Saturday Snippets: Natives buying back stolen land; raising govt’s ‘social cost of carbon’ metric

Biden administration expected to return “social cost” of carbon to Obama level

The law requires the federal government to weigh costs and benefits of proposed new regulations. Unless a dollar value is placed on such benefits—such as improved health and longer lives—the calculation doesn’t pass muster. Under the Trump regime, that was exactly what happened. The value it put on actions to address the climate crisis was just $1 a ton of carbon dioxide. Under President Obama, that figure was $52. Which is likely to be what President Biden’s team will settle on temporarily while it works out an entirely new metric. Economists and environmental advocates think the $52 figure is way too low. For instance, Michael Greenstone, a University of Chicago economist who served as chief economist for Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, co-authored a working paper in January that put the social cost of carbon at $125 per ton or more. Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz and Lord Nicholas Stern published a paper Monday saying, “It is clear that climate change involves the management of risks of enormous magnitude and multiple dimensions, which could destroy lives and livelihoods across the world, displace billions, and lead to widespread, prolonged, and severe conflict.” Returning to the Obama-era social cost number would be mistaken, they said, because it wouldn’t be enough to support policies that keep the world from exceeding a 2-degree Celsius rise from pre-industrial temperatures. Anything above that scientists say would be catastrophic.



Enrollment at community colleges plummets during pandemic

Community colleges have traditionally provided a place for people unable to afford college or not interested in a four-year degree to acquire higher education, learn a trade, or, as an older person, gain new skills. Such colleges in many states have made attendance significantly more expensive than in the past, but they still give students access to opportunities they would not otherwise have had. Typically, during economic downturns, enrollment rises, as was the case during the Great Recession. But in our current crisis, that hasn’t been the case. Enrollment fell 10% from fall 2019 to fall 2020, according to the National Student Clearinghouse. Hard hit were older adult students. Taking classes while trying to stay afloat economically and keeping up with family obligations is no easy matter for many people in the best of times. But during the pandemic and the recession caused in the response to it, older students lost jobs or could not boost their own education while supervising their children’s online classes and dealing with all the mundane matters like grocery shopping that economic restrictions made more difficult. “The majority of them are working, many of them in industries that have been decimated by the pandemic,” said Martha Parham, a senior vice president for the American Association of Community Colleges. “Trying to navigate that and take classes is a very daunting challenge at this time.” 

Fauci says it’s “disturbing’ that most people being vaccinated against COVID-19 are white

In an interview on Joy Reid’s “The Reid Out,” America’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci labeled the racial disparities in who is getting vaccinated against the coronavirus “very disturbing.” People of color are “getting a double whammy against them, not only do they have the propensity because of their jobs out in the community to get infected, they have the underlying conditions that make them more likely to get a serious outcome,” he said. Fauci took note of a sense of “understandable vaccine hesitancy” among minority communities, which he said should be addressed more pro-actively. “We’ve got to really extend ourselves in the community to get the access to minority populations that they don’t have,” he said, noting that President Biden has commanded authorities to set up vaccination centers in communties heavily populated by Black people, the Indigenous, and other people of color.

GOP politicians gave Texans the yoyo treatment in deep freeze—“you’re on your own” 

As sweeping power outages and sub-freezing temperatures stripped millions of Texans of fresh food or heat, causing an unknown number of deaths, Marco Lopez, an organizer with South Texas–based community organization La Unión del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), thought to call a woman he knew in the Linda Vista colonia, an unincorporated border community. As it turned out, she didn’t have light or water, and had been cooking on a makeshift stove she’d built outside. Her car had broken down, so she was stuck at home—and even if she could drive, the nearest Walmart was closed.

“I was like, holy crap, I need to give her some food, pobrecita,” Lopez said. The two went to eat and buy tortillas, a pack of which she gave to the mechanic fixing her car.

With many state and local politicians falling down on the job of disaster relief, mutual aid networks and organizations like LUPE have been helping cold and hungry Texans. […]  Even when mutual aid efforts involve city or state government, organizers are skeptical of their government’s ability to act quickly.


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