DemDaily: Status of the Planet

April 22, 2024

Today is the 54th anniversary of Earth Day, shining a light on the status of the planet. Mother Earth is pleading with us to listen.

First held in 1970, Earth Day is considered the launch of the modern environmental movement. The concept of honoring the Earth was originally proposed by peace activist John McConnell at a 1969 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) meeting, and later sanctioned by the UN.

Status of the Planet
While the pandemic provided a brief reprieve from the daily pollution and environmental impact of mass transportation, manufacturing and energy consumption, the climate catastrophes of the last decade are a stark reminder of the damage already caused to the planet.

Climate change is a human-caused, global phenomenon created predominantly by burning fossil fuels, such as oil, coal and gas, which release carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and other gases into the Earth's atmosphere and oceans.

The resulting increased temperature trends cause sea level rise and ice mass loss worldwide, as well as shifts in plant bloom and extreme weather events.

Global Warming: The last decade has witnessed the warmest temperatures on record since global records began in 1880. Since then, the planet's average surface temperature has risen about 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degrees Celsius), a change driven largely by increased carbon dioxide emissions.

Greenhouse gases: The largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, which trap heat and make the planet warmer, come from burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat, and transportation.

In 2022, according to the EPA, that broke down to: transportation (28%), electricity production (25%), industry (23%), commercial and residential activity (13%) and agriculture (10%).

Sea Levels: A consequence of higher temperatures is melting polar ice caps, which is causing sea levels to rise. The Earth's antarctic glaciers have been losing up to 390 billion tons of ice and snow per year, fueling projections that the global mean sea level could rise by 4.3 feet by 2068.

The rate in the last two decades alone is nearly double that of the last century and accelerating slightly every year.

Extreme Weather Events: Climate change disasters have tripled in the last 30 years, including extreme weather events like droughts, heatwaves, forest fires, hurricanes and floods.

Since 1950, the number of record-high temperature events in the US has been increasing, causing a shift in the seasons, with falls, winters, and springs growing shorter, while summer extends into the traditionally cooler months.

"Human activity is responsible for almost all of the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere over the last 150 years." - Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

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Status of the US
The United States, second only to China in global carbon emissions, has led the world in addressing the climate crisis -- no US President or other world leader in history has ever invested or delivered more in combatting climate change than Joe Biden.

When Biden came into office January 20, 2021, he inherited an executive branch weakened by the anti-environmental policies of former President Donald Trump. Republicans had abandoned any pretense of combatting climate change -- eroding protections, gutting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); replacing Obama-era initiatives to curb greenhouse gas emissions with weaker, pro-business regulations; and limiting the scope of advisory committees to oversee air quality standards, among many others.

On day one of his administration, President Joe Biden signed an executive order reinstating the United States into the Paris Agreement. He established the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (WHEJAC), appointed the country's first US Climate Envoy, former Secretary of State John Kerry, and created the Justice40 Initiative to commit at least 40% of the overall benefits from federal investments in climate and clean energy to overburdened communities.

The President, who restored the United States' credibility on the international stage, hosted the 2021 Leaders Summit on Climate, which was attended by 40 world leaders.

The President's 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill dedicated tens of billions of dollars to climate investments, including clean energy jobs, infrastructure, transportation, clean water, technology, research and development. The bill, and the Inflation Reduction Act, signed into law in August 2022, represent the largest investment in climate and environmental justice and conservation in the history of the world.

Under Biden, the US has played a leading role in negotiating groundbreaking international agreements at the annual Conference of Parties (COP), or signatories, to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

COP27 saw the reestablishment of formal bilateral climate discussions between the US and China, and in November 2023 Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping met to begin meaningful dialogue on the crisis.

Speaking from a Virginia National Park today, the President announced the first of several new grants and programs to be unveiled throughout the week.

That included $7 billion in federal grants from the Inflation Reduction Act to deliver solar power to residential areas as part of the EPA's "Solar for All" program, which will also create 200,000 good-paying union jobs.

He also praised the American Climate Corps and its new national jobs board, ClimateCorps.gov -- which will help recruit and create over 20,000 new jobs for young Americans in the clean energy and climate-conscious work industries.

The administration also scored a major win for the environmental movement last week with the Department of the Interior's final rule offering the maximum protection to resources such as irreplaceable wildlife habitats.

The President's unprecedented progress on climate action in his first term, however, remains uncertain under the shadow of November's rematch against Trump, who has called climate change "a Hoax." In his four years in office, Trump dismantled or degraded over 100 environmental rules.

The ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation has assembled a 900-plus-page road map for a second Trump administration called "Project 2025." Among its many recommendat

ions, the proposal advocates repealing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and Inflation Reduction Act, and dismantling and privatizing parts of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which studies and monitors the climate.

The report is clear: “The Biden administration’s climate fanaticism will need a whole-of-government unwinding.”

VOTE.

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Sources: NASA, National Centers for Environmental Information, EPA, White House, Earthday.org, CNN, New York Times

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