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U.S. Begins Formal Withdrawal From Paris Climate Accord. Here’s What You Need to Know

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  • The Trump administration officially announced it is withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Agreement on climate change. The removal will fully take effect on Nov. 4, 2020.
  • President Donald Trump has long said he would pull the U.S. out of the deal, which he argued hurts the country’s competitiveness.
  • Critics have argued that the move will hurt the overall effectiveness of the deal because other countries will see the U.S., formerly a global climate leader, backing out of its commitments.

Trump Administration Announces Official Withdrawal

The Trump administration announced Monday that it has officially started the process of fully withdrawing the United States from the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change.

The international accord, first announced in 2015, was eventually signed by 195 countries that pledged to mitigate climate change and cut their greenhouse gas emissions, among other things.

The U.S. signed on in 2016 under the Obama administration. It was also considered a key leader in crafting the agreement and getting others to sign on. But President Donald Trump has long been critical of the Paris Agreement, arguing that it hurts U.S. competitiveness and the economy.

In June 2017, Trump officially announced that he was going to take the U.S. out of the agreement. However, the U.S. did not immediately leave the accord following that announcement.

That was because all signatories had agreed to rules set by the UN that said no country could leave for three years after signing. If a signatory country did decide to leave the agreement, they would then be subject to a one-year waiting period before the withdrawal took effect.

The Paris Agreement officially went into force on Nov. 4, 2016, and so on November 4, 2019— exactly three years to the day after the agreement was finalized— the Trump administration began to formally pull the U.S. out of the deal.

The move was announced by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Twitter.

“Today we begin the formal process of withdrawing from the Paris Agreement,” Pompeo wrote. “The U.S. is proud of our record as a world leader in reducing all emissions, fostering resilience, growing our economy, and ensuring energy for our citizens. Ours is a realistic and pragmatic model.”

Now the U.S. has one year before it is fully out of the climate agreement, which somewhat coincidentally puts the day that the U.S. would entirely be withdrawn from the agreement one day after the 2020 election.

Most of the Democratic presidential candidates have said if elected they would reenter the deal, but even if Trump were to lose to the election, he would still not leave office until January 2021. 

Unless Trump has a sudden change of heart, it seems like the U.S. is set to leave the Paris Agreement on climate change, making it the first and only country to do so.

With the U.S. officially taking the leap to leave the Paris Agreement, many are wondering what this means moving forward for both the accord and the climate crisis as a whole.

General Impact on Climate Change 

The most top-level implication of the U.S. withdrawing from the agreement is the potential impact on climate change and global climate change policies.

One of the main overarching goals of the Paris agreement was to keep global warming “well below” a rise of two degrees Celsius, with the general aim of not letting it go above 1.5 degrees Celsius if possible.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) backed by an overwhelming scientific consensus has said that in order to reach that ambitious goal, we as a global community need to slash carbon emissions in half by 2030, and net-zero in 2050.

If we fail to do so, scientists and experts have warned that we could face irreversible impacts of climate change. So when signing the Paris Agreement, each country set its own goals to reduce emissions.

Many wealthier and more developed countries, which at the time included the U.S., also agreed to help poorer and developing countries cope with the effects of climate change.

Critics of Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the agreement have said that this is a massive step backward in the fight against climate change, especially because the U.S. is the second-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world after China.

Effectiveness of Deal Without U.S.

Which brings us to the second implication: the impact of the U.S. withdrawing from the Paris Agreement on the effectiveness of the deal itself.

As noted before, the U.S. led by the Obama administration was central in crafting this deal in the first place. Now, the other signatory countries have to make the agreement work without the U.S.

Specifically, that means other major polluters like China and India have to step up and fill the vacuum left by the U.S. In 2017, the U.S., China, and India accounted for almost 50% of total global emissions.

As the number one polluter, China has made big promises to cut their emissions, but they have done little to deliver on those promises.

India, which has many of the most polluted cities in the world, is currently dealing with a massive, growing pollution crisis, which indicates it also has a long way to go.

However, the biggest difference between the U.S. and the other two nations is that under UN rules, China and India are still considered developing countries, and thus are not obligated to curb emissions.

In fact, under the Paris Agreement, China actually said it would peak emissions in 2030, while the U.S. had said it would cut them drastically.

But as many have pointed out, both India and China still agreed to cut emissions as part of the deal largely because of the actions the U.S. was taking and the commitments it had made.

With the U.S. no longer in the agreement, some have argued that China and India will now be even less likely to reduce their emissions.

Here’s the thing with the Paris Agreement: none of the commitments countries make are binding.

In this way, the accord is a double-edged sword. It is beneficial because it got countries that would otherwise not agree to be held to legally-binding commitments to sign on, but it also means none of the countries are held to their commitments.

So if a big power-player and climate change leader like the U.S. reneges on its commitments, it could signal to other countries that they can do the same.

Economic Impact

Another major effect of the U.S. pulling out of the deal is the economic impact.

In addition to the scientific warnings about rising sea levels, extreme weather, and the disastrous effects climate change will have on agriculture and wildlife, many have also said that withdrawing from the agreement is a bad economic decision.

This is largely because the Trump administration has not wanted to invest in clean energy and renewable technologies that are becoming a huge market.

As Andrew Steer, the president of the World Resources Institute, said in a statement, Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement “fails people in the United States, who will lose out on clean energy jobs, as other nations grab the competitive and technological advantages that the low-carbon future offers.”

However, long before Monday’s announcement, Trump and his administration have acted like the U.S.’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement is a foregone conclusion.

The administration has pushed ahead with plans and actions that entirely go against the country’s pledge under the agreement to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by nearly a quarter of 2005 levels by 2025.

Among other things, the Trump administration has continually rolled back Obama-era environmental rules that attempted to reduce carbon emissions, such as regulations on coal-fired power plants and other regulations aimed at increasing fuel efficiency standards.

Already, this has made an impact on the U.S.’s carbon output.

In 2018, U.S. carbon emissions increased significantly. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Andrew Wheeler specifically said that the rise was caused by “an uptick in manufacturing and industrial output.”

Trump for his part has made it abundantly clear that he views increasing fossil fuel and coal production as a more important priority than addressing climate change, even if those plans go against the findings of the administration’s own scientists.

Trump’s argument here is that fossil fuel and coal production are better for the U.S. economy, and that is more important than addressing the impending climate crisis.

“I feel that the United States has tremendous wealth. The wealth is under its feet. I’ve made that wealth come alive,” the president said speaking in France this summer. “I’m not going to lose that wealth — I’m not going to lose it on dreams, on windmills.”

But many economists and other experts have said that putting resources toward the clean and renewable energy sector would actually be a huge investment in the future of the economy.

As David Roberts of Vox explains: “Many climate policies pay off in the near term in jobs, economic growth, or reductions in local air and water pollutants, even putting aside their climate-specific benefits. In short, many carbon-reducing policies are things it makes sense for countries to do anyway, for reasons beyond saving the world from climate change.”

Counter-Efforts in the U.S.

Even if the U.S. federal government fully withdraws from the deal, there are still efforts to keep the goals the U.S. originally committed to in the Paris Agreement intact. 

As the Los Angeles Times reported, over 400 city leaders have joined the Climate Mayors association while 17 states and territories have joined the U.S. Climate Allianceboth of which are organizations that have promised to continue working towards the U.S.’s climate pledge under the Paris Agreement.

Additionally, 2,200 businesses and investors, 350 universities, 200 faith groups, and many more local and tribal governments have also signed onto the “We’re Still In” declaration, which also supports the goals of the accord.

According to the Times, all combined, these groups “account for nearly 60% of the U.S. economy, half the country’s population, and 37% of its greenhouse gas emissions.”

Others have also noted that there is significant public support to address climate change.

According to a poll conducted by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation in September, two-thirds of Americans say Trump is not doing enough to deal with climate change

The poll also found that about eight in 10 Americans “say that human activity is fueling climate change, and roughly half believe action is urgently needed within the next decade if humanity is to avert its worst effects.”

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Forbes) (Mother Jones)

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Donald Trump and Eldest Three Children Hit With Fraud Lawsuit From New York AG

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AG Letitia James says that the former president “falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself.” 


Lawsuit Filed Against Trump 

New York Attorney General Letitia James announced on Wednesday that she filed a civil lawsuit against former president Donald Trump and his three eldest children over allegations that they fraudulently inflated asset valuations within the Trump Organization.

Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, and Ivanka Trump are all listed alongside their father in the lawsuit. Executives Jeffrey McConney and Allen Weisselberg, the latter of whom recently pled guilty to tax crimes, are also listed alongside other Trump businesses. 

“Donald Trump, with the help of his children…and senior executives at the Trump Organization, falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to induce banks to lend money to the Trump Organization on more favorable terms than would otherwise have been available to the company, to satisfy continuing loan covenants, to induce insurers to provide insurance coverage for higher limits and at lower premiums, and to gain tax benefits, among other things,”  a press release announcing the lawsuit claimed. 

The Attorney General’s office claims that between 2011 and 2021, Trump and the Trump Organization made 200 false and misleading claims about asset values on annual financial statements.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in a State Supreme Court in Manhattan. 

“The complaint demonstrates that Trump falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself and to cheat the system, thereby cheating all of us,” James said while announcing the complaint. 

Her office is seeking to permanently ban Trump and his children from serving as an officer or director in any New York corporation and to bar Trump and his organization from entering into any New York real estate acquisitions for five years. The office is also seeking to recover $250 million in penalty payments, among other forms of relief. 

 The Office of the Attorney General has also referred the matter to the federal attorneys in New York and to the IRS for criminal investigation. 

“There aren’t two sets of laws for people in this nation: former presidents must be held to the same standards as everyday Americans,” James added in a statement on social media. 

“Trump’s crimes are not victimless,” she continued. “When the well-connected and powerful break the law to get more money than they are entitled to, it reduces resources available to working people, small businesses, and taxpayers.”

Trump Allegedly Inflated Key Assets

According to James’ release, Trump “made known through Mr. Weisselberg that he wanted his net worth on his statements to increase every year.”

“And the statements were the vehicle by which his net worth was fraudulently inflated by billions of dollars year after year,” the release continued. 

Among the assets Trump and his organization allegedly inflated was the Trump Tower Triplex, an apartment Trump allegedly claimed was 30,000 square feet when it is just around 11,000 square feet. Because of its ballooned size, the property was valued at $327 million in 2015, roughly three times as much as the sole apartment in New York City to ever sell for over $100 million at the time. 

For further comparison, the highest sale for a listing in Trump Tower at the time was only $16 million. 

Trump also allegedly claimed Mar-a-Lago was valued as high as $739 million based on the “false premise” that the property could be developed and sold for residential use. The lawsuit claims that Trump actually signed deeds donating those rights, limiting the property’s use to a social club. James and her office claim its value would fall closer to $75 million. 

Inflated Clauations Cannot Be “Excused”

“The inflated asset valuations in the Statements cannot be brushed aside or excused as merely the result of exaggeration or good faith estimation about which reasonable real estate professionals may differ,”  the lawsuit states, adding that instead, they are the result of improper methodology intentionally meant to falsely boost Trump’s net worth. 

The investigation into Trump’s alleged fraud began nearly three years ago, and the former president has repeatedly called it a politically motivated witch hunt. His attorney, Alina Habba, doubled down on that rhetoric in a statement Wednesday. 

“Today’s filing is neither focused on the facts nor the law – rather, it is solely focused on advancing the Attorney General’s political agenda,” Habba said. “We are confident that our judicial system will not stand for this unchecked abuse of authority, and we look forward to defending our client against each and every one of the Attorney General’s meritless claims.”

For his part, Trump has blasted the lawsuit on Truth Social, calling James a “fraud” and a “crime-fighting disaster.”

Trump previously tried to impede the probe but was ultimately ordered by a judge to sit for a deposition and turn over subpoenaed documents. Reports say he pled the fifth hundreds of times during his deposition. 

See what others are saying: (Bloomberg) (The Washington Post) (Reuters)

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Hurricane Fiona Causes “Catastrophic” Damage in Puerto Rico, Leaving Many Without Power

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While power has been restored to some, more than a million remain without it as continued rainfall, flooding, and landslides are expected to cause further damage across the island.


Hurricane Fiona Wreaks Havoc

Hurricane Fiona made landfall in Puerto Rico Sunday, bringing heavy rains, flooding, and landslides, while also knocking out power for the entire island and killing at least one person.

Photos and videos posted on social media show floodwaters consuming major streets and engulfing cars. Some pictures show an entire bridge flooded, making it impassible. Other footage shows a different bridge entirely uprooted and a metal barrier ripped away from the road and floating down a river of floodwater.

Officials have said conditions are still too dangerous to fully evaluate the extent of the crisis. In remarks to the public, Puerto Rico’s governor, Pedro Pierluisi, described the damage as “catastrophic.”

He asserted that the storm has been one of the most significant since Hurricane Maria — which hit the island almost exactly 5 years ago to the day — killing more than 3,000 people, leaving many without power for months, and causing destruction that the island is still recovering from.

Pierluisi noted that Puerto Rico has received over 30 inches of rain and that some areas have even gotten more rain than during Hurricane Maria. As of Monday afternoon, the National Gaurd has led 30 rescue operations so far, saving more than 1,000 stranded residents in 25 municipalities, according to the governor.

Pierluisi also added that more than 2,000 people were in the island’s 128 shelters, with officials further saying there is plenty of shelter space for those who need it. On Sunday, President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico, which will allow federal agencies to coordinate disaster relief.

Continued Issues As Storm Rages On

Meanwhile, Puerto Rico’s water authority has confirmed that just over 70% of the island is still without water. According to poweroutage.us, more than 1.3 million customers were still without power as of Monday morning.

The power company LUMA also stated that electricity had been restored to around 100,000 customers over the course of Sunday night, though it previously warned that the full restoration of power could take several days as the storm has created “incredibly challenging” conditions.

While Hurricane Fiona has passed through Puerto Rico, having now made landfall in the Dominican Republic, officials and experts say that heavy rains and further flooding are still to be expected for the next few days.

The National Weather Service has warned that “life-threatening and catastrophic flooding” as well as mudslides and landslides are expected to continue across the island. As a result, Pierluisi has urged Puerto Ricans Monday to remain home and in shelters so that officials can continue to respond to others in need.

He also noted that the areas most impacted by the hurricane include the southern part of the island, the southwest, and the mountains.

After moving through the Dominican Republic, Hurricane Fiona is expected to head towards Turks and Caicos Tuesday. The National Hurricane Center has said that the storm will continue to grow and by Wednesday, it is set to become a major hurricane — which means a Category 3 or higher.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (CNN

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Government Aid Cut Child Poverty in Half During Pandemic, Data Shows

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The reduction occurred similarly across geography, race, family type, and citizenship status.


Largest Drop in Half a Century

The United States’s child poverty rate sank to the lowest level on record last year, primarily thanks to pandemic relief measures and other government programs, according to an analysis of census data released Tuesday.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analyzed data from the Census Bureau’s supplementary poverty measure, which accounts for safety net programs and tax credits as well as regional differences in the cost of living.

From around 11% in 2019, the percentage of kids living below the poverty line fell to 9.7% in 2020 and 5.2% the year after that.

In just two years, nearly 5.5 million kids were lifted from poverty, marking an almost 60% drop in the child poverty rate.

The Center’s researchers gave most credit to the federal government’s numerous interventions in the economy, from stimulus payments and the expanded child tax credit to eviction moratoriums and expanded unemployment insurance.

Without government intervention, poverty in 2020 would have experienced its second-largest recorded increase, the Center claimed, but instead, it underwent the largest single-year decline in over half a century.

Especially impactful was the expanded child tax credit, which sent up to $300 per child to households with children every month between July and December 2021.

According to the analysis, this policy alone pulled nearly three million kids out of poverty.

But the tax credit’s expansion expired at the end of the year despite Democrats’ efforts to prolong it with Biden’s signature Build Back Better bill, which was blocked by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who reportedly told colleagues he was concerned that families might use the payments to buy drugs.

Poverty Before COVID

Child poverty has fallen by 59% since 1993, when it sat at around 28%, according to another analysis published Sunday by The New York Times and the nonpartisan group Child Trends.

They found that the decline occurred across all 50 states and D.C., as well as in different levels of poverty.

It similarly affected nearly all subgroups of children, — white, Black, Asian and Hispanic, single-parent and two-parent, immigrant and non-immigrant.

The causes driving the pre-pandemic decline included general economic improvement — low unemployment, a higher labor force participation rate among single mothers, and growing state minimum wages — but the researchers pinned government welfare programs as the dominant factor.

They specifically mentioned the earned income tax credit, social security, unemployment insurance, and nutrition and housing assistance.

Despite the positive trend, more than eight million children still live below the poverty line, and that number excludes those who live just above it but still struggle to meet basic needs.

The current poverty line sits around $29,000 for a family of four in a location with typical living costs.

Moreover, disparities still persist, with Black and Latino children about three times as likely as their white peers to be poor.

See what others are saying: (Vox) (The New York Times) (The Washington Post)

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