The 1,600-page Congressionally-mandated National Climate Assessment was quietly released on Black Friday—the Friday after Thanksgiving. The report, the work product of career employees at 13 federal agencies, was the first of its kind under the Trump administration. It pulled no punches in describing how climate change “is transforming where and how we live and presents growing challenges to human health and quality of life, the economy, and the natural systems that support us.” The average global temperature is much higher and rising more rapidly than “anything modern civilization has experienced,” according to David Easterling, one of the Assessment’s authors.
The Assessment’s sense of urgency and alarm stands in stark contrast to President Trump’s unwillingness to tackle increasingly dire forecasts about the effects of climate change. Mr. Trump denies climate change, suppresses the best of climate science, and disputes the Assessment’s unflinching findings. “I’ve seen it, I’ve read some of it, and it’s fine,” he told reporters at the White House last week. Asked about the Assessment’s projection that climate change will cost the country’s economy billions of dollars by the end of the century, he said, “I don’t believe it.”
The President is simply wrong.
The devastating impact of global warming can be seen in a record number of “nuisance flooding” events during high tides in Miami and Charleston, disruption in U.S. fisheries, recent droughts and deadly fires in California, and Hurricanes Florence and Michael. Already, extreme hot weather is becoming more common, and cold weather rarer; climate change has dried out America’s Southeast, leading to illness, death and enormous financial costs; and rising sea levels may soon force mass migrations from coastal cities.
The right steps, if taken immediately, can help reverse this growing threat to Americans’ health and pocketbooks and the nation’s infrastructure and natural resources. Without further delay, Congress needs to embrace the Nature Conservancy’s practical recommendations: support strong science and conservation funding to build a more sustainable future, get behind the Land and Water Conservation Fund to protect the special places that matter most, advance clean energy alternatives, strengthen solutions that harness nature to counter rising sea levels and the contamination of clean water sources, and secure the food people need while protecting habitats for threatened species.
As the Democrats prepare to take back control of the U.S. House of Representatives, party leaders vow to hold hearings on President Trump’s aggressive efforts to undo Obama-era climate rules and are already seeking internal documents relating to his Administration’s decision to scale back restrictions on fossil fuels that naturally contribute to global warming. Separately, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, poised to reclaim her Speakership, plans to revive the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming which was shut down when the Republicans took control of the House in 2010.
Let’s encourage the Democrats—and all of Congress—to take on climate change as a top policy priority.
Marc J. Lane is a Chicago attorney and financial adviser and the vice chair of the Cook County Commission on Social Innovation.
The world's first social impact bond, or SIB, was introduced in 2010 to fund innovative social programs that realistically might reduce recidivism by ex-offenders in Peterborough, England, and, with it, the public costs of housing and feeding repeat offenders. Prudently building on the strengths of that initiative, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is rolling out SIBs to help solve some of the state's most vexing social problems.
A SIB isn't a traditional bond where investors are guaranteed a fixed return but a contract among a government agency that agrees to pay for improved social outcomes, a private financing intermediary and private investors. SIBs shift the risk of experimenting with promising but untested intervention strategies from government to private capital markets, with public funds expended only after targeted social benefits have been achieved.
Peterborough's problem was daunting: Sixty percent of prisoners serving short-term sentences historically had gone on to re-offend within a year after their release. But policymakers were confident that a solution was within their reach. They attracted private investment to pay experienced social service agencies to provide intensive, multidisciplinary support to short-term prisoners, preparing them to re-enter society and succeed outside the penal system.
The government decided which goals would be supported, but exactly how those goals would be achieved was left to the private sector. It was the investors, through a bond-issuing organization, who ultimately endorsed the allocation of investment proceeds — how much would be invested in job training, drug rehabilitation and other interventions.
If the Peterborough plan eventually shrinks recidivism rates by 7.5 percent or more, the government will repay the investors' capital and share the taxpayers' savings with them, delivering up to a 13 percent return. If the target isn't hit, the investment will have failed and the government will owe the investors nothing.
Illinois' SIB effort was spearheaded by the state's Task Force on Social Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Enterprise — the governor's think tank on social issues, which I am privileged to chair — with support from Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Aurora-based Dunham Fund. A request for information issued by the Office of Management and Budget on May 13 yielded responses from service providers eager not only to reduce recidivism here but also to create jobs, revitalize communities, improve public health outcomes, curb youth violence, cut high school dropout rates and alleviate poverty.
Now the governor has issued a request for proposals intended to spur better outcomes for Illinois' most at-risk youth — by increasing placement stability and reducing re-arrests for youth in the state's Department of Children and Family Services, and by improving educational achievement and living-wage employment opportunities justice-involved youth most likely to re-offend upon returning to their communities.
Kudos to Mr. Quinn for bringing SIBs to Illinois. May they soon start delivering on their promise.- See more at: http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20131007/OPINION/131009850/a-new-kind-of-futures-contract-for-illinois#sthash.ThgxeiFt.dpuf
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