California is headed toward drought conditions as February, typically the state's wettest month, passes without a drop of rain. The lack of rainfall could lead to early fire conditions. With no rain predicted for the next week, it looks as if this month will be only the second time in 170 years that San Francisco has not had a drop of rain in February, according to The Weather Channel.
The last time San Francisco did not record a drop of rain in February was in 1864 as the Civil War raged.
"This hasn't happened in 150 years or more," said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability to The Guardian. "There have even been a couple [of] wildfires – which is definitely not something you typically hear about in the middle of winter."
While the Pacific Northwest has flooded from heavy rains, the southern part of the West Coast has seen one storm after another pass by. Last week, the U.S. Drought Monitor said more Californians are in drought conditions than at any time during 2019, as The Weather Channel reported.
The dry winter has included areas that have seen devastating fires recently, including Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties. If the dry conditions continue, those areas will once again have dangerously high fire conditions, according to The Mercury News.
"Given what we've seen so far this year and the forecast for the next few weeks, I do think it's pretty likely we'll end up in some degree of drought by this summer," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported.
Another alarming sign of an impending drought is the decreased snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. The National Weather Service posted to Twitter a side-by-side comparison of snowpack from February 2019 and from this year, illustrating the puny snowpack this year. The snow accumulated in the Sierra Nevadas provides water to roughly 30 percent of the state, according to NBC Los Angeles.
Right now, the snowpack is at 53 percent of its normal volume after two warm and dry months to start the year. It is a remarkable decline, considering that the snowpack started 2020 at 90 percent of its historical average, as The Guardian reported.
"Those numbers are going to continue to go down," said Swain. "I would guess that the 1 March number is going to be less than 50 percent."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center forecast that the drier-than-average conditions may last through April.
NOAA said Northern California will continue deeper into drought through the end of April, citing that the "persistent high pressure over the North Pacific Ocean is expected to continue, diverting storm systems to the north and south and away from California and parts of the Southwest," as The Weather Channel reported.
As the climate crisis escalates and the world continues to heat up, California should expect to see water drawn out of its ecosystem, making the state warmer and drier. Increased heat will lead to further loss of snow, both as less falls and as more of it melts quickly, according to The Guardian.
"We aren't going to necessarily see less rain, it's just that that rain goes less far. That's a future where the flood risk extends, with bigger wetter storms in a warming world," said Swain, as The Guardian reported.
The Guardian noted that while California's reservoirs are currently near capacity, the more immediate impact of the warm, dry winter will be how it raises the fire danger as trees and grasslands dry out.
"The plants and the forests don't benefit from the water storage reservoirs," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported. "If conditions remain very dry heading into summer, the landscape and vegetation is definitely going to feel it this year. From a wildfire perspective, the dry years do tend to be the bad fire years, especially in Northern California."
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Koala populations across parts of Australia are on track to become extinct before 2050 unless "urgent government intervention" occurs, warns a year-long inquiry into Australia's "most loved animal." The report published by the Parliament of New South Wales (NSW) paints a "stark and depressing snapshot" of koalas in Australia's southeastern state.
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For the last decade, fireworks have been banned at Mt. Rushmore due to environmental concerns and public health concerns. President Trump, however, is not somebody who seems to care about either, so he's planning on going ahead with his fireworks show on July 3 at the iconic site.
A view of Mt. Rushmore at night on July 4, 2018. Rick Schwartz / Flickr
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Fire experts have already criticized President Trump's planned fireworks event for this Friday at Mt. Rushmore National Memorial as a dangerous idea. Now, it turns out the event may be socially irresponsible too as distancing guidelines and mask wearing will not be enforced at the event, according to CNN.
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With springtime in the air and the days getting longer, you may well be daydreaming about your garden or flower bed and the quiet weekend hours you hope to spend there in the weeks to come. But knowing what to plant as temperatures climb and precipitation patterns change around the world can be a challenge.
Drought-Tolerant Plants<p>When it comes to our changing climate, it's fairly safe to "<a href="http://climateandlife.columbia.edu/2017/05/31/expect-the-wet-to-get-wetter-and-the-dry-drier/" target="_blank">expect the wet to get wetter, and the dry, drier</a>."</p><p>If the region you live in is already a fairly dry one — like, say, the American West, Middle East and North Africa, and much of Australia — you're likely to experience even drier conditions and occasional drought as the world continues to warm.</p><p>These concerns, of course, have far larger implications than what you plant in the beds around your front porch or in your backyard. But that's not to say picking the right plants for your particular changing climate has no role at all in making you a better steward of natural resources at a time when it matters more than ever.</p><p>As just one example, <a href="https://www.epa.gov/watersense/how-we-use-water" target="_blank">according to the EPA</a>, outdoor water use, including the watering of lawns and gardens, accounts for about 30 percent of all residential water use in the U.S., and that number "can be much higher in drier parts of the country and in more water-intensive landscapes." So it makes sense that opting for plants that are able to thrive in drier conditions can also help rein in your home water use at a time when water resources can become strained.</p><p>But which plants are less thirsty and more resilient during periods of drought?</p><p>Lavender is a particularly popular — and wonderfully fragrant — common plant that "<a href="https://www.thespruce.com/water-wise-plants-drought-tolerant-gardens-2736715" target="_blank">has evolved to subsist on little water</a>."</p><p>Cushion spurge (Euphorbia), with its pale green leaves and yellow bracts, is an especially good <a href="http://www.perennialresource.com/photo_essay.php?ID=311" target="_blank">drought-tolerant plant</a> for gardens in cooler climes. And <a href="https://www.countryliving.com/gardening/garden-ideas/g26122002/drought-resistant-plants/?slide=12" target="_blank">ornamental grasses</a> tend to be both aesthetically pleasing and drought tolerant, more generally. Feather reed grass, blue fescue, fountain grass, and big bluestem (called "Monarch of the Prairie" by some), in particular, <a href="http://www.perennialresource.com/photo_essay.php?ID=311" target="_blank">will all survive periods of water shortage while still looking great</a>.</p><p>If more conventional flowers are your thing, consider peonies, geraniums, butterfly weed, baby's breath, sedum, and coneflower, all of which require a bit less water than many other common garden flowers.</p><p>It's important to note that the perennials above are only truly drought-tolerant once they have been fully established. This means that in their first and sometimes second years, they will require a little more water and care. And as with all plants, if you are in the U.S., you should check to make sure it is a good fit for <a href="https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/" target="_blank">your USDA Hardiness Zone</a>.</p>
Heat-Tolerant Plants<p>"Worldwide, since 1880 the average surface temperature [on Earth] has risen about 1° C (about 2° F), relative to the mid-20th-century baseline (of 1951-1980)," <a href="https://climate.nasa.gov/faq/12/whats-the-difference-between-climate-change-and-global-warming/" target="_blank">according to NASA</a>.</p><p>It's important to remember that's a worldwide average; many regions have experienced more warming than this on the ground. But any change in temperatures can and will change where a plant can be grown — and some plants are better able to deal with periods of extreme heat than others.</p><p>A few of the plants mentioned above as being drought-tolerant can also deal pretty well with higher temperatures, including butterfly weed and purple coneflower. </p><p>Celosia, with its bright, feathery orange, purple, yellow, red, and white plumes, is a favorite for many American gardeners — and is well-known to "<a href="https://www.bobvila.com/slideshow/14-plants-that-thrive-even-when-temperatures-rise-52220#celosia" target="_blank">remain upright and strong even in sizzling heat</a>."</p><p>And zinnias, gaillardia, purslane, and cosmos are all <a href="https://www.bobvila.com/slideshow/14-plants-that-thrive-even-when-temperatures-rise-52220#purslane" target="_blank">prolific, heat-loving annuals</a>.</p><p>When it comes to perennials and other shrubs, if you live in a largely temperate area that experiences occasional periods of high heat, consider adding viburnum to your landscape. Its fragrant clusters of delicate white blossoms arrive fairly early in the season, often in May and June, and it does a famously good job of standing up to late-summer heat, providing birds and other wildlife refuge in the shade created by its eight-to-10-foot average height and broad, leafy boughs.</p><p>Yucca, a broadleaf evergreen, is native to some of the warmest and driest parts of North America, so it's no surprise that, <a href="https://www.bobvila.com/slideshow/14-plants-that-thrive-even-when-temperatures-rise-52220#yucca-yucca-elephantipes" target="_blank">according to Bob Vila</a>, "When other plants begin to wilt in the heat, yucca stands tall and strong."</p><p>For a smaller shrub that does particularly well with higher humidity (it is a longtime stalwart in gardens across the American South), consider lantana.</p>
Rain Gardens<p>Like we said earlier, "<a href="http://climateandlife.columbia.edu/2017/05/31/expect-the-wet-to-get-wetter-and-the-dry-drier/" target="_blank">expect the wet to get wetter, and the dry, drier</a>."</p><p>Put as simply as possible, climate change impacts our weather largely by putting <a href="https://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/climate-change-impacting-water-cycle" target="_blank">our water cycle</a> into overdrive. As temperatures around the globe climb, water from land and sea is evaporating faster. Making matters worse: Warmer air can hold more water vapor.</p><p>More water in our atmosphere means more intense precipitation and more intense storms. It's called a cycle for a reason.</p><p>So, if you are in a region experiencing more and more precipitation, and are looking for a great way to soak up some of the extra rain while keeping your landscape looking great, consider a "rain garden."</p><p>But wait. What's a "rain garden"?</p><p>"A rain garden is a garden of native shrubs, perennials, and flowers planted in a small depression, which is generally formed on a natural slope. It is designed to temporarily hold and soak in rain water runoff that flows from roofs, driveways, patios or lawns," <a href="https://www.groundwater.org/action/home/raingardens.html" target="_blank">according to Groundwater.org</a>. "Rain gardens are effective in removing up to 90 percent of nutrients and chemicals and up to 80 percent of sediments from the rainwater runoff. Compared to a conventional lawn, rain gardens allow for 30 percent more water to soak into the ground."</p><p>It's important to note that rain gardens are not ponds, water gardens, or wetlands. They are meant to collect and hold rainwater only during and for <a href="https://extension.psu.edu/an-introduction-to-rain-gardens" target="_blank">no more than 24 or so hours max after</a> a rainfall event. Designing them this way goes a long way to keeping <a href="https://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/climate-change-and-health-infectious-diseases" target="_blank">another persistent climate pest</a> at bay: mosquitos.</p><p>Rain gardens are typically placed on the downside of a slope — the best location for them to collect excess rainwater runoff — and at least 10 feet from a house or other residence. Building the garden itself is a bit of a process, one with more than a few moving parts (luckily, <a href="https://extension.psu.edu/an-introduction-to-rain-gardens" target="_blank">Penn State Extension offers a fantastic primer on getting started</a>). The good new there is that most work associated with rain gardens happens up front; once the garden is established, it typically requires <a href="https://www.groundwater.org/action/home/raingardens.html" target="_blank">minimal maintenance</a>.</p><p>Just as some plants are drought-tolerant, other vegetation can easily withstand temporary excesses of water — and these are the plants you want to seek out for your rain garden. Be sure to seek out a mix of shrubs, perennials and grasses, and flowers that are native to your region.</p><p>Some shrubs that "<a href="https://extension.psu.edu/rain-gardens-the-plants" target="_blank">are tolerant of inundated (flooded) conditions … [and] can tolerate standing water for a period of time</a>" include elderberry, silky dogwood, winterberry, and swamp azalea. American beautyberry, red-osier dogwood, and Virginia sweetspire can handle pretty wet conditions too, but don't love it when standing water hangs around quite as long.</p><p><span></span>In the perennials, grasses, and ferns department, look to marsh marigold, switchgrass, goldenrod, cinnamon fern, and blue flag iris (<a href="https://extension.psu.edu/rain-gardens-the-plants" target="_blank">among many others</a>) for the wettest areas of the rain garden, and evening primrose, threadleaf coreopsis, blue mistflower, and boltonia for the corners that get a little less swamped.</p>
What's Next<p>Here at Climate Reality, we've long had a keen interest in <a href="https://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/what-regenerative-agriculture" target="_blank">climate-smart agriculture</a> and <a href="https://climaterealityproject.org/blog/regenerative-agriculture-and-municipal-climate-action-plans" target="_blank">the ways</a> farmers and gardeners can do their part to help turn the tide on climate by taking <a href="https://www.climaterealityproject.org/content/right-under-your-feet-soil-health-and-climate-crisis" target="_blank">action to fight this crisis</a>.</p><p><span></span>It's important to remember that you don't have to manage a thousand acres to do something real for our climate. From <a href="https://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/take-climate-action-transforming-your-lawn-edible-landscaping" target="_blank">edible landscaping</a> to "<a href="https://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/lasagna-gardening-grow-healthy-veggies-while-taking-climate-action" target="_blank">lasagna gardening</a>" and <a href="https://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/spring-action-6-tips-climate-smart-gardening" target="_blank">so much more</a>, you can be the change you want to see. You don't even have to leave your own backyard to get started!</p><p>And when your neighbors, colleagues, or family members ask what you're up to, tell them you are taking action for the planet. <a href="https://climaterealityproject.org/blog/do-something-important-climate-talk-about-it" target="_blank">Sometimes, the most powerful climate action you can take is simply talking about the crisis and the ways we can fight it and win together</a>. </p><p>In the meantime, sign up below to join Climate Reality's email list and we'll keep you posted on the latest developments in climate policy and how you can help solve the climate crisis.</p>
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By Dr. Charles Owubah
Today is World Food Day, a time to reflect on the foundational role that food plays in our lives, communities, and cultures. We cannot live without food.
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By Maria Trimarchi and Sarah Gleim
If all the glaciers and ice caps on the planet melted, global sea level would rise by about 230 feet. That amount of water would flood nearly every coastal city around the world [source: U.S. Geological Survey]. Rising temperatures, melting arctic ice, drought, desertification and other catastrophic effects of climate change are not examples of future troubles — they are reality today. Climate change isn't just about the environment; its effects touch every part of our lives, from the stability of our governments and economies to our health and where we live.
<p>Why environmental refugees flee their homes is a complicated mixture of environmental degradation and desperate socioeconomic conditions. People leave their homes when their livelihoods and safety are jeopardized. What effects of climate change put them in jeopardy? Climate change triggers, among other problems, desertification and drought, <a href="https://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/deforestation.htm" target="_blank">deforestation</a>, land degradation, rising sea levels, <a href="https://science.howstuffworks.com/nature/natural-disasters/flood.htm" target="_blank">floods</a>, more frequent and more extreme storms, <a href="https://science.howstuffworks.com/nature/natural-disasters/earthquake.htm" target="_blank">earthquakes</a>, <a href="https://science.howstuffworks.com/nature/natural-disasters/volcano.htm" target="_blank">volcanoes</a>, food insecurity and famine.</p><p>The September <a href="http://visionofhumanity.org/app/uploads/2020/09/ETR_2020_web-1.pdf" target="_blank">2020 Ecological Threat Register Report</a>, by the Institute for Economics & Peace, predicts the hardest hit populations will be:</p><ul><li>Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa</li><li>Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Chad, India and Pakistan (which are among the world's least peaceful countries)</li><li>Pakistan, Ethiopia and Iran are most at risk for mass displacements</li><li>Haiti faces the highest risk of all countries in Central America and the Caribbean</li><li>India and China will be among countries experiencing high or extreme water stress</li></ul>
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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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Aboriginal officials in Australia approved the rounding up and killing of up to 10,000 camels because of drought conditions, claiming that the thirsty camels are drinking up too much of a dwindling water supply, as CBS News reported.
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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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Climate change has spurred close to a doubling of natural disasters in the last 20 years, and world leaders are failing to prevent Earth from evolving into "an uninhabitable hell" for millions, the United Nations warned on Monday.
Climate Change Proves Deadly<p>Worsening floods and storms accounted for about four-fifths of the total from 2000-2019, while major increases were also registered for droughts, wildfires and heat waves.The report noted that extreme heat is proving especially deadly. Other major recorded disasters included earthquakes and tsunamis.</p><p>The natural disasters also caused almost $3 trillion in global economic losses — almost twice the amount in the preceding two decades.</p><p>The UN body blamed leaders for not only <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/climate-scientists-should-cut-back-on-air-travel/a-42862862" target="_blank">insufficient action</a> in slowing down climate change but also for failing to combat the global coronavirus pandemic which has killed over 1 million people and infected over 37 million in the past nine months.</p><p>"COVID-19 is but the latest proof that political and business leaders are yet to tune into the world around them," Mizutori said in a statement. Despite warnings from experts and UN agencies, "almost all nations" have not done enough to prevent death and illness caused by the pandemic.</p>
Asia at Highest Risk<p>Though the report commended countries including India and Bangladesh for stepping up efforts in evacuating millions of people to safety from life-threatening floods and cyclones, it said the odds "continue to be stacked against them, in particular by industrial nations that are failing miserably on reducing greenhouse gas emissions" in line with an agreed aim of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.</p><p>The report, released ahead of the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction on Tuesday, relied on statistics from the Emergency Events Database, which records all disasters that kill 10 or more people, affect 100 or more people or result in a state of emergency declaration.</p><p>According to the data, Asia has suffered the highest number of disasters in the past 20 years with 3,068 disasters, followed by the Americas with 1,756 and Africa with 1,192.</p><p>In terms of affected countries, China topped the list with 577 events followed by the US with 467.</p><p>"It really is all about governance if we want to deliver this planet from the scourge of poverty, further loss of species and biodiversity, the explosion of urban risk and the worst consequences of global warming," Mizutori said.<br></p>
By Jessica Corbett
This story was originally published on Common Dreams on September 19, 2020.
Some advocates kicked off next week's Climate Week NYC early Saturday by repurposing the Metronome, a famous art installation in Union Square that used to display the time of day, as a massive "Climate Clock" in an effort to pressure governments worldwide to take swift, bold action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and rein in human-caused global heating.
<div id="0bde7" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="002ce26d8d0c627f76d752e14d234d6e"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1307397838884741121" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">LIVE: #ClimateClock about to go live at Union square replacing the atronomical clock, with a carbon countdown!… https://t.co/5OzxwUwWDf</div> — Greg Schwedock🌹(⧖) (@Greg Schwedock🌹(⧖))<a href="https://twitter.com/GregSchwedock/statuses/1307397838884741121">1600542909.0</a></blockquote></div><p>A mobile climate clock that Swedish youth activist Greta Thunberg "now carries with her, as well as the larger Climate Clock project, was assembled by a team of artists, makers, scientists, and activists based in New York, and is part of the Beautiful Trouble community of projects," according to <a href="https://climateclock.world/" target="_blank">Climateclock.world</a>, which details the science behind the numbers displayed and how to install clocks in other cities.</p>
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