New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has announced an allocation plan for the $1.77 billion in federal Community Development Block Grants that are part of the Sandy disaster relief bill HR 152. It is not clear if mitigation of climate pollution is part of planned investments in housing, business, and infrastructure resiliency.
- Housing Recovery – $720 Million
- Single-Family Rehabilitation: $350 million to establish a grant program for up to 9,300 homeowners whose residences were sustained damage as a result of Hurricane Sandy and need additional funding to restore their homes, implement resiliency measures and remediate mold. Will assist up to 1,000 low-, moderate- and middle-income one- and two-family homeowners whose primary residences were destroyed or had major damage, and 8,300 low-, moderate- and middle-income homeowners whose primary residences were damaged but not destroyed.
- Multi-Family Rehabilitation: $250 million to fund programs to enhance the resiliency of up to 12,790 units of housing for low-, moderate- and middle-income New Yorkers damaged by Sandy that still require significant resources to permanently address damage and resume sustainable operations. The City’s program will provide grants and low-interest loans, depending on need and scope.
- Public Housing: $120 million to address initial resilience measures for public housing developments, such as permanent emergency generators at key buildings to provide backup power to critical building systems.
- Business Recovery – $185 Million
- Business Resiliency Investments: $100 million to provide grants to up to 1,300 businesses. $100,000 per company will go to small- and mid-sized companies, and $1 million per company will go to large companies in vulnerable areas. Program will require companies to commit to reinvest in their New York City presence.
- Expanded Loans and Grants: $80 million to provide loans and grants to as many as 1,000 businesses. This program will provide expedited low-interest loans of up to $150,000 on similar terms to the City’s existing emergency loan program; provide expedited grants of up to $60,000 to affected businesses; and invite community development finance institutions to compete in a business plan competition to solicit ideas for additional loan and grant programs which would then be funded on a pilot basis, with the best program(s) then funded at scale.
- Innovations in Resiliency Technologies Competition: $5 million to allocate, through “Race-to-the-Top”-style competitions, grants to the most innovative and cost-effective ideas for demonstration projects featuring resiliency products and technologies that can be replicated citywide.
- Infrastructure Resiliency – $140 Million
- Neighborhood Game-Changer Investment Competition: $100 million to jump-start economic activity in the five Business Recovery Zones by allocating, through “Race-to-the-Top”-style competitions, grants to the most innovative and effective investment ideas for spurring long-term economic growth. Possible ideas could include attraction of growing companies and/or companies of significant size, attraction of companies that serve the needs of underserved populations, or other transformative investments in key corridors.
- Critical Utility Infrastructure Resiliency Competition: $40 million to allocate, through “Race-to-the-Top”-style competitions, grants to the most innovative and cost-effective resiliency measures identified by the utilities for their critical networks. Grants will be allocated to utilities in one or more of the following categories: i) liquid fuel networks; ii) other energy networks (power, steam, natural gas); and iii) telecommunications networks (wires and wireless).
President Barack Obama embarked on his second term with his inspiring inaugural promise to “respond to the threat of climate change” lest we “betray our children and grandchildren.” He can begin to turn ambition into action at this year’s State of the Union on February 12, the birthday of Abraham Lincoln.
Of all the bold political moves made by Obama, few are as audacious as his deliberate invitations to be compared to our nation’s greatest president Obama announced his candidacy for president at the site of Abraham Lincoln’s “House Divided” speech and was sworn into office on Lincoln’s Bible. Like Lincoln, President Obama is a great orator. But Lincoln is revered not for his great speeches, but for his actions at the moment of America’s greatest crisis. For President Obama to be remembered as a great leader, he must act decisively on the existential threat of our era, climate change.
It thus makes sense to look to Lincoln for guidance. In the decades before the Civil War, Americans struggled to reconcile deep qualms about slavery with the wealth it brought to the young nation. The country’s political class was dominated by the entrenched power of the wealthy southern “slaveocracy” committed to the preservation and the expansion of their “peculiar institution.” Failing to challenge the power of King Cotton, weak presidents instead accommodated the slave power. James Monroe ratified the Missouri Compromise, Millard Fillmore agreed to the Compromise of 1850, Pierce and Buchanan dithered as Kansas bled – until Lincoln drew a hard line against slavery’s expansion into the West.
In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, there is renewed energy on Capitol Hill and in the White House to take action against the fossil fuel industry’s destruction of our climate. President Barack Obama startled pundits with his emphasis on fighting climate change in his inaugural address. Furthermore, “Senate Democrats will push a bill to help areas vulnerable to climate change prepare for extreme weather events,” the HuffPost Hill newsletter reports.
As it turns out, Obama’s inauguration ceremony was funded in part by $260,000 from Exxon Mobil, and the HuffPost Hill newsletter is sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute, Big Oil’s lobbying arm.
Exactly three months earlier, the HuffPost Hill mocked Change.org for changing its policies to accept any corporate sponsors with the headline “CHANGE.ORG WILL SEE YOU NOW, AMERICAN PETROLEUM INSTITUTE.” HuffPost Hill editorialized that Change.org had “decided to reject its founding progressive principles and embrace corporate advertising, Republican party solicitations, astroturf campaigns, pro-life or anti-union ads and other sponsorships that its liberal base of users may object to.”
The U.S. House of Representatives, after nearly three months of delay, is finally voting to provide emergency federal aid for the survivors of Superstorm Sandy. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) prevented a vote in the previous Congress, leaving millions of Americans in the cold and outraging Northeast Republicans such as Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) and Rep. Peter King (R-NY).
Responding to the public outrage, the House voted to approve $9 billion in flood insurance funding in the first week of January, overcoming the nay votes of 67 Republicans called “jackasses” by former Senator Al D’Amato (R-NY).
Yesterday afternoon, the House Rules Committee took up H.R. 152, the $50.7 billion Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013, critical for the rebuilding of the regions affected by the freakish storm. In the meeting, Republicans argued against the emergency support, attacked labor protections for workers, and praised the “logic” of cutting services for the American people to pay for emergency relief from a fossil-fueled disaster. In the meeting, the committee laid out a progression of votes at the behest of Tea Party groups like Club for Growth and David Koch’s Americans for Prosperity, which have taken a hard line against disaster relief. Debate on the bill and amendments is limited to three hours, making it possible that all votes will take place today.
Below is a summary of the vote sequence:
: GOOD: Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) amendment. After an hour of debate, the House will consider $17 billion in emergency funding. This legislation is expected to pass, with only extreme conservatives voting against.
: BAD: Mulvaney (R-SC), McClintock (R-CA), Duncan (R-SC), Lummis (R-WY) amendment. Then the House will consider an amendment that demands $17 billion in mandatory cuts in services for the poor, young, and elderly. This amendment may garner significant Republican support and would set a dire precedent for Congressional disaster relief.
: GOOD: Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) amendment. After 20 minutes of further debate, the House will vote on the rest of the Sandy relief and rebuilding package, $33.7 billion “to cover current and anticipated needs in the wake of the devastating Hurricane Sandy.” This language is the other key vote. Only about 50 Republicans are expected to support this key legislation.
Following these three major votes, an additional 11 amendments will be considered in turn, with 10 minutes of debate for each. There are multiple “jackass” amendments that cut disaster preparedness and relief funding from extremist Republicans Reps. Paul Broun (R-GA), John Fleming (R-LA), Jeff Duncan (R-SC), Bill Flores (R-TX), and Rob Bishop (R-UT). Broun’s amendment deserves particular attention for its special degree of jackassery:
: Broun (R-GA) amendment: “Amendment to FRELINGHUYSEN: Strikes $13,000,000 in funding to ‘accelerate the National Weather Service ground readiness project.’”
There are two good amendments from Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) that provide much-needed funding for community development and veterans’ cemeteries damaged by Sandy. Other amendments, including a submission from Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) to consider man-made sea level rise, were ruled out of order.
Important provisions to help the many climate disaster victims of 2012 prepare for our dangerous future are being attacked as “pork.” The opposite is true. The Frelinghuysen bill already eliminates much-needed support for many climate disaster survivors around the nation. Tea Party activists are pushing for even further cuts.
Republicans have held up this emergency spending for nearly three months because they say the U.S. can’t afford to help victims of climate disasters – but they refuse to make Big Oil pay even a share for the damage their pollution has caused. These same legislators were willing to shut down the government to protect tax breaks for billionaires.
Of the 67 Republicans who voted against the initial disaster relief, only one, Rep. Steve Palazzo (R-MS), has publicly changed his vote after a visit to Long Island and New Jersey. The remaining “jackasses” include 18 freshmen and at least 36 Republicans who have previously demanded emergency disaster relief for their constituents, but are now obeying the heartless commands of carbon billionaire David Koch, the wealthiest man in New York City.
In his annual address to the state of New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) raised an urgent alarm about climate change in the wake of the Superstorm Sandy. “Climate change is real,” he said. “It is denial to say each of these situations is a once-in-a-lifetime. There is a 100-year flood every two years now. It is inarguable that the sea is warmer and there is a changing weather pattern, and the time to act is now.”
President Barack Obama avoided such language in the days after Sandy struck. Obama’s second inaugural address is January 19, 2013.
In a scathing critique at the Huffington Post, Nation editor Christian Parenti blasts the 350.org fossil-industry divestment campaign, Fossil Free, as merely “symbolic” and flawed by “crucial weaknesses”—namely, that even if colleges divest from fossil fuel investments, the fossil fuel industry will still be very rich and powerful.
It is not clear why Parenti, a colleague of Naomi Klein, one of the strategists behind the divestment campaign, took the unusual step of taking his criticisms in public, after the campaign has been launched and divestment efforts begun on 146 campuses across the nation.
In an email to Hill Heat, a prominent climate activist with national influence responded to Parenti’s critique:
This manages to be smug and naïve at the same time. And totally ahistoric. His basic conclusion is “government should do its job.” Super.
Why isn’t that happening now? Because the fossil fuel industry has our government, our economy, our culture by the balls.
What can we do? Well, he’s right, ultimately we need assertive public policy. And we need to press relentlessly for the key pieces that are within executive reach – CO2 regs on existing power plants, and an end to government actions – like Keystone permits – that facilitate long-term investments that make the problem unsolvable. And of course we are. And of course we have been, for decades. And we’re getting killed.
Plausible near-term government action is not remotely enough. We need to wrest power back. This often seems impossible, because our economy and our lifestyles are designed to feed the beast at every turn. But the flip side of that realization is that every turn is an opportunity to take a little of our power back, and reduce theirs.
OF FREAKING-COURSE we should address demand. We can do it in our lifestyles. We can do it in state policy, like energy codes. We can do it in community design. We can do it in how we eat. We can do it with our feet. Every damned day. And it’s not just a futile act of individual environmental responsibility. It’s waging freedom.
AND we can stop owning – literally OWNING – this nightmare by divesting. That’s waging freedom too. How much direct damage will we inflict on the industry’s bottom line this way? I don’t know. But we will take back our money and our souls. We’ll draw a line in the sand and make ourselves and others look hard at which side we are on. We’ll make a statement. We’ll activate young people. Those young people will challenge us – most of us alums of these institutions – to choose which side of the line to be on. We will build a stage on which to play out this moral drama, since our legislative bodies have ceased to be such a stage, corrupted as they are by Big Fossil’s money.
And maybe, possibly, conceivably we will build the moral power we need to force our “leaders” and our government to do their job.
If all that sounds hopelessly naïve and “symbolic”, well, shit, given the size of the climate challenge and the scope of any one actor’s ability to change it, you could argue that all actions are “symbolic.” Symbols are powerful. We need power.
Parenti says “I am all for dumping carbon stocks, if for no other reason than a sense of decency and honor. But how is dumping oil stock supposed to hurt the enemy?” Fine. Do it for decency and honor. Isn’t that enough? And if college students all over America and the alums of those institutions simply declare that this is a Fundamental Matter of Decency and Honor – that even if we don’t affect the financial outcome one bit, at least our fingerprints won’t be on this genocidal crime—won’t that be an ENORMOUS change from the bizarre, complacent moral detachment that is our current, collective condition?
There’s significant evidence that Barack Obama as an individual cares very deeply about climate change, particularly in his role as a parent.
However, he built a governing team around him with deep, unresolved conflicts on climate action. Inspiring scientists like John Holdren, Jane Lubchenco, and Stephen Chu are at key leadership positions in his administration. However, his top economic advisers – Timothy Geithner, Peter Orszag, Ben Bernanke, Larry Summers – reflect the false economic orthodoxy that climate action comes at the price of economic growth. (Even though Summers believes that climate change is on par with nuclear war as an existential threat to the human race.) His top political advisers – Bill Daley, David Axelrod, Rahm Emanuel, Jim Messina, Anita Dunn, Stephanie Cutter – believe climate action to be a political loser.
As president, he economic advisers hold sway first, followed by the political advisers, then last the scientists.
As a candidate, the political advisers come first, followed by the economic advisers. The scientists are thought to be irrelevant.
This has led to problems.
A popular metaphor for understanding how global warming pollution causes more extreme weather is how steroids created the Home Run era of modern baseball.
The metaphor usually goes: “Climate scientists compare global warming to steroids and extreme weather to home runs. While we can’t attribute any single home run to the use of steroids in baseball, we can attribute to such performance enhancing drugs the increased frequency and magnitude of long balls.”
But that’s not where the metaphor should stop.
Perhaps we can’t attribute any single home run to steroid use, but we can attribute immune system damage, liver damage, gynecomastia, testicular atrophy, ventricular thickening, premature epiphyseal fusion, and fetal disorders to steroid abuse.
The influence of manmade greenhouse gases on our climate system is systemic and cumulative. It’s not just changing the frequency of extreme weather events; it’s changing what weather is.
Frankenstorm Sandy wasn’t just a home run powered by global warming—it was a home run hit by a climate system with systemic damage caused by global warming.
- Albert Sabate, ABC News/Univision: Hurricane Sandy: What’s Climate Change Got To Do With It?
- Kevin Spak, Newser: Is Sandy the Face of Climate Change?
- Mark Fischetti, Scientific American: Did Climate Change Cause Hurricane Sandy?
- Chris Mooney, Climate Desk: Was Hurricane Sandy supersized by climate change?
- Elizabeth Kolbert, New Yorker: Is Climate Change Responsible For Hurricane Sandy?
- Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience.com: Weather or Climate: What Caused Hurricane Sandy?
- Lloyd Alter, Treehugger: Hurricane Sandy, AKA the Frankenstorm and Climate Change: Is There A Connection?
- Maggie Koerth-Baker, Boing Boing: Did climate change cause Hurricane Sandy? The answer depends on why you’re asking
- Will Bunch, Attytood: Too soon to talk Sandy and climate change?
- Andrew Restuccia, Politico: Hurricane Sandy: The next climate wake-up call?
- Joseph Stromberg, Smithsonian.com: Can We Link Hurricane Sandy to Climate Change?
- Ed Kilgore, Political Animal: Should Climate Change Activists Sandy-gogue?
- Lawrence Karol, Take Part: Frankenstorm Sandy: Has Climate Change Bred a Monster?
- AccuWeather.com: Climate Extremes: Sandy a Result of Climate Change?
- Robin Young, Here & Now: Was Hurricane Sandy Caused By Climate Change?
- Stephen Lacey and Joe Romm, Climate Progress: Did Climate Change Help Create ‘Frankenstorm’?
Equivocation in the face of calamity will neither spur action nor better inform the public.
Challenged By MTV On His Climate Silence, Obama Says It's A 'Critical Issue' And Is 'Surprised It Didn't Come Up'
Today, after the history-making silence on global warming during the national debates, MTV’s Sway Williams challenged President Barack Obama to address his climate silence. The president acknowledged to the young voters watching the Friday afternoon interview that the climate crisis is a “critical issue,” but said he was “surprised it didn’t come up in one of the debates.”
The answer is number one, we’re not moving as fast as we need to. And this is an issue that future generations, MTV viewers, are going to have to be dealing with even more than the older generation. So this is a critical issue. And there is a huge contrast in this campaign between myself and Governor Romney. I am surprised it didn’t come up in one of the debates.
The President of the United States shouldn’t pretend to befuddled why he promoted deadly coal, gas, and oil production during the debates instead of addressing the urgent threat of carbon pollution.
President Obama was right to finally tout in this interview the steps his administration has taken to cut carbon pollution and the commitments he made to the world in Copenhagen, but he was even more right to acknowledge that “we’re not moving as fast as we need to.”
The president unfortunately continued to portray global warming as a threat to “future generations” that is “going to have a severe effect.” But global warming is not a someday problem, it is now. The freakish Hurricane Sandy, barreling down on millions of Americans and powered by superheated seas, is likely to be the latest in the growing barrage of long-predicted billion-dollar climate disasters fueled by carbon pollution.
The network of Jersey Shore should be applauded for doing the job that PBS’s Jim Lehrer, CNN’s Candy Crowley, and CBS’s Bob Schieffer failed to do in breaking the candidates’ climate silence. Gov. Mitt Romney has been asked by MTV to also appear, but has given no response. This writing off of young voters is only fitting, as Romney’s aggressively pro-carbon agenda would write off any hope for their future.
There is now a little more than a week left for the presidential candidates to present a serious plan to eliminate carbon pollution before Election Day.