September 30 2019

September 30 2019

global media focus on climate; climate change an important Iowa campaign issue; a true hot spot: Jacobabad, Pakistan; U.C. divests from fossil fuels to avoid financial risk; a political moment of inflection for climate change

This week I’m officially overwhelmed with the volume of climate news! An international collaboration of media organizations called Covering Climate Now is emphasizing climate stories from September 15-23, including the global school strike for climate and the U.N. meetings. Entire editions of magazines such as Time and The Economist are devoted to climate change, and I can only give you a small sampling of what’s out there. I encourage you to explore beyond this edition of In Brief Climate News. One unusual story I found is a transcript of the first conversation between Greta Thunberg and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

I hope you supported the young people in your community during the September 20th School Strike for Climate. The PBS NewsHour has a great video summary of events from around the world, and there is an overall summary with great photography in the New York Times. Please spend five minutes watching Greta Thunberg’s speech at the U.N. The fury in her voice will spread to everybody in her generation, and we should be preparing for this reality, just as we are preparing for the inevitable impacts of climate change. Vox has a great review of the Sunrise Movement, and why it is effective. As an op-ed in the Guardian notes, this is what leadership looks like.

Grist reports on the growing interest in climate action in the Evangelical Movement. The article focuses on Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, the group’s founder and how attitudes in this sector of the Christian world are beginning to change. Quartz reports on the emerging interest among evangelicals in the religious concept of “care of creation. In The Hill, Yale Professor Anthony Leiserowitz reports on evolving attitudes about climate change, and especially the expanding fraction of voters that see this as an important election issue. An article at Grist notes a convergence on the importance of addressing climate change with young Republican and Democratic voters, and an op-ed by Representative Francis Rooney (R-FL) calls for action. In Texas, 65% of voters from all parties are in favor of government action to combat the climate crisis, and a third are strongly in favor of it.

Time has a great article that describes how climate change has become a top-tier issue for the Presidential campaign in Iowa. This has a lot to do with the personal experience of Iowans with extreme weather. A July survey concluded that nearly 40% of Iowans have personally experienced anxiety over extreme weather or know a family member who has in the past year. An article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists describes how we know that “97% of climate scientists agree that human activity is changing the climate.

CNN looks at the spread of dengue fever around the globe, including the role of climate change as it supports the wider distribution of the Aedes mosquito that transmits the virus between humans. Vice takes a look at the growing human migration crisis driven by climate change, and some of the challenges faced by different countries and institutions.

Elizabeth Rush writes in the Guardian about the importance of collective action to address the climate crisis. Changing our consumption habits (driving less, eating less meat, buying renewable energy) is necessary, but not sufficient. We need to build coalitions with the political power to demand action; in so doing, we reduce our own anxiety and generate hope for the future.

Yale e360 reports on the costs facing coastal cities to create resilience to sea level rise. Communities are struggling with the lack of state and federal support and the challenge of raising funds when extensive past debt already exists. Even a relatively affluent city like Boston cannot pay for the cost of identified resilience projects, and the challenge facing smaller (and less affluent) communities is even larger. Grist has an article about the challenges associated with the buyout of flood-prone homes, using the story of a family in Houston. The New York Times describes the buyout of homes in Canada, where the government has been much more aggressive about getting people to leave flood-prone areas. This is due in part to there being less protection for private property in the Canadian constitution.

An article in Time chronicles a visit to Jacobabad, Pakistan, which may be the hottest city on the planet (try 125°F in the summer). InsideClimate News reports on a new U.N. study that documents the value of investing now in climate adaptation efforts. In Time, Ban Ki-moon (former General Secretary of the U.N.) explains the origins of the report and its most important findings.

InsideClimate News reports on the marine heat wave that is building in the eastern Pacific Ocean. This event, driven in part by global warming, will influence weather on the West Coast and stress marine ecosystems. The New York Times describes the flooding in southern Texas from tropical depression Imelda, which impacted communities still trying to recover from 2017’s Hurricane Harvey.

An op-ed in the New York Times describes an enormous loss in the abundance of birds in North America over the last few decades. The op-ed, by the authors of the scientific study documenting the losses, notes that similar losses of abundance have been documented for insects, amphibians and fish. These losses indicate great damage to the ecosystems of the planet that support these species (and us as well).

In an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, the leaders of the University of California’s investment strategy explain why they have divested the U.C. from fossil-fuel holdings. While recognizing the moral imperative to transition from fossil fuels, they state that the rationale for their decision was completely based on preventing poor returns expected from fossil-fuel investments.

Another column in the Los Angeles Times describes how the Trump administration’s effort to revoke California’s Clean Air Act waiver that allows the state to mandate cleaner cars is on shaky scientific and legal ground. In the New Yorker, Bill McKibben describes the enormous role banks, asset managers and insurance companies play in supporting the fossil-fuel industry, and what might happen if they decided this is a bad business plan.

In the last edition, I described the work of Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, and the letter they sent to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. The Los Angeles Times reports on the results of their work: Bezos has announced that Amazon will greatly accelerate its efforts to reduce the company’s carbon footprint.

In the New York Times, Al Gore argues persuasively that we are at a moment of political inflection, as across the political spectrum people are waking up to the fact that the climate crisis is accelerating. Evidence for this political momentum can be found in the actions of young people, governments around the world, corporations and even registered Republicans in the U.S. Gore argues that we will soon see another example of Dornbusch’s law, where “things take longer to happen than you think they will, but then they happen much faster than you thought they could.