This number will shape Earth’s future as the climate changes. You’ll be hearing about it.
Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY – November 30, 2023
Consider that 3 degrees Fahrenheit is the difference between a raging fever and a healthy toddler. Between a hockey rink and a swimming pool. Between food going bad or staying at a safe temperature.
Now consider that Earth is about 2 degrees Fahrenheit hotter on average than it was in the 1800s. It’s little wonder that has already led to measurable shifts in the climate: The last eight years have been the hottest in recorded history and 2023 is expected to be the hottest yet.
But there’s a looming threshold that will dictate the future of planet Earth. It could have cascading effects on how hot the planet gets, how much seas rise and how significantly normal daily life as we now know it will change.
The number is 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit.
World leaders at an annual gathering beginning Thursday will be spending considerable energy pondering that number, although they will use the Celsius version: 1.5 degrees.
“We can still make a big difference and every single tenth of a degree is enormously important,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.
Representatives and negotiators from 197 nations are gathering at an event called COP (Conference of the Parties) in the United Arab Emirates, a 13-day meeting that comes at what scientists say is a critical moment in the fight to keep the already dangerous effects of climate change from tipping over into the catastrophic.
Research published last month estimated humanity has only six or so more years before so much carbon dioxide has been pumped into the atmosphere that there’s only a 50% chance of staying below the threshold.
Why 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit is so important
In 2016, the United States and 195 other parties signed the Paris Agreement, a legally binding international treaty on climate change aimed at lowering the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to keep global warming at bay.
All the nations that signed the Agreement pledged to try as hard as possible to keep the global average temperature increase below 2.7 degrees, and to definitely keep it below a 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit rise. (Only the Agreement said it in Celsius, which comes out to the smoother-sounding 2.0 degrees Celsius and 1.5 degrees Celsius.)
The numbers sound pretty small – but they aren’t.
A few degrees is a big deal
The difference between 65 degrees and 67.7 degrees (that critical 2.7-degree difference) isn’t even worth carrying a sweater. So why does it worry climate scientists?
It’s because they’re thinking about global temperature averages, and when the global average goes up, the extremes go way up.
Why is it important to not let the Earth warm an extra degree?
The difference between an aspiration of no more than 2.7 degrees warming and a serious commitment to no more than 3.6 degrees might not seem large.
But multiply the extremes and their effects, and each results in a vastly different world. One is difficult, resulting in a less reliable and more chaotic climate than the one we live with today. The other verges on a movie cataclysm.
At their heart, the 13 days of COP28 negotiations are the place global governments sit down to hammer out just how much each will lower its carbon emissions, though many other climate change topics are on the table as well.
The Earth crossed a key warming threshold in 2023, with one-third of the days so far having an average temperature at least 1.5 degrees Celsius higher than preindustrial levels. On Nov. 17, it reached 2.07 degrees above. This year is expected to be the warmest in recorded history, warmer than any other in 125,000 years.
What is COP28?
COP28 is the annual United Nations meeting of the 197 parties that have agreed to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, originally adopted in 1992. The meeting is the decision-making body of the countries that signed onto the U.N. framework. It is held to assess how well nations are dealing with climate change and set agendas and goals.
How important is this COP?
In a major report, the UN’s climate change body said earlier this month that global greenhouse gas emissions need to fall by 45% by the end of this decade compared to 2010 levels to meet the goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Things are not going in the right direction. Instead, emissions are set to rise by 9%.
COP28 is where changes can be made.
Scientists say humanity has about a decade to dramatically reduce heat-trapping gas emissions before thresholds are passed that may make recovery from climate collapse impossible.
To do so will require cutting nearly two-thirds of carbon pollution by 2035, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said. That means ending new fossil fuel exploration and weaning wealthy nations away from coal, oil and gas by 2040.
“Humanity is on thin ice – and that ice is melting fast,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in the spring. “Our world needs climate action on all fronts – everything, everywhere, all at once.”
DUBAI (Reuters) – With a month to run, 2023 will reach global warming of about 1.4 degrees Celsius (2.5 Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels, adding to “a deafening cacophony” of broken climate records, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Thursday.
The WMO’s provisional State of the Global Climate report confirms that 2023 will be the warmest year on record by a large margin, replacing the previous record-holder 2016, when the world was around 1.2C warmer than the preindustrial average.
It adds to the urgency world leaders face as they wrestle with phasing out fossil fuels at the United Nations annual climate summit COP28, which begins on Thursday in Dubai.
“Greenhouse gas levels are record high. Global temperatures are record high. Sea level rise is record high. Antarctic sea ice record low,” WMO Secretary General Peterri Taalas said.
The report’s finding, however, does not mean the world is about to cross the long-term warming threshold of 1.5C that scientists say is the ceiling for avoiding catastrophic climate change under the 2015 Paris Agreement.
For that, the level of warming would need to be sustained for longer.
Already, a year of 1.4C has provided a frightening preview of what permanently crossing 1.5C might mean.
This year, Antarctic sea ice reached its lowest winter maximum extent on record, some 1 million square kilometres (386,000 sq miles) less than the previous record. Swiss glaciers lost about 10% of their remaining volume over the last two years, the report said. And wildfires burned a record area in Canada, amounting to about 5% of the country’s woodlands.
Climate change, driven by the burning of fossil fuels, combined with the emergence of the natural El Nino climate pattern in the Eastern Pacific pushed the world into record territory this year.
Next year could be worse, the scientists said, as El Nino’s impacts are likely to peak this winter and drive higher temperatures in 2024.
(Reporting by Gloria Dickie; editing by Barbara Lewis)
This year is set to be the hottest ever recorded, the UN said Thursday, demanding urgent action to rein in global warming and stem the havoc following in its wake.
The UN’s World Meteorological Organization warned that 2023 had shattered a whole host of climate records, with extreme weather leaving “a trail of devastation and despair”.
“It’s a deafening cacophony of broken records,” said WMO chief Petteri Taalas.
“Greenhouse gas levels are record high. Global temperatures are record high. Sea level rise is record high. Antarctic sea ice is record low.”
The WMO published its provisional 2023 State of the Global Climate report as world leaders gathered in Dubai for the UN COP28 climate conference, amid mounting pressure to curb planet-heating greenhouse gas pollution.
United Nations chief Antonio Guterres said the record heat findings “should send shivers down the spines of world leaders”.
The stakes have never been higher, with scientists warning that the ability to limit warming to a manageable level is slipping through humanity’s fingers.
The 2015 Paris climate accords aimed to limit global warming to well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels — and 1.5C if possible.
But in its report, the WMO said 2023 data to the end of October showed that this year was already around 1.4C above the pre-industrial baseline.
– ‘Not just statistics’ –
The agency is due to publish its final State of the Global Climate 2023 report in the first half of 2024.
But it said the difference between the first 10 months of this year and 2016 and 2020 — which previously topped the charts as the warmest years on record — “is such that the final two months are very unlikely to affect the ranking”.
The report also showed that the past nine years were the hottest years since modern records began.
“These are more than just statistics,” Taalas said, warning that “we risk losing the race to save our glaciers and to rein in sea level rise”.
“We cannot return to the climate of the 20th century, but we must act now to limit the risks of an increasingly inhospitable climate in this and the coming centuries.”
The WMO warned that the warming El Nino weather phenomenon, which emerged mid-year, was “likely to further fuel the heat in 2024”.
That is because the naturally-occurring climate pattern, typically associated with increased heat worldwide, usually increases global temperatures in the year after it develops.
The preliminary report also found that concentrations of the three main heat-trapping greenhouse gases — carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide — reached record high levels in 2022, with preliminary data indicating that the levels continued to grow this year.
Carbon dioxide levels were 50 percent higher than the pre-industrial era, the agency said, meaning that “temperatures will continue to rise for many years to come”, even if emissions are drastically cut.
– ‘Climate chaos’ –
The rate of sea level rise over the past decade was more than twice the rate of the first decade of satellite records (1993-2002), it said.
And the maximum level of Antarctic sea ice this year was the lowest on record.
In fact, it was a million square kilometres less than the previous record low at the end of the southern hemisphere winter, the WMO said — an area larger than France and Germany combined.
Meanwhile, glaciers in North America and Europe again suffered an extreme melt season, with Swiss glaciers losing 10 percent of their ice volume in the past two years alone, the report showed.
Dramatic socio-economic impacts accompany such climate records, experts say, including dwindling food security and mass displacement.
“This year we have seen communities around the world pounded by fires, floods and searing temperatures,” UN chief Guterres said in a video message.
He called on the leaders gathered in Dubai to commit to dramatic measures to rein in climate change, including phasing out fossil fuels and tripling renewable energy capacity.
“We have the roadmap to limit the rise in global temperature to 1.5C and avoid the worst of climate chaos,” he said.
“But we need leaders to fire the starting gun at COP28 on a race to keep the 1.5 degree limit alive.”
This year, even the location of the conference has sparked some controversy.
The UAE has invested heavily in solar and wind energies, but it also remains one of the world’s top oil-producing nations.
“It is the equivalent of appointing the CEO of a cigarette company to oversee a conference on cancer cures,” said campaign group 350.org.
As in previous years, the central issues are cutting fossil fuels and the greenhouse gases driving climate change by ramping up the shift to clean energy.
COP28 aims to prioritise securing funding for climate action in less affluent countries, fostering inclusivity, and addressing diverse issues like nature, people, health, finance and food and work towards a new agreement benefiting developing nations.
Although the hope is to continue to limit global temperature rises to 1.5֯C – the world is currently on track for 2.4-2.6C of warming – and the efforts being pursued to tackle this have been described by the UN as “nowhere near ambitious enough”.
The focus will also be on how people can best use nature and land use, moving to clean energy sources and making COP28 the “most inclusive” ever.
King Charles III, prime minister Rishi Sunak, and foreign secretary David Cameron will be the most high-profile UK representatives.
However, their popularity among some allies remains uncertain due to Sunak’s support for North Sea oil and recent retreat on domestic net zero targets. His decision to advise against Charles attending COP27 also raised eyebrows.
The conference itself is being hosted by Sultan al Jaber – the boss of one of the world’s largest oil companies, the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) – and whose appointment was greeted with scepticism. He insists he wants to guide major oil and gas producers toward emission reduction goals, focusing on eliminating methane emissions by 2030.
However, the UAE this week had to fend off uncomfortable allegations from leaked documents that it planned to use meetings to promote deals for its national oil and gas companies to other countries. A COP28 spokesperson described the documents as “inaccurate”.
The absence of US president Joe Biden means climate envoy John Kerry will attempt to navigate disagreements on climate finance and broader US-China tensions.
His relationships with Al Jaber and Beijing’s Xie Zhenhua, the vice-chairman of China’s top economic development body, could shape the summit’s outcomes. While viewed positively, Xie’s stance on a fossil fuel “phase-out” remains a point of contention.
Russia, a major carbon polluter with a recent climate pledge aiming for net zero by 2060, will be represented by Vladimir Putin’s climate adviser, Ruslan Edelgeriyev.
Saudi Arabia’s stance on oil, gas, and coal will also likely pose challenges. Chief negotiator Khalid al-Mehaid will defend fossil fuels with a focus on reducing pollution, transitioning to renewables.
At the other end of the spectrum, the UN climate chief Simon Stiell, from Grenada, balances the interests of nearly 200 nations, seeking difficult answers and clear targets for climate action.
Representing the least-developed countries, Madeleine Diouf Sarr, head of the climate change division in Senegal’s Ministry of Environment will prioritise clear targets for adaptation and financial support amid growing concerns of the disproportionate impact of climate change on vulnerable nations.
And Barbados prime minister Mia Mottley,willchampion climate equity, pushing for financial mechanisms benefiting vulnerable nations. Her outspoken calls for a just global financial system and debt-pause clauses have often resonated on the international stage.
Two other familiar faces include Pope Francis, who will make history as the first pope to attend the climate summit, and Bill Gates.
Gates will wear two hats at COP28: advocating for climate action through philanthropy and investing in green technologies. His presence underscores the intersection of environmental responsibility and business.
Watch: Barbados – Prime Minister Addresses United Nations General Debate, 78th Session
COP28: The sticky points
Differing views on the future of “unabated” fossil fuels, like coal, oil, and gas without emissions capture, are anticipated at COP28. While the UAE’s Al Jaber calls for a gradual “phase down”, the European Union is likely to advocate for a complete “phase out”.
Financial issues loom, with the unclear implementation of a “loss and damage” fund from richer to poorer countries, and the US rejecting climate reparations for historical emissions.
The EU aims to lead with a groundbreaking deal to phase out “unabated” coal, oil, and gas globally, but resistance is expected from major fossil fuel producers like Saudi Arabia and developing nations reliant on fossil fuels for economic growth.
China, the US, India and Russia are the top four polluters, according to data from Statista, China was the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2021, accounting for nearly 31% of the global emissions. The world’s top five largest polluters were responsible for roughly 60% of global CO2 emissions in 2021.
COP28’s key challenge is staying below a 1.5C temperature rise. To achieve this, there’s a push for a binding energy package—tripling renewable energy by 2030 and deploying 1.5 terawatts yearly.
Financial clarity is crucial, demanding a $200bn annual increase for the Global South, according to 350.org, an international movement of ordinary people working to end the age of fossil fuels.
“As civil society campaigners, demonstrations and protests are expected to be limited to the UN-designated zones only but we are determined to make our voices heard and that this COP28 should be one that leads to decisive action to tackle the climate crisis,” Kim Bryan, 350’s associate director told Yahoo!.
Watch COP28 climate change summit begins: Here’s what you need to know
Are the annual climate summits working? These countries are going to the courts, instead
Ella Nilsen, CNN – November 29, 2023
Few leaders paint a picture of the climate crisis as vividly as United Nations chief António Guterres. He has accused world leaders of opening “the gates of hell” and said the planet is “heading into uncharted territories of destruction” after deadly heat waves and floods.
“The current fossil fuel free-for-all must end now,” Guterres said last year. “It is a recipe for permanent climate chaos and suffering.”
Yet the UN climate summit, known as COP, is tedious. It is full of jargon, snail-paced developments and painful consensus-building that can be broken by a single country’s veto.
Now some are asking: Is the process even working? Some small island nations — countries that are facing irrevocable change from rising seas — say no.
Over the decades, these painstaking negotiations have worked to prevent several catastrophic degrees of global warming. COP’s biggest win was the Paris Agreement, widely seen as one of the most effective environment treaties, which set a goal to limit global warming to well under 2 degrees Celsius, and preferably to 1.5 — a target that climate scientists, advocates and most countries have since rallied around.
Before those talks, the world was on track for roughly 4 degrees of warming. Countries’ pledges after Paris pushed that to 2.5 to 2.9 degrees, according to recent UN figures.
But the Paris Agreement was voluntary by design, in large part due to the influence of the US, and it relies on a system of collective shaming and competitive ambition in lieu of legal consequences. It contained “very few obligations” for major polluters, said Payam Akhavan, an attorney for the Commission of Small Island States on Climate Change and International Law.
Vanuatu, Tuvalu and Antigua and Barbuda are now asking international courts to issue “advisory opinions” that could fundamentally change future COPs by compelling countries to set legally binding targets to cut climate pollution, rather than voluntary ones.
“The turn toward international litigation is an attempt to put some teeth in the toothless Paris regime, by declaring the 1.5-degree target is a binding target and not discretionary,” Akhavan told CNN.
As world leaders head to Dubai for COP28 this week, this courtroom strategy is raising eyebrows among the United States’ current and former climate negotiators, who say that while diplomacy can be stubborn and slow, it yields progress.
Even fierce climate advocates who agree COP should be more ambitious still believe the summit is a powerful and worthwhile endeavor.
“There is a lot of questioning whether this process will deliver or not,” Ani Dasgupta, president and CEO of international climate nonprofit World Resources Institute, told CNN. “However, I believe COP, or some version of COP, will remain and absolutely is needed. This is the only forum that I know where poor countries actually have a place at the table that is equal, to negotiate with rich countries across a vastly important topic.”
‘Countries move farther when they move together’
COP’s detractors and advocates alike agree it is a crucial annual meeting, but also one that is plodding and technical. An errant word or piece of punctuation can derail negotiations, and it can — and often does — take years for incremental progress to happen.
“I would say it’s necessary, but maybe not sufficient,” said Sue Biniaz, the deputy for US climate envoy and former Secretary of State John Kerry.
Biniaz has a lot of experience at COPs; she was the United States’ lead climate lawyer for more than two decades and was one of the key authors of the Paris Agreement.
Both Biniaz and other former top US climate negotiators told CNN that although each climate summit is often judged as a singular event, it is more important to look at the year leading up to it.
“It’s necessary because the fact that it meets annually and puts pressure on countries is a good thing, and we’re in a lot better position with the annual COPs and the Paris Agreement than we would have been without it,” Biniaz told CNN. “At the same time, it is really difficult and challenging to get agreement among everyone in the world, particularly when you have geopolitical issues, and some countries may be more motivated to reach agreement than others.”
Still, former and current US negotiators say climate diplomacy has helped keep the world’s temperature from reaching truly alarming highs.
“If you look at those first assessments coming out of the scientific community back then, we were looking at an incremental temperature gain of about 7 degrees,” said Jonathan Pershing, a former Kerry deputy who now directs the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation’s environment program. “Seven degrees, today, is unimaginable.”
Pershing added that the fact the world’s governments are now racing to keep to below 2 degrees of warming is an “extraordinary transition.”
“The collective endeavor has fundamentally altered the trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions,” Pershing said. “I think countries move farther when they move together.”
The annual summit has also become the most visible rallying point for global climate action, former US climate envoy Todd Stern told CNN. The summits used to largely be a gathering of only government climate negotiators, but each year COP becomes much larger — drawing advocates, businesses (including fossil fuel companies) and think tanks from all corners of the globe.
Stern thinks the growing spectacle of COP is a positive force, impossible to ignore even for groups that used to deny climate change’s existence. Even US House Republicans have sent a delegation for the past two years.
“It’s a two-week moment in the course of the year when people around the world — or at least some meaningful subset of people around the world — are paying attention to it,” Stern said. “That needs to keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger because that puts pressure on governments.”
Too little, too slow
Attorneys for the small island nations who are rocking the boat at COP say the proof it isn’t working is in the extreme heat felt around the world this year, and the global records smashed.
The world’s governments are working to hold global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius — above which scientists say a hotter world with more severe droughts and intense storms will become difficult to adapt to.
But 1.5 degrees is no longer an abstract concept; the world briefly crossed that temperature threshold this summer, though scientists caution it will take several years above that limit to say with confidence it’s been officially exceeded. This summer was a taste of life at this threshold: Wildfires raged across Europe, mighty rivers like the Mississippi and the Amazon fell to new lows, and hot-tub-like ocean water killed coral reefs and rapidly intensified hurricanes and cyclones.
“It’s not as if 1.5 is safe in any way, but we are very much on track to cross it,” said Margaretha Wewerinke-Singh, an international lawyer representing the island nation Vanuatu in climate litigation at the International Court of Justice. “Clearly we need more mitigation ambition to make sure we don’t end up with an unlivable world.”
The potential for an unlivable world weighs heavily on young COP negotiators, who are urging swift action to cut climate pollution.
Hailey Campbell, a 25-year-old, Hawaii-based climate adaptation specialist who successfully lobbied for more official youth representation at COP, told CNN it is sometimes disconcerting to spend long hours and days at international summits debating the precise words on climate finance and ramping down fossil fuel use, then return to her Honolulu home and see climate impacts first-hand.
“You go back home and you’re like, ‘sea level rise is still here, [we] still need to do something about it,’” said Campbell, the co-executive director of advocacy group Care About Climate. “If I had to pick just one thing to come out of this year’s COP, it would be language to commit to an equitable phase-out of all fossil fuels.”
Two of the world’s highest courts are expected to weigh in on the small island nations’ cases as soon as next year. While the advisory opinions alone can’t force faster action from countries, it can “inject some urgency, some political will, some vision” into the annual climate talks and protect the “inalienable rights” — the very survival — of these disappearing nations, Wewerinke-Singh said.
“I think that the COP process has failed,” Akhavan said. “But we must make it work because we have no other choice.”
Why the Florida homeowners insurance crisis should worry us all
Climate change is making millions of homes across the country difficult or impossible to insure
Alexander Nazaryan, Snr W.H. Correspondent – November 28, 2023
Earlier this year, Chicago native Steve Swanson decided to move full-time to Sanibel Island, Fla., where he had vacationed as a child. A boomerang-shaped barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico, Sanibel was devastated by Hurricane Ian last year, but Swanson did something that would have been unthinkable anywhere in the country a few years ago: He purchased a small house but declined to purchase homeowner’s insurance, which would reimburse him in case of another disaster.
“You self-insure,” Swanson said in an interview with Yahoo News, describing how he adds each month to a rainy-day fund against natural disasters instead of paying a premium to an insurance company. “And then you just hope that it never happens.”
Swanson’s experience is becoming increasingly common. He landed on the frontline of a budding home insurance crisis that has hit coastal and inland states alike. Insurance companies are pulling out of states where evermore frequent natural disasters mean those companies have to pay out large claims after a home is destroyed in a wildfire, leveled by a mudslide or wrecked by a flood,
Research has shown that rising ocean temperatures are causing hurricanes to gain strength more quickly, and to dump more rain than they did in the past. When those hurricanes destroy homes, insurance companies pay for the damage. To cover those expenses, they raise premiums.
Thanks to mounting hurricane losses, home insurance premiums in Florida have risen an astonishing 300% in the last five years, according to the financial news site Benzinga. Residents there now pay an average of $4,200 per year for home insurance, more than double the national average of $1,700, a stark increase that could lead to the reversal of torrid population growth that has made Florida the third-most-populous state in the country.
The soaring rates in Florida reflect how frequently the state is battered by devastating storms. “No other state has reported sustained losses for property insurers like Florida has since its last profitable year in 2016,” Mark Friedlander, spokesman for the insurance lobby group Insurance Information Institute, recently told the New York Times.
According to the First Street Foundation, which studies climate risk, 35.6 million homes across the country could see their insurance policies become more expensive, or disappear entirely, as insurers flee high-risk states. “That is crippling. Absolutely crippling,” First Street CEO Matthew Eby told CBS News. “And so those homes are not, from an investment scenario, something that you would invest in.”
Governors from both parties have struggled to help homeowners with rocketing insurance costs, but critics of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is currently running for the Republican presidential nomination, say he has played politics instead of engaging in sound policy.
Home insurance costs are expected to rise by 40% in Florida in 2023; state governments have some power to limit those hikes, or to make cheaper government insurance available, but they cannot entirely halt or reverse market — or climate — forces. And when those forces descend on homeowners, it is inevitable that chief executives get blamed.
“Ron DeSantis doesn’t believe there’s a climate change crisis,” says Swanson, the recent Sanibel Island transplant. “He is ignoring the problem, by and large. And he’s not really addressing the insurance crisisf either. It is a very stark lack of leadership on his part.”
Some in the insurance industry say that the diminishing number of insurers in Florida is due to the fact that it is too easy to sue insurance companies there. And those lawsuits could be especially damaging to the smaller insurers who now operate in Florida, now that larger companies such as Farmers have bailed on the state.
“This is a man-made crisis,” Insurance Information Institute spokesman Friedlander told CNN in June. “That volume of lawsuits will drive more of these regional companies out of business.”
Earlier this year, DeSantis signed a new law that makes it harder to sue insurance companies, but critics charge that he and the law’s supporters have greatly exaggerated the frequency of frivolous lawsuits. They say the power to take legal action against an insurance company is important for policyholders who do not believe they have been adequately compensated for damage caused to their properties.
In August, Florida residents of a retirement community in Pembroke Pines staged protests after they saw their home insurance rise. “We have no choice, we have to sell,” one resident said. “As a matter of fact, I just put my house on the market 10 minutes ago.”
Younger prospective homeowners face similar challenges. Many of them are saddled with college debt and a job market geared either toward narrow expertise or service work. To make matters worse, housing has gotten more expensive across the country.
Soaring insurance rates are the proverbial cherry on a homeownership cake nobody wants to take the responsibility for having baked.
New report reveals 98% of world population experienced alarming trend this summer: ‘Virtually no one on Earth escaped’
Leo Collis – November 27, 2023
A new study by Climate Central has revealed the impact of rising temperatures on the planet in 2023 and the role of humans in exacerbating the problem.
The findings are eye-opening, and they remind us of the role we can all play in mitigating the causes of overheating the planet.
What did the study find?
According to research group Climate Central, a peer-reviewed study summarized by Euronews Green and Reuters found that 98% of the global population witnessed higher than usual temperatures between June and August this year — and these temperatures were twice as likely because of human-caused pollution.
The research examined global heat events and used modeling to remove the influence of pollution to determine the possible high temperatures without the influence of humans.
Data from 180 countries and 22 territories helped to estimate that 6.2 billion people experienced at least one day of high average temperatures that would have been difficult to achieve without the effects of carbon pollution. Those temperatures were five times more likely because of human impact.
“Virtually no one on Earth escaped the influence of global warming during the past three months,” Climate Central’s vice president for science Andrew Pershing told Euronews Green and Reuters.
The study found that July was the hottest month on Earth since records began, while August saw a 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit higher average temperature compared to the same month before the prevalence of industrial activity.
Why is this so concerning?
“In every country we could analyze, including the Southern Hemisphere, where this is the coolest time of year, we saw temperatures that would be difficult — and in some cases nearly impossible — without human-caused climate change,” Pershing said.
It’s a worrying statement, especially considering the devastating heat waves and wildfires in the United States and southern Europe in 2023.
When looking at isolated heat waves, climate scientist Friederike Otto from the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment noted that these events were made “infinitely more likely” by the overheating of the planet, reported Euronews Green.
What can we do to mitigate human climate impact?
The study consistently points to human-caused pollution as the driver of these worrying heat trends.
With that in mind, reducing the harmful gases we release into the atmosphere is crucial to prevent further shocking temperature rises.
Making lifestyle alterations such as walking, biking, or using public transport to travel instead of using dirty fuel–powered vehicles is a great start.
Cutting down on meat in your weekly diet can also benefit the planet, as agriculture relating to the beef, pork, and chicken supply chain significantly contributes to global pollution and deforestation, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Since 98% of the global population experienced increased temperatures in 2023, it’s beneficial to everyone to prevent the causes of this phenomenon.
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Arizona is building the first solar canal in the US. What are they and how do they work?
Euronews Green – November 27, 2023
The first solar-covered canal in America is set to be completed within a couple of years.
Arizona is getting the pioneering renewable project after a historic agreement between leaders of the Gila River Indian Community and the US Army Corps of Engineers earlier this month.
The panels will supply clean energy while also helping to reduce water evaporation in the arid state, which is currently experiencing drought conditions.
“This is the type of creative thinking that can help move all of us toward a more sustainable future,” said Tom Buschatzke, director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR).
“Leveraging existing infrastructure such as the Level Top Canal to help provide sustainable, dependable energy – and to do so as part of cooperative partnership like this one – constitutes a win all around.”
The southwestern state of Arizona isn’t the only one eyeing up the solar technology.
A similar project has been in the works in California for years, but is reportedly still in the planning stages. This puts the Arizona project, with its budget of $6.74 million (€6,165 million), on the verge of being a US-first.
It takes inspiration from the Canal Solar Power Project in Gujarat, India, which launched in 2012. This was an early example of solar over canal success, though SunEdison, the company overseeing the project, filed for bankruptcy in 2016, their ambitions not fully realised.
If rolled out effectively, experts say there is huge potential for both energy and water saving.
Writing about the California plans in The Conversation, engineering Professor Roger Bales, estimated that, “Covering all 4,000 miles [6,437 kilometres] of California’s canals with solar panels would save more than 65 billion gallons of water annually by reducing evaporation.”
How will the Arizona solar canal technology work?
Solar photovoltaic shades will first be installed along a 305 metre stretch of the 1-10 Level Top canal.
Facing upwards, they catch the abundant sunlight in Arizona while acting as a barrier to limit the amount of water evaporating in the desert heat.
The water below the panels also helps to cool the panels down, and so keep them operating at a more efficient temperature.
Phase one of the project is expected to produce around 1 MW of renewable energy which will benefit the tribal farmers.
Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) Governor Stephen Roe Lewis sat under the Arizona sun to sign the deal with the US Army Corps of Engineers on 9 November.
The ‘Project Partnership Agreement’ (PPA) he signed is a legally binding agreement between the federal government and a non-Federal sponsor – here a Native American Tribe. PPAs typically involve the construction of a water resources project, and they lay out the shared responsibilities of the parties regarding costs and workload.
An advocate for renewable and green technologies, Governor Lewis oversees the implementation of the Community’s Water Settlement of 2004 (at that time the largest water settlement of its kind in US history).
The GRIC people trace their history to circa 300 BC, when the Huhugam people constructed some 500 miles of large canals from the Gila River to water their farmland.
The Red State Brain Drain Isn’t Coming. It’s Happening Right Now.
Timothy Noah – November 22, 2023
On Memorial Day weekend in 2022, Kate Arnold and her wife, Caroline Flint, flew from Oklahoma City to Cabo San Lucas for a little R&R. They had five kids, the youngest of them five-year-old twin girls, and demanding jobs as obstetrician-gynecologists. The stresses of all this were mounting. That they were a gay married couple living in a red, socially conservative state was the least of it. Caroline was born in Tulsa, spent much of her childhood in Oklahoma, and was educated at the University of Oklahoma. She cast her first presidential vote for George W. Bush. Kate, the more political of the two, was from Northern California and a lifelong Democrat. But her mother was born in Oklahoma City, and she felt at home there; she’d even given some thought to running for the state legislature.
Kate and Caroline flew down with the twins and their 16-year-old daughter. It says a lot about Kate Arnold that she adopted the three older children while she was attending medical school; the birth mother, whom Kate befriended while volunteering at a home for teenage mothers, was an addict who lost custody.
Arriving in Cabo, Kate and Caroline realized that it had been a very long time—too long— since their last date night. So one evening they ordered the kids room service and went off by themselves to a Taco Night theme dinner. “We sat outside with the little colored flags,” Kate recalled, “and they gave us blankets because it was cold and windy. We hadn’t been sitting for very long when I started saying I wasn’t happy.”
A little more than one week earlier, a disturbed high school student named Salvador Ramos had entered Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, with an AR-15 rifle and killed 19 children and two adults, injuring 17 more. It was the deadliest school shooting since the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012, and it happened just one state over as Kate and Caroline’s two youngest were about to start school. Twomore mass shootings occurred in Oklahoma while they were in Cabo. A man named Michael Louis gunned down, with an AR-15, two doctors, a receptionist, and a patient at the Tulsa offices of his orthopedic surgeon because he was angry that his recent back surgery left him in pain. Then a man named Skyler Buckner killed one person and injured seven others at a Memorial Day festival in Taft, Oklahoma. States with permissive gun laws have a higher rate of mass shootings, and Oklahoma, with some of the most permissive gun laws in the country, has 45 percent more gun deaths per capita than the national average—higher even than in Texas.
That was one reason Kate wasn’t happy.
Another reason was that the state legislature was trying to limit access to contraceptives. In March, the state Senate had voted to require parental consent before a minor could take contraceptives. Kate was chair of the Oklahoma chapter of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and she’d lobbied against this change. (The bill later died in the state House of Representatives.)
“You’re just gonna get my nine-year-old birth control without my knowledge?” one state legislator said to her.
“How does your nine-year-old need birth control?” Kate answered. “And yes, if she needs birth control … what’s worse than her coming home pregnant?”
Caroline had reasons to be unhappy, too. One year earlier, Oklahoma’s governor had signed a law barring public schools and charter schools from teaching that “an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex.” School boards interpreted this as an invitation to ban any book that touched on race or gender. Among the books targeted in Oklahoma, according to the free-speech organization PEN America, wereNarrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, A Raisin in the Sun, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Their Eyes Were Watching God. “Books are my thing,” Caroline told me. She couldn’t abide the idea that “books would be censored.”
Also, Caroline’s hospital wouldn’t let her perform gender-affirming surgery. The procedure was legal in Oklahoma, but this was a Baptist hospital, and fairly conservative. “I would do surgeries,” Caroline said, “like hysterectomies for patients who are transitioning. And I’d have to have another indication to do it.… I’d have to say, ‘Oh, they also have pain,’” or find some other reason.
Kate was director of women’s health at a large, federally funded nonprofit health center serving low-income patients. It was, she told me, “A job that I loved.” But five months before their Cabo dinner, Kate published an op-ed at a nonprofit Oklahoma news site criticizing state felony prosecutions of women who miscarried after taking drugs during pregnancy. “Anytime you criminalize drug use in pregnancy,” Kate explained to me, the addicts stop going to the hospital, “and you have worse and worse outcomes.”
After the op-ed appeared, somebody phoned Kate’s health center to complain. After that, Kate’s superiors effectively barred her from making public statements about anything. Kate’s boss explained why: The FBI had alerted the center to threats of violence “just for providing birth control.”
After the op-ed appeared, somebody phoned Kate’s health center to complain. After that, Kate’s superiors effectively barred her from making public statements about anything. That irked Kate until her boss explained why: The FBI had contacted the health center to alert them to threats of violence “just for providing birth control.” Did I mention that Oklahoma allows anybody over the age of 21 to carry a loaded firearm in public, open or concealed, without a license?
The last straw for the couple was Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. That windy June night in Cabo, the Supreme Court was still a few weeks away from overturning Roe v. Wade and allowing states to ban abortion. But it was no mystery what the decision would say, because one month earlier a draft had leaked to Politico. The Oklahoma legislature had already passed several trigger laws whose cumulative effect was to bar doctors from performing abortions starting at the point of conception, punishable by up to 10 years in prison (later reduced to five).
Kate and Caroline didn’t perform abortions themselves; they referred patients to Planned Parenthood. Or rather, they had done so until an Oklahoma law barred them from doing even that. That law would later be ruled unconstitutional, but ambiguities in the Oklahoma abortion ban’s exception for protecting the life of the mother make it potentially dangerous to treat any patient experiencing difficulty during pregnancy.
“When we left dinner that night,” Kate recalled, “we knew we needed to leave Oklahoma. We were both in a bit of shock as we walked back to our room. I said I was sorry, and that I didn’t know I had been thinking all of that till we finally had a minute. Caroline jokingly called me the worst date ever.”
For a day, they thought about moving to New Zealand, but they didn’t want to be that far from their parents, and besides, Kate and Caroline love this country, despite all its flaws; July Fourth is Kate’s favorite holiday. They thought about Northern California, but vetoed that because Caroline doesn’t like cold summer nights. That left Washington, D.C., a place Kate had enjoyed living in while attending medical school at Georgetown. They arrived this past May, settling into a blue bungalow on a quiet, leafy street near the Maryland border.
Kate Arnold and Caroline Flint are two bright, energetic, professionally trained, and public-spirited women whom Washington is happy to welcome—they both quickly found jobs—even though it doesn’t particularly need them. The places that need Kate and Caroline are Oklahoma and Mississippi and Idaho and various other conservative states where similar stories are playing out daily. These two fortyish doctors have joined an out-migration of young professionals—accelerated by the culture wars of recent years and pushed to warp speed by Dobbs—that’s known as the Red State Brain Drain.
Republican-dominated states are pushing out young professionals by enacting extremist conservative policies. Abortion restrictions are the most sweeping example, but state laws restricting everything from academic tenure to transgender health care to the teaching of “divisive concepts” about race are making these states uncongenial to knowledge workers.
The precise effect of all this on the brain drain is hard to tease out from migration statistics because the Dobbs decision is still fairly new, and because red states were bleeding college graduates even before the culture war heated up. The only red state that brings in more college graduates than it sends elsewhere is Texas. But the evidence is everywhere that hard-right social policies in red states are making this dynamic worse.
The number of applications for OB-GYN residencies is down more than 10 percent in states that have banned abortion since Dobbs. Forty-eight teachers in Hernando County, Florida, fed up with “Don’t Say Gay” and other new laws restricting what they can teach, resigned or retired at the end of the last school year. A North Carolina law confining transgender people to bathrooms in accordance with what it said on their birth certificate was projected, before it was repealed, to cost that state $3.76 billion in business investment, including the loss of a planned global operations center for PayPal in Charlotte. A survey of college faculty in four red states (Texas, Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina) about political interference in higher education found a falloff in the number of job candidates for faculty positions, and 67 percent of the respondents said they would not recommend their state to colleagues as a place to work. Indeed, nearly one-third said they were actively considering employment elsewhere.
In Oklahoma, Kate and Caroline belonged to a book group. They read “serious depressing books,” Kate said, like Evicted by Matthew Desmond and Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver. The book group had six people in it. Now it’s down to three, because another woman in the group moved to Washington state after Oklahoma banned transgender care for minors in May. Kate and Caroline named three additional friends who also left Oklahoma recently for political reasons.
The phrase “culture war” entered the academic lexicon in 1991 with publication of Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America by James Davison Hunter, a sociologist at the University of Virginia. Hunter saw the culture wars of the late twentieth century as a continuation of American Protestants’ virulent anti-Catholicism and antisemitism during the nineteenth century and much of the twentieth. Where once a Protestant majority demonized rival faiths, today a shrinking cohort of orthodox adherents to all three faiths demonizes progressive rationalists and pluralists. And, just as a century ago politicians gleefully exploited such animosity, they do so today. At the 1992 Republican convention, Pat Buchanan borrowed Hunter’s phrase and turned it into a political truncheon. “My friends,” Buchanan said,
this election is about more than who gets what. It is about who we are. It is about what we believe, and what we stand for as Americans. There is a religious war going on in this country. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we shall be as was the Cold War.
Buchanan’s us-versus-them philippic set the tone for congressional Republicans’ hyper-partisan opposition to Presidents Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and now Joe Biden. It also inspired the snarling us-them rhetoric of former President Donald Trump and the various Trump imitators challenging him for the 2024 presidential nomination.
The culture war moved slowly into state politics, because, at first, Republicans didn’t have much of a foothold there. From 1971 to 1994, Democrats held most governorships. That flipped in 1995, and for the next dozen years, Republicans held the majority of governorships. But Republican governors still couldn’t advance the culture-war agenda, because state legislatures remained dominated by Democrats.
That changed with the 2010 election. In a historic realignment largely unrecognized at the time, the GOP won a majority of governorships and legislative chambers. Today, Republicans control a 52 percent majority of governorships and a 57 percent majority of state legislative bodies, and in 22 states Republicans enjoy a “trifecta,” meaning they control the governorship and both legislative chambers (or, in the case of Nebraska, a unicameral legislature). At the time Dobbs was handed down, Republicans enjoyed even greater reach, with trifectas in 23 states.
The very last restraint on Republicans waging full-scale culture war—the presence of college graduates under the GOP tent—was removed by the 2016 presidential election. College graduates have always tended to be fairly liberal on social issues, but until the 1990s they were pretty reliably Republican, because college grads made more money and didn’t want to pay higher taxes. Even Adlai Stevenson, the Democratic presidential nominee caricatured by Republicans as an “egghead,” won only about 30 percent of college graduates in 1956. The Democrats’ egghead share crept up after that, but it wasn’t until 1992 that a Democrat, Bill Clinton, won the college vote (with a 43 percent plurality in a three-way race). Four years later, Clinton lost it to Bob Dole, and for the next two decades Joe College seesawed from one party to another. As recently as 2012, Mitt Romney eked out a 51 percent majority of college graduates.
But with the arrival of Donald Trump, college graduates left the Republican fold for the foreseeable future. Trump dropped the Republican share to 44 percent in 2016 and 43 percent in 2020. If Trump wins the nomination in 2024, the GOP’s share of college voters could drop below 40, and I don’t see any of Trump’s challengers for the Republican nomination doing much better. It isn’t clear they even want to, because today’s GOP sees college graduates as the enemy.
The heaviest artillery is trained on abortion rights. After Dobbs, wholesale abortion bans took effect in 14 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia. All but Kentucky and Louisiana are trifecta states. In a fifteenth state, Wisconsin, uncertainty about how to interpret an 1849 statute concerning violence against a pregnant woman put abortions on hold for one year until an appeals court ruled that the statute did not apply to abortions.
Let’s call these hard-core abortion-ban states the Dobbs Fourteen. In 2020, more than 113,000 abortions were performed in the Dobbs Fourteen, according to the nonprofit Guttmacher Institute. During the first six months of 2023, that number fell to nearly zero; in Texas, for instance, about 20 women qualified for that state’s very narrowly drawn exemptions.
The Dobbs Fourteen made it nearly impossible to get an abortion, as intended. But they simultaneously made it much more difficult for a pregnant woman to give birth, because abortion bans drove OB-GYN like Kate Arnold and Caroline Flint away.
It was hard enough for red states to hold onto their OB-GYNs even before Dobbs. A little more than one-third of all counties nationwide are “maternity care deserts,” typically in rural areas, with no hospitals or birthing centers that offer obstetric care and no individual obstetric providers (not even midwives), according to the March of Dimes. This data was collected before the Supreme Court overturned Roe. But even then, those states with the most restrictive abortion laws invested the least in maternal care, affirming former Representative Barney Frank’s memorable complaint that for conservatives “life begins at conception and ends at birth.”
Maternity care deserts are typically in rural areas, not all of which impose strict abortion restrictions. But they’re much more common in states that imposed abortion restrictions after Dobbs, representing 39 percent of all counties in those states, compared to 25 percent in states that imposed no abortion restrictions. Texas has, after California, the highest GDP of any state. Yet 46.5 percent of its counties are maternity care deserts; for some women, the nearest birthing hospital is a 70-minute drive from their home. In some states, including Oklahoma and Mississippi, the majority of counties are maternity care deserts.
Where resources are inadequate for giving birth, infant mortality tends to be high. Among the Dobbs Fourteen, all but Idaho, North Dakota, and Texas have infant-mortality rates higher than the (shockingly high) national average of 5.42 deaths per 1,000 births. In some of these states, infant mortality is substantially higher. In Mississippi, it’s 9.39 deaths per 1,000 births. In Oklahoma, it’s 7.13 deaths per 1,000 births.
It hardly surprised me when Kate, comparing their houses in Oklahoma City and Washington, said their Washington bungalow was “half the size for double the cost.” But the two physicians also took substantial cuts in pay—not quite 50 percent for Caroline, and about 25 percent for Kate. How could that be? If Washington’s cost of living is higher, shouldn’t salaries be higher, too? For most occupations, yes. But OB-GYN salaries, Kate and Caroline explained to me, vary dramatically according to local demand. Washington has plenty of OB-GYNs; the nation’s capital is too urban and too geographically small to be a maternity care desert. Oklahoma, on the other hand, suffers a desperate shortage of OB-GYNs, and therefore must pay top dollar.
Mississippi is the poorest state in the country. But the average base salary for an ob-gyn at Wayne General Hospital in Waynesboro, Mississippi, is $350,000. (I take this and the salary figures that follow from the workforce data company Glassdoor, because the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ information is one year out of date.) Compare Waynesboro’s largesse to the average base salary for an OB-GYN at ClearMD Health Center in Manhattan: $275,000, or 21 percent less. (Even that’s a little high for New York City, where, according to Glassdoor, average ob-gyn pay is $243,000.) In Oklahoma City, average base salary for an OB-GYN at CompHealth Physician Obstetrics and Gynecology is $325,000. In Fort Smith, Arkansas, average base salary for an OB-GYN at CompHealth Physician Obstetrics and Gynecology is $312,500. Meanwhile, average base pay for an OB-GYN in Los Angeles is $235,000.
Throwing money at OB-GYNs helps red states manage the problem, but it doesn’t fix it. One Mississippi-based OB-GYN told the nonprofit news site Mississippi Today in September that the metropolitan area around Meridian (pop. 33,816) has six obstetric providers; as recently as five years ago, it had 12 or 13.
The Milken Educator Award bestows $25,000 each year on early- to mid-career elementary and secondary schoolteachers and administrators who further “excellence in education.” The prize is bankrolled by Michael Milken, the 1980s junk-bond king turned philanthropist who, yes, served two years in prison for securities fraud and was later pardoned by Trump. Notwithstanding that colorful backstory, the Milken Educator Award is quite prestigious, and winners always get fussed over in their home states. The 60 honorees chosen in April 2022 included Tyler Hallstedt, a 35-year-old man who taught eighth grade American history in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee (pop. 42,548), a suburb 20 miles east of Nashville.
Tyler was handed the prize at a school assembly by Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, a Republican. “We have some of the best schools in America in this state,” the governor told the crowd. “We have some of the best teachers in America in this state. And you have one of the best teachers in America in this school.”
Accepting his award, Tyler was a little subdued. “Teaching is a difficult job right now,” he said. “The reason I continue to do it is the relationships with my students are genuinely important to me.… Knowing that I get to see them grow and show them that I genuinely care about them, that’s what overrides the difficult and sometimes unfair parts of being a teacher.”
He could have said more, because at that point Tyler was pretty fed up with the state’s education policies. One month earlier, Lee had signed into law a bill requiring school districts to maintain lists of all teaching materials made available to students, to make these available on the school’s website, and to establish “a procedure to periodically review the library collection at each school to ensure that [it] contains materials appropriate for the age and maturity levels of the students who may access the materials.” Among the books subsequently removed from school curricula was Art Spiegelman’s Maus.
“I literally turned my bookshelf around,” Tyler told me, so that the books faced the wall. That was his silent protest. He kept the backward-facing bookshelf in his classroom all year.
For Tyler, the final straw was a dustup over a video he showed his class a few months after he collected his prize. The video was about the seventeenth-century English settlement in Jamestown, Virginia. It was hosted by John Green, author of the 2012 young adult novel The Fault in Our Stars. Green has engaged in some leftish activism, but the video, the third in a series called Crash Course U.S. History, isn’t notably didactic. It is, however, irreverent and funny in a manner intended to appeal to adolescents, and if you look closely you can see, on the back of Green’s laptop, a sticker that says THIS MACHINE KILLS FASCISTS. The words are borrowed from Woody Guthrie, who, feeling patriotic one day about America’s war against Hitler and Tojo, painted them onto his guitar; factory workers producing war materiel had scribbled these same words onto their lathes. Tyler received an email from a father complaining that the sticker, which you can barely see, was a call for violence. A nonmetaphorical way to use a laptop (or guitar) to kill a fascist does not spring readily to mind, but that wasn’t really the point, Tyler explained to me. “He just doesn’t like John Green.” Green’s sticker had previously drawn criticism from a Republican state legislator in New Hampshire, and Green’s 2005 young adult novel, Looking for Alaska, had been targeted by Moms for Liberty, an influential hard-right group that’s active in book-banning campaigns.
As a result of that single complaint, Tyler’s school barred him from showing his students any videos in the Crash Course series, even though he’d been using them for years. Eventually, the school backed down and permitted Tyler to show some of (but not all) the Crash Course videos; however, the damage was done. “It showed me that just one angry parent has a heckler’s veto,” Tyler said.
Tyler talked to his wife, Delana, and his adult stepson about seeking greener pastures. Delana was a teacher, too. She wasn’t particularly eager to move. But she understood what they were up against, and, at the end of the school year, all three moved to Tyler’s native Michigan, where he took up a post teaching seventh graders in Petoskey, a small resort town on Little Traverse Bay. He got a 35 percent raise, too. “I could tolerate the pay,” he told me, “but the culture wars are what finally convinced me. Things are so much better here.”
Since January 2021, 18 states have imposed restrictions on how teachers may address the subjects of race and gender, according to Education Week’s Sarah Schwartz. These include most of the Dobbs Fourteen and a few add-ons, including Florida and New Hampshire. According to a 2022 study by the RAND Corporation, legislative action not only accelerated after 2021 but also became more repressive, extending beyond the classroom to restrict professional development plans for teachers. Let’s call these teacher-harassing states the Morrison Eighteen, in honor of the late Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, whose The Bluest Eye is number three with a bullet on the American Library Association’s 2022 list of books most frequently targeted for removal. (The 1970 novel ranked eighth in 2021 and ninth in 2020.)
Taking a tour of the Morrison Eighteen, we find Texas teachers quitting at a rate that’s 25 percent above the national average. In Tennessee, the vacancy rate for all public schools is 5.5 percent, compared to a national average of 4 percent. South Carolina has teacher shortages in 17 subject areas this school year, more than any other state.
But Governor Ron DeSantis’s Florida is the undisputed champ. A 2022 study led by Tuan D. Nguyen of Kansas State University found that Florida had the most teacher vacancies in the country, followed by Georgia, Mississippi, and Alabama (all Morrison Eighteen states). Florida also logged the highest number of underqualified teachers.
The availability of state-level data is spotty, but teacher shortages in the Morrison Eighteen states would appear to be getting worse. According to Nguyen’s website, Florida’s teacher vacancies increased 35 percent in the school year after his study was published. Plugging in calculations from the Florida Education Association, teacher vacancies rose another 15 percent in the current school year. In Texas, the number of teacher vacancies more than doubled in the year after Nguyen’s study, and in South Carolina they increased 57 percent. (In fairness, this isn’t happening in all 18 states: Teacher shortages declined in Alabama and Mississippi.)
The culture-war capital of the United States is Tallahassee, Florida, thanks to DeSantis and his (thus far, frustrated) ambition to win the Republican nomination for president. Don’t Say Gay? Check. Don’t Say Race? Check. Pee Where Your Birth Certificate Says? Check. No Kids at Drag Shows? Check. No Preferred Pronouns in Class? Check. Go Ahead and Stuff a Permitless Glock Down Your Britches? Check. Florida also limited abortions to the first six weeks, but six weeks wasn’t quite reactionary enough to include Florida among the Dobbs Fourteen.
Frustration boiled over in Florida’s Hernando County last May, when hundreds of people showed up at a school board meeting to protest that a fifth-grade teacher named Jenna Barbee was put under investigation for showing her students Strange World, an animated Disney adventure film from 2022. Barbee’s offense was that one of the characters happened to be gay. “No one is teaching your kids to be gay,” a teacher named Alyssa Marano said at the meeting. “Sometimes, they just are gay. I have math to teach. I literally don’t have time to teach your kids to be gay.” After the meeting, 49 teachers, including Marano and Barbee, either quit or retired en masse.
Florida is also a recognized national leader in the harassment of college and university professors. Working with his majority-Republican legislature, DeSantis prohibited Florida’s public institutions of higher learning from maintaining diversity, equity, and inclusion, or DEI, programs; he effectively ended tenure at public universities by requiring post-tenure reviews every five years; and he seized control of New College, a well-regarded public institution in Sarasota, abolishing, through a handpicked board of trustees, its gender-studies program, pushing out the school president, denying tenure to five faculty members on political grounds, and abolishing gender-neutral bathrooms.
Amid this tumult, Hampshire College, in Amherst, Massachusetts, offered a place to any New College student who wished to transfer, at the same price they were paying the state of Florida. About 12 percent of the New College students applied for transfer, and in the end roughly three dozen students departed sunny Tampa Bay for the chilly Berkshires. About 40 faculty members left with them, and U.S. News & World Reportdropped New College’s ranking from 76 to 100.
An August survey sponsored by the American Association of University Professors demonstrated low morale among faculty in the Morrison Eighteen states of Florida, Georgia, and Texas. But nowhere was morale worse than in Florida, where 47 percent said they were seeking positions in another state. “I’m a professor,” one Floridian who called himself “Brodman_area11” posted on Reddit in late September. “My university is like watching all the rats escape from the sinking ship. My department alone has lost two pediatricians, and we can’t seem to be able to recruit any qualified replacements. It’s going to be a diaspora.”
And good riddance to them, Florida Republicans would likely say. But that fails to recognize how important university communities, public and private, are in creating and sustaining a state’s economic growth. “The college,” Karin Fischer noted in a recent report by The Chronicle of Higher Education titled College as a Public Good, “has become the one institution that remains in cities and rural regions alike long after the factory shuts down or the corporate headquarters pulls up stakes.” A college isn’t an easy thing to move. And although colleges sometimes go out of business, it doesn’t happen a lot. Of the nation’s 3,600 nonprofit institutions of higher learning, only about five to 12 close each year. We lose more factories than that every day.
Consider Rochester, New York. For more than 100 years, Rochester was a company town, and the company was Kodak. Around the time of Kodak’s 1992 centennial, the company employed 60,000 people, nearly all of them in Rochester, which meant more than one in 10 people working in the Rochester metropolitan area worked at Kodak. When you included indirect employment, Kodak drove perhaps one-quarter of Rochester’s economy. Then came digital photography and bankruptcy. The company is still around, but today its Rochester payroll is approximately 1,300 employees.
Rochester is still a thriving company town, but now the company is the University of Rochester. The university employs 31,000 people, which means more than one in 15 people working in the Rochester metropolitan area work for the university, and that doesn’t even count the economic impact of its 12,000 students. The most recent unemployment figure for Rochester’s metropolitan area was 3.2 percent in September. That was lower than the national average and the average in New York state.
At this point in the discussion, someone is bound to ask: If red states are so awful, why are so many people moving there? It’s true. Between 2020 and 2022, the five states with the biggest net population growth were all red: Idaho, Montana, Florida, Utah, and South Carolina. The two biggest net population losers, meanwhile, were blue states: New York and Illinois. I just got done telling you what terrible places Oklahoma and Tennessee have become to live in. But Oklahoma and Tennessee are two of the fastest-growing states in the country. How can that be?
Part of the answer is that not many of us move at all, so broad migration patterns are not so consequential as you might think. The big migration story is that Americans have grown steadily less geographically mobile for most of the past century. As the Berkeley sociologist Claude S. Fischer pointed out two decades ago, the idea of the United States as a rootless nation, promoted by writers as varied as Vance Packard and Joan Didion, is simply wrong—a fantasy derived from the historical memory of westward expansion during the nineteenth century. Today, even immigrants tend to stay put once they arrive in the United States. During the past decade, the percentage of the entire population that moved from one state to another in any given year never rose above 2.5 percent, not even during the Covid pandemic. Even movement from one county in a given state to another is about half what it was before 1990.
When Americans do move, the motivating factor is typically pursuit of cheaper housing. In a country where decades can go by with no appreciable rise in real median income, it makes sense that if you’re going to move, it’s best to go where it’s cheaper to live. Red states almost always offer a lower cost of living. If the climate’s warm, as it is in many red states, so much the better. Conservatives like to argue that people move to red states because the taxes are lower, and it’s true, they are. But that confuses correlation with cause. In places where the cost of living is low, taxes tend to be low, too. The high-tax states are the more prosperous (invariably blue) ones where it’s more expensive to live.
But there’s an exception to the American reluctance to migrate: Joe (and Jane) College. College-educated people move a lot, especially when they’re young. Among single people, the U.S. Census Bureau found, nearly 23 percent of all college-degree holders moved to a different state between 1995 and 2000, compared to less than 10 percent of those without a college degree. Among married people, nearly 19 percent of college-degree holders moved, compared to less than 10 percent of those without a college degree. More recent data shows that, between 2001 and 2016, college graduates ages 22 to 24 were twice as likely to move to a different state as were people lacking a college degree.
As much as Republicans may scorn Joe (and Jane) College, they need them to deliver their babies, to teach their children, to pay taxes, and to provide a host of other services that only people with undergraduate or graduate degrees are able to provide.
The larger population may prefer to move—on those rare occasions when it does move—to a red state, but the college-educated minority, which moves much more frequently, prefers relocating to a blue state. There are 10 states that import more college graduates than they export, and all of them except Texas are blue. (I’m counting Georgia, which is one of the 10, as a blue state because it went for Joe Biden in 2020.) Indeed, the three states logging the largest net population losses overall—New York, California, and Illinois—are simultaneously logging the largest net gains of college graduates. It’s a sad sign that our prosperous places are less able than in the past—or perhaps less willing—to make room for less-prosperous migrants in search of economic opportunity. But that’s the reality.
Meanwhile, with the sole exception of Texas, red states are bleeding college graduates. It’s happening even in relatively prosperous Florida. And much as Republicans may scorn Joe (and Jane) College, they need them to deliver their babies, to teach their children, to pay taxes—college grads pay more than twice as much in taxes—and to provide a host of other services that only people with undergraduate or graduate degrees are able to provide. Red states should be welcoming Kate and Caroline and Tyler and Delana. Instead, they’re driving them away, and that’s already costing them dearly.
Thousands of gas ranges recalled due to carbon monoxide poisoning risk
George Stockburger – November 21, 2023
(WHTM) – Thousands of ZLINE gas ranges are being recalled due to a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
The recall, which was first announced in January 2023, was expanded to include approximately 30,000 units where the oven can “emit dangerous levels of carbon monoxide (CO) while in use, posing a serious risk of injury or death from carbon monoxide poisoning,” according to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission.
ZLINE Expands Consumer Options in Recall of Gas Ranges; Serious Risk of Injury or Death from Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
ZLINE Expands Consumer Options in Recall of Gas Ranges; Serious Risk of Injury or Death from Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
ZLINE Expands Consumer Options in Recall of Gas Ranges; Serious Risk of Injury or Death from Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
This recall involves the oven compartment of ZLINE gas ranges with model numbers RG30, RGS-30, RGB-30, RG36, RGS-36, RGB-36, RG48, RGS-48 and RGB-48. For units sold after 2020, the model number is printed on a label under the right side of the range top.
The ranges were sold in several door colors including black matte, blue gloss, blue matte, DuraSnow, red gloss, red matte, and white matte. They also came with multiple finishes including stainless steel, black stainless steel and DuraSnow, a cloudy steel finish.
Best Buy, Lowe’s, The Home Depot, The Range Hood Stores, and online retailers sold the ranges nationwide.
ZLINE is offering a replacement range or a refund after originally offering a repair in January. Consumers can call ZLINE toll-free at 833-226-1400 from 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET Monday through Friday. They can also email at firstname.lastname@example.org or go online to the ZLINE recall website.
There have been 44 reports of carbon monoxide emission, including three reports involving users needing medical attention.