-related migration.

And notably, this bill is the first of its kind to address the growing number of migrants displaced by climate change.

What is the Climate Displaced Persons Act?

Written in reaction to the rising number of people displaced by climate-related catastrophes, this bill would create an action plan on how the U.S. can help.

Since 2009, a climate-related disaster has displaced about one person every second. This rate accounts for extreme weather events, famine, drought, and rising sea levels, among other climate emergencies.

Overwhelmingly, 22.5 million people have been displaced due to climate change in the past decade. And the UN speculates that number could rise to 200 million forcibly displaced people by 2050.

Accordingly, this bill has two major aims. It intends to “establish a Global Climate Change Resilience Strategy and authorize the admission of climate-displaced persons,” according to its first draft.

In particular, the bill entails the U.S. taking on more responsibility in handling the global crisis.

It would create a humanitarian program separate from the U.S. refugee admissions program, specifically for those affected by climate change. The new program would guarantee the same benefits for climate refugees.

The legislation would also task the Secretary of State with devising a Global Climate Change Resilience Strategy. This is turn will create a Coordinator of Climate Resilience position within the State Department.

If made law, the bill will also provide a minimum of 50,000 climate migrants resettlement opportunities in the U.S. each year.

New legislation for climate refugees

To Rep. Velázquez, immigration policy must acknowledge the role of climate change.

“If we are going to meaningfully discuss comprehensive climate equity and climate justice, we must inject security assistance and resettlement opportunities for climate-displaced persons into our conversations,” she said in a press release.

So far, the U.S. has failed in this cause. Just last month, President Trump reduced the maximum refugee cap to 18,000 — a new low. And with his administration tightening up on immigration of all kinds, it’s unlikely he’ll loosen up on climate-related migration, to say the least.

But President Trump’s refusal to support climate science or immigration hasn’t dissuaded Rep. Velázquez.

“Despite this Administration’s efforts to strip the world’s most vulnerable populations of refuge, America will continue to stand tall as a safe haven for immigrants,” she insisted.

After its introduction on Wednesday, the House referred the bill to the Committee on Foreign Affairs. The Committees on the Judiciary and Energy and Commerce will also review the bill before the House continues its deliberation.

Democrat Edward Markey, a key supporter of the Green New Deal, has introduced a companion bill in the Senate.

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