Maine: Portland councilors to consider student-led ‘climate emergency’ resolution

The resolution would commit the city to pursue ambitious goals on addressing climate change.

People packed City Hall Plaza in Portland on Sept. 20 to call for action on climate change.

People packed City Hall Plaza in Portland on Sept. 20 to call for action on climate change.

The Portland City Council on Monday will consider declaring a “climate emergency” and pledging more aggressive action on climate issues in response to a youth-led rally that drew several thousand people to City Hall in September.

The “Resolution supporting the youth strikes for emergency climate crisis action in Maine” is similar to a resolution passed by the South Portland City Council in October. Both resolutions are modeled after – but not identical to – language that was presented to leaders of the two cities in September by local students who organized one of hundreds of “climate strikes” held around the globe.

In large part, the resolution that will be discussed Monday by Portland councilors reiterates the goals that are expected to be included in the “One Climate Future” action and adaptation plan under development by the governments of Portland and South Portland. Those goals include an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and to operate the cities on 100 percent renewable energy by 2040.

But the resolution goes a step further by pledging to work more aggressively to achieve those greenhouse gas emissions and carbon neutrality goals by 2030. The resolution also states that “the City of Portland hereby declares that a climate emergency threatens our city, our region, our state, our nation, humanity, and the natural world and reaffirms its commitment to local climate action.”

The City Council’s Sustainability and Transportation Committee endorsed the resolution in a 3-0 vote in October.

Anna Siegel, a 13-year-old Yarmouth resident who served as the lead organizer in Maine for the U.S. Youth Climate Strikes, said the declaration of a “climate emergency” and adoption of ambitious goals send a clear, important signal.

“It is something people can rally behind; it is something people can work towards,” said Siegel, an eighth-grade student at the Friends School in Portland.

Siegel said she and other advocates for the resolution are comfortable with the changes proposed by the committee and city staff. But they did press hard for – and succeed in having included – the accelerated goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2030.

“The 2030 timeline was important … because it not only provides a goal, but it is also what the science is asking for and will provide us with a safe future,” Siegel said. “Yes, that is ambitious. But in Maine, we have the capacity to get there.”

The “climate emergency” resolution was a key part of the student-led climate strike that drew more than 2,000 middle school, high school and college students and “adult allies” to Portland City Hall on Sept. 20. Similar youth-led rallies were held around the world that day to coincide with a climate summit held that week at the United Nations in New York.

The events were part of a growing movement of youth climate activists worldwide – epitomized by global climate activist Greta Thunberg of Sweden – who are fed up with government inaction on an environmental crisis that they say threatens their very futures.

As Siegel and others read the resolution that day, they were joined by city leaders from both Portland and South Portland.

“We accept your demands, and we will act on your demands,” Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling told the fired-up crowd after accepting a copy of the resolution from two young girls.

Portland City Councilor Spencer Thibodeau, who chairs the Sustainability and Transportation Committee, said there was clearly a positive reception to the resolution in committee.

Thibodeau said the language of the resolution “falls in line with our goals that we had already started to take up as a city,” pointing to the One Climate Future action plan being developed jointly by Portland and South Portland. Both cities have committed $110,000 to the initiative, which is expected to be finalized next year.

“The youth climate strikers put forward an extremely aggressive timeline, and to meet this challenge, we have to be aggressive,” Thibodeau said of the 2030 goal.

The document also acknowledges that Portland cannot go it alone by demanding that “the federal government, and all governments and peoples around the world initiate an immediate social and economic mobilization to reverse global warming and ecological destruction.”

But there are things that city government can and should do to reduce its climate footprint, Thibodeau said.

“That’s where the rubber hits the road,” he said. “There are the things the city can do to put us on a path to that goal. But what the resolution acknowledges is it is going to take a partnership at the state and federal level.”

In a reversal from her predecessor, Gov. Janet Mills has made addressing climate change a top priority and created a nearly 40-member Maine Climate Council to propose actions. Those goals include reducing statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent by 2030 and by 80 percent by 2050, and increasing the amount of electricity from renewable sources from the current 4o percent to 80 percent by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050.

Mills, a Democrat, has also said Maine will work toward the international goals established by the 2015 Paris climate accord despite the fact that President Trump recently moved to withdraw the U.S. from the agreement.

Siegel said she was pleased to see the change in direction at the state level and agrees that both Portland and South Portland have been active on climate issues. But that is not always the case, she said, as local governments and state leaders expect each other to take leadership on climate issues.

“Eventually someone needs to make the first move,” she said.

The climate emergency resolution will be one of the issues discussed during the City Council meeting that begins 4:30 p.m. Monday at City Hall.

US election 2020: Democrats respond to Obama’s warning

Bernie Sanders: “When I talk about raising the minimum wage to a living wage, I’m not tearing down the system. We’re fighting for justice.”

Elizabeth Warren (L), Bernie Sanders (C) and Julian Castro (R) are all contending for the Democratic presidential nomination

Elizabeth Warren (L), Bernie Sanders (C) and Julián Castro (R) are all contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination

Democratic presidential candidates have given their reaction to a warning by former President Barack Obama against moving too far left in politics.

Mr Obama’s rare intervention into the Democratic race was a talking point at campaign events on Saturday.

Some Democrats called for unity, while others defended their policy agenda.

Nearly 20 candidates remain in the running and there is much debate over the best approach to taking on President Trump next year.

Speaking at a fundraising forum in Washington, the former president – considered a moderate – cautioned candidates against pursuing polices that were not “rooted in reality”.

Mr Obama, who was in office from 2009 to 2017, said “ordinary Americans” didn’t want to “completely tear down the system”.

“This is still a country that is less revolutionary than it is interested in improvement,” Mr Obama said to an audience of wealthy donors on Friday.

Watch former US President Barack Obama talk about “woke” culture

The remarks represented Mr Obama’s most pointed intervention yet in a crowded race featuring 18 candidates.

Former vice-president Joe Biden and senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are leading the pack, but Mr Obama is yet to publicly back a candidate.

How did candidates respond to Mr Obama?

Although none of the Democratic candidates explicitly rebuked Mr Obama’s comments, Mr Sanders mounted the strongest defence of his policy platform.

Answering questions on a forum aired by Univision, a Spanish-language TV network, he was asked whether Mr Obama was “right” to say voters didn’t want systemic change.

Mr Sanders, who describes himself as a democratic socialist and progressive, laughed and said: “Well, it depends on what you mean by tear down the system.”

Democratic presidential hopeful, Vermont Senator, Bernie Sanders speaks at the California Democratic Party 2019 Senator Bernie Sanders insisted that he was “fighting for justice”, not seeking to tear down the system

“The agenda that we have is an agenda supported by the vast majority of working people,” he said. “When I talk about raising the minimum wage to a living wage, I’m not tearing down the system. We’re fighting for justice.”

Elizabeth Warren, another left-leaning frontrunner, struck a more conciliatory tone, choosing to praise Mr Obama’s trademark health care policy, the Affordable Care Act.

“I so admire what President Obama did,” Ms Warren said at a campaign event in Iowa, the New York Times reported.

“He is the one who led the way on health care and got health care coverage for tens of millions of Americans when nobody thought that was possible.”

Senator Elizabeth Warren speaks at the Holiday Inn in Concord, New HampshireElizabeth Warren said she admired Barack Obama’s health care achievements

New Jersey Senator Cory Booker said the party ought to be focusing its energy on defeating Republican President Donald Trump, not internal political squabbles.

“Let’s stop tearing each other down, let’s stop drawing artificial lines,” he said.

Unlike Mr Obama, Julián Castro, a former mayor of San Antonio, Texas, said he was confident any Democratic candidate would beat President Trump, regardless of their political persuasion.

Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro speaks at the Liberty and Justice Celebration at the Wells Fargo ArenaJulián Castro said he was confident any Democratic candidate would beat Donald Trump

“Their vision for the future of the country is much better and will be more popular than Donald Trump’s,” Mr Castro, former housing secretary in the Obama administration, said.

US warms up to flood threat after polar vortex

The US prepares for flooding as bitterly cold weather is replaced by a spell of mild weather leading to a rapid thaw.

The United States has started to thaw out after a week of extremely cold weather.

The fast-rising temperature, however, may not be all good news, meteorologists have warned.

They indicated that the thaw may cause a new set of risks, including flooding on streets and in homes, ice jams in lakes, and slippery sidewalks and driveways.

The national lowest temperature was measured at -48.9 degrees Celsius in Chicago, Illinois during the cold streak.

According to the World Meteorological Organization, the harsh weather was caused by the influence of the polar vortex, which is a large area of low pressure and cold air surrounding the North Pole and is normally trapped by strong counterclockwise winds.

As temperatures rose, schools reopened, businesses resumed and people came back on the streets that had been empty for days in Chicago.

“I like the warmer weather a lot. I stayed inside when it was cold. It’s wonderful that it’s warmer and I hope it lasts a long time,” said a local resident.

Temperatures are expected to reach 11-12C in Chicago on Sunday and Monday.

This warm weather looks set to be short-lived with a maximum of around -1C on Tuesday, which brings the threat of the thaw turning back to the ice.

BBC: Polar vortex death toll rises to 21 as US cold snap continues

 

Chicago skyline with lake frozenChicago’s frozen shoreline

At least 21 people have died in one of the worst cold snaps to hit the US Midwest in decades.

Ninety million people – a third of the US – have seen temperatures of -17C (0F) or below. Some 250 million Americans overall have experienced the “polar vortex” conditions.

Hospitals have been treating patients reporting frostbite as parts of the country ground to a halt.

Temperatures are expected to swing to above average over the weekend.

Who are the victims?

Homeless people have been particularly at risk, with warming shelters set up across cities.

But some still braved the freezing conditions and one woman, aged 60, was found dead in an abandoned house in Lorain, Ohio.

A hospital in Chicago has already treated 50 patients for frostbite, and some may end up losing a limb, CNN reports. Half of those patients were homeless individuals , while others had jobs that required them to be outdoors.

Some people were found dead a short walk from their homes:

  • A Michigan man who froze to death in his neighbourhood had been “inadequately dressed for the weather”, officials said
  • In a wind chill of -46C (-51F) an 18-year-old student was found unresponsive a short walk from his dorm on Wednesday and later died in hospital
  • On Tuesday, a man froze to death in a garage in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, having “apparently collapsed after shovelling snow”, according to a medical examiner

Dangerous roads have also been a factor in the deaths. A man was fatally struck by a snow plough near Chicago on Monday and in northern Indiana, a 22-year-old police officer and his wife died after a collision on icy roads.

What’s the forecast?

The icy cold is expected to loosen its grip on Friday.

By the end of the weekend, Chicago could see temperatures as high as 10C (50F).

“It’s going to be at least a 60-degree swing for Chicago,” David Hamrick, a National Weather Service forecaster, told Reuters news agency.

map

The sudden weather change coming this weekend may be the fastest warm-up on record, meteorologists say.

But as the temperatures abruptly turn warmer, US emergency officials warn of flooding and utility risks.

Pipes can burst with such temperature fluctuations, and rapidly melting snow and ice could cause flooding, the Federal Emergency Management Agency cautioned.

How cold did it get?

More than 30 record lows were broken across the Midwest.

Cotton, Minnesota, was the coldest place in the US on Thursday with a low of -48C (-56F) based on preliminary data.

Chicago passed the record low for 31 January, while Mount Carroll has probably beaten the Illinois record with a morning temperature of -39C (-38F).

Chicago is using fire to melt snow on the railway and keep the trains running

Cities across Iowa have also broken temperature records.

The chill drifted eastward on Thursday, bringing sub-zero temperatures to north-eastern cities such as Boston.

Much of Chicago River has frozen over

With wind chill factored in, temperatures of -40C (-40F) in the Midwest and Great Lakes have felt closer to -53C (-63F), which is enough to cause frostbite in less than five minutes.

Snow plough in Buffalo, New YorkSnow plough in Buffalo, New York

How is the cold snap affecting daily life?

The Arctic weather could cost the US billions of dollars. In 2014, a similar polar freeze cost the country an estimated $5bn (£3.8bn), CBS News reports.

In Minnesota and Michigan, residents were asked by gas companies to turn down their home thermostats to help handle heating demands.

Consumers Energy, a natural gas provider in Michigan, had a fire on Wednesday morning that damaged equipment and temporarily affected how much gas could be sent out to customers.

Native American tribes in the northern Midwest states helped their members obtain heating supplies as many live in poor-quality housing, the Associated Press reports.

Andrea Cusack, a pharmacist in Michigan, began using her snowmobile to deliver essential prescriptions to snowed-in residents, according to the Lansing State Journal.

More than 2,300 flights have been cancelled and another 3,500 delayed due to the polar vortex.

Social media has been full of photos and memes showcasing just how shockingly cold the Midwest became.

A person takes a selfie beside on the US side of Niagara Falls as seen from Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada on January 31, 2019Niagara falls covered with snow

What about Canada?

Areas across the provinces of Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan, and in the north, remain under extreme cold warnings.

But many parts of the country are moving towards more seasonable temperatures on Friday and over the weekend.

In Toronto, wind chills near -30C (-22F) were expected to continue early Friday before beginning to warm.

There were also winter storm and blizzards warnings active across the country from the east to the west coast.

Environment Canada was urging residents to limit their exposure to cold and keep pets indoors.

Canada did not experience a spate of deaths linked to the polar vortex like the US.

Stephen Hwang, an associate professor with the University of Toronto’s department of medicine, suggested that Canadian cities and public health authorities probably had more experience dealing with the deep cold.

Most homeless shelters also already had protocols in place for when the extreme cold hits.

But he said it was still “fortunate” that cities like Toronto, where homeless shelters have been stretched for resources in recent months, did not see any cold-related deaths among its most vulnerable citizens.

Report: US 2018 CO2 emissions saw biggest spike in years (is that what you want?)

A new report has found that US carbon dioxide emissions rose by 3.4% in 2018 after three years of decline.

The spike is the largest in eight years, according to Rhodium Group, an independent economic research firm.

The data shows the US is unlikely to meet its pledge to reduce emissions by 2025 under the Paris climate agreement.

Under President Donald Trump, the US is set to leave the Paris accord in 2020 while his administration has ended many existing environmental protections.

While the Rhodium report notes these figures – pulled from US Energy Information Administration data and other sources – are estimates, The Global Carbon Project, another research group, also reported a similar increase in US emissions for 2018.

The US is the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

Exhaust rises from the stacks of the Harrison Power Station in Haywood, West VirginiaExhaust rises from the stacks of the Harrison Power Station in Haywood, West Virginia

And last year’s spike comes despite a decline in coal-fired power plants; a record number were retired last year, according to the report.

The researchers note that 2019 will probably not repeat such an increase, but the findings underscore the country’s challenges in reducing greenhouse gas output.

In the 2015 climate accord, then President Barack Obama committed to reducing US emissions to at least 26% under 2005 levels by 2025.

Now, that means the US will need to drop “energy-related carbon missions by 2.6% on average over the next seven years” – and possibly even faster – to meet that goal.

“That’s more than twice the pace the US achieved between 2005 and 2017 and significantly faster than any seven-year average in US history,” the report states.

“It is certainly feasible, but will likely require a fairly significant change in policy in the very near future and/or extremely favourable market and technological conditions. ”

Presentational grey line

What’s behind the rise?

Analysis by Matt McGrath, Environment correspondent, BBC News

There are a number of factors behind the rise in US emissions in 2018, some natural, mostly economic.

Prolonged cold spells in a number of regions drove up demand for energy in the winter, while a hot summer in many parts led to more air conditioning, again pushing up electricity use.

However economic activity is the key reason for the overall rise in CO2 emissions. Industries are moving more goods by trucks powered by diesel, while consumers are travelling more by air.

In the US this led to a 3% increase in diesel and jet fuel use last year, a similar rate of growth to that seen in the EU in the same period.

All this presents something of a problem for the Trump administration which has been happy to point to declining US emissions as a reason to roll back many of the environmental protection regulations put in place by his predecessor.

The figures also show that the President’s efforts to boost demand for coal have not succeeded yet, with electricity generated from this fossil fuel continuing to decline.

Despite this, there is little to cheer in the US data for those concerned with climate change on a global scale.

Many had hoped that carbon cutting actions at state or city level could in some way keep the US on track to meet its commitments made under the Paris climate agreement.

The latest emissions data indicate that this is unlikely to happen.

Presentational grey line
US President Donald Trump holds up a "Trump Digs Coal" sign as he arrives to speak during a Make America Great Again Rally at Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Huntington, West Virginia, August 3, 2017Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES

What has changed in the US?

The last time the US saw such an increase in emissions was in 2010, as the country recovered from its longest recession in decades.

Part of last year’s spike is also the result of economic growth, but new policies have exacerbated the effects of increased industry production.

Mr Trump has rolled back a number of his predecessor’s environmental regulations since taking office, appointing climate change sceptics and industry leaders to head US environmental agencies.

As a part of undoing what he called a “war on coal”, in 2017, Mr Trump rescinded the Clean Power Plan, which required states to slash carbon emissions to meet US commitments under the Paris accord.

In December, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pressed ahead with plans to lift restrictions for carbon emissions from new coal plants and asked for public comment on redefining the phrase “causes or contributes significantly to” air pollution.

Under Mr Trump’s administration, the federal government has also opened up once-protected lands for oil and gas drilling across the US and has proposed ending regulations on fuel standards for cars and trucks after 2021.

“The big takeaway for me is that we haven’t yet successfully decoupled US emissions growth from economic growth,” Rhodium climate and energy analyst Trevor Houser told the New York Times.

The US jump also marks a worldwide trend: 2018 saw an all-time high for global CO2 emissions and was the fourth warmest year on record.

Travelers arrive for TSA inspection as they make their way through Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, New JerseyTransportation remains the top contributor to US CO2 emissions

What contributed the most?

Transportation remains the nation’s number one source of CO2 emissions for the third year in a row.

But the largest emissions growth came from two sectors “often ignored in clean energy and climate policymaking: buildings and industry”.

The report estimates emissions from residential and commercial buildings increased by 10% last year, reaching “their highest level since 2004”.

And without significant changes, industrial emissions will become bigger contributors to US CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions.

“We expect it to overtake power as the second leading source of emissions in California by 2020 and to become the leading source of emissions in Texas by 2022.”

But then, y’all wanted a king, right?  Well, you got it.  Explain your choice to your grandchildren when every day is cloudy with smog.

Decorated US Navy Seal Edward Gallagher accused of killing Iraqi citizens at random…

Chief Gallagher in a helicopterChief Gallagher has done eight tours of combat duty in the US Navy

A veteran US Navy Seal is accused of killing Iraqi civilians at random, stabbing to death a teenage prisoner and nearly a dozen other crimes.

Navy Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher will plead not guilty when he appears at a hearing at a San Diego naval base, his lawyer said on Friday.

Prosecutors say the highly decorated sniper and medic killed innocent people during his eighth combat deployment.

The 19-year Navy combat veteran faces life in prison if found guilty.

Military investigators allege Chief Gallagher committed several crimes while in Mosul from February to September 2017, including the premeditated murder of a wounded Islamic State (IS) fighter around the age of 15.

Presentational grey line

He has been held in pre-trial confinement ahead of his criminal hearing, after prosecutors accused him of contacting witnesses.

His wife Andrea Gallagher has called the trial “an atrocity committed against America’s service members” and called upon President Donald Trump to intervene.

She, and handful of other supporters wearing “Free Eddie” shirts, cheered the combat veteran as he arrived at the courthouse in handcuffs on Friday.

Chief Gallagher arrived at court in handcuffs on FridayChief Gallagher arrived at court in handcuffs on Friday

Aaron Kahn, who said that he is a friend of the accused told CNN that “Eddie’s being demonised and not characterised as a good human being”.

He added that his service to his country is being “dismissed and not appreciated by the American public and government.”

Chief Gallagher 
Chief Gallagher denies all the charges against him

What is Chief Gallagher accused of?

According to the charges, Chief Gallagher allegedly stabbed a teenage IS fighter who had been wounded in an airstrike in May 2017.

Prosecutors say the wounded prisoner was being treated by medics from the Seal platoon that Chief Gallagher commanded when he allegedly attacked without any warning using a homemade knife.

He then had others take photos as he posed with the corpse and recited the Navy re-enlistment ceremony oath, prosecutors say.

A lawyer for Chief Gallagher said the fighter died from injuries sustained in the airstrike, and that his client is being falsely accused by Seals who wanted to get rid of their demanding platoon leader.

Naval Criminal Investigative Service Special Agent Joe Warpinski told the Associated Press that he had interviewed nine members of Seal Team 7, who said that the chief was known to fire indiscriminately into crowds of Iraqi civilians, and had shot and killed an old man and a girl from his sniper’s outpost.

At a hearing in November, prosecutors said the men under Chief Gallagher’s command considered him so deranged and bloodthirsty that they tampered with his sniper rifle to make it less accurate, and would fire warning shots to clear civilians from the area to protect them from him.

Chief Gallagher in a court sketchChief Gallagher wore his Navy uniform in court on Friday

Navy prosecutor Chris Czaplak said the chief had chosen “to act like the monster the terrorists accuse us of being”.

“He handed ISIS propaganda manna from heaven. His actions are everything ISIS says we are,” Mr Czaplak said, referring to the Islamic State.

The trial will begin on 19 February.