New York could achieve a net-zero economy — the gold standard of environmental advocates, in which all energy is drawn from carbon-free sources — by 2050, if the state is able to live up to the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act that lawmakers and Governor Andrew Cuomo are working on this week. The bill would require New York to get 70 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030, and by 2050, the state would have to cut emissions by at least 85 percent below 1990 levels. To offset the remainder, the state would enact measures to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, like mass tree-planting and the restoration of wetlands.
The bill, if passed, would be one of the world’s most ambitious climate plans, made more impressive by the size of New York’s economy. If the state were its own country, its economy would be the 11th largest in the world, falling between those of Canada and South Korea. “This unquestionably puts New York in a global leadership position,” Jesse Jenkins, an energy expert and postdoctoral fellow at Harvard, told the New York Times.
Of course, energy costs will go up in pursuit of the goal. New York gets around 60 percent of its electricity from carbon-free sources — primarily an energy mix of hydroelectric and nuclear power. To make up the difference, the state will invest in large-scale offshore wind farms and rooftop solar projects. More challenging than the electric grid is the heat for homes and commercial buildings, which generally burn natural gas or oil, and take up around a quarter of the state’s emissions. In New York City, for example, an April law requiring skyscrapers to retrofit to meet new energy standards is expected to cost building owners over $4 billion.
Even more challenging is transportation, which takes up a third of the state’s emissions. More so than other sectors, cars rely on factors outside of state control: Currently, the Trump administration is attempting to roll back federal efficiency standards and to halt environmentally concerned states from establishing their own. (Luckily, Detroit is in New York’s corner here, as the auto industry considers the White House’s deregulation “untenable.”)
In an interview with WCNY, Governor Cuomo called the bill “the most aggressive climate-change program in the United States of America, period.” If it succeeds, it will be the fifth such law enacted in the last year; the others include measures in California, Nevada, New Mexico, and Washington. These laws show the importance of the trifecta power on the state level, as all five have Democrats in the governor’s mansion and in both chambers of the legislature. The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act has existed in some form since 2016, but only with the flip of the New York State Senate last November did it become politically viable.
The bill also marks the first major piece of legislation to include aspects of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal, routing hundreds of millions of dollars into polluted or environmentally vulnerable areas of the state in an attempt at both economic and environmental revival. Justine Calma at Grist explains:
The bill does lay out some guidelines on which neighborhoods will be considered disadvantaged: those include areas with lower incomes, locales where pollution has placed residents’ health at risk, and places more vulnerable to storm surges, flooding, and heat. Public hearings will be held prior to finalizing criteria for which regions will receive the earmarked funding. The act also includes stipulations intended to provide protections for displaced fossil fuel workers and ensure fair wages to workers building the renewable energy economy that’s to come.
Despite the compromise, grassroots groups success in allocating more than a third of the bill’s funding for disadvantaged communities sets a precedent for ensuring a significant portion of climate adaptation and resilience projects, such as energy efficiency upgrades to community solar projects, are located in communities that have been hit first and worst by climate change and other consequences associated with burning fossil fuels.
The news of the bill’s impending success comes, like all days in the Anthropocene, with reminders of the necessity of decarbonization. In Canada, scientists were shocked to discover that Arctic permafrost is thawing 70 years earlier than expected, increasing the likelihood that we may lock in a feedback loop, as carbon dioxide and methane trapped in the soil are released to devastating effect. And Chennai, India’s sixth-largest city, entered a state of crisis when its four water reservoirs ran dry. Formerly known as Madras, the city has a population greater than that of Los Angeles.
Israel election: Exit polls show race too close to call
Vote counting is under way in Israel after millions took part in an election widely seen as a referendum on the fate of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Netanyahu, who became Israel’s longest-serving prime minister in July, is seeking a record fifth term in office. He is competing against his toughest challenger in years, former army chief Benny Gantz, leader of the centrist Blue and White party.
According to the first round of exit polls, which are unofficial and can be unreliable, Netanyahu and his right-wing coalition bloc have failed to secure the 61-seat majority they needed.
Two exit polls put Gantz’s party in a narrow lead. A Channel 12 exit poll said it would win 34 seats, with Netanyahu’s Likud one seat behind. The poll had Arab Joint List – an alliance of four Palestinian parties – winning 11 seats with eight for former Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s far-right Yisrael Beiteinu.
Meanwhile, an exit poll on Channel 13 put Likud at 31 seats, trailing Gantz’s party by two seats.
Official preliminary results will be announced on Wednesday, with final results due on September 25.
Speaking to cheering supporters in Tel Aviv early on Wednesday, Gantz said it was necessary to wait for the official results, but was clearly confident.
“Netanyahu has not been successful in what he set out to do,” he told the crowd. “We, on the other hand, proved that the idea called Blue and White – a venture we started a little over six months ago – was successful.”
Speaking shortly afterwards, Netanyahu took the stage at Likud’s party headquarters in Tel Aviv.
He told his supporters that coalition talks had already begun.
“Israel is entitled to a strong government, a stable government, a government that ensures Israel is the nation of the Jewish people, and that it cannot, will not, be a government which is formed of parties which hate the nation,” he said, apologising for a croaky voice and sipping on water.
Majdi Halabi, an analyst and expert on Israeli affairs, said the initial unofficial results were a “slap in the face” for the prime minister.
Some 31 parties were competing for the 120 seats in the country’s 22nd Knesset.
Although many observers expected election fatigue to set in as voters headed to the polls for the second time in less than six months, early turnout was the highest in decades and long queues formed during the afternoon on Tuesday outside polling stations in the capital Tel Aviv.
The more than 11,000 polling stations across the country closed at 10pm (19:00 GMT).
Israel’s election commission says the final turnout was 69.4 percent, compared with 68.5 percent in April, with a total of 4,440,141 votes cast.
Netanyahu rallied his supporters throughout the day, using various social media platforms, phone messages, and direct engagement with voters on the streets of several major cities.
“We are fighting to the last minute. Every vote is important. Get out and vote for Likud. Bring everyone you can to the ballot box,” Netanyahu told his followers via Twitter in the final hour before voting closed.
Netanyahu is also facing a pretrial hearing in connection with three separate corruption cases – bribery, fraud and breach of trust. He denies any wrongdoing.
In a statement, Israeli police said they had detained or arrested 20 people for various offences, including one man in the Negev Region who allegedly tried to disrupt voting at a polling station.
Netanyahu vs Gantz
Coalition governments are the norm in Israel as no single party has won a majority of seats in the Knesset and the negotiations ahead are likely to be difficult.
Lieberman has said he would not join an alliance that included ultra-Orthodox parties – Netanyahu’s traditional partners.
Gantz has ruled out participating in an administration with Netanyahu if the veteran politician is indicted on the corruption charges.
Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin will decide who will be given the mandate to form a new government – usually the leader of the party that wins the most seats.
If Rivlin thinks this person is unlikely to garner enough support from smaller parties to control at least 61 seats in the Knesset, he may give the task to someone else.
“If Netanyahu doesn’t clear the 61-seat threshold, Rivlin may still give him the mandate to form a government,” Eli Nissan, an Israeli political analyst told Al Jazeera.
“But if he fails to form a government within the next few weeks – like what happened after the April vote – the President may give Gantz the opportunity to do that instead,” he added. “If he fails as well, the president may push for a unity government.”
Israel has not had a unity government since Netanyahu came to power in 2009.
According to experts, voter turnout among Palestinian citizens of Israel was expected to be higher than the April vote which saw only 49.2 percent of eligible voters among Palestinians cast their ballot.
“There was a higher voter turnout among Palestinian citizens this time, most of whom voted for the Arab Joint List,” said Haifa-based analyst Diana Buttu.
“We also saw a large number of Jewish voters support the Joint List,” she added referring to the alliance which had split into two competing groups in April but regrouped again in advance of this election.
Oudeh Bisharat, a Nazareth-based political analyst, agreed.
“Palestinian voters went out in bigger numbers this time because the Arab Joint List was united again and because they wanted to challenge Netanyahu’s racism and incitement against them,” Bisharat told Al Jazeera.
This is what Edward Snowden says it will take for him to return to the U.S.
Edward Snowden says he’d like to return to the U.S. — on one condition.
That’s what the former National Security Agency contractor told CBS News in an interview that aired Monday on “CBS This Morning.” Snowden has been living in exile in Russia since leaking classified information about the government’s mass surveillance of U.S. citizens in 2013.
“I would like to return to the United States,” Snowden told CBS. “That is the ultimate goal. But if I’m gonna spend the rest of my life in prison, the one bottom line demand that we have to agree to is that at least I get a fair trial. And that is the one thing the government has refused to guarantee because they won’t provide access to what’s called a public interest defense.”
That type of defense would allow a jury to consider Snowden’s motivations, which he says the government opposes.
“It’s not hard to make the argument that I broke the law,” he admitted to CBS, but said the government has not shown how his leaks caused harm. “They never show evidence for it even though we’re now more than six years on, it would be the easiest thing in the world to show.”
Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal reported that the NSA was considering shutting down the once-secret surveillance program that he exposed because it lacks operational value.
In a separate interview aired Monday on MSNBC’s “The 11th Hour” with Brian Williams, Snowden said he was trying to “reform,” not destroy, the NSA.
Snowden, now a privacy advocate, added that he was alarmed by how governments and companies can now access vast amounts of personal data through digital devices such as cell phones.
“Anything you can do on that device, the attacker — in this case, the government — can do,” Snowden told MSNBC. “They can read your e-mail, they can collect every document, they can look at your contact book, they can turn the location services on.”
“They can see anything that is on that phone instantly,” he said, “and send it back home to the mothership.”
Not coincidentally, Snowden has a new memoir, “Permanent Record,” coming out Tuesday.
Opinion: President Trump Claims He Was At Ground Zero On Sept. 11. But Was He?
News organizations now refer to President Trump’s whoppers — from the size of his inaugural crowds to a hurricane threatening Alabama — as routinely as referring to rain in Seattle.
But, there was still some surprise this week when at services to mark the 18th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, the president insisted, “Soon after, I went down to Ground Zero with men who worked for me to try to help in any little way that we could … We were not alone. So many others were scattered around trying to do the same. They were all trying to help.”
Richard Alles, battalion chief of the New York Fire Department at the time of the attacks, spent several months in the smoking, choking ruins at ground zero. He told PolitiFact this summer, “I was there for several months — I have no knowledge of his being down there.” He added that there would be a record of Donald Trump sending a hundred or more workers to aid in the harrowing recovery efforts at Ground Zero; there is not.
We might remember that 18 years ago, the wreckage and rubble at Ground Zero was considered sacred ground. It held the remains of thousands of loved ones, including police and firefighters who perished as they tried to save lives. It was a place for rescue and recovery workers — not amateurs, gawkers or celebrities.
Producer Peter Breslow and I were in Lower Manhattan in the days following Sept. 11, when a haze of pulverized steel, glass and death hung in the air, and scores of photos of mothers, fathers and lost loved ones were taped on buildings and lampposts asking, “Have you seen … ?”
But we couldn’t go past the security perimeter outside ground zero. My wife and I would stand outside that perimeter along Canal Street at night where thousands of people stood to cry, pray and cheer for the workers in hard hats, heading in to do the hard, heavy, hazardous work there.
There is a phrase for the offense committed by impostors who wear phony medals and try to pose as combat veterans: stolen valor.
At a Republican debate in 2016, Sen. Ted Cruz decried what he called “New York values.” And Donald Trump replied: “New York is a great place, it’s got great people, it’s got loving people, wonderful people. When the World Trade Center came down, I saw something that no place on Earth could have handled more beautifully, more humanely than New York.”
It was all he needed to say: then and this week.
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