By Jenessa Duncombe
During some years in the spring, so many jellyfish wash ashore on the beaches of Washington, Oregon, and California that they carpet the sand in thick, gooey mats. The jellyfish Velella velella can pile so high that taken together, they likely equal six and half blue whales' worth of stuff.
By Ria Mazumdar
Reddish rock formations pervade the American Southwest. Their coloration is associated with the mineral hematite, through which a recent Rutgers University–led study uncovered a powerful link to climate.
Climate Impacts on Seasonality, Paleontology<p>Lepre and his colleagues examined part of a 518-meter-long rock core from the Chinle Formation in Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona. Using <a href="http://www.nuance.northwestern.edu/docs/keckii-pdf/what-is-diffuse-reflectance-spectroscopy.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">diffuse reflectance spectroscopy</a>, they obtained the wavelengths of various colors to find the concentration of hematite as well as grain size, which pushes the color to be more blue or red. (A more arid climate corresponds to a more reddish hue.) By looking at color cycles recorded in the rock formations, the team evaluated climate behavior during the Late Triassic, about 216 million to 213 million years ago.</p><p><a href="https://faculty.rpi.edu/node/36000" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Morgan Schaller</a>, an associate professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute not involved with the study, noted the importance of the work: "There are scant few mechanisms of determining hydrological conditions like rainfall on the ancient Earth, especially ones that have the potential to be calibrated quantitatively with so few confounding controls."</p><p>In addition to understanding climate change in the Late Triassic, the new data might be used to imagine how future climate changes might affect monsoonal environments. "Atmospheric [carbon dioxide] levels were very high in the Late Triassic—this is probably not analogous to what's going to happen in our lifetime but is certainly relevant for [future] projections," Lepre said.</p><p>Suarez said the new research also has a strong impact on understanding seasonality. "That's something that a lot of paleoclimatologists are grappling with," she said. "If you can apply this [methodology] to multiple other climate crises throughout Earth's history, it has the potential for being highly impactful for understanding climate change impacts on extreme seasonality."</p><p><a href="https://www.nps.gov/articles/meetapaleontologist-billparker.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Bill Parker</a>, chief scientist at Petrified Forest National Park, was interested in applying lessons from the study to paleontology: "The ability of dinosaurs over other animal groups to thrive through the climatic effects from the Triassic probably was a major factor of [their] success, and we need to [learn] more about the effects of climate on animal populations."</p><p>The new study was <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/118/7/e2004343118" target="_blank">published</a> in the <em>Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America</em>.</p>
Mentorship and Collaboration with the Navajo Nation<p>Although this study took place on federal land, part of the project's sequel proposes coring on Navajo lands, opening the door to deepening an ongoing relationship between outside geologists and the Navajo Nation. Although COVID-19 disrupted plans for in-person collaboration and virtual meetings are difficult because of a lack of Internet access, the research team has formed a working group of seven scientists, including three members of the Navajo Nation, who have been meeting virtually.</p><p><span></span>One member of this working group, Lavina Becenti, is a geologist with the Navajo Nation. "My involvement is to speak to the community and to tell them how this will affect the Navajo Nation," Becenti said. "It brings underrepresented minority students from community colleges on the Navajo reservation to opportunities they wouldn't find anywhere else…. There is a lot of interest from students, and they learn a lot, present at conferences, and talk to their local community."</p><p>Becenti also mentioned that the project would be used to find viable aquifers, a crucial task, as the pandemic has exacerbated water scarcity. Additional concerns include testing for soil and water quality, understanding how climate change will affect the Southwest, and expanding youth training opportunities. In addition, undergraduate students are setting up a website in Navajo that communicates the recent findings to the community. It is scheduled to go live in a couple of months, and Becenti noted that the team has plans to speak to the community as the pandemic comes to a close.</p><p>"As the nation begins to open up, we will hold town halls and invite the Navajo community to join our project as consultants and scientists," Lepre said. "There are a lot of opportunities to get young people involved—not just because of the environmental implications for their own communities, but because it's exciting stuff."</p><p>"We are looking forward to continued partnership with tribal members that has been ongoing since 2009," said <a href="https://www.southampton.ac.uk/oes/about/staff/jw2u12.page" target="_blank">Jessica Whiteside</a>, an associate professor of ocean and Earth sciences at the University of Southampton. Whiteside has worked with the Navajo Nation on similar projects and is a co–principal investigator on the current project's sequel. "We have plans for a cross-cultural field school setting, science communication workshops, and continued internship programs."</p><p>"There's an old saying when you do fieldwork: You take only pictures and you leave only footsteps," recalled Lepre. "But I think we can leave something besides footsteps—make relationships, bring some science that takes root there and is managed by the people rather than outsiders like us."</p><p><em>This story originally appeared in </em><em><a href="https://eos.org/articles/red-rocks-using-color-to-understand-climate-change" target="_blank">Eos</a></em> <em>and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.</em></p>
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Delta-8 THC is a cannabis product that has become a bestseller over the past few months, as many consumers find they can legally purchase it from CBD retailers. Its proponents say that Delta-8 THC will give you a nice little buzz, minus some of the more intense feelings (including paranoia) that are sometimes associated with marijuana.
Delta-8 THC is being marketed as a legal option for consumers who either don't live in a state with legal cannabis, or are a little apprehensive about how traditional psychoactive THC products will affect them. But is it all it's cracked up to be? Let's take a closer look, exploring what Delta-8 THC is, how it differs from other THC products, and whether it's actually legal for use.
nuleafnaturals.com<p><a href="https://nuleafnaturals.com/product/full-spectrum-delta-8-thc-oil-30mg-ml/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">NuLeaf Naturals Full Spectrum Delta 8 THC Oil</a> is made from organic hemp and organic virgin hemp seed extract. It's available in a 150 mg bottle and a 450 mg bottle, which both provide 15 mg of Delta 8 THC per serving. This formula is also available in a soft gel.</p>
botanyfarms.com<p>The <a href="https://www.botanyfarms.com/product/delta-10-thc-vape-cartridge/?aff=14" target="_blank">Botany Farms Delta-10 THC Vape Cartridge</a> actually contains both Delta-10 and Delta-8 THC.This is designed to provide the desired effects of Delta-8 THC but without the drowsiness. They also offer a vape cartridge with a 1:1 concentration of <a href="https://www.botanyfarms.com/product/delta-10-delta-8-thc-vape-cartridge/?aff=14" target="_blank">Delta-8 THC</a> and Delta-10 THC. Note that while vape products can be used to aid in smoking cessation, we do not recommend vaping or smoking because of the negative health effects they can cause.</p>
By Hannah Thomasy
On its own, a single sea cucumber may not be very impressive. But get enough of these floppy, faceless creatures together, and they—or, more specifically, their poop—can physically and biochemically reshape a coral reef habitat.
By measuring how much individual sea cucumbers pooped per day and estimating the number of sea cucumbers on the reef using drones and satellite images, researchers determined how much poop sea cucumbers contributed to the Heron Island Reef. Credit: Associate Professor Jane Williamson et al., 2021, Macquarie University; Dr. Stephanie Duce, James Cook University; Dr. Karen Joyce, James Cook University; and Dr. Vincent Raoult, University of Newcastle. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00338-021-02057-2
The Importance of Excrement<p>Scientists think that all of that poop plays an important role in ecosystem health as well as in the biogeochemical cycles of the reef.</p><p>"Sea cucumbers can be considered like a long sausage, almost," said Williamson. "Sediment goes in and sediment comes out.… By eating the sediment and then pooping it out again, they're actually aerating the sediment, which makes the sediment a healthier place for other animals to live, like small crabs or <a href="https://ucmp.berkeley.edu/annelida/polyintro.html" target="_blank">polychaetes</a>, which are worms, or small mollusks that live inside the sediment in the surface layer."</p><p>Sea cucumbers are also involved in the nitrogen cycles of the reef ecosystem. As sea cucumbers eat and excrete sediment, "they're releasing nitrogen that's trapped in between the sediments," said Williamson. "So this is really important because nitrogen in particular is a limiting nutrient on coral reefs.… The corals need nitrogen, and the algae need nitrogen, everything sort of locks it up really quickly when it's available, so the sea cucumbers are doing them a big favor in terms of the growth rate of these organisms."</p>
By Mary Caperton Morton
The only thing "new" about West Virginia's New River Gorge is its national park status: In 2021, the New River Gorge became our latest national park, but in geologic terms, the New River is anything but new. Dating back to the days of the supercontinent Pangaea, it is one of the oldest rivers in the world and one of the few waterways in North America that runs north.
New River, Old Course<p>"The New River might be the most inappropriately named river on Earth," said <a href="https://www.usgs.gov/staff-profiles/nathaniel-hitt?qt-staff_profile_science_products=0#qt-staff_profile_science_products" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Nathaniel Hitt</a>, a fish biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Kearneysville, W.Va.</p><p>The New was born when the North American and African plates collided to form the supercontinent Pangaea. The impact uplifted the Appalachian Mountains to Himalayan heights, and a mighty river named the Teays formed to drain the western slopes of the range. From its headwaters in what is now western North Carolina, the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/1983/11/29/science/a-great-lost-river-gets-its-due.html?&pagewanted=all" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Teays flowed</a> north through the Virginias before turning west into the Ohio River Basin, eventually draining into a vast inland sea.</p><p>Today the New River begins in the same headwaters carved by the Teays and follows roughly the same northward path. "These headwaters and this basin have remained in their current configurations for over 300 million years of evolutionary time," Hitt said.</p><p>Around 60 million years ago, the diagonally trending ridges of the Appalachians went through a period of uplift, but the highly erosive Teays kept cutting into the mountains faster than the uplift rate. Thus, the river's south-to-north course runs counter to the west-to-east flow of most Appalachian waterways, carving a formidable 400-meter-deep river canyon directly through the Appalachian Plateau.</p><p>The 580-kilometer-long New River carves the longest and deepest canyon in the Appalachian Mountains; the new 295-square-kilometer national park and preserve is headquartered along an 85-kilometer stretch of the river near Fayetteville, W.Va.</p>
A Speciation Superhighway<p>Downstream—to the north—the New joins the Gauley to form the Kanawha River. Just downstream from this confluence, the wide and turbulent Kanawha Falls present a natural barrier to migration, leading to many aquatic species above and below the falls being genetically distinct from one another.</p><p>For instance, "when you look at the fish of the New River, you're seeing how evolution plays out over long geologic timescales," Hitt said. "The New River highlights the potential of deep evolutionary time to produce uniquely adapted species." The New River Basin is home to seven endemic species of fish—fish that are found nowhere else on Earth. These fish are uniquely adapted to thrive in turbulent white water and have lived through several major extinction events and an ice age that froze the northern reaches of their habitat.</p><p>The New's deep canyons also function as a biogeographical corridor for terrestrial animals, facilitating north–south movement in a landscape where most valleys run east–west. The New River Gorge's unusual orientation "lies at the core of one of the largest intact temperate forests in the world," said <a href="https://ecosystems.psu.edu/directory/dmanning" target="_blank">Douglas Manning</a>, a terrestrial ecologist at the national park. "The gorge has a lot of niche habitats for different organisms to occupy," supporting a diverse assemblage of plants, mammals, birds, and aquatic species.</p><p>Whereas the New River allows for north–south migration, its steep and rugged topography presents a significant barrier to east–west movement. Historically, even humans have found the New a formidable obstacle. The turbulent waters are not safe for most river-based transportation, and steep cliffs can impede navigation on foot or horseback.</p><p>Although people have been living in southern West Virginia for at least 11,000 years, the main travel routes of early Indigenous communities "were not through the gorge, because it's so circuitous and dangerous to travel along the river," said Dave Fuerst, cultural resource program manager for the park. "They were using routes that went around the gorge, following ridges and stream drainages." Communities thrived in the ecologically rich area, however, and today more than 400 archaeological sites are documented along the New, Gauley, and Bluestone Rivers, connected by an elaborate network of footpaths.</p><p>It wasn't until the completion of the <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/piedmont_fossil/16210658540" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Railway</a> in 1873 that people were able to travel the length of the gorge efficiently. Even then, east–west travel across the gorge remained harrowing until 1977, when the <a href="https://www.nps.gov/neri/planyourvisit/nrgbridge.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">New River Gorge Bridge</a> was completed just east of Fayetteville, shortening the cross-gorge travel time from over an hour to less than a minute. This impressive 923-meter-long steel arched span soars 267 meters above the New, making it one of the highest vehicular bridges in the world.</p>
Coal Mining in My Mitochondria<p>The rock layers exposed by the New River span over 350 million years. Historically, the most sought-after layers in the gorge were bituminous coal, a relatively soft black coal that burns readily, producing little smoke. These layers date to the <a href="https://www.nps.gov/articles/000/pennsylvanian-period.htm" target="_blank">Pennsylvanian subperiod</a> of the Carboniferous, when vast swamps covered large regions of the globe, producing thick layers of peat that eventually formed coal.</p>
Coal miners pose on an electric-powered mine locomotive at Kaymoor, W.Va., in 1914. National Park Service<p>The downward cutting of the New River did a lot of the work to expose bituminous coal seams along the gorge. After the C&O railroad was finished, dozens of coal mines sprang up along the New. From the late 1800s to the mid-1900s, miners hacked millions of tons of coal from the walls of the gorge. The work was brutal, and the pay was around <a href="https://www.nps.gov/neri/learn/historyculture/royal.htm" target="_blank">45 cents a ton</a>. Strong miners could earn $2.00 a day.</p><p>For a time, New River coal was one of the most abundant on the market, fueling everything from steel mills to power plants. More than 60 coal towns were built along the New River to support the mines. Some of these towns boasted hundreds of buildings and were home to thousands of people.</p><p>The downward cutting of the New River did a lot of the work to expose bituminous coal seams along the gorge. After the C&O railroad was finished, dozens of coal mines sprang up along the New. From the late 1800s to the mid-1900s, miners hacked millions of tons of coal from the walls of the gorge. The work was brutal, and the pay was around <a href="https://www.nps.gov/neri/learn/historyculture/royal.htm" target="_blank">45 cents a ton</a>. Strong miners could earn $2.00 a day.</p><p>For a time, New River coal was one of the most abundant on the market, fueling everything from steel mills to power plants. More than 60 coal towns were built along the New River to support the mines. Some of these towns boasted hundreds of buildings and were home to thousands of people.</p>
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, dozens of coal company mining towns were built along the New River. All of the railroad-accessed towns were abandoned by the 1960s. Coalcampusa.com.<p>My family history runs deep in these New River mining towns: The town of Caperton was named for one of my relatives, my maternal great-grandmother was born in Fire Creek, and my paternal grandparents lived and worked in Ames, where New River Gorge Bridge pylons now stand on the east side of the gorge. When my dad was 2 years old, the family moved to Fayetteville, on the west side of the gorge, where my uncle still lives in the family home.</p><p>I spent the summers of my childhood exploring the woods and creeks around the gorge, hunting for salamanders and seashell fossils from a long-gone ocean that predates the Appalachians. Every time I visit the New, I feel like a salmon returning to its home stream; I imagine my great-grandmother's mitochondria in my cells vibrating in tune with one of the world's oldest rivers. I've hiked all over the New River Gorge, visiting the overgrown sites and ruins of Ames, Kaymoor, and Nuttallburg, but I have not yet made it farther upriver to Caperton or Fire Creek. Someday an anadromous upriver backpacking trip awaits (although I have no plans to spawn).</p>
Making the Leap from Coal Mining to BASE Jumping<p>All of the mines and coal towns in the New River Gorge were abandoned by the 1960s, and today the still-inaccessible ghost towns are fading into the rapidly regenerating forest.</p><p><span></span>"The New River Gorge faces a lot of legacy impacts from all sorts of land use history in the gorge," Manning said. Vast areas of forest were stripped of trees to fuel the coal towns' woodstoves and coke ovens, and timber operations in the gorge continued for decades after mining operations ceased.</p><p>"If you look at photos from around the turn of the century and the Great Depression, [you will see that] the forest here was stripped bare," said <a href="https://www.nps.gov/gari/learn/news/eve-west-named-chief-of-interpretation-at-new-river-gorge-national-river-gauley-river-national-recreation-area-and-bluestone-national-scenic-river.htm" target="_blank">Eve West</a>, chief of interpretation at the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve. And now, "this is considered to be the most botanically diverse river system in the central and southern Appalachians. There's not a lot of virgin forest here, so that's all come from regrowth in the past 50 years. This place bounces back fast."</p><p>Regrowth and resiliency are proving to be a hallmark of this landscape and for its people. Two generations removed from the dark and dangerous coal mines, I find myself drawn upward, to the New River's second most famous rock: Nuttall sandstone, a hard, quartz-rich variety that erodes into vertical cliffs with thin cracks perfect for rock climbing.</p>
We All Live Downstream<p>The New River Gorge National Park and Preserve encompasses almost 295 square kilometers of land around the river corridor, but the New River's entire watershed is more than 18,000 square kilometers. "One of the ongoing challenges is that we can protect and manage the gorge itself, but we don't own the headwaters upstream," where the river is "undoubtedly" still affected by ongoing mining, Manning said.</p><p>The New River's upstream watershed includes <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mountaintop_removal_mining" target="_blank">mountaintop removal mining</a>, in which the tops of entire mountains are removed to access buried coal seams, and the overburden is pushed into a neighboring valley, destroying thousands of kilometers of mountain streams. Across southern West Virginia, <a href="https://today.duke.edu/2018/07/mapping-mountaintop-coal-mining%E2%80%99s-yearly-spread-appalachia" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1.5 million acres</a> of land have been affected by mountaintop removal mining operations, which have buried more than 3,200 kilometers of streams in rubble, a tactic called valley fill.</p><p>As groundwater trickles through the jumbled subsurface of a valley fill, it picks up minerals, metals, and salts from the debris, increasing the salt and mineral content of the water downstream. A <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/676997?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2014 study</a> by Hitt and colleagues in <em>Freshwater Science</em> found "fewer species, lower abundances, and less biomass" downstream from mining operations.</p><p>Trees seem to be the key in kick-starting the healing process. "We've found that restoring trees to the postmining landscape helps restore the hydrologic function" within a matter of years to decades, said <a href="https://nres.ca.uky.edu/person/chris-barton" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Chris Barton</a>, a forest hydrologist at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. Trees pull a lot of water out of the groundwater system, keeping it from mobilizing minerals, salts, and pollutants.</p><p>"As the forest regrows, we're seeing a return to the natural hydrology of these sites, along with improvements in the water quality that [are] needed to support aquatic life," Barton said.</p><p>One reforestation project, at a former mountaintop removal mine that was replanted in 2009, went from looking like "the surface of the Moon" to a lush green forest in less than a decade, Barton said. Last year, Barton observed minnows in the stream he and his team created out of the moonscape of rubble.</p>
New, Forever<p>Even with restoration and reforestation, the scars left on the landscape by mountaintop removal mining are permanent, Barton said. "Reforesting helps hide the scars, but they're still there. I do wonder about how erosion over geologic timescales will work on those valleys filled with loose, unconsolidated rock," he said. "It seems likely they will erode much faster than the mountains themselves" and may result in deep gorges and holes in the landscape.</p><p>In terms of pollution, the legacy of mining in Appalachia will linger essentially forever, said <a href="https://palmerlab.umd.edu/" target="_blank">Margaret Palmer,</a> a restoration ecologist at the University of Maryland. "Replanting offers the best hope for restoring stream biodiversity, but no matter what you do, it's crystal clear that mining poisons streams and that mined land will continue to release toxins into the ecosystem in perpetuity."</p>
By Stacy Kish
Many of the botanicals used in traditional medicines and to flavor spirits, from absinthe to eau de vie, grow in alpine regions near the toes of glacial ice. As the planet warms and glacial ice retreats, this unique environment is changing and altering the diversity of the plant community.
By Eric Tate and Christopher Emrich
Disasters stemming from hazards like floods, wildfires, and disease often garner attention because of their extreme conditions and heavy societal impacts. Although the nature of the damage may vary, major disasters are alike in that socially vulnerable populations often experience the worst repercussions. For example, we saw this following Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey, each of which generated widespread physical damage and outsized impacts to low-income and minority survivors.
Mapping Social Vulnerability<p>Figure 1a is a typical map of social vulnerability across the United States at the census tract level based on the Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI) algorithm of <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1540-6237.8402002" target="_blank"><em>Cutter et al.</em></a> . Spatial representation of the index depicts high social vulnerability regionally in the Southwest, upper Great Plains, eastern Oklahoma, southern Texas, and southern Appalachia, among other places. With such a map, users can focus attention on select places and identify population characteristics associated with elevated vulnerabilities.</p>
Fig. 1. (a) Social vulnerability across the United States at the census tract scale is mapped here following the Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI). Red and pink hues indicate high social vulnerability. (b) This bivariate map depicts social vulnerability (blue hues) and annualized per capita hazard losses (pink hues) for U.S. counties from 2010 to 2019.<p>Many current indexes in the United States and abroad are direct or conceptual offshoots of SoVI, which has been widely replicated [e.g., <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13753-016-0090-9" target="_blank"><em>de Loyola Hummell et al.</em></a>, 2016]. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) <a href="https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/placeandhealth/svi/index.html" target="_blank">has also developed</a> a commonly used social vulnerability index intended to help local officials identify communities that may need support before, during, and after disasters.</p><p>The first modeling and mapping efforts, starting around the mid-2000s, largely focused on describing spatial distributions of social vulnerability at varying geographic scales. Over time, research in this area came to emphasize spatial comparisons between social vulnerability and physical hazards [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-009-9376-1" target="_blank"><em>Wood et al.</em></a>, 2010], modeling population dynamics following disasters [<a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11111-008-0072-y" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Myers et al.</em></a>, 2008], and quantifying the robustness of social vulnerability measures [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-012-0152-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Tate</em></a>, 2012].</p><p>More recent work is beginning to dissolve barriers between social vulnerability and environmental justice scholarship [<a href="https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2018.304846" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Chakraborty et al.</em></a>, 2019], which has traditionally focused on root causes of exposure to pollution hazards. Another prominent new research direction involves deeper interrogation of social vulnerability drivers in specific hazard contexts and disaster phases (e.g., before, during, after). Such work has revealed that interactions among drivers are important, but existing case studies are ill suited to guiding development of new indicators [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2015.09.013" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Rufat et al.</em></a>, 2015].</p><p>Advances in geostatistical analyses have enabled researchers to characterize interactions more accurately among social vulnerability and hazard outcomes. Figure 1b depicts social vulnerability and annualized per capita hazard losses for U.S. counties from 2010 to 2019, facilitating visualization of the spatial coincidence of pre‑event susceptibilities and hazard impacts. Places ranked high in both dimensions may be priority locations for management interventions. Further, such analysis provides invaluable comparisons between places as well as information summarizing state and regional conditions.</p><p>In Figure 2, we take the analysis of interactions a step further, dividing counties into two categories: those experiencing annual per capita losses above or below the national average from 2010 to 2019. The differences among individual race, ethnicity, and poverty variables between the two county groups are small. But expressing race together with poverty (poverty attenuated by race) produces quite different results: Counties with high hazard losses have higher percentages of both impoverished Black populations and impoverished white populations than counties with low hazard losses. These county differences are most pronounced for impoverished Black populations.</p>
Fig. 2. Differences in population percentages between counties experiencing annual per capita losses above or below the national average from 2010 to 2019 for individual and compound social vulnerability indicators (race and poverty).<p>Our current work focuses on social vulnerability to floods using geostatistical modeling and mapping. The research directions are twofold. The first is to develop hazard-specific indicators of social vulnerability to aid in mitigation planning [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-020-04470-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Tate et al.</em></a>, 2021]. Because natural hazards differ in their innate characteristics (e.g., rate of onset, spatial extent), causal processes (e.g., urbanization, meteorology), and programmatic responses by government, manifestations of social vulnerability vary across hazards.</p><p>The second is to assess the degree to which socially vulnerable populations benefit from the leading disaster recovery programs [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/17477891.2019.1675578" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Emrich et al.</em></a>, 2020], such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) <a href="https://www.fema.gov/individual-disaster-assistance" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Individual Assistance</a> program and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) <a href="https://www.hudexchange.info/programs/cdbg-dr/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Disaster Recovery</a> program. Both research directions posit social vulnerability indicators as potential measures of social equity.</p>
Social Vulnerability as a Measure of Equity<p>Given their focus on social marginalization and economic barriers, social vulnerability indicators are attracting growing scientific interest as measures of inequity resulting from disasters. Indeed, social vulnerability and inequity are related concepts. Social vulnerability research explores the differential susceptibilities and capacities of disaster-affected populations, whereas social equity analyses tend to focus on population disparities in the allocation of resources for hazard mitigation and disaster recovery. Interventions with an equity focus emphasize full and equal resource access for all people with unmet disaster needs.</p><p>Yet newer studies of inequity in disaster programs have documented troubling disparities in income, race, and home ownership among those who <a href="https://eos.org/articles/equity-concerns-raised-in-federal-flood-property-buyouts" target="_blank">participate in flood buyout programs</a>, are <a href="https://www.eenews.net/stories/1063477407" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">eligible for postdisaster loans</a>, receive short-term recovery assistance [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2020.102010" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Drakes et al.</em></a>, 2021], and have <a href="https://www.texastribune.org/2020/08/25/texas-natural-disasters--mental-health/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">access to mental health services</a>. For example, a recent analysis of federal flood buyouts found racial privilege to be infused at multiple program stages and geographic scales, resulting in resources that disproportionately benefit whiter and more urban counties and neighborhoods [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/2378023120905439" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Elliott et al.</em></a>, 2020].</p><p>Investments in disaster risk reduction are largely prioritized on the basis of hazard modeling, historical impacts, and economic risk. Social equity, meanwhile, has been far less integrated into the considerations of public agencies for hazard and disaster management. But this situation may be beginning to shift. Following the adage of "what gets measured gets managed," social equity metrics are increasingly being inserted into disaster management.</p><p>At the national level, FEMA has <a href="https://www.fema.gov/news-release/20200220/fema-releases-affordability-framework-national-flood-insurance-program" target="_blank">developed options</a> to increase the affordability of flood insurance [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 2018]. At the subnational scale, Puerto Rico has integrated social vulnerability into its CDBG Mitigation Action Plan, expanding its considerations of risk beyond only economic factors. At the local level, Harris County, Texas, has begun using social vulnerability indicators alongside traditional measures of flood risk to introduce equity into the prioritization of flood mitigation projects [<a href="https://www.hcfcd.org/Portals/62/Resilience/Bond-Program/Prioritization-Framework/final_prioritization-framework-report_20190827.pdf?ver=2019-09-19-092535-743" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Harris County Flood Control District</em></a>, 2019].</p><p>Unfortunately, many existing measures of disaster equity fall short. They may be unidimensional, using single indicators such as income in places where underlying vulnerability processes suggest that a multidimensional measure like racialized poverty (Figure 2) would be more valid. And criteria presumed to be objective and neutral for determining resource allocation, such as economic loss and cost-benefit ratios, prioritize asset value over social equity. For example, following the <a href="http://www.cedar-rapids.org/discover_cedar_rapids/flood_of_2008/2008_flood_facts.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2008 flooding</a> in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, cost-benefit criteria supported new flood protections for the city's central business district on the east side of the Cedar River but not for vulnerable populations and workforce housing on the west side.</p><p>Furthermore, many equity measures are aspatial or ahistorical, even though the roots of marginalization may lie in systemic and spatially explicit processes that originated long ago like redlining and urban renewal. More research is thus needed to understand which measures are most suitable for which social equity analyses.</p>
Challenges for Disaster Equity Analysis<p>Across studies that quantify, map, and analyze social vulnerability to natural hazards, modelers have faced recurrent measurement challenges, many of which also apply in measuring disaster equity (Table 1). The first is clearly establishing the purpose of an equity analysis by defining characteristics such as the end user and intended use, the type of hazard, and the disaster stage (i.e., mitigation, response, or recovery). Analyses using generalized indicators like the CDC Social Vulnerability Index may be appropriate for identifying broad areas of concern, whereas more detailed analyses are ideal for high-stakes decisions about budget allocations and project prioritization.</p>
By Katherine Kornei
Clear-cutting a forest is relatively easy—just pick a tree and start chopping. But there are benefits to more sophisticated forest management. One technique—which involves repeatedly harvesting smaller trees every 30 or so years but leaving an upper story of larger trees for longer periods (60, 90, or 120 years)—ensures a steady supply of both firewood and construction timber.
A Pattern in the Rings<p>The <a href="https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/coppice-standards-0" target="_blank">coppice-with-standards</a> management practice produces a two-story forest, said <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bernhard_Muigg" target="_blank">Bernhard Muigg</a>, a dendrochronologist at the University of Freiburg in Germany. "You have an upper story of single trees that are allowed to grow for several understory generations."</p><p>That arrangement imprints a characteristic tree ring pattern in a forest's upper story trees (the "standards"): thick rings indicative of heavy growth, which show up at regular intervals as the surrounding smaller trees are cut down. "The trees are growing faster," said Muigg. "You can really see it with your naked eye."</p><p>Muigg and his collaborators characterized that <a href="https://ltrr.arizona.edu/about/treerings" target="_blank">dendrochronological pattern</a> in 161 oak trees growing in central Germany, one of the few remaining sites in Europe with actively managed coppice-with-standards forests. They found up to nine cycles of heavy growth in the trees, the oldest of which was planted in 1761. The researchers then turned to a historical data set — more than 2,000 oak <a href="https://eos.org/articles/podcast-discovering-europes-history-through-its-timbers" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">timbers from buildings and archaeological sites</a> in Germany and France dating from between 300 and 2015 — to look for a similar pattern.</p>
A Gap of 500 Years<p>The team found wood with the characteristic coppice-with-standards tree ring pattern dating to as early as the 6th century. That was a surprise, Muigg and his colleagues concluded, because the first mention of this forest management practice in historical documents occurred only roughly 500 years later, in the 13th century.</p><p>It's probable that forest management practices were not well documented prior to the High Middle Ages (1000–1250), the researchers suggested. "Forests are mainly mentioned in the context of royal hunting interests or donations," said Muigg. Dendrochronological studies are particularly important because they can reveal information not captured by a sparse historical record, he added.</p><p>These results were <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-78933-8" target="_blank">published in December in <em>Scientific Reports</em></a>.</p><p>"It's nice to see the longevity and the history of coppice-with-standards," said <a href="https://www.teagasc.ie/contact/staff-directory/s/ian-short/" target="_blank">Ian Short</a>, a forestry researcher at Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority in Ireland, not involved in the research. This technique is valuable because it promotes conservation and habitat biodiversity, Short said. "In the next 10 or 20 years, I think we'll see more coppice-with-standards coming back into production."</p><p>In the future, Muigg and his collaborators hope to analyze a larger sample of historic timbers to trace how the coppice-with-standards practice spread throughout Europe. It will be interesting to understand where this technique originated and how it propagated, said Muigg, and there are plenty of old pieces of wood waiting to be analyzed. "There [are] tons of dendrochronological data."</p><p><em><a href="mailto:[email protected]" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Katherine Kornei</a> is a freelance science journalist covering Earth and space science. Her bylines frequently appear in Eos, Science, and The New York Times. Katherine holds a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.</em></p><p><em>This story originally appeared in <a href="https://eos.org/articles/tree-rings-reveal-how-ancient-forests-were-managed" target="_blank">Eos</a></em> <em>and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.</em></p>
By Alison Gold
Wildfire activity has increasingly threatened life in the western United States over the past several decades. Many of this year's record-setting wildfires raged over hundreds of thousands of acres. However, one of their most dangerous and understudied effects is too small to perceive with the naked eye: the tiny particles that can be inhaled deeply into the lungs.
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By Jeff Berardelli
At the first presidential debate on Tuesday night, former Vice President Joe Biden said point-blank that he does not support the Green New Deal — a progressive plan which not only aims to aggressively tackle climate change but also encompasses many other issues like social justice, jobs, housing and health care.
Goals and Costs<p>First, it is worth mentioning that comparing Biden's plan to the <a href="https://www.congress.gov/116/bills/hres109/BILLS-116hres109ih.pdf" target="_blank">Green New Deal</a> is not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison, because the Green New Deal is a broad resolution, not a specific plan. The goals of the Green New Deal are many, but the details on how exactly to achieve those goals are few. Thus, putting a price tag on the Green New Deal has been elusive; some experts estimate it would likely be <a href="https://www.aspeninstitute.org/blog-posts/how-much-will-the-green-new-deal-cost/" target="_blank">tens of trillions</a> of dollars over 10 years.</p><p>In contrast, <a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/news/biden-unveils-2-trillion-climate-plan/" target="_blank">Biden's climate plan</a> would lay out $2 trillion over 4 years towards clean energy and infrastructure, which he says will create "millions" of jobs and move the U.S. closer to a carbon-free future. (For comparison, the cost, while expensive, it is still short of the one-year, $2.2 trillion price tag for U.S. coronavirus stimulus measures to date.)</p><p>Biden's plan is also much more narrowly focused than the Green New Deal, which <a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/news/alexandria-ocasio-cortez-green-new-deal-about-to-get-real/" target="_blank">envisions broader reforms</a> across the U.S. economy. For instance, the Green New Deal includes a goal of "providing all people of the United States with high-quality health care" — an issue that is not addressed in Biden's climate plan. </p><p>However, like the Green New Deal, Biden's plan is aggressive in addressing <a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/climate-change" target="_blank">climate change</a> while also attempting to tackle other related issues such as environmental justice, sustainable housing, supporting a "just transition" for workers whose jobs are affected, and the building of major infrastructure projects such as high speed rail, which is mentioned in both proposals. </p>
Green Jobs and Infrastructure<p><strong> </strong>At their core, both the Green New Deal and Biden's climate plan are about jobs as well as the environment. They both place an emphasis on supporting labor unions' right to organize and bargain for fair wages for their members. The Green New Deal sets a goal of providing a guaranteed job with a family-sustaining wage and benefits to every American — but Biden does not go that far.</p><p>Biden's jobs plan is big, but not as comprehensive as the Green New Deal's. He pledges to create millions of new jobs by retooling the auto industry for low-emission vehicles, building infrastructure for a green future, upgrading millions of buildings to be more energy efficient, constructing 1.5 million new sustainable housing units, and cleaning up pollution from oil and gas wells and coal mining sites. </p><p>"When Donald Trump thinks about climate change, he thinks 'hoax.' I think 'jobs'," Biden has <a href="https://twitter.com/joebiden/status/1305666390670675969" target="_blank">said</a>. He aims to provide additional jobs out of the pandemic by boosting this green energy economy.</p><p>Climate change is also expected to continually increase major stresses on America's already aging infrastructure. To address this, both plans call for major investments to, as the Green New Deal puts it, "meet the challenges of the 21st century." Biden's plan calls for making "smart infrastructure investments to rebuild the nation and to ensure that our buildings, water, transportation, and energy infrastructure can withstand the impacts of climate change."</p><p>However, on housing, Biden's proposal to build 1.5 million new sustainable housing units is far short of the lofty ambitions of the Green New Deal, which calls for "providing all people of the United States with affordable, safe, and adequate housing." </p>
Carbon Emissions and Fracking<p>On emissions reductions, Biden's plan calls for a carbon pollution-free U.S. power sector by 2035, with net-zero emissions throughout the economy by 2050. The Green New Deal's timeline is more aggressive, calling for a 10-year national mobilization to generate "100 percent of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources."</p><p>Both the Green New Deal and Biden's plan call for overhauling the American transportation industry to reduce pollution and greenhouse gases by creating more public transit and pushing the country toward more hybrid and electric cars. Biden's plan puts forth proposals like giving Americans rebates to trade in gas-guzzling vehicles for more efficient American cars, incentivizing auto companies to offer more zero-emission vehicles, and investing in 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations, among other ideas.</p><p>One area where Biden's position has differed more significantly from environmental activists — and many of his rivals in the Democratic presidential primaries — has been on fracking.</p><p>Fracking, short for hydraulic fracturing, is a drilling method for extracting natural gas from shale formations underground by injecting liquid at high pressure. Since 2005, the use of fracking in the U.S. has <a href="https://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/011915/what-are-effects-fracking-environment.asp" target="_blank">grown exponentially</a>. Some energy experts <a href="https://www.energyindepth.org/report-the-united-states-will-be-the-worlds-top-lng-exporter-in-the-next-five-years/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">forecast</a> the U.S. will be the world's top exporter of natural gas within the next few years.</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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By Sharon Zhang
Back in March, when the pandemic had just planted its roots in the U.S., President Donald Trump directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to do something devastating: The agency was to indefinitely and cruelly suspend environmental rule enforcement. The EPA complied, and for just under half a year, it provided over 3,000 waivers that granted facilities clemency from state-level environmental rule compliance.
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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