What They’re Saying: Climate Change Disasters Continue to Upend American Lives
Washington, D.C. — With climate catastrophes happening across the country, climate change is increasingly a top tier issue for voters ahead of the 2020 presidential election. And, as the debate continues over the open Supreme Court seat, pundits, experts, and the press are all discussing how the next justice could have a lasting impact on climate policy in this country.
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING
- Pacific Northwest Region of the Forest Service: “More than 9,000 firefighters continue to battle 27 large wildfires across Oregon and Washington, where thousands of residences have been destroyed.” [AP, 9/21/2020]
- Phoenix City Councilor Sarah Westover: “It’s like this fire went after the poorest and most vulnerable people in our community.” “If we want people to stay, we have to take action now to make sure there’s transitional housing… We can’t put our tax base above the needs of the people who live here.” [Los Angeles Times, 9/21/2020]
- Texas Governor Greg Abbott: “As Tropical Storm Beta approaches, I call on all Texans in the Gulf Coast region to heed the advice of local officials and take the necessary precautions to keep themselves and their loved ones out of harm’s way….the State of Texas is prepared to support communities in the path of the storm, where substantial amounts of rainfall and flash flooding are a significant threat. We will continue to closely monitor the storm and work collaboratively with officials to ensure our fellow Texans are safe.” [CNN], 9/21/2020]
- Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards: “Prepare for heavy rainfall and the threat of storm surge and flooding in certain regions of the state due to Tropical Storm Beta.” “We understand that the threat of severe weather is even more of a risk in some areas at this time. We have started communication with our local partners as the storm approaches the state.” [CNN], 9/21/2020]
- California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara: “With climate change fueling California’s devastating fires, I am taking action to bring down the risk of losing your home in a wildfire and losing your insurance to a non-renewal. Californians need to know they can get and keep insurance they can afford before they buy, sell or build a home.” [Forbes, 9/21/2020]
- Seismologist at California Institute of Technology Lucy Jones: “It’s a wake-up call, reminds you that we do have earthquakes here. We have enough disasters going on right now, I’m like everybody else, I rather not have something else in 2020.” [CNN, 9/21/2020]
- Professor at University of Southern California Bistra Dilkina: “It’s very important to be thinking about the fact that people will start making decisions about moving because of climate-driven pressures.” “So far we’ve been kind of living very much in the world where movement, at least in the US, is really based on more about economic opportunities. But, as the intensity of climate-driven disasters is increasing, I think it will become an actual moving force, even within the US, for people to change their decision making in terms of relocating the whole family.” [CNN, 9/21/2020]
- University of California Merced Expert on Wildfires LeRoy Westerling: “Right now, we’re being impacted pretty severely by the Creek Fire but it’s not in danger of burning the town, it’s just the air pollution is so bad that you can’t stay there right now.” “We can’t get decent fire insurance anymore…so if your house does burn down, you don’t have full coverage.” [CNN, 9/21/2020]
- Policy and Communications Director at the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy Lucas Zucker: “What I hope is for policymakers, who are thinking about how to create a more resilient society in the face of climate change, to really think about the livelihoods of working people like farmworkers—to think about the inclusion of people like indigenous-language speakers.” “That goes beyond measuring impact and dollar values to buildings.” “The single biggest thing we can do to make our community more resilient to climate change for marginalized people is to make sure everyone is covered in our safety net.” [MotherJones, 9/21/2020]
A more conservative Supreme Court gives the Trump administration a greater chance of making its rollbacks of environmental rules last long after the president leaves office. The death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg could have a profound effect on a number of legal challenges brought against President Trump and his deputies now winding their way through lower courts, legal experts say.
The Golden State has been trying to contain the surge of coronavirus cases that started in the summer while dozens of wildfires are burning and smoke is making it hard to breathe. Then, as if not enough crises had collided, Southern California was caught in the clutches of yet another hazard — an earthquake.
The Associated Press: Desert homes threatened by enormous California wildfire
An enormous wildfire that churned through mountains northeast of Los Angeles and into the Mojave Desert was still threatening homes on Monday, but officials said calmer winds could help crews corral the flames.
In the wake of wildfires that have ravaged Oregon this month, leaving at least eight people dead and nearly a million acres burned, California transplants who went north seeking affordable housing now find themselves victims of an exodus that has driven up housing costs in states that are burning: Oregon, Idaho, and Washington.
The latest talk about people fleeing the California dream comes during an apocalyptic summer of record-breaking temperatures, raging fires that have forced thousands to flee their homes up and down the West Coast, unprecedented lightning strikes, rolling blackouts that left millions in the dark, and ghostly orange and Martian-red skies. And late Friday, another perennial threat, a 4.5-magnitude earthquake, struck Southern California. No damage or injuries were reported but it jarred the sense of security of some already-rattled Californians.
Last week, Clark was in his truck when he decided to record a TikTok to debunk a video someone had posted suggesting social media companies were hiding footage that would show the blazes were being intentionally lit. “Just a little PSA,” he says in his filmed response to the footage of flames being shot from a drone. “It’s a prescribed burn. We use drip torches and drones. Nothing crazy. Stay safe out there.”
Tropical Storm Beta is churning off the coast of Texas with winds of 50 mph and is expected to bring tropical storm conditions, hours of rainfall, and dangerous flooding to parts of the Gulf Coast on Monday. A storm surge warning is in place in Texas for Port Aransas to Sabine Pass, including Copano Bay, Aransas Bay, San Antonio Bay, Matagorda Bay, and Galveston Bay.
Tropical Storm Beta, the 23rd storm of the relentless 2020 hurricane season, is expected to bring days of flooding downpours to portions of storm-weary Texas and Louisiana this week after making landfall on Monday. The National Hurricane Center said that up to 15 inches of rain could fall in some areas. “This rainfall can lead to significant flooding, which may last for several days,” AccuWeather senior meteorologist Rob Miller said.
As wildfires wreak havoc in California, the state’s insurance commissioner on Sept. 16, 2020, announced potential steps to help homeowners afford and keep insurance amid California’s growing wildfire risk.
Researchers who studied the emergency response and recovery efforts during that fire have since found that a failure to direct resources to vulnerable communities, such as undocumented Latino and Indigenous immigrants, and farmworkers, in particular, exacerbated existing inequalities. A forthcoming article for the academic journal Geoforum (now available to read online) concluded that emergency response and recovery efforts during the Thomas Fire ignored the needs of residents already facing racial discrimination, exploitation, economic hardship, language barriers, and a fear of deportation.
First, the pandemic, which divided us, economically devastated us and has killed nearly 200,000 of us. Then the racial unrest, erupting at the deaths of more Black Americans at the hands of police: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, Daniel Prude. Now the extreme weather. For only the second time in history, the National Hurricane Center has moved into the Greek alphabet for storm names. This season’s wildfires are bigger, deadlier, and more frequent than in years past. In the West, people can’t breathe.
How long does the world have left to act before an irreversible climate emergency alters human existence as we know it? A new digital clock unveiled in Manhattan’s Union Square over the weekend promises to tell you — down to the very second. The Climate Clock unveiled by artists Gan Golan and Andrew Boyd warned at 1:30 p.m. Monday that there were 7 years, 101 days, 17 hours, 29 minutes, and 22 seconds until Earth’s carbon budget is depleted, based on current emission rates.