TIME weather

Ten Questions About the Blizzard

Jack Nicholson In 'The Shining'
Don't go there; it will all be over soon Warner Brothers/Getty Images

Jeffrey Kluger is Editor at Large for TIME.

Hint: All of them can be answered 'No'

1. Does this storm prove global warming is really just a hoax cooked up by degenerate scientists like my Twitter feed keeps saying? No. Again: no. Absolutely, positively no. This is weather, not climate. Just like a collie isn’t a species, a crouton isn’t a salad and the aglet on your shoelace ain’t the whole shoe, so too is a single meteorological event in your town (or state or region) not the same as climate. All the same, you’ll hear a lot of self-satisfied huffing from climate change deniers this week. Please feel free to laugh at them.

2. Then is the blizzard a result of climate change—the much discussed “global weirding”? If we’re going to smack down the anti-science kooks on question one, let’s resist the urge for a touchdown dance on question two. It’s true that climate change means a growing number of extreme weather events, and the spike in storms like 2012’s Sandy that do a billion dollars of damage or more do fit with climate change models. But again, any one storm is proof only of that storm. And hey, when you’re getting three feet of snow, that should be trouble enough.

3. Speaking of Sandy, do I have to call the blizzard Juno? No. Indeed, please don’t. Unlike hurricanes, which are named by the World Meteorological Organization as part of a longstanding global tradition, Juno was named by the Weather Channel, as part of a somewhat newer tradition of thinking up scary names that sound good on TV. You are free to give this blizzard any name you want. I’m calling it Larry.

4. What about “nor’easter?” Can I call the blizzard that? Are you a lobster fisherman? From Maine? If not, no.

5. Is “blizzard” just a synonym, for “lots o’ snow”? Nope, there’s actually a technical definition: There must be falling snow (or blowing snow already on the ground), with winds of at least 35 mph (56 k/h) reducing visibility to no more than 0.25 mile (0.4 km) for at least three hours.

6. Do I really need 12 tins of powdered milk, a case of canned tuna and five dozen double-A batteries to get through this? Yes, if it’s 1952 and you’re packing a fallout shelter. Otherwise, we’re talking a couple of snow days at the most—followed by the risk of way too many tuna casseroles for the rest of the year if you don’t get ahold of yourself.

7. Does it have to be so flipping cold for a blizzard to happen? This may not be much comfort to you, Concord, NH, where it’s 14°F (-10°C) in the run-up to the big blast, but no, as long as the atmospheric temperature is 32°F (0°C) or below, snow can form. It can even be a few degrees warmer on the ground, but the snow that falls will quickly become slush or, as it’s known on the sidewalks of New York City, goo.

8. I’ve heard this storm is a result of meteorological “bombogenesis.” Surely the people at weather service are smoking something? Alas no. Bombogenesis is a real word and it occurs when the barometric pressure in the most intense part of a storm drops more than 24 millibars in 24 hours. Lower pressure then causes cold air to rush toward the ground and warmer air to rise. This isn’t to say the weather service doesn’t have fun saying “bombogenesis” over and over and over again. They’re meteorologists, but hey, they’re people too.

9. Once the blizzard’s over, we’re cool, right? Nope. Arctic air is going to continue to barrel through the northeast into February, keeping temperatures well below normal. As for the upper Midwest, where it’s usually only slightly more comfortable than the planet Neptune (-378°F, with a likelihood of graphite hailstones) around this time of year: Nice and mild.

10. If I have kids, is there any chance at all that I won’t hear them singing the score from Frozen while we’re all trapped in the house together for the next 48 hours? No. None at all. Deal with it—and don’t watch The Shining. It will only give you ideas.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Environment

The Senate Discovers Climate Change!

170412165
Never noticed that before: Welcome to the conversation, Senators Image Source RF/Ditto; Getty

Jeffrey Kluger is Editor at Large for TIME.

A landslide vote brings Congress's upper chamber into the 21st century—a little

Correction appended, January 24

Surely by now you’ve heard the big news: On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate—The World’s Greatest Deliberative Body Except For the Fact That it Never Really Deliberates Anything—passed a landmark resolution declaring that “climate change is real and is not a hoax.” The proposal passed by a nail-bitingly close vote of 98-1. Only Mississippi’s Roger Wicker, who heads the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, voted no.

The landslide victory thrilled the green community, especially since it included such anti-science paleoliths as Oklahoma’s James Inhofe and Florida’s Marco (“I’m not a scientist, man”) Rubio. But let’s not get carried away. For one thing, voting to acknowledge a fact that virtually every other sentient human on the planet long ago accepted is a little like passing a bill that declares, “Gravity is real” or “Fire make man hurt.” Not exactly groundbreaking.

What’s more, there was only so far the newly enlightened GOP was willing to go. Votes on two other measures—one that declared “climate change is real and human activity contributes significantly to climate change,” and one that made essentially the same point but without the word “significantly”—were blocked by Republican maneuvering. What’s more, the weak tea version of the resolution that did pass—sponsored by Rhode Island Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse—made it through only because it was a rider to the Keystone XL pipeline legislation. At this point, Republicans would likely approve a Puppies For Lunch rider if it would get Keystone passed.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, among the greenest of the greenies, responded to the GOP’s grudging concession with something less than unalloyed enthusiasm. “From Know-Nothingism to Do-Nothingism in the U.S. Senate,” it declared in a news release. And indeed, the 98 brave men and women who stepped forward to go on record with a statement of the patently obvious have given absolutely no indication that they are actually prepared to do anything about that obvious thing.

The GOP’s big wins in November certainly don’t make them more inclined to yield on what has become a central pillar of party dogma. But if science—to say nothing of the health of the planet—can’t move them, they should at least consider the unsavory company their fringe position is increasingly causing them to keep. Writing in The New York Times, Paul Krugman addressed climate deniers, supply-siders and foes of the Affordable Care Act as one counterfactual whole—people who are fixed in their positions no matter what the objective evidence shows. That may or may not be too wide a net to cast, but Krugman is right on one score:

If you’ve gotten involved in any of these debates, you know that these people aren’t happy warriors; they’re red-faced angry, with special rage directed at know-it-alls who snootily point out that the facts don’t support their position.

Krugman offers any number of explanations for this, with which reasonable people can agree or disagree, but his larger point—of an ideological cohort animated by rage as much as anything else—certainly feels right. I see it regularly in that least scientific but most pointed place of all, my Twitter feed. I’ve crossed swords with the anti-vaccine crowd more than once, and while some of them have found a way to be savagely nasty in the 140 characters they’re allowed, most of the anger is civil. They’re fretful and, I believe, foolish to have been duped by anti-scientific rubbish, but they’re at least fit for inclusion in the public square.

Not so the climate-deniers, who hurl spluttery insults, fill their feeds with the usual swill about President Barack Obama’s suspicious birthplace and the conspiratorial doings across the border in Mexico, and link to risible idiocy about how the global warming “conspiracy” is a “ploy to make us poorer,” whose real purpose is “to redistribute wealth from the first world to the third, an explicit goal of UN climate policy.”

Yes. Of course. Because it’s harder to believe in science than it is to believe that there’s a four-decade plot afoot that virtually every country in the world has signed onto, dragging virtually every scientist in the world along with them—none of whom have ever had a crisis of conscience or spilled the beans in a bar or simply decided to sell the whole sordid story to the press—and that only a rump faction in the U.S. knows the truth. Makes perfect sense.

If the Senate, even reluctantly, has made the tiniest baby step toward rational thought, that’s undeniably a good thing. “It starts by admitting you have a problem, just like many other areas of human life,” Whitehouse told The Hill. Outside the Senate chamber, however, in the country that is second only to coal-soiled China in CO2 emissions, the ugly, vein-in-the-temple anger remains. The GOP can continue to make common cause with this nasty crowd or, if it chooses, can finally, clear-headedly rejoin the ranks of reason.

An earlier version of this story misstated the name of the Natural Resources Defense Council

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME feminism

How 7 Disney Princesses Could Change the World

Without a magic wand

After a U.S. official suggested this week that Anna and Elsa from Frozen could be good ambassadors for fighting climate change, we got to thinking about how some other Disney Princesses could wield their mighty influence on young American minds.

Princess Diana raised awareness about AIDS and land mines after her fairy-tale wedding glow faded, so why shouldn’t Disney Princesses be do-gooders, too? Here are some ways these fictional characters could change the world.

  • Mulan (from Mulan)

    Disney

    She could fight for increased protections for women in the military, especially when it comes to being sexually assaulted or filmed in the shower. She could also fight to reform the hairstyle rules for military women, so that no female soldier ever has to give herself a terrible haircut with her dad’s sword ever again.

  • Belle (from Beauty and the Beast)

    Disney "Beauty & the Beast 3D" Belle. ©2011 Disney. All Rights Reserved.
    Disney

    She could campaign for child literacy programs and for more online education options for people who live in boring towns. She could also be a vocal advocate for increased social security and adult-home-care programs to reduce wolf attacks among the elderly.

  • Ariel (from The Little Mermaid)

    Disney

    She could be an spokesperson to clean up the oceans and save the diversity of species under the sea. She could also fight for immigration reform, so that evil witches stop taking advantage of anyone who wants to cross a border. And she could do it all in mime.

  • Pocahontas (from Pocahontas)

    Disney

    Her conflict resolution skills could make her an excellent candidate to be a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador, especially in areas with indigenous tensions. She could also fight to eliminate corporal punishment and serve on the board of Save America’s Forests.

  • Cinderella (from Cinderella)

    Disney

    She could fight for a higher minimum wage in the service industry and advocate for increased protections against child labor. She could also secretly fight to lower estate taxes so that other children of rich parents don’t end up poor like her.

  • Tiana (from The Princess and the Frog)

    Disney

    The star of the New Orleans fairy tale could demand a larger investment in small businesses and an increased environmental commitment to global warming to reduce the rising waters that threaten her hometown.

  • Jasmine (from Aladdin)

    Disney

    She could be a vocal advocate for the rights of women in the Middle East, and could fight for an expansion of girls’ education in that region. She could also oppose any laws that forbid women to drive cars or operate magic carpets.

TIME Global Security

Doomsday Clock Puts Us 3 Minutes Away from Apocalypse

Climate scientist Richard Somerville, a member, Science and Security Board, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, unveils the new Doomsday Clock in Washington on Jan. 22, 2015.
Climate scientist Richard Somerville, a member, Science and Security Board, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, unveils the new Doomsday Clock in Washington on Jan. 22, 2015. Cliff Owen—AP

Climate change and nuclear proliferation make global catastrophe highly probable, scientists say

The Doomsday Clock is now two minutes closer to midnight, thanks to the specter of climate change and unchecked nuclear proliferation.

The hands of the symbolic clock, managed by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists Science and Security Board, were moved forward to 11.57 earlier this week, which means the board thinks “the probability of global catastrophe is very high.” 12.00 signifies the apocalypse.

Originally constructed in 1945 as a predictor of nuclear catastrophe, the clock’s keepers now consider factors like climate change and other scientific or technological threats to humanity as well. The Atomic Scientists Science and Security Board is managed by a board of sponsors that includes 17 Nobel Laureates.

“Today, unchecked climate change and a nuclear arms race resulting from modernization of huge arsenals pose extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity,” Kennette Benedict, executive director of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, said.

Founded by University of Chicago scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project, The Doomsday Clock has been long considered a metaphor for the vulnerability of the human race.

But the hands of the clock can move forward and backward in time. It was previously set at 3 minutes to midnight in 1984, during a particularly scary moment during the Cold War where communication between the U.S. and the Soviet Union had gone dark. And in 1949, the clock was set at 3 minutes to midnight when the Soviet Union tested their first nuclear device.

The safest point in history seems to have been in 1991, when the clock was at 17 minutes to midnight after the U.S. and Soviet Union agreed to reduce their nuclear arsenals. The closest the Doomsday Clock has ever been to midnight was in 1953, when it reached 2 minutes to midnight after the U.S. tested a H-Bomb for the first time.

To read the entire statement about why the Doomsday Clock stewards believe the world is as close to total catastrophe today as it was at the worst point in the Cold War, click here.

Read next: 5 Things You Need to Know About Obama’s Visit to India

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Environment

Official Wants Frozen to Teach Kids About Climate Change

FROZEN
Arendelle Disney

Apparently Disney didn't go for it

The U.S. special representative to the Arctic said this week that he told a Disney executive educators should use Frozen to teach kids about climate change—but the idea didn’t go over so well.

Admiral Robert Papp told an audience at this week’s Arctic Frontiers conference that after realizing his granddaughters were obsessed with Frozen, he approached Disney executives about making PSAs about climate change starring Anna and Elsa to raise awareness about the disappearing ice. “I said you’ve taught an entire generation about the Arctic,” Papp said he told the executive. “Unfortunately the Arctic that you’ve taught them about is a fantasy kingdom in Norway where everything is nice. What we really need to do is educate the American youth about the plight of the polar bear, about the thawing tundra, about Alaskan villages that run the risk of falling into the sea because of the lack of sea ice protecting their shores.”

Papp said the executive was receptive, but skeptical. “‘Admiral you might not understand, here at Disney it’s in our culture to tell stories that project optimism and have happy endings,'” he told him.

But who knows what’s in store for the rumored Frozen sequel that may or may-not be happening.

[h/t National Journal]

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: January 23

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Though the “No Child Left Behind” brand is thoroughly tarnished, the law sparked the revolution of data-driven educating.

By Nick Sheltrown in EdSurge

2. To help cities plan for flooding, drought, wildfires and other effects of climate change, the University of Michigan built an adaptation tool for the Great Lakes region.

By Lisa A. Pappas at University of Michigan’s Graham Sustainability Institute

3. Teachers are underpaid in America. Early childhood workers earns even less for setting the foundation of all future learning for our children. That should change.

By Laura Bornfreund at New America Foundation

4. Chicago’s ‘Crime Lab’ — which uses scientific research to understand and experiment with innovative ways to prevent crime — could be replicated in other cities.

By Tina Rosenberg in Fixes, at the New York Times

5. To reduce billions of needless miles driving, a startup is bringing the Uber model to the trucking industry.

By Liz Gannes in Re/code

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Environment

Two Massive Lakes Under the Greenland Ice Sheet Drained Away in Weeks

The discovery signals a "catastrophic" environmental shift

Two lakes underneath the ice in Greenland that previously held billions of gallons of water were rapidly drained, probably in a matter of weeks, researchers discovered recently.

Researchers from various universities involved in a comprehensive mapping effort of the Greenland Ice Sheet discovered two craters over a mile wide that used to be sub-glacial lakes, Science Daily reports.

The findings, published separately in scientific journals The Cryosphere and Nature, signal an environmental shift that Ohio State earth sciences professor Ian Howat described as “catastrophic.”

MORE These Are the Best Places to See the Northern Lights

Howat led the team that discovered the first lake, described in The Cryosphere, which previous satellite images showed had been intact for about 40 years and held 6.7 billion gallons of water. However, more recent images indicate it probably dried up sometime in 2011.

The second, even larger lake has reportedly drained and refilled twice in the last two years, indicating a sharp rise in meltwater that is affecting the glacial drainage system. The depletion and refilling of the lakes brings with it a lot of stored heat that researchers say may adversely impact the ice sheet itself.

“The fact that our lake appears to have been stable for at least several decades, and then drained in a matter of weeks — or less — after a few very hot summers, may signal a fundamental change happening in the ice sheet,” said Howat.

[Science Daily]

Read next: The Microsoft HoloLens Is Going to Let Scientists Walk Around Mars

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Congress

Only One Republican Senator Refused to Say ‘Climate Change Is Real’

Senate Luncheons
Republican Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi speaks at a news conference after the Senate luncheons in the Capitol on Jan. 7, 2015 Tom Williams—AP/CQ Roll Call

And another denier of manmade global warming wiggles free of the Democrats' show vote

A Mississippi Republican was the only U.S. Senator to vote against an amendment declaring that climate change is real on Wednesday.

Roger Wicker, the incoming chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, was the only no vote. The final vote was 98 to 1, with Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic leader from Nevada, not voting.

The amendment, introduced by Rhode Island Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, included only 16 words: “To express the sense of the Senate that climate change is real and not a hoax.” It was designed to highlight Republicans’ rhetoric that has run counter to the scientific consensus that the earth has been warming in recent decades.

But the stunt left some of the biggest deniers of manmade global warming some wiggle room. Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe, the chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, voted for the amendment and asked to be a co-sponsor.

“Climate is changing and climate has always changed and always will,” said Inhofe, author of The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future. “There is archaeological evidence of that, there is biblical evidence of that, there is historical evidence of that. It will always change. The hopes is that there are some people who are so arrogant to think they are so powerful they can change climate. Man can’t change climate.”

Whitehouse said he hoped the vote would send “a signal” that the Senate “is ready to deal with reality.”

“I almost hate to use my minute because I am so eager to hear what is said during the minute that our energy chairman will follow me with,” said Whitehouse before the vote. “But I’m hoping that after many years of darkness and blockade that this can be a first little vote beam of light through the wall that will allow us to at least start having an honest conversation about what carbon pollution is doing to our climate and to our oceans. This is a matter of vital consequence to my home state … and to many of yours as well.”

Wicker’s office did not reply for comment. In the past, Wicker, the new chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, has said that scientific data on rising global temperatures is not conclusive. “President Obama continues to defend his aggressive policies with assertions that global temperatures are on the rise — a notion challenged by scientists and scholars,” he said in a 2013 press release. “The recorded temperatures were much lower than the predictions from climate models often cited by the President and global warming activists.”

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: January 20

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Is America willing to do the hard work to mend its racial divide?

By Eric Liu in CNN

2. The first new antibiotic developed in 30 years could turn the tide against the rising resistance of many diseases.

By Brian Handwerk in Smithsonian Magazine

3. Adapting to climate change will buy time, but rising sea levels are a major threat to low-lying cities.

By Laura Parker in National Geographic

4. Is four years too much? More college students are jumpstarting careers by graduating early.

By Rachel Rosenbaum in USA Today College

5. The cargo ship of the future will have a hull that acts as a giant sail, slashing fuel consumption and carbon emissions.

By Fraunhofer Center for Maritime Logistics in Phys.org

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME White House

How 7 Ideas in the State of the Union Would Affect You

President Barack Obama threw out a lot of big ideas during Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, but how would they affect you? Here’s a quick look at seven proposals he previewed even before the speech, in order of how likely they are to be enacted soon.

See TIME’s full State of the Union coverage here

Reducing mortgage premiums

The idea: Obama proposed reducing mortgage insurance premiums on government-backed loans rates in order to make it easier for low-income Americans to buy homes.

What he’s said: “For us, and millions of Americans like us, buying a home has always been about more than owning a roof and four walls. It’s about investing in savings, and building a family, and planting roots in a community … I’m going to take a new action to help even more responsible families stake their claim on the middle class and buy their first new home.” (Jan. 8, 2015)

How it would affect you: The proposal would cut insurance fees for homes bought with Federal Housing Administration-backed loans, saving borrowers an average of $900 a year.

Will it happen: Yes. The policy will be implemented by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which is under Obama’s control.

MORE Obama Cuts Mortgage Insurance Premiums to Help Low-Income Home Buyers

Expanding travel to Cuba

The idea: Obama called for normalizing relations with Cuba, a process he’s already started by easing travel and commercial restrictions with the island nation.

What he’s said: “Neither the American, nor Cuban people are well served by a rigid policy that is rooted in events that took place before most of us were born… I believe that we can do more to support the Cuban people and promote our values through engagement. After all, these 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked. It’s time for a new approach.” (Dec. 17, 2014)

How it would affect you: You will soon be able to catch a flight directly to Cuba without getting a special license, use credit and debit cards there and bring back cigars.

Will it happen: Mostly. Obama has already taken steps to restore relations with Cuba, although Congress is unlikely to lift the 54-year-old trade embargo anytime soon.

MORE U.S. And Cuba Move to Thaw Relations After Prisoner Exchange

Cutting methane emissions

The idea: Obama called for reducing methane emissions in the oil and gas industry by fixing leaky equipment and reducing “flaring” of natural gas.

What he’s said: Speaking about a photograph of Earth from space: “And that image in the photograph, that bright blue ball rising over the moon’s surface, containing everything we hold dear — the laughter of children, a quiet sunset, all the hopes and dreams of posterity — that’s what’s at stake. That’s what we’re fighting for.” (June 25, 2013)

How it would affect you: Depending on where you live, the proposal could raise your energy rates. It would also reduce a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.

Will it happen: Likely. The proposal is part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s standard rules-making process, which Obama oversees.

MORE White House Targets Methane to Slow Climate Change

Preventing ‘fast lanes’ on the Internet

The idea: Obama called for the Federal Communications Commission to reclassify broadband Internet as a utility, which would give regulators more power over providers like Comcast.

What he’s said: “High-speed broadband is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. … This is about helping local businesses grow and prosper and compete in a global economy. It’s about giving the entrepreneur, the small businessperson on Main Street a chance to compete with the folks out in Silicon Valley, or across the globe.” (Jan. 14, 2015)

How it would affect you: Some Internet providers want to offer so-called “fast lanes” for customers who pay more. This proposal would likely bar that.

Will it happen? Unclear. The FCC is an independent agency, but Obama’s backing gives the idea much more prominence in the debate.

MORE All Your Questions About Obama’s Internet Plan Answered

Notifying consumers of data hacks

The idea: Obama called on Congress to pass the Personal Data Notification and Protection Act, which would require companies to notify customers within 30 days if they’d been hacked.

What he’s said: “If we’re going to be connected, then we need to be protected. As Americans, we shouldn’t have to forfeit our basic privacy when we go online to do our business.” (Jan. 12, 2015)

How it would affect you: Over the last year, JPMorgan Chase, Target, Home Depot and P.F. Chang’s have all had data breaches. You might hear sooner about those if they affect you.

Will it happen: Unclear. Many states already require companies notify affected customers, so it’s not too heavy of a lift to call for a national standard.

MORE The One Foolproof Thing You Can Do to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Making community college free

The idea: Obama proposed the federal government work with states to offer two years of free community-college tuition to students who maintain good grades.

What he’s said: “For millions of Americans, community colleges are essential pathways to the middle class because they’re local, they’re flexible. They work for people who work full-time. They work for parents who have to raise kids full-time. They work for folks who have gone as far as their skills will take them and want to earn new ones…” (Jan. 9, 2015)

How it would affect you: If you’re looking to go to community college, you could save $3,800 a year on tuition. You could then use existing financial aid programs for housing and books.

Will it happen: Unlikely. Congressional Republicans are not likely to go along with the plan, which would cost up to $60 billion over 10 years.

MORE Obama Proposes 2 Years of Free Community College

Offering paid sick leave

The idea: Obama called on Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act, which would require companies to offer workers an hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours they work.

What he’s said: “There are 43 million Americans who don’t get paid sick leave, which when you think about it is a pretty astonishing statistic. And that means that no matter how sick they are, or how sick a family member is, they may find themselves having to choose to be able to buy groceries or pay the rent, or look after themselves or their children.” (Jan. 15, 2015)

How it would affect you: Right now, most employers are required to offer up to 12 weeks unpaid leave for family health problems, but many workers can’t afford to take it.

Will it happen: Unlikely. Hill Republicans are unlikely to even allow a vote on the bill, which had only Democratic sponsors in the last Congress.

MORE President Obama Wants You to Get Paid, Even When You’re on Leave

Read next: Here’s the Full Text of President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser