Welcome to the Climate Fwd: newsletter, and thanks to everyone who made the latest Netting Zero, our series of virtual events looking ahead to key international climate negotiations next year, a big success! The panel focused on cities trying to become carbon-neutral. If you missed it, don’t despair. You can watch a recording here.
The first of three debates between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. is Tuesday, and some activists and lawmakers want a guarantee that, unlike 2016, climate change will be on the agenda.
Four years ago, presidential debate moderators didn’t ask a single question about climate change. And it looks like that could happen again this year. According to the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates, the six topics selected by the moderator for Tuesday evening, Chris Wallace of Fox News, will be: the candidates’ records, the Supreme Court, Covid-19, the economy, race and violence, and the integrity of the election.
On Wednesday, a group of senators led by Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, called on the commission to ensure that moderators ask about climate change on Tuesday and in every debate after that.
“In 2020 alone, record-breaking wildfires have ravaged Western states, extreme heat waves have jeopardized our health and safety, water levels in the Great Lakes have continued to shift, and catastrophic hurricanes have destroyed homes and livelihoods,” the lawmakers wrote. “The climate crisis isn’t coming, it’s here.”
“It is critical that every debate includes questions that ask the candidates what they would do to address climate change and environmental injustice,” they added, saying “Too much is at stake.”
The 37 lawmakers who signed the letter were all Democrats.
Climate change routinely polled among the top three issues for Democrats throughout the primary, a fact that several activists and party strategists noted in criticizing the first debate topics on social media.
You can read the full letter here. The commission did not respond to a request for comment.
Once upon a time, smoke was simply part of life in the American West. Many ecosystems evolved to tolerate and even depend on fire, which occurred regularly because of lightning, Native American burning practices, and later, settlers.
In the early 20th century, though, the U.S. government resolved to stamp out wildfires. And for a while, it succeeded, ushering the country through decades of anomalously fire-free, smoke-free summers.
Now, that legacy of suppression has created a fire debt that must be paid back — with interest, because of climate change — either through controlled burns or out-of-control blazes.
And that means learning to live with smoke again.
“We’re going to have to accept that you are going to have seasonal smoke in the same way that you may have seasonal allergies,” said Stephen Pyne, an environmental historian and emeritus professor at Arizona State University.
To learn what that might look like, check out our report from Portland, Ore., where my family’s been hunkered down inside for a good part of the past month.
Climate disruption is here. Now what?
This summer in the United States felt like a major moment for climate change.
Wildfires in the West sent smoke all the way to the East Coast. Record-setting heat has scorched cities from Los Angeles to Boston. So many tropical storms are marching through the Atlantic Ocean that we’ve already reached the end of the Latin alphabet and moved on to Greek letters to name them.
And we know that more is on the way.
So, my colleague John Branch and I called up more than a dozen climate scientists, economists, sociologists and policymakers to help make sense of the moment. We asked them: How many more climate disasters are baked into our future? What can be done to minimize the dangers ahead? Will the destruction of recent weeks become a moment of reckoning, or just a blip in the news cycle?
The experts we talked to were by turns alarming, cynical and hopeful. You can read our piece here and let us know what you think.
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