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Yesterday an oil train carrying explosive Bakken crude derailed and caught fire in Fayette County, West Virginia. Forty-eight hours earlier, on Saturday, an oil train carrying toxic Alberta tar sands derailed and spilled in Ontario, Canada.
Todd Paglia, ForestEthics executive director, released the following statement:
"Oil trains are simply too dangerous for the rails. Whether it is explosive Bakken crude or toxic Alberta tar sands this extreme oil cannot be transported safely by train. Twenty-five million Americans live in the blast zone and nearly everyone else lives downstream of an oil train route.
"As these events unfold the Obama Administration is developing new safety regulations. They need to take a close look at the events of this weekend. No tank car is safe to carry this dangerous cargo."
Founded in 2000, ForestEthics is a nonprofit environmental organization with staff in Canada, the United States and Chile. Our mission is to protect Endangered Forests and wild places, wildlife, and human wellbeing--one of our focus areas is climate change, which compromises all of our efforts if left unchecked. We catalyze environmental leadership among industry, governments and communities by running hard-hitting and highly effective campaigns that leverage public dialogue and pressure to achieve our goals.
"It's already hard enough for parents to make ends meet and now they're being put at the center of these dangerous political games," said one advocate.
As Republican lawmakers on Friday walked away from negotiations over raising the United States' arbitrary debt limit, claiming the Biden administration has been "unreasonable" in its refusal to accept steep spending cuts, a new survey showed how a majority of U.S. families are already struggling to afford essentials that would become even less accessible if the GOP gets its way.
ParentsTogether Action on Friday released the results of a survey taken this week of nearly 500 low- and middle-income families, finding that 75% of parents who benefit from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) would be unable to provide their families with nutritious foods without the program, whose funding would be reduced by 12%—$800 million—under the debt ceiling plan put forward by the Republicans.
More than half of WIC recipients told ParentsTogether that they would not have been able to afford food for themselves and would have been forced to forgo eating meals to feed their children if it weren't for the program. Sixty-four percent of recipients said they would have been unable to afford formula for their infants and 35% said they would not have had the breastfeeding support they needed.
Currently 53% of all infants born in the U.S. benefit from financial and nutritional assistance through WIC, up from 43% in 2021, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"Republicans are holding parents, children, and grandparents hostage by threatening to default on our debt if they don't get the budget cuts they're demanding."
The Biden administration has warned that the the cuts proposed by House Republicans would lead to a loss of crucial food, formula, and breastfeeding assistance for as many as 1.7 million women, children, and infants.
Ailen Arreaza, executive director of ParentsTogether, said in a statement that the GOP's strategy "will backfire."
"Republicans' proposed budget illustrates just how far they're willing to go to protect billionaires and corporations. Their cruel plan to take WIC away from 1.7 million pregnant or postpartum parents and their babies—leaving countless infants without the formula they need to survive and taking away nutritious food from breastfeeding mothers—is not going unnoticed," she said.
"Republicans are holding parents, children, and grandparents hostage by threatening to default on our debt if they don't get the budget cuts they're demanding," Arreaza added. "It's already hard enough for parents to make ends meet and now they're being put at the center of these dangerous political games."
As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) said Thursday, House Republicans released their fiscal year 2024 agriculture appropriations bill this week, including the "harmful policy changes and deep funding cuts" needed to "adhere to the austere funding caps" included in the party's debt ceiling proposal.
"To cut funding without putting eligible applicants on waiting lists, the bill guts the increase to benefits for fruit and vegetables that has been in place since 2021 and was implemented based on a recommendation by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine," wrote CBPP senior policy analysts Katie Bergh and Zoë Neuberger. "This would cut benefits for nearly 1.5 million pregnant, postpartum, or breastfeeding participants and roughly 3.5 million children aged 1 through 4."
One million adults aged 50 to 55 would also be excluded from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) if they can't meet work requirements proposed by the GOP.
\u201cThis doesn't just take food out of the mouths of kids and new moms, but it reverses incredible progress in building healthier diets for the next generation. #WIC fruit and veggie benefits led to increased and more varied consumption of produce.\u201d— Brian Dittmeier (@Brian Dittmeier) 1684417560
"Folks need to remember that these efforts to shrink the pie of federal spending are completely disassociated from the actual need of families in this country," said Dittmeier. "When there's growing need for WIC, slashing benefits is far from the right answer."
The survey by ParentsTogether also suggested that the GOP's cuts to food assistance would further reduce the ability of parents across the country to save money for emergencies.
Seventy percent of respondents told the group that rising costs of food, housing, and other essentials have left them unable to save for the future any longer, and 64% said they've already had to spend some of their savings or emergency funds.
"We can say with certainty that societies and economies absolutely do not just take a hit and recover," said the lead author of research showing a downturn after the warm phase could last 14 years or longer.
With experts anticipating El Niño will return in the months ahead, a pair of Dartmouth College researchers warned this week that the long-term cost to the global economy could be as much as $3 trillion by 2029—which could be largely felt by poorer countries.
The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), a climate pattern that affects sea surface temperatures across the tropical Pacific Ocean, has three phases: the cooler La Niña; neutral, which the world is now experiencing; and the warmer El Niño that is expected soon.
"El Niño triggers far-reaching changes in weather that result in devastating floods, crop-killing droughts, plummeting fish populations, and an uptick in tropical diseases," explained a Dartmouth statement about the study, published Thursday in the journal Science.
Doctoral candidate Christopher Callahan and Justin Mankin, an assistant professor of geography at the college, examined economic conditions for several years after the 1982-83 and 1997-98 El Niño events. They connected those two warm phases to $4.1 trillion and $5.7 trillion in global income losses, respectively—far higher than previous estimates.
"El Niño amplifies the wider inequities in climate change, disproportionately impacting the least resilient and prepared among us."
"We can say with certainty that societies and economies absolutely do not just take a hit and recover," said Callahan, the study's lead author, noting that their data suggest an El Niño-related downturn could last up to 14 years or longer.
"In the tropics and places that experience the effects of El Niño, you get a persistent signature during which growth is delayed for at least five years," he continued. "The aggregate price tag on these events has not ever been fully quantified—you have to add up all the depressed growth moving forward, not just when the event is happening."
The pair found that the gross domestic product of the United States was roughly 3% lower in 1988 and 2003 than it would have been without the preceding El Niño events—and, for the latter phase, GDPs in coastal tropical countries were more than 10% lower.
"The global pattern of El Niño's effect on the climate and on the prosperity of different countries reflects the unequal distribution of wealth and climate risk—not to mention the responsibility for climate change—worldwide," said Mankin. "El Niño amplifies the wider inequities in climate change, disproportionately impacting the least resilient and prepared among us."
"The duration and magnitude of the financial repercussions we uncovered suggests to me that we are maladapted to the climate we have," he added. "Our accounting dramatically raises the cost estimate of doing nothing. We need to both mitigate climate change and invest more in El Niño prediction and adaptation because these events will only amplify the future costs of global warming."
Models for the latter research showed that sea surface temperature extremes were about 10% more intense for the six decades after 1960, compared with the previous 60 years. Co-author Mike McPhaden, a senior research scientist at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), said that "the big events pack the most punch, so even though 10% doesn't sound like much, it juices up the strongest and most societally relevant year-to-year climate fluctuation on the planet."
"In practical terms, this translates into more extreme and frequent droughts, floods, heatwaves, wildfires, and severe storms, just like we observed during the recent triple dip La Niña that ended in March," McPhaden toldThe Guardian.
\u201cNew Perspective!\n\nAnthropogenic impacts on twentieth-century #ENSO variability changes\n\nWenju Cai and colleagues explore the greenhouse warming-related effect on post-1960 El Ni\u00f1o/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) variability \ud83c\udf21\ufe0f\ud83c\udf0a\n\nhttps://t.co/43UtXPtIQ4\nFree: https://t.co/MJBnQbrgbi\u201d— Nature Reviews Earth & Environment \ud83c\udf08 (@Nature Reviews Earth & Environment \ud83c\udf08) 1684405844
Given that observed trend and expectations it will continue, the Dartmouth researchers project that even if countries pursue their pledges to cut planet-heating emissions, global economic losses related to El Niño could reach $84 trillion for the 21st century.
"If you're estimating the costs of global warming without considering El Niño," Mankin warned, "then you are dramatically underestimating the costs of global warming."
"Our welfare is affected by our global economy, and our global economy is tied to the climate," he said. "When you ask how costly climate change is, you can start by asking how costly climate variation is. We're showing here that such variation, as embodied in El Niño, is incredibly costly and stagnates growth for years, which led us to cost estimates that are orders of magnitudes larger than previous ones."
The Associated Pressreported Thursday that "some—but not all—outside economists have issues with the new research out of Dartmouth College, saying its damage estimates are too big."
However, McPhaden welcomed the findings, telling the AP that he has long believed previous estimates were far too low and the "big loser during El Niño is the Global South."
While the Dartmouth projections suggest 2023's looming warm phase could cost trillions of dollars, the NOAA scientist stressed that "the economic impacts of the El Niño that is predicted for later this year will depend on how strong it is."
"Monster El Niños" like the 1997-98 event "can be hugely damaging with lingering effects that carry over into following years," he said. "On the other hand, if it turns out to be a garden variety El Niño, the consequences may be more muted and the recovery time shortened."
"The G7 are trying to sell decades-old and insufficient initiatives as a new 'vision' when at the same time they themselves are complicit in the rising nuclear risks," said the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.
The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons—which won the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for its work on a landmark treaty banning nukes—and others including survivors of the U.S. atomic bombings of Japan on Friday criticized a Group of Seven joint statement on disarmament as "missing the moment to make the world safer" from the threat of thermonuclear annihilation.
As the G7 summit got underway in Hiroshima, leaders of Japan, Germany, Italy, Canada, France, the United Kingdom, United States—the latter three of which have nuclear arsenals—reiterated their belief that "a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought."
While the statement acknowledges "the unprecedented devastation and immense human suffering the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki experienced as a result of the atomic bombings" and reaffirms G7 members' "commitment to achieving a world without nuclear weapons," the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) lamented that "it fails to commit to concrete measures towards that goal and even emphasizes the importance of reserving the right to use nuclear weapons."
"The G7 are trying to sell decades-old and insufficient initiatives as a new 'vision' when at the same time they themselves are complicit in the rising nuclear risks and promoting mass murder of civilians as a legitimate form of national security policy," ICAN added.
\u201cBREAKING from Hiroshima: after months of deliberations, the #G7 has just released a statement entitled \u201cG7 Leaders\u2019 Hiroshima Vision on Nuclear Disarmament\u201d.\n\nIt falls way short.\n\nHere\u2019s why \ud83e\uddf5\u00a0 https://t.co/MczDWCOxc5\u201d— ICAN (@ICAN) 1684508458
ICAN said that "the G7's inaction is an insult to the hibakusha, and the memory of those who died in Hiroshima," referring to the Japanese word for survivors of the atomic bombings, which killed between 110,000 and 210,000 people.
G7 leaders spent less than half an hour visiting the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum near ground zero of the August 6, 1945 U.S. nuclear attack. They laid wreaths at the cenotaph memorializing the at least tens of thousands of people who died from the bombing and related illnesses and also met with a handful of hibakusha.
U.S. President Joe Biden drew fire for his refusal to apologize for the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings.
"If the U.S. admitted that murdering noncombatants in Hiroshima and Nagasaki was inexcusable, it might face questions about [the] legitimacy of maintaining [a] vastly more destructive stockpile now," writer and activist Jon Reinsch tweeted, referring to the approximately 5,400 nuclear warheads in the American arsenal—the world's second-largest after Russia, which has around 6,000 warheads, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.
\u201c"Biden not to issue apology in Hiroshima for US use of atomic bomb"\nBecause if US admitted that murdering noncombatants in Hiroshima & Nagasaki was inexcusable, it might face questions about legitimacy of maintaining vastly more destructive stockpile now.\nhttps://t.co/ZeKCljPQr4\u201d— Jon Reinsch (@Jon Reinsch) 1684445246
Meanwhile, street protesters condemned nuclear weapons, the "imperialist summit," military aid to Ukraine, and Japan's complicity in U.S. militarism—especially toward China.
"Japan is saying it will send a peaceful message of abolishing nuclear weapons to the world through this summit, but at the same time it is seeking to rely on nuclear weapons to achieve 'national security.' This is contradictory," Ichiro Yuasa, a spokesperson for the advocacy group Peace Depot, told teleSUR.
\u201c"It is the wish for peace of all Hiroshima people that Japan should acknowledge its wartime atrocities...apologize and make compensation, learn the lessons of the war and prevent the tragedy from happening again."\n\n\u2014Hiroshima resident Yukio Nishioka:\nhttps://t.co/ACXxXf9c1R\u201d— mtp (@mtp) 1684469009
Some hibakusha renewed criticism of leaders of nuclear-armed nations for failing to pursue meaningful disarmament, including their refusal to join scores of countries in signing the landmark Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).
"This is not the genuine nuclear disarmament that hibakusha are calling for. This is an evasion of their responsibility," Satoshi Tanaka, a survivor of the atomic bombing and secretary general of the Liaison Conference of Hiroshima Hibakusha Organizations, said of the G7 statement.
"Prime Minister [Fumio] Kishida has said that the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is the final passage for a nuclear weapons-free world," Tanaka added. "No, it is not a final passage. It is the entry point. Prime Minister Kishida and other G7 leaders should accept the TPNW and start the real process of eliminating nuclear weapons."
\u201cMessage to #G7 world leaders from hibakusha.\u201d— NHK\u5e83\u5cf6\u653e\u9001\u5c40 (@NHK\u5e83\u5cf6\u653e\u9001\u5c40) 1684458000
Derek Johnson, managing partner of the Global Zero movement for the abolition of nuclear weapons, said that "while the G7 statement embraces the goal of global zero and recites a familiar list of worthwhile ambitions, none acknowledge the fierce urgency of now."
"This is long on vision but short on strategy; Hiroshima deserves to be more than a symbolic setting, and the world deserves more than thoughts and prayers for disarmament," he added.
\u201cWhile the G7 statement embraces the goal of #globalzero and recites a familiar list of worthwhile ambitions, none acknowledge the fierce urgency of now. The world deserves more than thoughts and prayers for nuclear disarmament.\n\nMy full statement here \u2014> https://t.co/46KNynTsjz\u201d— Derek Johnson (@Derek Johnson) 1684512001
ICAN executive director Daniel Hogstra responded to the G7 statement by asserting that "this is more than a missed opportunity."
"With the world facing the acute risk that nuclear weapons could be used for the first time since Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed, this is a gross failure of global leadership," Hogstra contended, referring to rising fears since Russia invaded Ukraine last year.
"Simply pointing fingers at Russia and China is insufficient," he added. "We need the G7 countries, which all either possess, host, or endorse the use of nuclear weapons, to step up and engage the other nuclear powers in disarmament talks if we are to reach their professed goal of a world without nuclear weapons."