Elections have consequences—that's a common political trope we hear after every election, and it's true. It's also true that pollution has consequences, and those hit Americans right where they live, from kids with asthma, to rivers fouled with coal pollution, to the farmer in the grip of an unending drought made worse by climate change.
As the new report by the world's leading scientists makes clear, the effect of climate pollution released over the next two years will be far more lasting and irrevocable than anything that happens in the 114th Congress. So now is not the time for despair—it's time for us to double down and do the most effective, strategic work of our lives.
While Americans showed their anger and frustration at the voting booth and sent new leadership to Congress this week, they did not vote for dirty air, dirty water or dirty energy. However, unless we do our work very well, that is just what they will get. In the next two years we will need to defend the progress that has been made to address climate change, shift away from fossil fuels to clean energy, and safeguard public health from dangerous air and water pollution.
Federally, climate deniers are poised to take the reins in several key U.S. Senate committees, and they clearly intend to take aim at a whole host of air, water and climate safeguards, especially the Clean Power Plan, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standard to reduce carbon pollution from power plants.
Meanwhile, in statehouses across the nation, polluters are teeing up a wave of anti-environmental measures, including making it harder for homeowners to go solar, rolling back state clean energy standards and blocking states from reducing their carbon pollution under the Clean Power Plan.
At the same time, when it comes to our progress moving the U.S. beyond coal, we're not going backwards. No new coal plants are being built in the U.S. right now, our existing coal plants aren't getting any younger, and clean energy is being installed at such skyrocketing rates that wind and solar are as cheap as fossil fuels in a growing number of states around the country.
Pollution will still have consequences. Decisions about energy will continue to be made at the local and state level, by utility commissions and state regulators who are usually far less partisan and polarized than their federal counterparts—and those are venues where every one of us can and should get engaged.
Poll after poll has shown that the public wants clean air, clean water and action to tackle the climate crisis. We want more investments in clean energy now. Local concerns about public health, air pollution, and clean water will still be the most powerful arguments in the room. And regular people, fighting for their families and their communities, will still be the most powerful force shaping America's energy future.
I'll leave you with a couple of pieces of advice that seem very fitting this week, from two strong Appalachian women who I count among my heroes. When Judy Bonds, a leader and legend in the fight to end mountaintop removal, was in failing health, she told her friends and supporters that the best way to honor her legacy was simple: "Fight harder." And to paraphrase legendary labor organizer Mother Jones, "Don't whine—organize!"
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California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.
High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.
Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.
California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.
As reported by AccuWeather:
In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.
For a deeper dive:
- Bond Fire South of LA Forces 25,000 to Flee - EcoWatch ›
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- 10 Wildfires Ignite Around Los Angeles in Unseasonable Wind and ... ›
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By Monir Ghaedi
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to keep most of Europe on pause, the EU aims for a breakthrough in its space program. The continent is seeking more than just a self-sufficient space industry competitive with China and the U.S.; the industry must also fit into the European Green Deal.
European satellites continue to provide data on climate change.