Heat, Smoke and Covid Are Battering the Workers Who Feed America – By Somini Sengupta – The New York Times

By 

Photographs by 

“STOCKTON, Calif — Work began in the dark. At 4 a.m., Briseida Flores could make out a fire burning in the distance. Floodlights illuminated the fields. And shoulder to shoulder with dozens of others, Ms. Flores pushed into the rows of corn. Swiftly, they plucked. One after the other. First under the lights, then by the first rays of daylight.

By 10:30 a.m., it was unbearably hot. Hundreds of wildfires were burning to the north, and so much smoke was settling into the San Joaquin Valley that the local air pollution agency issued a health alert. Ms. Flores, 19, who had joined her mother in the fields after her father lost his job in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, found it hard to breathe in between the tightly planted rows. Her jeans were soaked with sweat.

“It felt like a hundred degrees in there,” Ms. Flores said. “We said we don’t want to go in anymore.”

She went home, exhausted, and slept for an hour.

All this to harvest dried, ocher-colored ears of corn meant to decorate the autumn table.

Like the gossamer layer of ash and dust that is settling on the trees in Central California, climate change is adding on to the hazards already faced by some of the country’s poorest, most neglected laborers. So far this year, more than 7,000 fires have scorched 1.4 million acres, and there is no reprieve in sight, officials warned.”

“. . . .  The valley is abnormally dry in parts, and in drought in others. Dust swirls up from the fields like a genie. Many creek beds are parched. The rivers have been twisted and bent every which way to bring water from the north for the fields. Since mid-August, for over two weeks, daily high temperatures have ranged from 97 degrees Fahrenheit to 108″

‘The City I Love’ and Climate Change: A Miami Story – By Somini Sengupta – The New York Times

Like most people in Miami, Mario Alejandro Ariza came from somewhere else.

He arrived from the Dominican Republic in 1993, just months after Hurricane Andrew had swept through Miami, taking what seemed to him like every leaf from every tree. He was 6 years old at the time. He didn’t like it one bit.

His mother had brought him, and love had brought her. She had married a stockbroker from Miami and then, when she needed to, reinvented herself from a stay-at-home mom to a spectacularly successful real estate broker in a city at risk of sinking into the sea.

That biting detail figures in Mr. Ariza’s cautionary love letter to the city, entitled “Disposable City: Miami’s Future on the Shores of Climate Catastrophe” and published this week by Bold Type Books, an imprint of Hachette.

Forests Rebounded in Europe. Then, With Climate Change, So Did Fires. – By Somini Sengupta – The New York Times

By

Ms. Sengupta traveled to Catalonia to report this article.

 

 

TIVISSA, Spain — Forests are often hailed as a solution to climate change, as they were recently at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where business and political leaders announced an initiative to plant one trillion trees worldwide.

Even President Trump, without mentioning global warming, cited the effort Tuesday night in his State of the Union address.

But while forests are vital for swallowing up and storing carbon, currently absorbing 30 percent of planet-warming carbon dioxide, they are also extremely vulnerable in the age of climate disruptions.

In a hotter, drier, more flammable climate, like here in the Mediterranean region, forests can die slowly from drought or they can go up in flames almost instantly, releasing all the planet-warming carbon stored in their trunks and branches into the atmosphere.

That raises an increasingly urgent question: How best to manage woodlands in a world that humans have so profoundly altered? “We need to decide what will be the climate-change forest for the future,” is how Kirsten Thonicke, a fire ecologist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, framed the challenge.

A forest revival in Europe is forcing that discussion now.

Today roughly 40 percent of the European Union’s Continent’s landmass is covered by trees, making it one of the most forest-rich regions in the world. It’s also ripe for wildfire.

Greta Thunberg’s Message at Davos Forum: ‘Our House Is Still on Fire’ – By Somini Sengupta – The New York Times

“Ms. Thunberg, a climate activist known for speaking bluntly to power, rebuked the crowd for promises that she said would do too little: reducing planet-warming gases to net zero by 2050, offsetting emissions by planting one trillion trees, transitioning to a low-carbon economy.

“Let’s be clear. We don’t need a ‘low carbon economy.’ We don’t need to ‘lower emissions,’” she said. “Our emissions have to stop.”

Only that, she said, would enable the world to keep temperatures from rising past 1.5 degrees from preindustrial levels, which scientists say is necessary to avert the worst effects of climate change. She and a group of young climate activists have called on private investors and governments to immediately halt exploration for fossil fuels, to stop funding their production, to end taxpayer subsidies for the industry and to fully divest their existing stakes in the sector.

Scientists have said emissions must be reduced by half in the next decade to reach the 1.5-degree target. The opposite is happening. Global emissions continued to rise, hitting a record high in 2019, according to research published in December.”

Thank you Greta Thunberg.  Here is one of many good comments I endorsed:

ChristineMcM
Massachusetts

Such an articulate and impassioned cry from a member of the generation who will be left holding the bag of climate crisis.

Nobody with the power to do anything will be alive when their inaction translates into an uninhabitable planet.

This isn’t a simple abdiction of reponsiblity. It’s wholesale abandonment of the powerless, the children who today see imending doom but lack the authority to stop it.

Reply67 Recommended
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David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment
Thank you Greta and Somini and the NYT for this story. I hope Greta, that you can take a break soon, and go to college, or university, as it is often called. Taking some time for yourself wouldn’t muzzle you, and might be helpful.
I read somewhere, some souce like the NYT, that historians of science and engineering have noted that it takes about 50 years for any civilization to radically change from one major technology to another. If this is true, then it will be a stretch for the world to completely move off of fossil fuels by 2050.
Also, what the IPCC reported last fall, was according to their newest work, we have about 10 years to really change direction, and make dramatic progress. I don’t think they thought in ten years we could get to zero emissions, so they put in a more realitic goal.

Carbon pollution would have to be cut by 45% by 2030 – compared with a 20% cut under the 2C pathway – and come down to zero by 2050, compared with 2075 for 2C. This would require carbon prices that are three to four times higher than for a 2C target. But the costs of doing nothing would be far higher.

see the source article in my next post.

Copenhagen Wants to Show How Cities Can Fight Climate Change – The New York Times

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By Somini Sengupta      Photographs by Charlotte de la Fuente
March 25, 2019,   189

COPENHAGEN — Can a city cancel out its greenhouse gas emissions?

Copenhagen intends to, and fast. By 2025, this once-grimy industrial city aims to be net carbon neutral, meaning it plans to generate more renewable energy than the dirty energy it consumes.

Here’s why it matters to the rest of the world: Half of humanity now lives in cities, and the vast share of planet-warming gases come from cities. The big fixes for climate change need to come from cities too. They are both a problem and a potential source of solutions.

The experience of Copenhagen, home to 624,000 people, can show what’s possible, and what’s tough, for other urban governments on a warming planet.

The mayor, Frank Jensen, said cities “can change the way we behave, the way we are living, and go more green.” His city has some advantages. It is small, it is rich and its people care a lot about climate change.

via Copenhagen Wants to Show How Cities Can Fight Climate Change – The New York Times

Becoming Greta: ‘Invisible Girl’ to Global Climate Activist With Bumps Along the Way – By Somini Sengupta – The New York Times

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By Somini Sengupta
Feb. 18, 2019,  159 c

STOCKHOLM — It’s complicated being Greta.

Small, shy, survivor of crippling depression, Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish girl skipping school to shame the world into addressing climate change, drew a parade of fans one Friday in February on a frozen square in Stockholm.

Six Swiss students had traveled 26 hours by train to seek her support for their petition for a tougher Swiss carbon emissions law. An Italian scientist told her she reminded him of his younger, activist self. A television news crew hovered around her. Women from an antismoking group came to give her a T-shirt.

Greta nodded, whispered, “Thanks,” posed for pictures. Made exactly zero small talk.

All this attention, she said out of earshot of the others, is great. It means “people are listening.” But then, a knife-blade flash of rage revealed itself.

“It’s sometimes annoying when people say, ‘Oh you children, you young people are the hope. You will save the world’” she said, after several grown-ups had told her just that. “I think it would be helpful if you could help us just a little bit.”

via Becoming Greta: ‘Invisible Girl’ to Global Climate Activist, With Bumps Along the Way – The New York Times

Global Warming Is Helping to Wipe Out Coffee in the Wild – By Somini Sengupta – The New York Times

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By Somini Sengupta
Jan. 16, 2019,  31 c

Aaron Davis, a British botanist, has spent 30 years trekking across forests and farms to chronicle the fate of one plant: coffee.

He has recorded how a warming planet is making it harder to grow coffee in traditional coffee-producing regions, including Ethiopia, the birthplace of the world’s most popular bean, arabica. He has mapped where farmers can grow coffee next: basically upcountry, where it’s cooler. He has gone searching for rare varieties in the wild.

Now, in what is perhaps his most disheartening research, Dr. Davis has found that wild coffee, the dozens of varieties that once occurred under forest canopies on at least three continents, is at risk of vanishing forever. Among the world’s 124 coffee species, he and a team of scientists have concluded, 60 percent are at risk of extinction in the wild. Climate change and deforestation are to blame.

It matters because those wild varieties could be crucial for coffee’s survival in the era of global warming. In those plants could lie the genes that scientists need to develop new varieties that can grow on a hotter, drier planet.

via Global Warming Is Helping to Wipe Out Coffee in the Wild – The New York Times

Ouch. This hurts. Here are the top three NYT comments I endorsed:

Wienke
Brooklyn

Thanks to Mr. Davis and those who are testing and preserving this remnant of Earth’s heritage.

Thompson Owen commented January 17

Thompson Owen
Oakland, CA

Having visited various coffee variety collections around the world, some formerly supported by the ICO (international coffee org), I can attest to the note about a lack of funding and old specimen plants. I was just at Coffee Research in Kenya a couple months ago and the collection appears on the verge of death. Preserving coffee genetic diversity might hinge on plants in these collections and it’s doubtful those plants will last much longer. When the ICO was strong these gardens were remarkable, well funded and kept fresh with new plant material. It’s so important to underscore the economic importance of coffee to smallholder farmers, how it provides cash income to so many millions globally. It’s already a weak plant with inconsistent fruiting from year to year. If it’s further diminished by climate shift, the effect on small farmers and the rural economies in so many nations is huge. For me, that’s a chief reason to sound an alarm. For the environment, Arabica coffee is almost like an indicator species, and one easy to get the public to pay attention to! Even in the short 20 yrs I’ve been a coffee buyer there are areas that produced good volumes of good coffee that are no longer able to farm due to global warming. Insects (coffee berry borer) and fungus (rust/roya lead fungus) spread in these areas as temperatures rise and devastate the coffee plants. In Colombia, there are parts of Huila that were flush with coffee 20 years ago and can’t grow it now.

Paulie commented January 17

Paulie
Earth

I believe the climate has already passed the tipping point. With human populations continuing to explode I doubt there is any way to avoid the extinction of many species, including humans.

 

The World Needs to Quit Coal. Why Is It So Hard? – By Somini Sengupta – The New York Times

1055

“HANOI, Vietnam — Coal, the fuel that powered the industrial age, has led the planet to the brink of catastrophic climate change.

Scientists have repeatedly warned of its looming dangers, most recently on Friday, when a major scientific report issued by 13 United States government agencies warned that the damage from climate change could knock as much as 10 percent off the size of the American economy by century’s end if significant steps aren’t taken to rein in warming.

An October report from the United Nations’ scientific panel on global warming found that avoiding the worst devastation would require a radical transformation of the world economy in just a few years.

Central to that transformation: Getting out of coal, and fast.

And yet, three years after the Paris agreement, when world leaders promised action, coal shows no sign of disappearing. While coal use looks certain to eventually wane worldwide, according to the latest assessment by the International Energy Agency, it is not on track to happen anywhere fast enough to avert the worst effects of climate change. Last year, in fact, global production and consumption increased after two years of decline.”

Source: The World Needs to Quit Coal. Why Is It So Hard? – The New York Times

Why the Wilder Storms? It’s a ‘Loaded Dice’ Problem – By Somini Sengupta -NYT

Filipinos fled their homes in Marikina, part of the Metropolitan Manila region, during a flash flood in August. CreditCreditFrancis R Malasig/EPA, via Shutterstock  from NYT

“Torrential rainfall lashed Japan in July. A cloudburst in August submerged entire villages in south India. In September, Hurricane Florence burst dams and lagoons, with coal ash and pig waste spilling into the waterways of North Carolina. On the other side of the planet, a typhoon walloped the Philippines and ravaged the country’s staple crop, rice.

Climate scientists can’t say where or when the next big storm will hit, but all the evidence points to this: Global warming is bringing the planet into an era of wilder, more dangerous rains with ruinous and long-lasting consequences.

“Where it rains, it’s raining heavier,” said Raghu Murtugudde, a professor of Earth systems science at the University of Maryland who edited a recent book on extreme weather in the tropics. “It’s the classic loaded-dice analogy.”

The dice, he said, are “throwing up some numbers more often” in the form of extreme weather. How? The greenhouse gases humans have already injected into the atmosphere have heated up the planet and now pack so much moisture into the air that they heighten the risk of more extreme precipitation.”

Source: Why the Wilder Storms? It’s a ‘Loaded Dice’ Problem – The New York Times

David Lindsay:   Bravo Somini Sengupta. Based on her article above,  please join environmentalists like myself in funding a Blue wave to clean the Augean Stables, which in now represented by the Republican controlled U S Congress and Presidency. The easiest way to support science based progressives is to donate to the DSCC.org, the DCCC.org, or political funding groups like Emily’s List.

The City of My Birth in India Is Becoming a Climate Casualty. It Didn’t Have to Be. – By Somini Sengupta – NYT

“KOLKATA, India — I wanted to glimpse the future in the city where I was born. So, this summer I returned to India for a firsthand look at the way climate change is affecting Kolkata.

I spent the first seven years of my life in this delta city, close to where the Ganges pours into the sea. In my memory, it was a city of steam and sweat, rice and fish, of languid, muggy afternoons. A city of water. Lots and lots of water.

On this trip, in the era of global warming, I found a city at profound risk.”

Source: The City of My Birth in India Is Becoming a Climate Casualty. It Didn’t Have to Be. – The New York Times