Grist News 2020-11-20

Climate: The first step to bridging the urban ‘canopy gap’? Counting and mapping trees.

By: Joseph Winters on 20 November 2020, 8:55 am

All eyes were on Maricopa County, Arizona, earlier this month as election officials were counting every vote. But in the meantime, another group has been busy counting every tree.

Trees bring enormous benefits to the communities where they grow. For example, they scrub pollution out of the air and counter the urban heat island effect — in some cases lowering ambient air temperatures by up to 9 degrees F. Having trees nearby can potentially help homeowners save on energy bills and prevent excess mortality from heat waves.


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Climate & Energy: Solar companies ask Biden to reverse Trump’s biggest blow to the industry

By: Alexander C. Kaufman on 20 November 2020, 8:50 am

This story was originally published by HuffPost and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

In January 2018, President Donald Trump slapped tariffs on imported solar panels despite protests from much of the industry, sending jobs in one of the nation’s fastest-growing employment engines tumbling for the following two years.

Now the solar industry is asking President-elect Joe Biden to cut short what was widely seen as Trump’s biggest blow to solar energy during his single term.

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Temperature Check: Listen: The great green energy divide

By: Grist staff on 20 November 2020, 8:45 am

What do Al Gore, Matt Damon, and a trash-compacting robot have in common? You’ll find that out and more on today’s episode of Temperature Check, Grist’s weekly podcast on climate, race, and culture.

Host Andrew Simon and co-host Justin Worland kick-start the episode with a conversation on clean energy, the stock market, and solar farms. Later on, guest Kristal Hansley joins Simon to talk about her company, WeSolar, and test her film knowledge in a high-stakes pop quiz.

Host Andrew Simon is Grist’s director of leadership programming and founding editor of the Grist 50, an annual list of emerging climate and justice leaders. Previously a senior editor at Fast Company and ESPN, Andrew is also the author of Racing While Black: How an African-American Stock Car Team Made Its Mark on NASCAR.

Co-host Justin Worland is a senior correspondent at Time covering………

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Climate: Greentrolling: A ‘maniacal plan’ to bring down Big Oil

By: Kate Yoder on 19 November 2020, 8:59 am

Mary Heglar has a “maniacal plan” to save the planet. It doesn’t involve shutting down pipelines or protesting in the streets. Heglar has simply been “trolling the shit out of fossil fuel companies” on social media.

Heglar is known for her essays about climate change and for being one half of the duo behind Hot Take, a newsletter and podcast she co-hosts with the journalist Amy Westervelt. Her strategy started taking shape after the oil giant BP shared a carbon footprint calculator on Twitter last fall.

Courtesy of Mary Heglar

“Find out your #carbonfootprint with our new calculator & share your pledge today!” the oil company tweeted.

Hegar’s reply went viral……….

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Ask Umbra: Are animals eating all the human food?

By: Eve Andrews on 19 November 2020, 8:58 am

Q. Dear Umbra,

If humans stop eating animals, will we have enough grains to provide for everyone?

— Cancelling Omnivorism Widely

A. Dear COW,

Diet is no small factor in the carbon footprint department. Agriculture accounts for more than a quarter of our greenhouse gas emissions, and that’s not even taking into consideration factors like how your food gets from the farm or ranch to your grocery aisle.

The resounding message in the environmental community is: If you want to cut your carbon footprint, go vegetarian. It makes a difference! Since animals aren’t super efficient at converting plants to meat (blame the food chain for this one), it’s always going to take fewer resources to cultivate a plant-based diet than a meat-based one. But if you’re asking if animal feed could skip………

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Fix: Not every American has access to basic sanitation. This leader is out to change that.

By: Catherine Coleman Flowers on 19 November 2020, 8:55 am

Catherine Coleman Flowers is the rural development manager for the Equal Justice Initiative and an environmental health researcher working to bring basic sanitation to rural communities — a campaign she details in Waste: One Woman’s Fight Against America’s Dirty Secret. In this excerpt, which has been lightly edited for clarity, the Grist 50 Fixer and MacArthur Fellow recounts two key moments that focused worldwide attention on the unsanitary conditions many Americans live in.

I was in D.C. on business in December 2016 when I received a call from Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey. His………

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Climate: When temperatures soar, dog ticks turn to human flesh

By: Zoya Teirstein on 18 November 2020, 8:58 am

If you live in one of America’s wooded zip codes, you’ve probably reached down to pet your dog and noticed what feels like a small raisin attached to its skin. Nine times out of 10, that raisin turns out to be a dog tick, an arachnid evolved to favor feeding on canines that can transmit a host of diseases to humans which range from dangerous to deadly. The dog tick’s evolutionary journey isn’t over yet. A new study from the University of California-Davis shows that climate change may prompt these tiny-headed, eight-legged blood bags to start choosing people over dogs.

As far as bloodsuckers go, ticks rank right up there with mosquitos on the list of nature’s most insidious and bloodthirsty insects. There are a variety of different kinds of ticks crawling around the U.S. at any given moment (even, sadly, in the dead of………

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Cities: The second-hottest city in the US declared a climate emergency. Here’s what comes next.

By: Nina Lakhani on 18 November 2020, 8:55 am

This story was originally published by The Guardian and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

It was another scorching summer this year in Tucson, Arizona, the second-hottest city in the United States, where even plants adapted to the desert’s harsh conditions wilted amid record-breaking temperatures and scant rainfall.

This summer was the state’s hottest on record, and in August, the city clocked four days that were 43 degrees C (110 degrees F) or hotter and 26 that were over 37 degrees C (99 degrees F). Tucson temperatures are on average 2.5 degrees C (4.5 degrees F) warmer now than in 1970, a greater increase than in most other American cities,………

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Climate & Energy: A record 6 Native Americans were elected to Congress. Here’s where they stand on climate.

By: Angely Mercado on 18 November 2020, 8:55 am

Indigenous peoples have a critical role to play in the fight against climate change. Though they make up just 5 percent of the world’s population, their lands encompass more than 80 percent of global biodiversity. Indigenous lands are also at greatest risk from the multiple threats posed by climate change: rising sea levels, warmer temperatures, invasive species, and more severe weather. Indigenous people in the U.S. have been at the forefront of climate planning, using their unique status as sovereign entities to develop ambitious climate change adaptation and mitigation plans for their lands.

Native Americans make up about 1 percent of the U.S. population, but they’ve long been underrepresented in Congress. Since the founding of the country, just 23 Native Americans have served in the legislative………

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Sponsored: A penny for your trees

By: Grist Creative on 17 November 2020, 3:45 pm

This article is published in partnership with:

Acting on climate change is harder than it ought to be. Sure, you care about the environment, but how in the name of Captain Planet are you actually supposed to buy a carbon offset? And how many of those things are you supposed to get, anyway? You’re willing to throw some hard-earned cash at the problem … but where are you supposed to throw it?

They are good questions. When it comes to climate change and environmental degradation, cash is still king. That’s why climate activists have worked so hard to redirect institutional investment away from fossil fuels. Campaigns for divestment have Read more at Grist

Climate: Trump gutted environmental protections. How quickly can Biden restore them?

By: Shannon Osaka on 17 November 2020, 8:59 am

Just a month before he won the U.S. presidential election in 2016, Donald Trump vowed to spend his time in office systematically slashing government rules. “I would say 70 percent of regulations can go,” Trump told a crowd of town hall attendees in New Hampshire. “It’s just stopping businesses from growing.”

Now, four years later, it looks like Trump did his best to keep those promises. Over the course of his term, Trump has erased or watered-down dozens upon dozens of regulations designed to keep pollutants out of the water, air, and soil. He has allowed oil and gas companies to leak planet-warming methane into the air. He has told power plants that they can keep emitting dangerous………

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Climate: Yale pledged carbon neutrality by 2050. Students say that’s too late.

By: Joseph Winters on 17 November 2020, 8:55 am

Yale is one of many universities making big pledges to address the climate crisis. This year, it’s on track to cut emissions 43 percent below 2005 levels, and the institution has promised to achieve carbon neutrality in its operations by 2050. But a coalition of students is pressuring it to do much more.

In an op-ed addressed to Yale’s president, Peter Salovey, Yale Law School students Alan Mitchell and Lexi Smith exhorted the university to fully decarbonize by 2030. “It’s time for the university to do its part to ensure that there will still………

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Climate: It’s kids vs. parents in this award-nominated climate novel

By: Joseph Winters on 16 November 2020, 8:59 am

This post has been updated.

To any young person alarmed by the climate crisis — and frustrated with their parents’ generation for not doing enough to avert it — Lydia Millet’s latest novel may hit eerily close to home.

A Children’s Bible begins with a group of kids and their parents who are vacationing at an oceanside summer home. The adults are languorous — they spend their days dulling their senses with booze, gambling, and waiting for mealtime to roll around. Even when a summer storm causes a flood of biblical proportions, the parents turn out to be more or less useless; after some initial attempts to storm-proof the house, they quickly retreat into the numbness of their usual vices. Specifically: Ecstasy, bourbon, and sex.

A world-changing flood isn’t the only biblical theme in the book. Early on, one of the youngest kids, Jack, finds a literal children’s Bible and begins………

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Politics: These freshman House Republicans might actually care about climate change

By: Zoya Teirstein on 16 November 2020, 8:55 am

Since the presidential race was called more than a week ago, election coverage has mostly focused on President-elect Joe Biden’s win and what a (probably) Republican-controlled Senate might mean for his legislative agenda in 2021. But the upper chamber isn’t the only legislative body with the ability to jeopardize Biden’s plans.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has lost six seats in the House so far and may yet lose more — 14 districts still haven’t been called. That means her majority will………

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Climate: 5 post-Trump obstacles to a global green recovery

By: Jonathan Watts on 14 November 2020, 8:55 am

This story was originally published by The Guardian and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Environmentalists have been heartened by Joe Biden’s victory as, if the United States rejoins the Paris Agreement as expected, it will give the world a much better chance of averting climate catastrophe. However, there are still hurdles to overcome to rein in emissions and keep warming to within 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) above preindustrial levels.

Dirty financing by China, Japan, and South Korea

Xi Jinping’s promise to make China carbon-neutral by 2060 generated optimism, but state and provincial institutions do not seem to have received the memo. Lintao Zhang / Getty Images

“Drinking poison to quench thirst”………

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Fix: The election is over. 5 climate leaders share what should happen next.

By: Claire Elise Thompson on 13 November 2020, 11:30 pm

The 2020 election is finally over. But the hard work of building a better, cleaner, more just future has only begun.

Although Joe Biden won the presidency with 50.8 percent of the popular vote, he will lead a deeply divided nation. Donald Trump lost, but Trumpism retains its grip on the Republican party, and undoing his administration’s environmental rollbacks and other policies will take time. Biden faces another potential hurdle: Two key Senate races won’t be decided until January, leaving control of the Senate in doubt. A divided Congress would make enacting any agenda difficult, if not impossible.

That’s not to say Biden doesn’t have powerful Read more at Grist

Business & Technology: How a Biden administration could push companies further on climate

By: Emily Pontecorvo on 13 November 2020, 3:19 pm

Over the past year or so, as the Trump administration continued to roll back or weaken as many climate regulations in the United States as it could get its hands on, the corporate world seemed to be doing the opposite. A steady stream of companies — from tech giants like Apple to oil majors like BP to retail behemoths like Amazon — announced major commitments to decarbonize their businesses. Pledging to go net-zero became the new gold standard for corporate sustainability.

While many companies haven’t yet matched their net-zero………

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Climate: In ‘I Am Greta,’ an unlikely celebrity grapples with fame

By: Shannon Osaka on 13 November 2020, 8:59 am

It begins on a sailboat. A girl, dressed all in black, sits astern, motionless. Beside her, the boat’s tiller swings wildly from side to side, and behind her, ocean swells rise far above her head. “I feel that everything I’ve experienced over these last few months is like being in a dream,” she says. “Or in a movie.”

It’s a fitting opening for I Am Greta, the new documentary — airing now on Hulu — about climate activist Greta Thunberg. In August of 2018, the Swedish filmmaker Nathan Grossman heard about a 15-year-old girl staging a strange and quiet protest against climate change in Stockholm. He packed up his gear and went to see. “I thought it would be a three-week shoot,” Grossman later told the Hollywood Reporter. “A story of a few minutes in a short, arty film about child activists.”

The world knows………

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Climate: Post-election, youth climate activists celebrate, recuperate, and organize

By: Joseph Winters on 13 November 2020, 8:55 am

Now that President-elect Joe Biden has won the White House, Claire Hedberg is ready to finally get back to her chemistry homework.

Hedberg is a 15-year-old climate activist from Richmond, Virginia. Most of the time, she balances high school with organizing for the environment — protesting oil companies, coordinating panel discussions, and recruiting new members for the youth-led organizations Polluters Out and Zero Hour. But for the past few months, as Election Day drew near, her political advocacy took on a new urgency. She spent the weeks before the election phone-banking and text-banking — not only for the Biden campaign, but for down-ballot races in Virginia, including progressive candidates for Congress, mayor, and the local school board.

“I gave up my whole October for this,” Hedberg said, describing the chaotic lead-up to November 3. The presidential election in particular sapped attention that might otherwise have gone into her studies.


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Temperature Check: Listen: The environment under a Biden-Harris administration, Southern cooking in Seattle, and how to win Thanksgiving

By: Grist staff on 13 November 2020, 8:45 am

Join host Andrew Simon and co-host Angely Mercado for the third episode of Temperature Check, Grist’s weekly podcast on climate, race, and culture. From out of a makeshift sound studio comes today’s conversation, which touches on the environment under the Biden administration, the future of Puerto Rico, and the serene-but-dystopian landscape characterizing a music video from Puerto Rican artists Bad Bunny and Mora.

Later on in the episode, Simon is joined by guest Edouardo Jordan, a chef bringing Southern cooking to Seattle. In this food-filled chat, Simon and Jordan discuss the cooking of the American South and Black diaspora, sourcing traditionally Southern ingredients — like mustard greens and peaches — in the Pacific Northwest, Momma Jordan’s oxtails, and advice for cooking a Thanksgiving meal………

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