Connectedness of Climate and Healthcare

  • Pundits say President Obama is putting all his political chips in the fight for health care. And, if he loses, he'll have almost nothing left to spend on climate change. (Photo by Bill Branson, courtesy of the National Cancer Institute)

The health care debate is sucking
up most of the energy in Washington.
So it makes sense that the world is
concerned the US might show up at
global climate talks in December empty
handed. Conrad Wilson explains how
the heath care debate is threatening
the chances of a global climate treaty:

Transcript

The health care debate is sucking
up most of the energy in Washington.
So it makes sense that the world is
concerned the US might show up at
global climate talks in December empty
handed. Conrad Wilson explains how
the heath care debate is threatening
the chances of a global climate treaty:

European countries, along with China and other big global polluters, are wrestling with
how to deal with global warming. But as the world gears up for the climate change
conference in Copenhagen, Washington is focusing on health care.

The timing of Washington’s health care debate has many countries scratching their heads.
And it has environmentalists and climate folks nervous. All agree health care is
important; but globally, they say, it’s out of step.

And when you ask Americans what the President is working on, few mention climate
change.

Person 1: “Probably health care and fixing the economy.”

Person 2: “On the economy. And fixing the economy. Actually, no, I’ll change that.
Actually, what I think he’s focusing on is the health care issue.”

Person 3: “This week, Afghanistan. Last week, health care. The week before, the
economy.”

Person 4: “He’s focusing on health care primarily, which is very important. But he also
needs to maintain his focus on the economy.”

What’s not being talked about is climate change and the global talks coming up in
Copenhagen.

Dan Esty is a professor of Environmental Law & Policy at Yale University. He also has
experience as a climate negotiator. Esty predicts the health care debate will continue
through the end of the year.

“I think it’s going to be very difficult, given the political effort that’s going to be required
to achieve success on health care, to imagine that climate change can be taken on during
the same time period.”

Esty says there’s only so much President Obama and members of Congress can take on at
once. Climate change and health care are two major issues that can’t be resolved
overnight.

As time wears on, the talks are shaping up for an outcome that looks more like the failed
Kyoto climate agreement from a decate ago. After Kyoto, Congress refused to join the
rest of th eworld in capping carbon emissions. Esty fears that could happen again.

“The health care debate, at the present moment, is occupying all the political oxygen in
Washington and that means there’s really nothing left with which to drive forward the
response to climate change. And, as a result, our negotiator will go to Copenhagen
without any real game plan in place for how the United States is going to step up and be a
constructive part of the response of the build up of green house gases in the atmosphere.”

A lot of people say the US needs to pass a climate change law before going to
Copenhagen. But others say maybe not. They argue it’s not a bad idea for the US to go
into global climate talks without a law because it could allow negotiators to be more
flexible.

Regardless of how it’s done, cutting greenhouse gases is now more pressing than ever
before. With Washington paralyzed by the health care debate, the timing is just bad for
climate change.

“If there were ever a time. You can say that about health care and about climate policy.”

That’s energy analyst Randy Udall. He says President Obama has a lot of his plate and
should be ready to compromise.

“Obama’s not going to get nearly as much as many of us had hoped for in terms of health
care reform. And he’s not going to get nearly as much as many of us had hoped for in
terms of energy policy. He will get something. But it not going to be a half a loaf, it’ll be
a quarter of a loaf.”

Pundits say President Obama is putting all his political chips in the fight for health care.
And, if he loses, he’ll have almost nothing left to spend on climate change.

For The Environment Report, I’m Conrad Wilson.

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Ashborer Restrictions Lead to Firewood Shortages

  • To quarantine the emerald ashborer, the delivery of firewood has gone through some restrictions. This is leading to some shortages in certain areas. (photo by Joao Estevao)

There are firewood shortages in some areas. That’s because states are restricting the transportation of wood to try to keep the emerald ash borer from spreading. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:

Transcript

There are firewood shortages in some areas. That’s
because states are restricting the transporation of
wood to try to keep the emerald ash borer from
spreading. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester
Graham reports:


Firewood providers are finding they’re cut off from
their customers. States are restricting the
transportation of any firewood from some areas to keep
the emerald ash borer contained. Some firewood suppliers
say the states are over-reacting. Jim Albring is with
Lumber Jacks Quality Firewood. The company is in
Michigan less than a mile from the Ohio border.


“We have three thousand customers in Ohio that we
can’t ship to.”


Including wood bundles for Krogers grocery stores.
Albring says his company hasn’t cut ash, the wood the
emerald ash borer is attacking, for two years now.
Still he can’t ship his firewood.


“I think what happened is that they jumped the gun and
before researching things they made a lot of decisions
that were really, really bad. It’s just a scandal.”


In areas where there are shortages of firewood, the
price is going up.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester
Graham.

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