Newsdesk – August 25

Embers blow off a burned tree after the LNU Lightning Complex Fire burned through the area on August 18, 2020 in Napa, California. Credit: Justin Sullivan Getty Images

Fast-Moving California Wildfires Boosted by Climate Change. Firefighters battled nearly two dozen wildfires in California three days ago after a week of raging blazes blackened more than 1 million acres across the state. The fast-moving fires, which are seen by many scientists as a sign of climate change, have killed five people, destroyed more than 1,000 structures, and forced thousands to flee.  Altogether, the fires have burned an area the size of Rhode Island.  The fires on Saturday burned part of the oldest state park in California, Big Basin Redwoods State Park in Santa Cruz County. Flames damaged historic buildings, the campground, and “all of the infrastructure.” The week was filled with horror stories and heroic efforts. Volunteers helped evacuate senior citizens from a Vacaville retirement home in the middle of the night as fire raced toward the facility. Others helped rescue “dozens and dozens of individuals with intellectual disabilities” in Santa Clara. Hundreds saw their homes destroyed. The American Red Cross, wary of the coronavirus pandemic, put some survivors in hotel rooms so they could be separated from other evacuees, said Jim Burns, a Red Cross spokesman. Others went to evacuation shelters where protocols were in place to keep people spaced out. The Red Cross was also talking to colleges to see whether dorm rooms were available. Fires erupted beginning Aug. 15 when more than 1,200 lightning strikes hit the baking landscape within 72 hours. Those came “the exact week that we were experiencing some of the hottest temperatures ever recorded in human history, 130-degree temperatures in the southern part of the state,”  Gov. Gavin Newsom said. It was “maybe the hottest modern recorded temperature in the history of the world.”  Hotter temperatures, less dependable precipitation and snowpack that melts sooner lead to drier soil and parched vegetation. Climate change also affects how much moisture is in the air, said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA. “It’s actually drying out the air during these extreme heat events,” which zaps plants of additional moisture, Swain said. That left much of the state a tinderbox when hundreds of lightning strikes scorched the countryside –  Scientific American

  • Eliminating the concept of waste from the economy – Market Place
  • Large-scale renewable energy investment in Australia falls to lowest level since 2017 – The Guardian
  • Mangroves Could Help Save Us From Climate Change. Climate Change Is Killing Mangroves – The Revelator
  • Because of Climate Change, Canada’s Rocky Mountain Forests Are on the Move –  Smithsonian
  • Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: The animals at risk from Alaska oil drilling – BBC News
  • Earth has lost 28 trillion tonnes of ice in less than 30 years – The Guardian 
  • UN fund pays Indonesia for forest protection as deforestation rises – Climate Home News
As Vice-President, Kamala Harris’s approach to climate change would likely depend on the climate movement’s success in eroding the political power of the oil companies.Photograph by Drew Angerer / Getty

Will Kamala Harris Act Boldly on Climate Change?  Given the very real possibility that she’ll be at or near the pinnacle of our politics for somewhere between four and sixteen years, it’s worth asking how she will handle the gravest crisis that looms over our planet. Her defenders point to a number of powerful statements that she made over the course of her Presidential primary campaign. She’d eliminate the filibuster to pass a Green New Deal. She’d tell the Department of Justice to investigate oil and gas companies. Harris has been particularly outspoken about environmental injustice: just six days before she got the V.P. nod, she joined Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to introduce the Climate Equity Act. During a forum last year, Harris said that she had sued ExxonMobil over its climate denial, but that’s not true. After investigative reporters showed that company executives had spent decades lying about their knowledge of climate change, many state attorneys general announced investigations. Only two, however, actually went to court. Harris wasn’t one of them. In California, Harris did investigate ExxonMobil,  but never pulled the trigger—a grave disappointment to environmentalists.  Her courage will depend on the climate movement’s success in eroding the political power of the oil companies. The weaker the fossil-fuel conglomerates become, the less scary they are. Obvious but important: a new study from Climate Central found that as temperatures rise, so does the demand for air-conditioning. It projects that, by 2050, demand for air-conditioning will rise in the United States by fifty-nine percent—and far more than that around the world. That is why we need highly efficient air-source heat pumps, which also cool air, and why we need enormous amounts of renewable electricity to power it all.  Extraordinarily bad fire news from across the planet. In the Amazon, fires are burning at a rate not seen for a decade. In Siberia, fires may be burning at a rate we’ve never previously seen—and the heating, drying region may be on the verge of moving into a new and extreme “fire regime” – The New Yorker