A large landslide caused by torrential rains during Hurricane Eta buried half a small village's residents, leaving the other half searching for family members and neighbors in Guatemala on Tuesday, The Washington Post reported.
Officials deemed Queja, a farming community of a few hundred residents, "uninhabitable," and ended rescue operations, calling for the survivors to abandon the area now mostly covered in tons of rock and mud. 99 people were reported missing, with 44 confirmed deaths.
Mayor Ovidio Choc, representing the San Cristobal Verapaz region, including Queja, said the evacuated village would be declared a cemetery.
The former director of Guatemala's national disaster management agency said the country is ranked among the highest risk countries for natural disasters, based on data by the World Risk Index.
"It is a structural problem that is linked not only the threat or the probability of producing elements like Eta, but rather other factors that make us vulnerable and are directly tied to the development of the country," Alejandro Maldonado said, The Washington Post reported.
The inability to invest in mitigation plans, and deforestation were likely to be circumstances that caused the landslide, noted Maldonado.
The residents of Queja are the latest addition of what is being called the "great climate migration." Climate change is causing sea level rise and extreme weather conditions, such as intense heat, drought, wildfires and enlarged hurricanes and typhoons, which induce mudslides, landslides and flooding, forcing many to flee their homes, never to return.
And climate refugees are predicted to increase in number in the coming years as more natural disasters occur. According to Ecological Threat Register, a September 2020 report by the non-profit think tank Institute for Economics & Peace, one billion people live in areas were there is not enough infrastructure in place to combat ecological changes.
Eta first made landfall just south of Puerto Cabezas, a city on Nicaragua's Caribbean coast on Nov. 3, as a Category 4 hurricane, causing 140 mph winds, massive downpours and destructive flooding to several countries in Central America, including Panama, Costa Rica and Honduras.
Hurricane Eta is expected to hit Florida's Gulf Coast in its fourth landfall on Wednesday, as a Category 1 hurricane, bumped up from a subtropical storm with rains hitting southern Florida on Sunday and Monday. While diminished in intensity from its peak in Central America, landslides and flooding are expected.
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California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order Wednesday that would ban the sale of new cars in California that run only on gasoline by the year 2035. The bid to reduce emissions and combat the climate crisis would make California the first state to ban the sale of new cars with internal combustion engines, according to POLITICO.
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Indigenous people around the world have lived in concert with nature for centuries, practicing responsible land management, regenerative farming practices and water conservation.
Controlled Fires<p>From the Americas to the Amazon to Australia, culturally significant controlled burns have been an integral part of proactive fire management that prevents forest fires from spreading.</p><p>In one example, Karuk tribal traditions in Northern California use frequent, low-intensity fires to help restore and maintain the region's flora and fauna, according to researchers in <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-western-states-can-learn-from-native-american-wildfire-management-strategies-120731" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">The Conversation</a>. More specifically, the fires help restore grassland for elk and for making basketry. Meanwhile, smoke from summer fires provides cool temperatures for river fish.</p><p>"[Cultural burning] links back to the tribal philosophy of fire as medicine," Frank Kanawha Lake, a research ecologist with the USDA Forest Service, firefighter and Karuk descendent, told the <a href="https://www.history.com/news/native-american-wildfires" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">The History Channel</a>. "When you prescribe it, you're getting the right dose to maintain the abundance of productivity of all ecosystem services to support the ecology in your culture."</p><p>Aboriginal Australians monitor controlled fires to prevent them from damaging seedlings or soil nutrients. They also avoid burning logs or trees that house insects and animals. Furthermore, the controlled burns help to restore growth and strengthen ecosystems, <a href="https://www.yesmagazine.org/environment/2020/01/13/australia-fires-aboriginal-land-management/#:~:text=Aboriginal%20fire%20management%2C%20also%20called,and%20nutrients%20in%20the%20soil." rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Yes! Magazine</a> reported.</p><p>Over in the Amazon, the Kuikuro people in the Xingu Indigenous Territory use an elaborate system of ditches, dikes and roads to create a break that controls the spread of wildfires, according to <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/02/opinion/amazon-rainforest-fire-prevention.html#click=https://t.co/xBBOmRgcQn" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">The New York Times</a>.</p>
Water Management<p>Australia has been under a severe drought for years, <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/sydney-water-shortage-2641353372.html" target="_self">threatening Sydney's water supply</a>. As a result, the regional governments of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia have teamed up with Aboriginal tribes to learn Indigenous water management techniques. For example, the Ngarrindjeri Nation in South Australia helped implement innovative environmental solutions during the Millennium Drought that lasted from 2001-2009.</p><p>"When Indigenous nations become sovereign partners in environmental management, the power structures and worldviews that underlie decision-making can be productively challenged... creating new solutions to pressing environmental issues," Dr. Samantha Muller, lead author of <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1745-5871.12362" target="_blank">Indigenous sovereignties: relational ontologies and environmental management</a>, said in <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/11/191105075838.htm" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Science Daily</a>.</p><p>"Indigenous agency and governance is driving innovations in land management worldwide that provide more equitable solutions and strategic approaches to looking after the lands, waters and all living things, particularly in the face of climate change," she added.</p><p>To increase respect for water usage, Western Australia has issued <a href="https://www.watercorporation.com.au/Education/Water-in-Aboriginal-culture" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">lesson plans and instructional videos</a> about water's role in Aboriginal culture.</p>
Farming and Land Management<p><br>The efficient use of water often goes hand-in-hand with farming practices. The Konso people in East Africa have used water and land so effectively that their community is officially recognized and protected by UNESCO as a cultural heritage site. For example, <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/2158244016682292" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">one study</a> noted, "They work together to build attractive terracing landscapes and complex village compounds in addition to construction and protection of water systems. To strengthen their togetherness, they frequently use the proverb 'Living together means sharing resources.' This social cohesion is the basic underlying factor in achieving sustainability even in modern management."</p><p>Indigenous communities also use fire to clear small plots of land and strengthen their harvest. In the Amazon, communities grow cassava and then let the land lie fallow for years while farming another section. The fallow period allows the vegetation to improve and helps to prevent soil erosion. The restored land is again burned, with the ashes fertilizing the soil, <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2020/10/in-a-drier-amazon-small-farmer-and-researchers-work-together-to-reduce-fire-damage/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mongabay</a> reported.</p><p>The idea of Indigenous land control is reinforced by Greenpeace campaigners in <a href="https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2020/10/12/to-protect-nature-bring-down-the-walls-of-fortress-conservation/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Al-Jazeera</a>. The authors explain how this transfer away from the industrial world would help meet climate goals and reduce pollution. For example, "In Mexico's Cabo Pulmo, local communities secured legal protection and are reviving marine life and livelihoods," they write.</p><p>"There is a lot of potential in providing people with the means to resist industrial expansion that is contributing to species loss, climate breakdown and deepening inequalities," they add.</p>
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By Matthew R Sanderson, Burke Griggs and Jacob A. Miller
A slow-moving crisis threatens the U.S. Central Plains, which grow a quarter of the nation's crops. Underground, the region's lifeblood – water – is disappearing, placing one of the world's major food-producing regions at risk.
Changes in Ogallala water levels from before the aquifer was tapped in the early 20th century to 2015. Gray indicates no significant change. Water levels have risen in some areas, especially Nebraska, but are mostly in decline. NCA 2018
A Production Treadmill<p>At first glance, farmers on the Plains appear to be doing well in 2020. Crop production increased this year. Corn, the largest crop in the U.S., had <a href="https://www.nass.usda.gov/Newsroom/2020/08-12-2020.php" target="_blank">a near-record year</a>, and farm incomes increased by <a href="https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/farm-economy/farm-sector-income-finances/farm-sector-income-forecast" target="_blank">5.7% over 2019</a>.</p><p>But those figures hide massive government payments to farmers. Federal subsidies increased by <a href="https://www.agweb.com/article/usda-says-farm-income-increasing-gov-payments-are-record" target="_blank">a remarkable 65%</a> this year, totaling $37.2 billion. This sum includes money for <a href="https://theconversation.com/most-us-farmers-remain-loyal-to-trump-despite-pain-from-trade-wars-and-covid-19-146535" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">lost exports from escalating trade wars, as well as COVID-19-related relief payments.</a> Corn prices were too low to cover the cost of growing it this year, with federal subsidies making up the difference.</p><p>Our research finds that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1093/socpro/spy011" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">subsidies put farmers on a treadmill</a>, working harder to produce more while draining the resource that supports their livelihood. Government payments create a vicious cycle of overproduction that intensifies water use. Subsidies encourage farmers to expand and buy expensive equipment to irrigate larger areas.</p>
Irrigation pump in Haskell County, Kansas. Matthew Sanderson/Kansas State University, CC BY-ND<p>With <a href="https://www.agweb.com/markets/futures" target="_blank">low market prices for many crops</a>, production does not cover expenses on most farms. To stay afloat, many farmers buy or lease more acres. Growing larger amounts floods the market, further reducing crop prices and farm incomes. Subsidies support this cycle.</p><p>Few benefit, especially small and midsized operations. In a 2019 study of the region's 234 counties from 1980 to 2010, we found that larger irrigated acreage <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s10668-019-00390-9" target="_blank">failed to increase incomes or improve education or health outcomes</a> for residents.</p>
Focus on Policy, Not Farmers<p>Four decades of federal, state and local conservation efforts have mainly targeted individual farmers, providing ways for them to voluntarily <a href="https://agriculture.ks.gov/divisions-programs/dwr/managing-kansas-water-resources/wca" target="_blank">reduce water use</a> or <a href="https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/programs/financial/eqip/" target="_blank">adopt more water-efficient technologies</a>.</p><p>While these initiatives are important, they haven't stemmed the aquifer's decline. In our view, what the Ogallala Aquifer region really needs is policy change.</p><p>A lot can be done at the federal level, but the first principle should be "do no harm." Whenever federal agencies have <a href="https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/1230/all-info" target="_blank">tried to regulate groundwater</a>, the backlash has been swift and intense, with farm states' congressional representatives <a href="https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2015-06-19/pdf/2015-15151.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">repudiating federal jurisdiction over groundwater</a>.</p><p>Nor should Congress propose to eliminate agricultural subsidies, as some <a href="https://www.ewg.org/agmag/subsidies" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">environmental organizations</a> and <a href="https://www.cato.org/blog/five-reasons-repeal-farm-subsidies" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">free-market advocates</a> have proposed. Given the thin margins of farming and longstanding political realities, federal support is simply part of modern production agriculture.</p><p>With these cautions in mind, three initiatives could help ease pressure on farmers to keep expanding production. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's <a href="https://www.fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/conservation-programs/conservation-reserve-program/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Conservation Reserve Program</a> pays farmers to allow environmentally sensitive farmland to lie fallow for at least 10 years. With new provisions, the program could reduce water use by prohibiting expansion of irrigated acreage, permanently retiring marginal lands and linking subsidies to production of less water-intensive crops.</p><p>These initiatives could be implemented through the <a href="https://www.fns.usda.gov/farmbill" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">federal farm bill</a>, which also sets funding levels for nonfarm subsidies such as the <a href="https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program</a>, or SNAP. SNAP payments, which increase needy families' food budgets, are an important tool for addressing poverty. Increasing these payments and adding financial assistance to local communities could offset lower tax revenues that result from from farming less acreage.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9a68a352afef927017e5c51944388e7b"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/RHJsdtLZGoY?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Amending <a href="https://www.fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/farm-loan-programs/" target="_blank">federal farm credit rates</a> could also slow the treadmill. Generous terms promote borrowing for irrigation equipment; to pay that debt, borrowers farm more land. Offering lower rates for equipment that reduces water use and withholding loans for standard, wasteful equipment could nudge farmers toward conservation.</p><p>The most powerful tool is the tax code. Currently, farmers receive <a href="https://www.irs.gov/publications/p225#en_US_2020_publink1000218297" target="_blank">deductions for declining groundwater levels</a> and can write off depreciation on irrigation equipment. Replacing these perks with a tax credit for stabilizing groundwater and substituting a depreciation schedule favoring more efficient irrigation equipment could provide strong incentives to conserve water.</p>
Rewriting State Water Laws<p>Water rights are mostly determined by state law, so reforming state water policies is crucial. Case law demonstrates that simply owning water rights <a href="https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/224/107/" target="_blank">does not grant the legal right to waste water</a>. For more than a century courts have upheld state restrictions on waste, with <a href="https://law.justia.com/cases/california/supreme-court/2d/3/489.html" target="_blank">rulings that allow for adaptation</a> by modifying the definitions of "beneficial use" and "waste" over time.</p><p>Using these precedents, state water agencies could designate thirsty crops, such as rice, cotton or corn, as wasteful in certain regions. Regulations preventing unreasonable water use <a href="https://law.justia.com/cases/california/court-of-appeal/2020/c085762.html" target="_blank">are not unconstitutional</a>.</p><p>Allowing farmers some flexibility will maximize profits, as long as they stabilize overall water use. If they irrigate less – or not at all – in years with low market prices, rules could allow more irrigation in better years. Ultimately, many farmers – and their bankers – are willing to exchange lower annual yields for a longer water supply.</p><p>As our research has shown, the vast majority of farmers in the region <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/gwat.12940" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">want to save groundwater</a>. They will need help from policymakers to do it. Forty years is long enough to learn that the Ogallala Aquifer's decline is not driven by weather or by individual farmers' preferences. Depletion is a structural problem embedded in agricultural policies. Groundwater depletion is a policy choice made by federal, state and local officials.</p>
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By Mark Hertsgaard
What follows are not candidate endorsements. Rather, this nonpartisan guide aims to inform voters' choices, help journalists decide what races to follow, and explore what the 2020 elections could portend for climate action in the United States in 2021 and beyond.
Will the White House Turn Green?<p>Whether the White House changes hands is the most important climate question of the 2020 elections. President Donald Trump rejects climate science, is withdrawing the United States from the Paris Agreement, and has accelerated fossil fuel development. His climate policy seems to be, as he tweeted in January when rejecting a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposal to protect New York City from storm surges, "Get your mops and buckets ready."</p><p>Joe Biden, who started the 2020 campaign with a climate position so weak that activists gave it an "F," called Trump a "climate arsonist" during California's recent wildfires. Biden backs a $2 trillion plan to create millions of jobs while slashing emissions—a Green New Deal in all but name. Equally striking, his running mate, California Senator Kamala Harris, has endorsed phasing out fossil fuel production—a politically explosive scientific imperative.</p><p>The race will be decided in a handful of battleground states, five of which already face grave climate dangers: Florida (hurricanes and sea-level rise), North Carolina (ditto), Texas (storms and drought), Michigan (floods), and Arizona (heat waves and drought). <a href="https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/visualizations-data/ycom-us/" target="_blank">Public concern is rising</a> in these states, but will that concern translate into votes?</p>
Will Democrats Flip the Senate, and by Enough to Pass a Green New Deal?<p>With Democrats all but certain to maintain their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate will determine whether a potential Biden administration can actually deliver climate progress. Democrats need to pick up three seats to flip the Senate if Biden wins, four if he doesn't. But since aggressive climate policy is shunned by some Democrats, notably Joe Manchin of coal-dependent West Virginia, Democrats probably need to gain five or six Senate seats to pass a Green New Deal.</p><p>Environmentalists, including the League of Conservation Voters, are targeting six Republicans who polls suggest are vulnerable.</p><ul><li>Steve Daines of Montana, who denies climate science</li><li>Martha McSally of Arizona</li><li>Thom Tillis of North Carolina</li><li>Susan Collins of Maine</li><li>Joni Ernst of Iowa (bankrolled by Charles Koch)</li><li>John James of Michigan (also a Koch beneficiary)</li></ul><p>Republican Senators are even at risk in conservative Kansas and Alaska. In both states, the Democratic candidates are physicians—not a bad credential amid a pandemic—who support climate action. In Kansas, Barbara Bollier faces an incumbent funded by Charles Koch. In Alaska, Al Gross urges a transition away from oil, though his openness to limited drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Preserve dims his appeal to green groups. He faces incumbent Republican Dan Sullivan, who receives an 8 percent lifetime voting record from the League of Conservation Voters.</p>
Will Local and State Races Advance Climate Progress?<h4>THE CLIMATE HAWKS</h4><p>Under Democratic and Republican leadership alike, Washington has long been a graveyard for strong climate action. But governors can boost or block renewable energy; the Vermont and New Hampshire races are worth watching. Attorneys general can sue fossil fuel companies for lying about climate change; climate hawks are running for the top law enforcement seats in Montana and North Carolina. State legislatures can accelerate or delay climate progress, as the new Democratic majorities in Virginia have shown. Here, races to watch include Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Colorado.</p><h4>THE CLIMATE POLICY MAKERS</h4><p>Perhaps the most powerful, and most overlooked, climate policy makers are public utility commissions. They control whether pipelines and other energy infrastructure gets built; they regulate whether electric utilities expand solar and energy efficiency or stick with the carbon-heavy status quo. Regulatory capture and outright corruption are not uncommon.</p><p>A prime example is Arizona, where a former two-term commissioner known as the godfather of solar in the state is seeking a comeback. Bill Mundell argues that since Arizona law permits utilities to contribute to commissioners' electoral campaigns, the companies can buy their own regulators. Which may explain why super-sunny Arizona has so little installed solar capacity.</p><p>In South Dakota, Remi Bald Eagle, a Native American U.S. Army veteran, seeks a seat on the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, which rules on the Standing Rock oil pipeline. And in what <em>HuffPost</em> called "the most important environmental race in the country," Democrat Chrysta Castaneda, who favors phasing out oil production, is running for the Texas Railroad Commission, which despite its name decides what oil, gas, and electric companies in America's leading petro-state can build.</p>
Will the Influencers Usher in a Green New Era?<h4>THE UNCOUNTED</h4><p>The story that goes largely under-reported in every U.S. election is how few Americans vote. In 2016, some 90 million, <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2018/08/09/an-examination-of-the-2016-electorate-based-on-validated-voters/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">roughly four out of every 10 eligible voters</a>, did not cast a ballot. Attorney Nathaniel Stinnett claims that 10 million of these nonvoters nevertheless identify as environmentalists: They support green policies, even donate to activist groups; they just don't vote. Stinnett's <a href="https://www.environmentalvoter.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Environmental Voter Project</a> works to awaken this sleeping giant.</p><h4>THE SUNRISE MOVEMENT</h4><p>Meanwhile, the young climate activists of the <a href="http://www.sunrisemovement.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sunrise Movement</a> are already winning elections with an unabashedly Green New Deal message. More than any other group, Sunrise pushed the Green New Deal into the national political conversation, helping Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey draft the eponymous congressional resolution. In 2020, Sunrise has helped Green New Deal champions defeat centrists in Democratic primaries, with Markey dealing Representative Joe Kennedy Jr. the first defeat a Kennedy has ever suffered in a Massachusetts election. But can Sunrise also be successful against Republicans in the general elections this fall?</p><h4>THE STARPOWER</h4><p>And an intriguing wild card: celebrity firepower, grassroots activism, and big-bucks marketing have converged behind a campaign to get Latina mothers to vote climate in 2020. Latinos have long been the U.S. demographic most concerned about climate change. Now, <a href="https://votelikeamadre.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Vote Like A Madre</a> aims to get 5 million Latina mothers in Florida, Texas, and Arizona to the polls. Jennifer Lopez, Salma Hayak, and Lin-Manuel Miranda are urging mothers to make a "pinky promise" to vote for their kids' climate future in November. Turning out even a quarter of those 5 million voters, though no easy task, could swing the results in three states Trump must win to remain president, which brings us back to the first category, "Will the White House Turn Green?"</p>
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By Karen Charman
When President Donald Trump visited California on September 14 and dismissed the state Secretary of Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot's plea to recognize the role of climate change in the midst of the Golden State's worst and most dangerous recorded fire season to date, he gaslighted the tens of millions of West Coast residents suffering through the ordeal.
Foxes Guarding the Henhouse<p>Before he assumed power, Trump attacked regulations as unnecessary barriers to freedom and economic prosperity. Since taking office, he has targeted anything enacted by the administration of his predecessor, Barack Obama, and taken steps to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement, the international effort to combat climate change. He has also staffed heads of key agencies with climate deniers of various stripes, forced out career public servants and created a hostile work environment for those who don't profess loyalty to his deregulatory agenda.</p><p>Like Trump himself, some of his cabinet choices displayed an audacious penchant for <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/09/27/us/donald-trump-taxes.html?action=click&module=Spotlight&pgtype=Homepage" target="_blank">self-dealing</a> and abusing their positions of authority. One example is Trump's first Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, Scott Pruitt, who aggressively worked to overturn Obama's climate regulations, spent most of his time in <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/trump-epa-head-steps-down-after-wave-of-ethics-management-scandals/2018/07/05/39f4251a-6813-11e8-bea7-c8eb28bc52b1_story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">private meetings</a> with fossil fuel and chemical company executives, sidelined career EPA staff and reconfigured independent scientific advisory boards to make them more supportive of the industries EPA is charged with regulating. Dubbed "<a href="https://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-pruitt-leaves-20180705-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">one of the most scandal-plagued Cabinet officials in U.S. history</a>," Pruitt resigned in disgrace after revelations about his multiple brazen abuses, including using the agency as his personal concierge service and piggy bank.</p><p>Pruitt's deputy, Andrew Wheeler, a <a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/news/andrew-wheeler-acting-epa-administrator-former-number-two-before-scott-pruitt-resignation/" target="_blank">former coal industry lobbyist</a> and longtime Republican Washington insider, took over and has continued Trump's deregulatory agenda apace.</p><p>At the Department of Interior (DOI), a sprawling agency that oversees 75 percent of the country's public federal lands and includes the U.S. Geological Survey, which is tasked with evaluating natural hazards that threaten life and the health of our ecosystems, Trump installed another flamboyant anti-environmentalist to head the agency. Like Pruitt, Trump's first Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke aggressively attacked environmental regulations, <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2017/05/07/epa-dismisses-half-of-its-scientific-advisers-on-key-board-citing-clean-break-with-obama-administration/" target="_blank">ditched more than 200 advisory panels</a>, and pushed to open up vast swaths of public land to oil and gas drilling. Described by one environmental group as "<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/interior-secretary-zinke-resigns-amid-investigations/2018/12/15/481f9104-0077-11e9-ad40-cdfd0e0dd65a_story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the most anti-conservation Interior secretary in our nation's history</a>," Zinke was forced out after numerous highly publicized conflict-of-interest scandals.</p><p>The DOI is now run by Zinke's deputy secretary, David Bernhardt, another longtime Republican Washington insider and former oil industry lobbyist who has also been the subject of <a href="https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/05/this-is-still-happening-david-bernhardt-trump-lincoln.html" target="_blank">several government ethics complaints</a> for various violations favoring polluting industries.</p><p>More recently, longtime climate change denier David Legates, a climatologist at the University of Delaware previously <a href="https://insideclimatenews.org/news/19032015/u-delaware-refuses-disclose-funding-sources-its-climate-contrarian" target="_blank">funded by fossil fuel interests</a>, was hired for a <a href="https://www.npr.org/2020/09/12/912301325/longtime-climate-science-denier-hired-at-noaa" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">top job</a> advancing weather modeling and prediction at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Legates has called for <a href="https://www.democracynow.org/2020/9/18/noaa_david_legates_climate_crisis" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">increasing carbon emissions</a>.</p><p>The Trump administration has done much more than stack government agencies with fossil fuel industry proponents. It has removed or diluted discussion of climate change from as many government platforms as it can and decimated independent scientific advisory boards that provide unbiased, fact-based information the government needs to enact policies that protect the public. It has also <a href="https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/482352-trump-budget-slashes-funding-for-epa-environmental-programs" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">slashed environmental agency staffing and budgets</a>.</p>
The Damage So Far<p>A September 17 <a href="https://rhg.com/research/the-rollback-of-us-climate-policy/" target="_blank">report</a> by the Rhodium Group calculates that 1.8 billion tons more greenhouse gases will be released over the next 15 years as a result of climate change rollbacks the Trump administration has achieved so far. These include repealing Obama's main climate policy, the Clean Power Plan, which was intended to reduce dirty emissions from power plants; increasing pollution from cars by rolling back fuel economy standards and challenging California's longtime authority to set stricter emissions standards; targeting controls on hydrofluorocarbons, powerful greenhouse gases used mainly in refrigerators and air conditioners that also destroy the Earth's protective ozone layer; and allowing unreported and unregulated emissions of methane, another potent greenhouse gas, by oil and gas companies.</p><p>Besides these measures, Trump is also trying to gut core environmental statutes like the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act, all of which were enacted to protect human health and preserve a livable world.</p><p>The Paris agreement aims to keep the rise in average global temperatures at less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and hopefully cap it at 1.5 degrees C or lower. We are now at approximately 1.2 degrees C and counting.</p>
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As the Gulf states get pummeled by intense hurricanes and California burns in record-breaking wildfires, many in regions like these have contemplated moving to places projected to fare better in the face of the climate crisis. The ability to work from home, indefinitely for some, has also inspired interest in relocation away from expensive cities like San Francisco and New York that are vulnerable to climate disasters, reported SF Gate.
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By Claire O'Connor
Agriculture is on the front lines of climate change. Whether it's the a seven-year drought drying up fields in California, the devastating Midwest flooding in 2019, or hurricane after hurricane hitting the Eastern Shore, agriculture and rural communities are already feeling the effects of a changing climate. Scientists expect climate change to make these extreme weather events both more frequent and more intense in coming years.
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- How Will West Coast Wildfires Impact the U.S. Economy? - EcoWatch ›
By Timothy Rooks
The many wildfires roaring through America's West Coast don't just look scary, they are bad for people's health, bad for public and private lands, and bad for the economy.
Counting Up the Losses<p>The costs around wildfires are multifold. Besides the irreplaceable loss of life and the enormous costs to put out the fires, there are many tangible elements like the damage to vehicles, homes and other buildings. These costs can be roughly calculated by looking at insurance claims.</p><p>Over the years, all of the top 10 costliest wildland fires in the country have been in California. The costliest of all was Camp Fire in 2018, which set insurers back over $8.5 billion, according to numbers tallied by the Insurance Information Institute.</p><p>But the Camp Fire was just one fire. Reinsurer Munich Re estimates the costs for all the wildfires that year to be over $20 billion. So far this year's fires should bring in a similar calculation.</p><p>Currently in California alone, thousands of structures have been damaged or destroyed. The state is known for building on steep slopes in rural areas surrounded by forests that are hard to access. And since the fires are still burning with no end in sight, it is impossible to tell how many will be damaged in the end and what the final costs will be. Add to that the fact that not everything is insured, and many things are underinsured and the actual costs get a little fuzzy.</p>
Counting the Tourists<p>It is important to remember that these numbers just include personal property. Damage done to public lands like parks is not added in. What is a single tree worth or a beautiful forest view in a state park anyhow?</p><p>What can be calculated though is how many tourists stay away based on past visitor numbers. The West Coast is world-famous for its natural wonders, wine country and lively cities, so there is no worse publicity than burning trees and a sky filled with smoke to keep tourists away.</p><p>These frightening images have gone around the world and made a deep impression. A bad reputation is hard to get rid of. The travel industry was already suffering because of COVID-19 restrictions, now a recovery on the West Coast will be even harder. </p>
Fear and Loathing in LA and Beyond<p>Other elements more difficult to tally are the costs of things that didn't happen like canceled flights, trains stopped in their tracks, workers on sick leave with respiratory problems, long-term health issues and other lost economic activity, either because a shop or warehouse burned down or there is no one left there to buy the goods.</p><p>Personal safety is also something to consider. Though U.S. housing sales are on a high, after so many natural disasters California may soon been seen as too dangerous a place to live or do business. In the end people may leave the coast for other, safer places.</p><p>Rebuilding is a lot of work and some may not be up to the challenge and may never come back as happened in New Orleans after <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/recovering-from-katrina-will-new-orleans-become-the-worlds-climate-beacon/a-19443437" target="_blank">Hurricane Katrina in 2005</a>. Higher insurance premiums for risky areas could help with these decisions.</p><p>In many ways these wildfires could not have come at a worse time. Besides scorched land, the coastal states will have less money to spend since their economies have been hit by coronavirus-related downturns. California in particular is dependent on global trade and needs huge sums of cash to run the state, invest in more costly firefighting and <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/us-global-standing-plummets-over-coronavirus-response-survey/a-54939242" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">beat COVID-19</a>.</p>
Not Out of the Woods<p>The wildfires in California have gained a lot of attention because of the apocalyptic sky around San Francisco. Yet 2015 was the worst year for wildfires, according to numbers gathered on annual wildland fires in the U.S. by the <a href="https://www.nifc.gov/fireInfo/fireInfo_stats_totalFires.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">National Interagency Coordination Center</a>. That year there were over 68,000 fires that destroyed over 10 million acres in the U.S. In a close second place is 2017. Looking at the decades of collected data, the general trend is pointing toward ever more fires.</p><p>So far this year, the fires have not reached the level of 2015. Still experts point out that current higher temperatures, droughts and shorter winters all add to the possibility of more fires. A report issued by the National Interagency Fire Center on September 15 outlined the problem.</p><p>"Generally, most areas across the West received less than 25% of average precipitation in August. The precipitation received was mostly associated with thunderstorms and provided little benefit," according to the report. Not only that, temperatures were generally 2-4 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.</p><p>This all means that the traditional fire season is longer than in the past. Frighteningly, in California it has now been extended to cover all 12 months. For years there has not been a month without a wildfire. These extra firefighting missions cost a lot in terms of manpower and equipment and take time away from fire prevention.</p>
California Has Huge Economic Impact<p>California has the highest economic output of any American state, accounting for around 14% of the entire country's tab. Add in Oregon, Washington State and Idaho and the region accounts 19% of U.S. output. With increasing temperatures, climate change and less cash to invest because of the current downturn, the area needs to prepare for more uncontrollable fires.</p><p>Residents and businesses there will need to put fear aside and get used to higher insurance premiums and stricter building codes, or move to less turbulent places. The hot glow of embers may permanently reshape the dynamic West Coast and turn it an unwelcoming place — that would be an economic tragedy and make these wildfires truly costly.</p>
By Sharon Guynup
At this time of year, in Russia's far north Laptev Sea, the sun hovers near the horizon during the day, generating little warmth, as the region heads towards months of polar night. By late September or early October, the sea's shallow waters should be a vast, frozen expanse.
Comparison of autumn sea ice formation for the first half of October 2012 (the record year for Arctic sea ice extent loss) and in 2020 (second place for sea ice extent loss). The satellite record goes back to 1979. @Icy_Samuel, data provided by NSIDC
Arctic sea ice extent on Oct. 25, 2020 was at a record low 5.613 million square kilometers for this date, surpassing the record set in 2019 of 6.174 million square kilometers. ChArctic NSIDC
The Arctic appears to be changing into an entirely new climate state due to rapid warming. The extent of sea ice in the late summer, when it reaches its minimum each year, has already entered a statistically different climate, with surface air temperatures and the number of days with rain instead of snow also beginning to transition. Simmi Sinha, ©UCAR
A polar bear prowls the Arctic shoreline. VisualHunt.com
A fire burning through northern forest in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, in July 2020. Greenpeace International
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The massive redwood trees that dot the landscape of Northern California have survived through countless earthquakes and natural disasters. Some of them are over 1,800 years old, hundreds of feet tall, and more than 90 feet in circumference. Yet, the climate crisis may threaten their livelihood as the latest California wildfires have encroached upon the ancient trees, as NPR reported.
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