Undergraduate Commencement Address by Ken Burns

Undergraduate Commencement Address by Ken Burns

Honorary degree recipient Ken Burns delivers the Undergraduate Commencement speech at Brandeis University’s 73rd Commencement Exercises on May 19, 2024.

Honorary degree recipient Ken Burns gives the Commencement address during the Undergraduate Commencement ceremony


Brandeisian, love it.

President Liebowitz, Ron, Chair Lisa Kranc, and other members of the board of trustees, Provost Carol Fierke, fellow honorees, distinguished faculty and staff, proud and relieved parents, calm and serene grandparents, distracted but secretly pleased siblings, ladies and gentlemen, graduating students of the class of 2024, good morning.

I am deeply honored and privileged that you have asked me here to say a few words at such a momentous occasion that you might find what I have to say worthy of your attention on so important a day in all of your lives. Thank you for this honor.

Listen, I am in the business of history. It is not always a happy subject on college campuses these days, particularly when forces seem determined to eliminate or water down difficult parts of our past, particularly when the subject may seem to sum an anachronistic and irrelevant pursuit, and particularly with the ferocious urgency this moment seems to exert on us. It is my job, however, to remind people of the power our past also exerts, to help us better understand what’s going on now with compelling story, memory, and anecdote. It is my job to try to discern patterns and themes from history to enable us to interpret our dizzying and sometimes dismaying present.

For nearly 50 years now, I have diligently practiced and rigorously tried to maintain a conscious neutrality in my work, avoiding advocacy if I could, trying to speak to all of my fellow citizens. Over those many decades I’ve come to understand a significant fact, that we are not condemned to repeat, as the saying goes, what we don’t remember. That is a beautiful, even poetic phrase, but not true. Nor are there cycles of history as the academic community periodically promotes. The Old Testament, Ecclesiastes to be specific, got it right, I think. What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again. There is nothing new under the sun. What those lines suggest is that human nature never changes or almost never changes. We continually superimpose that complex and contradictory human nature over the seemingly random chaos of events, all of our inherent strengths and weaknesses, our greed and generosity, our puritanism and our prurience, our virtue, and our venality parade before our eyes, generation after generation after generation. This often gives us the impression that history repeats itself. It does not. “No event has ever happened twice, it just rhymes,” Mark Twain is supposed to have said. I have spent all of my professional life on the lookout for those rhymes, drawn inexorably to that power of history. I am interested in listening to the many varied voices of a true, honest, complicated past that is unafraid of controversy and tragedy, but equally drawn to those stories and moments that suggest an abiding faith in the human spirit, and particularly the unique role this remarkable and sometimes also dysfunctional republic seems to play in the positive progress of mankind.

During the course of my work, I have become acquainted with hundreds if not thousands of those voices. They have inspired, haunted, and followed me over the years. Some of them may be helpful to you as you try to imagine and make sense of the trajectory of your lives today.

Listen, listen. In January of 1838, shortly before his 29th birthday, a tall, thin lawyer prone to bouts of debilitating depression addressed the young men’s lyceum in Springfield, Illinois. “At what point shall we expect the approach of danger?” He asked his audience, “Shall we expect some trans-Atlantic military giant to step the earth and crush us at a blow?” Then he answered his own question. “Never. All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa could not by force take a drink from the Ohio River or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of free men, we must live through all time or die by suicide.” It is a stunning, remarkable statement, one that has animated my own understanding of the American experience since I first read it more than 40 years ago. That young man was of course Abraham Lincoln, and he would go on to preside over the closest this country has ever come to near national suicide, our civil war, and yet embedded in his extraordinary, disturbing, and prescient words is also a fundamental optimism that implicitly acknowledges the geographical forcefield two mighty oceans east and west and two relatively benign neighbors north and south have provided for us since the British burned the White House in the War of 1812 and inspired Francis Scott Key.

Lincoln’s words that day suggest what is so great and so good about the people who happen to inhabit this lucky and exquisite country of ours. That’s the world you now inherit: our work ethic and our restlessness, our innovation and our improvisation, our communities and our institutions of higher learning, our suspicion of power. The fact that we seem resolutely dedicated to parsing the meaning between individual and collective freedom; What I want versus what we need. That we are all so dedicated to understanding what Thomas Jefferson really meant when he wrote that mysterious phrase, “The pursuit of happiness”. Hint, it happens right here in the lifelong learning and perpetual improvement this university is committed to.

But the isolation of those two oceans has also helped to incubate habits and patterns less beneficial to us: our devotion to money and guns and conspiracies, our certainty about everything, our stubborn insistence on our own exceptionalism blinding us to that which needs repair, especially with regard to race and ethnicity. Our preoccupation with always making the other wrong at an individual as well as a global level. I am reminded of what the journalist I.F. Stone once said to a young acolyte who was profoundly disappointed in his mentor’s admiration for Thomas Jefferson. “It’s because history is tragedy,” Stone admonished him, “Not melodrama.” It’s the perfect response. In melodrama all villains are perfectly villainous and all heroes are perfectly virtuous, but life is not like that. You know that in your guts and nor is our history like that. The novelist, Richard Powers recently wrote that, “The best arguments in the world,” — and ladies and gentlemen, that’s all we do is argue — “the best arguments in the world,” he said, “Won’t change a single person’s point of view. The only thing that can do that is a good story.” I’ve been struggling for most of my life to do that, to try to tell good, complex, sometimes contradictory stories, appreciating nuance and subtlety and undertow, sharing the confusion and consternation of unreconciled opposites.

But it’s clear as individuals and as a nation we are dialectically preoccupied. Everything is either right or wrong, red state or blue state, young or old, gay or straight, rich or poor, Palestinian or Israeli, my way or the highway. Everywhere we are trapped by these old, tired, binary reactions, assumptions, and certainties. For filmmakers and faculty, students and citizens, that preoccupation is imprisoning. Still, we know and we hear and we express only arguments, and by so doing, we forget the inconvenient complexities of history and of human nature. That, for example, three great religions, their believers, all children of Abraham, each professing at the heart of their teaching, a respect for all human life, each with a central connection to and legitimate claim to the same holy ground, violate their own dictates of conduct and make this perpetually contested land a shameful graveyard. God does not distinguish between the dead. “Could you?”

[Audience applauding]

“Could you?” A very wise person I know with years of experience with the Middle East recently challenged me, “Could you hold the idea that there could be two wrongs and two rights?”

Listen, listen. In a filmed interview I conducted with the writer James Baldwin, more than 40 years ago, he said, “No one was ever born who agreed to be a slave, who accepted it. That is, slavery is a condition imposed from without. Of course, the moment I say that,” Baldwin continued, “I realize that multitudes and multitudes of people for various reasons of their own enslave themselves every hour of every day to this or that doctrine, this or that delusion of safety, this or that lie. Anti-Semites, for example,” he went on, “are slaves to a delusion. People who hate Negroes are slaves. People who love money are slaves. We are living in a universe really of willing slaves, which makes the concept of liberty and the concept of freedom so dangerous,” he finished. Baldwin is making a profoundly psychological and even spiritual statement, not just a political or racial or social one. He knew, just as Lincoln knew, that the enemy is often us. We continue to shackle ourselves with chains we mistakenly think is freedom.

Another voice, Mercy Otis Warren, a philosopher and historian during our revolution put it this way, “The study of the human character at once opens a beautiful and a deformed picture of the soul. We there find a noble principle implanted in the nature of people, but when the checks of conscience are thrown aside, humanity is obscured.” I have had the privilege for nearly half a century of making films about the US, but I have also made films about us. That is to say the two letter, lowercase, plural pronoun. All of the intimacy of “us” and also “we” and “our” and all of the majesty, complexity, contradiction, and even controversy of the US. And if I have learned anything over those years, it’s that there’s only us. There is no them. And whenever someone suggests to you, whomever it may be in your life that there’s a them, run away. Othering is the simplistic binary way to make and identify enemies, but it is also the surest way to your own self imprisonment, which brings me to a moment I’ve dreaded and forces me to suspend my longstanding attempt at neutrality.

There is no real choice this November. There is only the perpetuation, however flawed and feeble you might perceive it, of our fragile 249-year-old experiment or the entropy that will engulf and destroy us if we take the other route. When, as Mercy Otis Warren would say, “The checks of conscience are thrown aside and a deformed picture of the soul is revealed.” The presumptive Republican nominee is the opioid of all opioids, an easy cure for what some believe is the solution to our myriad pains and problems. When in fact with him, you end up re-enslaved with an even bigger problem, a worse affliction and addiction, “a bigger delusion”, James Baldwin would say, the author and finisher of our national existence, our national suicide as Mr. Lincoln prophesies. Do not be seduced by easy equalization. There is nothing equal about this equation. We are at an existential crossroads in our political and civic lives. This is a choice that could not be clearer.

[Audience applauding]

Listen, listen. 33 years ago, the world lost a towering literary figure. The novelist and storyteller, not arguer, Isaac Bashevis Singer. For decades he wrote about God and myth and punishment, fate and sexuality, family and history. He wrote in Yiddish a marvelously expressive language, sad and happy all at the same time. Sometimes maddeningly all knowing, yet resigned to God’s seemingly capricious will. It is also a language without a country, a dying language in a world more interested in the extermination or isolation of its long suffering speakers. Singer, writing in the pages of the Jewish Daily Forward help to keep Yiddish alive. Now our own wonderfully mongrel American language is punctuated with dozens of Yiddish words and phrases, parables and wise sayings, and so many of those words are perfect onomatopoeias of disgust and despair, hubris and humor. If you’ve ever met a schmuck, you know what I’m talking about. [audience laughs] Toward the end of his long and prolific life, Singer expressed wonder at why so many of his books written in this obscure and some said useless language would be so widely translated, something like 56 countries all around the world. “Why,” he would wonder with his characteristic playfulness, “Why would the Japanese care about his simple stories of life in the shtetls of Eastern Europe 1,000 years ago?” “Unless,” Singer paused, twinkle in his eye, “Unless the story spoke of the kinship of the soul.” I think what Singer was talking about was that indefinable something that connects all of us together, that which we all share as part of organic life on this planet, the kinship of the soul. I love that.

Okay, let me speak directly to the graduating class. Watch out, here comes the advice. Listen. Be curious, not cool. Insecurity makes liars of us all. Remember, none of us get out of here alive. The inevitable vicissitudes of life, no matter how well gated our communities, will visit us all. Grief is a part of life, and if you explore its painful precincts, it will make you stronger. Do good things, help others. Leadership is humility and generosity squared. Remember the opposite of faith is not doubt. Doubt is central to faith. The opposite of faith is certainty. The kinship of the soul begins with your own at times withering self-examination. Try to change that unchangeable human nature of Ecclesiastes, but start with you. “Nothing so needs reforming,” Mark Twain once chided us, “As other people’s habits.” [audience laughs]

Don’t confuse success with excellence. Do not descend too deeply into specialism. Educate all of your parts, you will be healthier. Do not get stuck in one place. “Travel is fatal to prejudice,” Twain also said. Be in nature, which is always perfect and where nothing is binary. Its sheer majesty may remind you of your own atomic insignificance, as one observer put it, but in the inscrutable and paradoxical ways of wild places, you will feel larger, inspirited, just as the egotist in our midst is diminished by his or her self regard.

At some point, make babies, one of the greatest things that will happen to you, I mean it, one of the greatest things that will happen to you is that you will have to worry, I mean really worry, about someone other than yourself. It is liberating and exhilarating, I promise. Ask your parents.

[Audience laughs]

Choose honor over hypocrisy, virtue over vulgarity, discipline over dissipation, character over cleverness, sacrifice over self-indulgence. Do not lose your enthusiasm, in its Greek etymology the word enthusiasm means simply, “god in us”. Serve your country. Insist that we fight the right wars. Denounce oppression everywhere.

[Audience applauding]

Convince your government, as Lincoln understood that the real threat always and still comes from within this favored land. Insist that we support science and the arts, especially the arts.

[Audience cheering]

They have nothing to do with the actual defense of our country; They just make our country worth defending.

[Audience applauding]

Remember what Louis Brandeis said, “The most important political office is that of the private citizen.” Vote. You indelibly… [audience applauding] Please, vote. You indelibly underscore your citizenship, and most important, our kinship with each other when you do. Good luck and godspeed.

[Audience applauding]

Graduates smiling at CommencementGraduate Ceremony

Climate change caused 26 extra days of extreme heat in last year: report


Climate change caused 26 extra days of extreme heat in last year: report

AFP – May 28, 2024

Heat is the leading cause of climate-related death (Nhac NGUYEN)
Heat is the leading cause of climate-related death (Nhac NGUYEN)

The world experienced an average of 26 more days of extreme heat over the last 12 months that would probably not have occurred without climate change, a report said on Tuesday.

Heat is the leading cause of climate-related death and the report further points to the role of global warming in increasing the frequency and intensity of extreme weather around the world.

For this study, scientists used the years 1991 to 2020 to determine what temperatures counted as within the top 10 percent for each country over that period.

Next, they looked at the 12 months to May 15, 2024, to establish how many days over that period experienced temperatures within — or beyond — the previous range.

Then, using peer-reviewed methods, they examined the influence of climate change on each of these excessively hot days.

They concluded that “human-caused climate change added — on average, across all places in the world — 26 more days of extreme heat than there would have been without it”.

The report was published by the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, the World Weather Attribution scientific network and the nonprofit research organisation Climate Central.

2023 was the hottest year on record, according to the European Union’s climate monitor, Copernicus.

Already this year, extreme heatwaves have afflicted swathes of the globe from Mexico to Pakistan.

The report said that in the last 12 months some 6.3 billion people — roughly 80 percent of the global population — experienced at least 31 days of what is classed as extreme heat.

In total, 76 extreme heatwaves were registered in 90 different countries on every continent except Antarctica.

Five of the most affected nations were in Latin America.

The report said that without the influence of climate change, Suriname would have recorded an estimated 24 extreme heat days instead of 182; Ecuador 10 not 180; Guyana 33 not 174, El Salvador 15 not 163; and Panama 12 not 149.

“(Extreme heat) is known to have killed tens of thousands of people over the last 12 months but the real number is likely in the hundreds of thousands or even millions,” the Red Cross said in a statement.

“Flooding and hurricanes may capture the headlines but the impacts of extreme heat are equally deadly,” said Jagan Chapagain, secretary general of the International Federation of the Red Cross.

In this far-flung Arizona neighborhood, residents dream of the arrival of a gas station or grocery store

AZ Central – The Arizona Republic

In this far-flung Arizona neighborhood, residents dream of the arrival of a gas station or grocery store

Alexandra Hardle, Arizona Republic – May 28, 2024

Terrell Hannah and his family enjoy living in Tartesso, a master-planned community in northwest Buckeye. But when he needs to fill up his car or get a gallon of milk, he does wish that it came with basic city amenities.

Like a gas station or a grocery store. The nearest gas station is 15 minutes away; the nearest Walmart, 15 minutes away; the nearest Costco, 20 minutes away.

Hannah and his wife also have two young children and drive them about 25 minutes to school near downtown Buckeye. On top of that, Hannah has a 35- to 45-minute commute to Luke Air Force, where he works.

Hannah, who moved into the community in 2022, said he likes the residential feel.

“One of the attractive features of that neighborhood is that it’s away from all of the heavy industry that is really coming up at every corner in Phoenix,” Hannah said.

Realtor Martin Partida has been a Tartesso resident since 2020. He and his family moved from Phoenix because they wanted to live somewhere quieter, and Tartesso fit the bill. Partida said he also needs to drive about 15 minutes to get to the nearest grocery store or gas station.

A big frustration among Tartesso residents has been the pace of development. The community now has about 10,000 residents and 3,400 houses but so few amenities, they say.

Many residents feel Tartesso has been left out as other areas of the city develop more quickly.

“When we compare what we have to other communities that have been developed like Verrado, it just seems unbalanced. We’re not sure why it’s taking so long to get things moving out here,” Partida said.

Partida said he also hopes for a high school to be built. Currently, Tartesso’s schools only go to the fifth grade. It also would be nice to have a recreational center in Tartesso, Partida said.

Residents also hope for coffee shops, jobs

Cameron James has lived in Tartesso since 2009. At this point, James said he and other residents are used to commuting for work and stopping at places like Costco on the way home.

“You get used to it after about a year. I mean, we feel spoiled now because we have food trucks,” James said.

James said he understands why the community needs more rooftops before commercial development follows.

Paige Stein, who works in the hospitality industry in Goodyear, has lived in Tartesso for about four years after moving from from Festival Foothills neighborhood, also in Buckeye. Stein said she and her family always have preferred to live in places that are more isolated.

Southwest Valley: Buckeye panel pitches almost $300M in bonds for public safety, roads and parks

Stein said the most important thing to her is that more jobs come to Tartesso for the people who live there, particularly young people still at home with their parents who don’t have the option to move. Stein currently commutes about 30 minutes to her job in Goodyear.

“I don’t see that as something that someone just getting out of school should have to do,” Stein said.

After a gas station, she would like Tartesso to get a coffee shop.

“Something where the students that get out of school can go hang out, so they don’t have to go straight home or hang out in the heat,” Stein said.

Stein said she currently spends a lot of her free time in Tempe to go to new shops and favorite places.

Residents hope for less industrial development

Chris Barr, principal of Buckeye Tartesso LLC, said he hears the complaints. A controversial new rezoning of land to industrial from residential is part of a potential solution, he said. The change axed some 6,000 planned homes.

While some residents are skeptical and hope the plan shifts away from industrial zoning, adding jobs is necessary for creating both rooftops and the commercial and retail development Tartesso residents are asking for, Barr said.

Accelerating economic growth will in turn accelerate the growth of community amenities, including grocery stores and gas stations, he said.

Tartesso, along the southwestern part of the Sun Valley Parkway, is projected to have about 100,000 residents at build-out.

Hundreds of thousands of residents eventually will live along Sun Valley Parkway, Barr said. It once was known as the “Road to Nowhere,” with not much around it. But communities are slowly growing, including Festival Ranch along the northern part of the parkway.

A vast majority of Buckeye’s residents commute east for work. Barr hopes to change that by adding more employment opportunities along the parkway.

The Tartesso community development borders the desert in Buckeye. It's one of the last noticeable developments on the way out of the Phoenix area.
The Tartesso community development borders the desert in Buckeye. It’s one of the last noticeable developments on the way out of the Phoenix area.

Obtaining the necessary certificates for industrial development is easier than getting approval for residential from a water standpoint. But Barr said that’s not the reason the land was rezoned.

“We just wanted to create some employment opportunities and really good-paying jobs for people in that region that don’t want to hop on the freeway and potentially have to leave the city of Buckeye to drive to and from their job every day,” Barr said.

Tartesso LLC bought the development in 2016. When Barr came in, the community was still recovering from the Great Recession, which had greatly slowed down growth, Barr said. Right now, Barr said the focus is on housing, which will later bring in retail amenities.

While some land is zoned for commercial use and was purchased years ago, Barr said many projects were halted by the recession.

“They had a lot of rooftop projections that took a long time to materialize because the market got effectively shut down for a couple of years,” Barr said.

Ultimately, it is up to the purchasers of the land to decide what to do with it and when. Additional amenities like a recreation center also would come with additional HOA fees, and not everyone would be happy to pay those.

“The demand is, we need affordable housing in the Valley. And we’ve got a big problem staring us down if we don’t come to some solutions that allow for building on Sun Valley Parkway, which is going to be a great place for affordable housing,” Barr said.

In a statement to The Arizona Republic, a Buckeye spokesperson said the city’s development teams were actively collaborating with brokers, developers and service providers to attract growth in Buckeye, including in Tartesso and Festival Ranch.

“While commercial development is currently thriving in the eastern parts of Buckeye, our growth trajectory is set to extend westward along Sun Valley Parkway. This will foster expansion and development in those areas,” the city statement said. “This growth trajectory is already attracting new investment, including a recent commitment from QT (QuikTrip) to develop a new location south of Tartesso.”

What’s still to come at Tartesso?

The QuikTrip announcement means Tartesso residents’ wishes for a gas station soon will come true, although a timeline for the opening was not set.

The gas station will be located about a mile from the community’s main entrance. The nearest gas station is currently a Love’s Travel Shop located nearly 10 miles away from Tartesso on Miller Road.

As for what’s next aside from industrial development, Barr said Tartesso currently has applications for certificates of assured water supply pending with the Department of Water Resources for about 5,700 homes.

Those certificates are necessary for the next phase of construction to begin.

Barr said Tartesso has begun discussions with major builders for those homes. Once the development figures out its water certificates, Barr said the launch would be relatively quick.

And those homes, combined with new jobs to the area, should make way for the amenities that Tartesso residents have been asking for, such as grocery stores, more gas stations, movie theaters and hospitals, most of which look to have a certain number of rooftops within a certain radius.

“I don’t think we’re quite there,” Barr said. “But I believe activity breeds more activity.”

Temperatures in Pakistan cross 52 degrees Celsius — that’s more than 125°F


Temperatures in Pakistan cross 52 degrees Celsius — that’s more than 125°F

Reuters – May 28, 2024

Temperatures rose above 52 degrees Celsius (125.6 degrees Fahrenheit) in Pakistan’s southern province of Sindh, the highest reading of the summer and close to the country’s record high amid an ongoing heat wave, the met office said on Monday.

Extreme temperatures throughout Asia over the past month were made worse most likely as a result of human-driven climate change, a team of international scientists have said.

In Mohenjo Daro, a town in Sindh known for archaeological sites that date back to the Indus Valley Civilization built in 2500 BC, temperatures rose as high as 52.2 C (126 F) over the last 24 hours, a senior official of the Pakistan Meteorological Department, Shahid Abbas told Reuters.

The reading is the highest of the summer so far, and approached the town’s and country’s record highs of 53.5 C (128.3 F) and 54 C (129.2 F) respectively.

Mohenjo Daro is a small town that experiences extremely hot summers and mild winters, and low rainfall, but its limited markets, including bakeries, tea shops, mechanics, electronic repair shops, and fruit and vegetable sellers, are usually bustling with customers.

But with the current heat wave, shops are seeing almost no footfall.

A vendor selling ice, slices a piece from an ice block for a customer at his shop on a hot summer noon in in Karachi on May 27, 2024. - Rizwan Tabassum/AFP/Getty Images
A vendor selling ice, slices a piece from an ice block for a customer at his shop on a hot summer noon in in Karachi on May 27, 2024. – Rizwan Tabassum/AFP/Getty Images

“The customers are not coming to the restaurant because of extreme heat. I sit idle at the restaurant with these tables and chairs and without any customers,” Wajid Ali, 32, who owns a tea stall in the town.

“I take baths several times a day which gives me a little relief. Also there is no power. The heat has made us very uneasy.”

Close to Ali’s shop is an electronic repairs shop run by Abdul Khaliq, 30, who was sat working with the shop’s shutter half down to shield him from the sun. Khaliq also complained about the heat affecting business.

Local doctor Mushtaq Ahmed added that the locals have adjusted to living in the extreme weather conditions and prefer staying indoors or near water.

“Pakistan is the fifth most vulnerable country to the impact of climate change. We have witnessed above normal rains, floods,” Rubina Khursheed Alam, the prime minister’s coordinator on climate, said at a news conference on Friday adding that the government is running awareness campaigns due to the heat waves.

The highest temperature recorded in Pakistan was in 2017 when temperatures rose to 54 C (129.2 F) in the city of Turbat, located in the Southwestern province of Balochistan. This was the second hottest in Asia and fourth highest in the world, said Sardar Sarfaraz, Chief Meteorologist at the Pakistan Meteorological Department

The heat wave will subside in Mohenjo Daro and surrounding areas, but another spell is expected to hit other areas in Sindh, including the capital, Karachi — Pakistan’s largest city.

Real estate agents are fleeing the field. Is that good for homebuyers?

The Washington Post

Real estate agents are fleeing the field. Is that good for homebuyers?

Aaron Gregg – May 28, 2024

New home concept portrayed by a female holding front door keys in front of a newly built house. (malamus-UK via Getty Images)

When real estate broker April Strickland looks at her local housing market in Gainesville, Fla., she sees a mismatch. Industry data show that only a few hundred homes are sold each month, she said, yet there are more than 1,500 local Realtors.

Strickland has seen the ups and downs of the housing market since 1995, when she started managing her parents’ rental properties as a teenager. But she says the business environment of the past two years is the most challenging she can remember – slower even than the years following the 2008 financial crisis.

“Quite frankly, Realtors are running out of money,” Strickland said.

An industry that swelled with newcomers in 2020 and 2021 has recently experienced a harsh slowdown – leaving the field no choice but to downsize, experts say. One widely cited analysis predicts as many as 80 percent of the country’s real estate agents could find a new line of work.

“Many industry leaders think there are way too many agents and would like to reduce the number so the professionals can service more clients, thus allowing a reduction in commission levels in order to maintain current incomes,” said Steve Brobeck, a senior fellow at the Consumer Federation of America.

By some measures, the exodus has already begun.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded 440,000 full-time real estate agents and brokers in 2023, about 72,000 less than the year before.

As of mid-April, the National Association of Realtors had about 1.5 million agents registered. That’s down more than 100,000 from 2022, according to Nick Gerli of the real estate data firm Reventure Consulting.

The Realtor group, which recently stopped publishing its membership figures, declined to comment for this story. But earlier this year, Gerli, citing monthly reports that were published by the trade association, said NAR anticipates declines in Realtor membership for the next 24 months.

With interest rates remaining relatively high, deals have become so scarce that many Realtors now sell only a few homes a year. A survey of about 2,000 real estate agents conducted by the Consumer Federation of America found that 49 percent of them sold fewer than two homes in 2023. And Realtors will soon face new rules that could result in sweeping changes to how they do business and how they get paid.

Under the new rules starting in August, real estate databases no longer will include offers of compensation for buyers’ agents. That means those agents can no longer count on a cut of the seller’s windfall. Investment bank Keefe Bruyette & Woods has estimated that as much as 30 percent of the total U.S. commissions revenue might be lost as a result.

The rules are the result of a court settlement between the NAR and groups of home sellers who said the commissions structure violated antitrust laws. A federal court temporarily approved the settlement and will consider making the approval permanent in November. And the pressure on the industry could continue  an April court decision cleared the Justice Department to reopen an earlier antitrust probe into the NAR and its rules for commissions.

Economists who study the real estate sector have long believed that a “decoupling” of buyer and seller commissions will convince a significant number of Realtors to abandon the field, though estimates vary as to how many.

The forecast by Keefe Bruyette & Woods projected that changes to the commission structure could cause 60 to 80 percent of U.S. Realtors to leave the profession.

CUNY Baruch College’s Sonia Gilbukh and Yale School of Management’s Paul Goldsmith-Pinkham estimated that about 56 percent of agents would exit the market if one side’s commission remained at 3 percent while the other became competitive, Gilbukh said in an email describing the study. A 2015 paper in the Rand Journal of Economics by Panle Jia Barwick and Parag Pathak predicted that a 50 percent reduction in commissions would result in 40 percent fewer agents.

Experts see a silver lining in a potential exodus of Realtors: Those who remain might be more experienced and competent. “This will be good for consumers because agents on average will be better at their job and will charge more competitive commissions,” Gilbukh said.

A “Realtor glut” has persisted since the industry’s pandemic high point, said Brobeck, who also sees a departure of real estate agents as probably a good thing for home buyers.

Another Bureau of Labor Statistics measure that includes part-timers shows 1.8 million people working in the real estate sector as of April 2024, up slightly from last year. But with so many of them doing relatively little business and holding other full-time jobs, selling homes at this point is “clearly a part-time industry,” Brobeck wrote in a recent report .

Under the rules coming in August, agents will feel more pressure to justify their compensation, Brobeck said, because buyers will be more likely to press for a lower commission. That should also create space for discount brokers serving first-time buyers, he said.

“As this occurs, residential real estate markets will become more diverse and competitive,” Brobeck said.

Gilbukh, the CUNY researcher, believes that only the most experienced agents will be able to keep charging high commissions.

Agents that survive the upcoming transition are likely to be better connected within their industry, having deeper relationships with professionals such as contractors, electricians, plumbers and appraisers, and “overall better poised to advise their clients,” Gilbukh said.

Contracts under the proposed new rules should bring more clarity to the relationship between buyers and their agents, several analysts said. That could cut down on “ghosting” incidents, in which prospective home buyers will talk to an agent while searching for a home, only to finalize the deal with a different agent, or put their housing search on hold.

“Previously there was no real sense of accountability, where Realtors didn’t really have to explain what they do,” Strickland said.

The proposed NAR deal was met with fear throughout the industry when it was announced in MarchStrickland said. But the panic has given way to a “wait-and-see” attitude, she said.

She characterized the NAR deal as a positive thing overall:

“It will eliminate people who quite frankly aren’t up to snuff, who can’t do the work, who don’t want to educate themselves and learn new ways or working. … This will be a good pivot for our industry.”

– – –

Lauren Kaori Gurley contributed to this report.

La Niña could mean an active hurricane season. Here’s what it means for Texas this summer

Austin American Statesman

La Niña could mean an active hurricane season. Here’s what it means for Texas this summer

Marley Malenfant , Austin American-Statesman – May 27, 2024

Summer is coming, and so is La Niña.

According to the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center, there is a 49% chance of La Niña developing between June and August this year, and forecasters say it will create conditions for an ‘above-normal’ hurricane season in Texas.

What is La Niña?

La Niña, which means “little girl” in Spanish, is a climate phenomenon characterized by the cooling of sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean. La Niña and its opposite, El Niño, as well as a neutral phase, are part of a larger climate pattern known as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation. The tropical Pacific can be in either one of those three states.

According to scientists, El Niño years tend to bring cold, wet winters to California and the southern U.S. but warm, dry conditions to the Pacific Northwest and the Ohio Valley. La Niña tends to bring the opposite: dry conditions for the whole southern half of the country but colder, wetter weather for the Pacific Northwest.

La Niña is an oceanic and atmospheric phenomenon that is the colder counterpart of El Niño, as part of the broader El Niño–Southern Oscillation climate pattern.
La Niña is an oceanic and atmospheric phenomenon that is the colder counterpart of El Niño, as part of the broader El Niño–Southern Oscillation climate pattern.
How does La Niña affect Texas weather?

La Niña has a notable impact on Texas weather, primarily influencing temperature and precipitation patterns. Here’s how La Niña typically affects Texas, according to NOAA:

  1. Temperature: La Niña often brings warmer-than-average temperatures to Texas during the winter months. The warmer conditions are a result of the jet stream shifting northward, reducing the frequency of cold air masses moving into the region. Summers during La Niña years can also be hotter than normal, with higher heatwaves and increasing demand for water and energy.
  2. Precipitation: La Niña is usually associated with drier-than-normal conditions across Texas, particularly in the fall and winter months. The northward shift of the jet stream tends to divert storm systems away from the state, reducing the overall rainfall. The reduced precipitation can lead to an increased risk of drought. Texas may experience significant water shortages, affecting agriculture and water supply and increasing the likelihood of wildfires.
  3. Severe weather: Due to warmer temperatures during La Niña winters, the likelihood of severe weather, such as snow and ice storms, is generally lower. However, La Niña can increase severe weather events like tornadoes in Texas due to enhanced instability and favorable atmospheric conditions.
  4. Hurricane season: La Niña can contribute to a more active Atlantic hurricane season. This means Texas might face a higher risk of hurricanes and tropical storms making landfall, bringing heavy rainfall and potential flooding. The NOAA predicts between 17 and 25 named storms this season, with 4 to 7 becoming major hurricanes classified as category 3, 4, or 5.

Texas weather: NOAA predicts ‘above-normal’ 2024 hurricane season in new outlook

When to expect La Niña

The NOAA predicts a 49% chance of La Niña developing between June and August and a 69% chance between July and September.

The Start of La Niña
The Start of La Niña

How Donald Trump Still Lives in the 1980s

The New York Times

How Donald Trump Still Lives in the 1980s

Maggie Haberman – May 25, 2024

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally at Crotona Park in the Bronx on Thursday, May 23, 2024. (Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times)
Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally at Crotona Park in the Bronx on Thursday, May 23, 2024. (Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times)

NEW YORK — When his criminal trial finishes for the day, Donald Trump typically returns to the marble-and-gold triplex atop Trump Tower, the high rise he built in the early 1980s and used to establish a public image as a master builder.

It is the silver lining for Trump, as he spends his first sustained period of time in Manhattan since he moved to Washington in 2017. He passes the days in a dingy courtroom downtown, where he faces 34 felonies, listening to people from his old life describe him as a depraved liar who sullied the White House. At the end of it all, he could be sent to prison.

But in the evenings, people who have spoken to him say, he has been enjoying being back in the penthouse apartment that he moved into four decades ago. He still considers it home — and a permanent reminder of the easiest period of his life.

That period was the greed-is-good era in which Trump sold himself nationally as a titan of industry, despite a relatively small, and local, real estate portfolio. He had just built a glittering tower on Fifth Avenue, infuriating elites and demanding a tax break from the city. And it is the era he alludes to constantly, referring to 1980s cultural touchstones, including the news show “60 Minutes,” Time magazine and celebrities like boxer Mike Tyson.

It is also the last time Trump’s preferred public image was intact, and it soon came crashing down. The decade ended with a monthslong tabloid war in which people around the city chose sides between him and his first wife, Ivana. At the same time, the image-obsessed Trump was the subject of one investigative story after another, making clear he had far less money than it had seemed, had relied on his father for help and had managed his empire into something close to ruin.

It was in the ’80s that he was in a public dance over whether he wanted to be accepted by elites or throw stones at them, marked most visibly by his decision to smash art deco friezes that had been atop the building he razed to construct Trump Tower.

Yet despite the claims that the city’s power brokers all sneered at him, Trump was humored, indulged and even accepted by some of them. The ’80s were a time when, his path having been helped by his father’s connections in the corrupt Brooklyn political machine, he was developing relationships with publishing titans such as S.I. Newhouse and hanging out in the stadium box held for George Steinbrenner, the New York Yankees owner.

Trump had begun a budding and durable association with one of the city’s power brokers, Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, a man whose proximity gave Trump a sense of comfort, according to former Trump Organization employees, and who Trump has said would never have stood for the charges against him.

“It’s absolutely true — that was his golden time, no question,” said Andrew Stein, who was the City Council president in the 1980s and still supports Trump after having briefly suggested he should bypass his third presidential campaign.

Even being president — moving to a city and a world where the rules and laws were foreign and uninteresting to him, and where the establishment rejected him before he arrived — rarely seemed to delight Trump the way that holding court at the 21 Club in midtown Manhattan did.

The trial has highlighted the parts of Trump’s makeup that became clear in the decade that followed, in the 1990s, the ones less immediately apparent after the fame afforded him by his ghostwritten 1987 book, “The Art of the Deal.” The courtroom days have repeatedly touched on his penchant for payback, his love of fixers to defend him, his obsession with being seen as a playboy, his business practices at what is essentially a mom-and-pop company.

But they have also underscored the reality that a man who spent years building an artifice about himself in the press and on TV managed to capture the presidency, when suddenly the question of what parts of him were real or fake was obscured by the power of the Oval Office, a giant government infrastructure and tens of millions of people who had cast ballots for him.

The era that shaped Trump was perhaps best encapsulated by author Tom Wolfe in “The Bonfire of the Vanities,” in which a wealthy investment banker strikes a young Black man in a hit-and-run in the Bronx amid widespread racial tensions, and is ultimately tried in the borough’s beaten-down criminal courthouse as the tabloids devour the story.

It was a building not unlike the one in which Trump has sat most days each week for six weeks, the fluorescent lighting beaming down on the decrepit benches and the letters reading “In God We Trust” over Justice Juan M. Merchan’s head.

Some days, Trump has eviscerated his lawyers and complained privately that he has no Roy Cohn, his original fixer and mentor and lawyer. Like Trump, Cohn was born into outer-borough privilege and then alternately reviled and accepted by powerful people. Cohn, a closeted gay man who tried to purge the federal government of gay people, died in 1986; he had AIDS but told people it was liver cancer.

Cohn, whose connections included President Ronald Reagan, Rupert Murdoch and mobsters, had introduced the Queens-bred Trump to a new world and had taught him to always deny wrongdoing, to attack his attackers and to seek lawyers willing to do anything. But at the start of the ’80s, as he was gaining respectability himself, Trump already seemed ready to put some distance between himself and Cohn.

“All I can tell you is he’s been vicious to others in his protection of me,” Trump told journalist Marie Brenner a few years before Cohn’s death. “He’s a genius. He’s a lousy lawyer, but he’s a genius.”

Trump essentially dropped Cohn, who had been indicted repeatedly, when he fell ill. It was later that Trump lionized Cohn, despite his own criticism of his mentor, as the ideal that his other lawyers, including the new ones he dealt with in Washington, should strive to live up to.

Trump never spent much time back at Trump Tower while he was president. Most weekends, he traveled to Mar-a-Lago, in Palm Beach, Florida, or to Bedminster, New Jersey. He said he was avoiding Manhattan because his motorcade would snarl traffic. But Manhattan had rejected him at the ballot box. Residents had even laughed in his face as he went to vote on Election Day in 2016; one told him, “You’re gonna lose!”

And so in September 2019, after consulting his tax lawyers, Trump rejected Manhattan right back, switching his residence to Florida. By the time he left office, 14 days after an attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob, he was close to done trying to appease anyone but himself.

This month, the former president and presumptive Republican nominee has sought to troll the city he left, to show he can still dominate a place that, in the post-pandemic period, has continued to feel off-kilter.

On Thursday evening, he held a rally of thousands of people not in Manhattan but in the Bronx. The event was in a heavily Black and Latino neighborhood, in a borough where Trump went to college at Fordham University for two years, and where Cohn’s former law partner was once a Democratic Party leader. Trump had suggested to donors at a Manhattan fundraiser days earlier that he might get hurt in the neighborhood, although he seemed quite pleased once he was there.

He denounced transgender girls and women competing in women’s sports, to cheers. He attacked immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally, whose growing use of city services has been a flashpoint.

But the theme of his stories was the past. He talked about building Trump Tower, declaring, “Wherever I go, I know that if I could build a skyscraper in Manhattan, I could do anything.”

He lingered for several minutes describing how he rebuilt the defunct Wollman Rink in Central Park in 1986, a relatively small job that he nonetheless milked for intense media coverage. He detailed the copper pipes that had been stolen and the concrete wasted, and then he said he had found a way to turn the rink into something different.

“The biggest cost was demolition,” Trump said of his work. “Taking it down and then starting all over.”

Schools that never needed AC are now overheating. Fixes will cost billions.

The Washington Post

Schools that never needed AC are now overheating. Fixes will cost billions.

Anna Phillips and Veronica Penney – May 24, 2024

Nearly 40 percent of schools in the United States were built before the 1970s, when temperatures were cooler and fewer buildings needed air conditioning.

That has changed. In recent decades, heat has crept northward, increasing the number of school days with temperatures above 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Large parts of the country, where temperatures were previously cooler, now experience at least one month of school days with temperatures above 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Many schools still don’t have air conditioning.

America’s aging school buildings are on a collision course with a rapidly warming climate.

Last fall, school officials were forced to send students home across the Northeast and the Mid-Atlantic – just as many were returning from summer break – because of extreme heat and schools lacking air conditioning. In Baltimore and Detroit, high heat led to early dismissals, the same as it had four months earlier when summer temperatures struck in May.

In Philadelphia last year, administrators moved the first day of school from late August to after Labor Day, in part to avoid a repeat of heat-related school closures in previous years. But the weather didn’t cooperate. They ended up closing more than 70 schools three hours earlier than usual for the entire week.

Hot weather is not a new concern for school districts. But as the burning of fossil fuels heats the planet, it’s delivering longer-lasting, more dangerous heat waves, and higher average temperatures. Across much of the northern United States, where many schools were built without air conditioning, districts are now forced to confront the academic and health risks posed by poorly cooled schools. Fixing the problem often requires residents to pass multimillion dollar school repair bonds, which can be hard to do. Climatic change is arriving faster than most can adapt.

“We have had situations where it’s been 88 degrees outside but the real feel in the classrooms is well over 90 degrees because of the humidity,” said Shari Obrenski, president of the Cleveland Teachers Union. Although most of the district’s schools have air conditioning, 11 switched to virtual instruction during a period of high heat in 2022. “It’s miserable,” she said, “students throwing up, not being able to keep their heads up, just horrible conditions.”

Because of the highly localized nature of U.S. public schools, data on school air conditioning is scarce and researchers rely on surveys to gather information.

In 2021, when the environmental advocacy group Center for Climate Integrity set out to examine air conditioning, its researchers collected information on more than 150 schools and school districts across the country. They found that in places where temperatures historically hit 80 degrees Fahrenheit at least 32 days during the academic year, the vast majority of schools already had air conditioning.

Using this as their threshold for when AC is needed, they modeled what it would cost to keep schools cool in the near future under a moderate warming scenario. Their answer: more than 13,700 public schools in the United States that did not need air conditioning in 1970 need it today. Some have already installed it, some are working on it now and some can only dream of having enough money. The estimated cost of this huge investment exceeds $40 billion.

Paul Chinowsky, a professor emeritus of engineering at the University of Colorado at Boulder who led the analysis, said it showed two distinct trends in America: Northern school districts experiencing hotter school year temperatures that are overheating classrooms and forcing closures, especially in old buildings without enough electrical capacity to run air conditioners. And Southern districts with aging cooling systems outmatched by abnormally hot weather.

A generation ago, few would have imagined that school districts from Denver to Boston would need to spend millions of dollars on cooling. Today, the reality is different.

Aging schools, built for a different climate

The scene at Dunbar Elementary was so distressing that, six years later, it is still fresh in Jerry Jordan’s mind.

In late August 2018, a punishing heat wave gripped Philadelphia just as public school students were returning from summer break. Jordan, the president of the local teachers union, was holding a news conference at Dunbar to demand the state help pay to air-condition schools. Before the event, he walked through the building to get a feel for what its students and staff were experiencing.

“I ran into one teacher as she was walking her first-grade class down to computer science – she was wearing a dress and the back of the dress was literally soaked right through. It was sticking to her,” Jordan said. A little boy got out of line and lay down on the concrete floor. He stayed put, even when the teacher urged him to rejoin the class. “But it’s cool here,” Jordan remembers him pleading.

Today, roughly 30 percent of Philadelphia public schools don’t have fully air-conditioned classrooms, according to district officials. In interviews, teachers said many more buildings don’t have cooling in gyms, cafeterias and libraries. The district has made progress since that 2018 heat wave, thanks in large part to millions of dollars in federal pandemic aid and a $200,000 donation from Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts. But it still has many buildings with only enough power to support window AC units in every other classroom, or on certain floors. Some units are broken or barely functional. At one school, parents said the units are window dressing – they can’t be switched on for fear of using more electricity than the building can safely handle.

The district’s goal is to have all classrooms air-conditioned by 2027, but its pandemic money is about to run out and state funding remains uncertain. “The aspirational is absolutely dependent on funding,” said Superintendent Tony Watlington Sr.

In interviews, teachers said that classroom temperatures have climbed into the high 80s to low 90s in the early fall, past the point when studies have shown heat can impede learning.

“94 degrees F in my classroom today,” teacher Trey Smith wrote on X, formerly Twitter, on a day in late August, posting a photo of a thermometer in his third-floor un-air-conditioned classroom at Marian Anderson Neighborhood Academy. Smith said that, for years, he has had to endure high temperatures with only fans and a portable AC unit that trips the circuit breaker.

“I’m angry,” he said. “Not at the district and not at my administration, it’s just that as a state we’ve underfunded our schools. That’s the crime.”

As hotter-than-normal temperatures become more common in the late spring and early fall, they pose a risk to students’ academic success. Researchers have linked heat exposure to reduced learning, in addition to a range of well-known health effects such as dizziness, headaches and worsening asthma symptoms. Teachers aren’t immune either – especially in places that aren’t used to hot weather.

“On those really really hot days, our attendance is low because kids don’t want to boil in a classroom and asthmatic kids are being kept home by their parents,” said Olney High School teacher Sarah Apt, who also has asthma. “Those are days I have used my inhaler and kind of take it slower.”

Climate change is expanding the swath of the country facing these problems.

At the same time, as school shootings become more frequent, district leaders are under pressure to turn their buildings into fortresses to stop an attacker.

“We’ve got schools that want to button up for security reasons, but that’s making them hotter, stuffier and requiring more mechanical air conditioning,” said Chinowsky. “You’ve got two different goals working against each other.”

Well-off school districts often address this problem by putting a bond before voters, asking them to support higher taxes to pay for cooling. But despite its improving poverty rate, Philadelphia is still the poorest big city in the nation. And a quirk in state law bars the school district from raising its own revenue, leaving it few options but to ask the city and state for money. That hasn’t worked out so well – last year, a state court found that Pennsylvania’s funding formula leaves some schools so underfunded that it violates students’ constitutional right to an education.

Parents and teachers have become increasingly vocal in demanding healthier conditions following scandals over asbestos and lead contamination in schools. The teachers union now employs a director of environmental science and commissioned an app that allows teachers to report extreme temperature problems, as well as leaks and pest infestations.

Yet some families don’t know their children attend schools without air conditioning.

Sherice Workman was among them. When she chose Paul Robeson High School in West Philadelphia for her youngest son, Juelz, she was unaware how hot it was inside until he began bringing deodorant to school to mask his constant sweating. He came home with stories of students sleeping through class to deal with the heat. She and some of the school’s staff delivered a petition to district leaders two years ago.

“When it is 80 degrees outside, it is 90 to 100 in the classrooms. When it is 90 degrees outside, it is 100 to 105 degrees in the classrooms,” the petition read. “This extreme heat in our building has caused our children to pass out and miss classes due to dehydration-related headaches.”

The district installed window air conditioners at Robeson the next year, an experience that Workman said taught her the value of speaking out. When it comes to air conditioning in neighboring suburbs’ schools, she said, “It’s just something they have. Our fight isn’t their fight.

Hotter school days and no cheap fixes

Fall in Colorado’s Front Range can be glorious – with blue skies and aspens changing color in the Rockies. But it is also the time of year when Colorado has experienced its greatest warming, with temperatures rising by 3.1 degrees Fahrenheit from 1980-2022, according to a state report.

That’s when kids are in class. In the northern Colorado city of Fort Collins, classroom temperatures in some buildings reach upward of 90 degrees when the school year starts in mid-August, said middle school social studies teacher Jacque Kinnick, and the heat is lasting longer in the season.

“I used to need sweaters,” in October said Kinnick. “Now, I wear short sleeves.”

Kinnick said one of her colleagues compared the test scores of students in her morning and afternoon classes and found that the children performed worse later in the day, when the heat was highest.

“It’s like you can actually see kids just wilting,” she said. “They’re sweating, they’re laying their heads on the desk.”

University of Pennsylvania economist R. Jisung Park has studied the effect of rising temperatures on students. He found that, even when other factors are controlled for, students who are exposed to days in the 80s and 90s perform worse on standardized tests. His research also suggests that, in the United States, heat has a greater effect on Black and Latino students, who are less likely to have air conditioning at school or home.

The effect may not be noticeable at first – a one-degree hotter school year is linked to learning loss of about one percent – but the damage accumulates and the impact is likely underestimated. A federal analysis published last year noted that while these losses only account for students’ exposure to hot days during high school, newer research suggests heat experienced by elementary and middle school students also impedes learning.

Some of the coldest parts of the country will eventually have to face overheating schools, too. The federal study found that at the 2 degrees Celsius threshold, the states with the highest projected learning losses per student, because of low AC coverage in schools, will be Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, Vermont and Wyoming.

Heat also affects students’ well-being. It increases ozone pollution in cities, extends the pollen season, worsens asthma symptoms and can exacerbate a host of other medical conditions, forcing students to leave their classes in search of relief. Children become dehydrated easily and turn woozy and irritable. After sitting in a hot classroom all day, they may struggle to play sports or participate in after-school activities.

Schools along the Front Range have historically counted on the region’s overnight low temperatures to cool off their buildings. But as climate change causes nights to warm faster than days, such methods are proving ineffective.

Jeff Connell, chief operations officer of the Poudre School District, which is centered in Fort Collins and includes surrounding towns, said the district recorded temperatures between 85 and 90.5 degrees in an elementary school classroom last fall. Poudre’s leaders have discussed postponing the start of school, but with extreme daily highs becoming more common, “it’s harder to know with certainty that if we move the calendar, we’ll avoid the hot days,” said Connell.

Fort Collins exemplifies two trends that confront public education as climate change intensifies. Heat is one problem – in part because urban schools are often ringed by heat-reflecting asphalt parking lots and playgrounds.

Demographics are another. Since funding is tied to enrollment, some school districts face budget crises as their student populations shrink – yet they need more money for air conditioning projects to keep their schools habitable.

Fort Collins’ affordability and easy access to the mountains has long-fueled the city’s growth. But the increasing number of high heat days has put a strain on teachers and students as enrollment is beginning to decline, prompting the school district to consider closing schools. Poudre has a $700 million deferred maintenance backlog. Last year, an assessment of how much it would cost to fully air-condition 36 school buildings came in at more than $200 million – money the district does not have.

The city is hardly an outlier.

In 2020, the Government Accountability Office found that an estimated 41 percent of school districts surveyed needed to replace or update their HVAC systems in at least half of their schools. But the report also found that roughly 40 percent of districts rely on state money for large-scale facilities improvements and don’t have the capacity to issue bonds or raise property taxes.

Persuading school board members and voters to fund air conditioning in schools can be a tough sell. This is an acute problem in Southern school districts where cooling was installed decades ago, but is now breaking down from near-constant use, Chinowsky said.

“The people making these decisions have a tendency to say, ‘We dealt with it when we were in school,’ Or, ‘It’s only hot for a couple of days,’” Chinowsky said. “And the fact is that’s not really the truth anymore.”

Often, the states aren’t coming to districts’ aid. Neither is the federal government. Advocates for more school funding said the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which rebuilds schools once they’re destroyed, is the biggest source of government money.

Decades of planning help keep classrooms cool

Some communities have more latitude to address the problem.

In Denver, about an hour south of Fort Collins, school officials have slowly been preparing their buildings for a hotter world. It began a decade ago with simple measures such as blinds and nighttime cooling. But as the years progressed and nights didn’t cool off like they once did, officials decided they were going to have to install air conditioning. The district began prioritizing retrofits based on factors such as student poverty levels and disabilities, the age and condition of the buildings and indoor temperatures.

Denver residents have approved multiple bond measures to pay for the upgrades and they may be asked to vote on one again soon. The district expects that 30 schools still won’t be fully air-conditioned by the end of the year. Fixing them will cost an estimated $290 million.

“The voters have been pretty receptive,” said Trena Marsal, chief operating officer of Denver Public Schools. “We’ve heard from our teachers, from our community members and our parents that the classrooms are hot.”

Among the districts where voters have agreed to support facilities bonds, some have used the money to not only air-condition their classrooms, but to also electrify their heating and cooling systems with air source or geothermal heat pumps. In St. Paul, Minn., the school district has finished installing a geothermal system at one of its high schools, where heat is pumped out of the building during the summer, transferred to water and stored deep underground in pipes. That heated water is pumped back into the buildings in winter to warm them.

Some of these systems can qualify for major federal subsidies. Yet to the chagrin of environmentalists, large school districts in cities such as New York City, Boston and Philadelphia are buying thousands of window units, which gobble up electricity and break down easily.

“They’re a maintenance nightmare. They’re an operating cost nightmare,” said Sara Ross, co-founder of the group UndauntedK12, which advocates for green building improvements in schools. “The decision to use window units is only going to worsen these districts’ challenges in terms of their emissions because they’re using much more energy.”

The picture in selected areas

Philadelphia: 3.7°F warmer since 1970

197,115 students enrolled

67 out of 218 schools are not fully air-conditioned.

By 2025, students will experience 22 more days with temperatures above 80°F. In 1970, 28 days were above 80°F. In 2025, it is predicted that 50 days will be above 80°F.

Fort Collins, Colo.: 3.4°F warmer since 1970

29,914 students enrolled

36 out of 49 schools are not fully air-conditioned.

By 2025, students will experience 17 more days with temperatures above 80°F. In 1970, 25 days were above 80°F. In 2025, it is predicted that 42 days will be above 80°F.

Denver: 1.3°F warmer since 1970

89,235 students enrolled

37 out of 207 schools are not fully air-conditioned.

By 2025, students will experience 18 more days with temperatures above 80°F. In 1970, 32 days were above 80°F. In 2025, it is predicted that 50 days will be above 80°F.

About this story

Sources: Resilient Analytics and the Center for Climate Integrity (hot school days); NOAA Regional Climate Centers via the Applied Climate Information System (temperature trends); Denver Public Schools.

The Post used data from Resilient Analytics and the Center for Climate Integrity that estimates the increase in hot school days by 2025 using downscaled climate projections for North America from CMIP5. The gridded data has a resolution of 3.7 miles. To calculate the increase in hot days by 2025, researchers used the middle-of-the-road RCP 4.5 scenario.

There are some U.S. counties where varying terrain affects county-level temperature projections. Monroe County, Fla. – just west of Miami-Dade – includes mainland, coasts and islands. The varied terrain creates microclimates that make county-level averages cooler than neighboring counties, even if mainland areas of the county remain very hot.

School years days were defined separately for each state using the 2018-2019 school year calendar for the state’s largest school district. Charter schools are not included in the analysis.

To determine the increase in average temperature for each school district, The Post used station temperature records from NOAA Regional Climate Centers via the Applied Climate Information System. Maximum temperature records for 1970-2023 were analyzed using a linear regression to determine the average rate of warming over the time period. Days with missing temperature measurements were excluded.

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Extreme heat hits Texas and Florida early in the season

NBC News

Extreme heat hits Texas and Florida early in the season

Denise Chow – May 22, 2024

Jason Fochtman

Scorching heat and humidity have descended over parts of Texas, the Gulf Coast and South Florida this week — a bout of early-season extreme heat that has experts bracing for what’s to come.

A full month before the official start of summer, Miami is already in the midst of its hottest May on record, according to experts.

The city’s heat index — a measure of what conditions feel like when humidity and air temperatures are combined — hit 112 degrees Fahrenheit over the weekend, smashing the previous daily record by 11 degrees, according to Brian McNoldy, a senior research associate at the University of Miami. The weekend heat index also beat Miami’s monthly record by 5 degrees, he wrote in a post on X.

Last summer was the hottest on record for Miami — and the entire planet. Forecasters say the coming season could match or surpass the temperatures seen in 2023.

Miami’s recent 112-degree heat index reading was recorded both Saturday and Sunday, marking only the second time in the city’s recorded history that there have been back-to-back days of heat index values at or above that level, according to McNoldy. The other instance was Aug. 8 and 9, 2023.

“But it’s only mid-May!” he wrote. “To anyone who was hoping 2023 was a freak anomaly: nope.”

Miami has already expanded the time period it considers to be the official heat season to span from May 1 to Oct. 31 annually — a response to earlier onsets of high heat and humidity.

Meanwhile, a heat advisory is in effect across much of south Texas. Temperatures up to 113 degrees can be expected in some places, particularly along the Rio Grande, according to the National Weather Service.

The agency said heat index values between 110 degrees and 120 degrees are expected this week, with still more dangerous heat lingering into the weekend.

“As a result, major to extreme risks of heat-related impacts are expected across South Texas,” the weather service said in its advisory. “Be sure to stay cool, drink plenty of water, and take frequent breaks if you are spending time outside!”

High heat and humidity, including heat indexes around 100 degrees, are also expected in Houston in the coming days. The city is still reeling from last week’s deadly storms, with tens of thousands of residents still without power.

Studies have shown that climate change is making early-season heat more likely, in addition to fueling more frequent, intense and longer-lasting heat waves.

The consequences can be deadly. Heat kills more people each year in the United States than any other weather disaster, according to the weather service.

It’s the hottest May ever in Miami. Heat index ‘completely off the charts’

Miami Herald

It’s the hottest May ever in Miami. Heat index ‘completely off the charts’

Ashley Miznazi – May 21, 2024

It’s already the hottest May in Miami, ever — at least judging by the heat index, a “feels like” measure that combines temperature and humidity.

Last weekend’s record temps jacked up the average heat index into a record for May, according to Brian McNoldy, a senior research associate at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric and Earth Science.

“The type of heat and humidity we had this weekend would’ve been exceptional even in another three months,” said McNoldy. “These temperatures in May are completely off the charts.”

McNoldy created an online chart that updates daily with the cumulative amount of time the heat index spent above various heat index thresholds. The reading in 2024 already rivals or tops nearly all end-of-summer 108°+ and 110°+ marks.

Brian McNoldy: Aside from crazy-2023, the heat index has ALREADY spent more time above the 108°F threshold (and tied for the most at 110°+) in #Miami than in *any other entire year*. And it’s not even June yet


Usually, the hottest time of the year is the first and second weeks of August but this weekend temperatures peaked at 112 degrees heat index— that’s a stunning six degrees hotter than any previous May heat index recorded.

Early-season heat events have some of the highest rates of heat illness and heat-related deaths because people are not prepared for it. Nearly 1,200 people die from heat every year, according to NOAA, and record-breaking heat waves fueled by climate change add to that threat.

Margaret Pianelli, a tourist from New York, visits the Hollywood Beach Broadwalk as temperatures soar into the 90s on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Hollywood, Fla.
Margaret Pianelli, a tourist from New York, visits the Hollywood Beach Broadwalk as temperatures soar into the 90s on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Hollywood, Fla.

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Climate change makes things like these record highs more likely. But over the weekend McNoldy said there was also the “perfect combination” of a high pressure ridge (where air sinks and warms), fewer clouds and moist air coming in from the southwest.

Other records were broken over the weekend too. Sunday’s nighttime temperatures averaged (the average of the high and low temperature) to 89 degrees. That is a tie for the third-highest daily nighttime average temperature ever recorded in Miami, and that’s never happened as soon as May.

As of Monday, there had also been four new high daily average temperature records and record-high humidity levels in the past five days.

The National Weather Service is predicting that the record-breaking heat will ease in the coming week, thanks in part to the increasing relief of rain. But it also signals the potential for another scorching summer ahead. Summer 2023 was the hottest on record in Miami.

“What this looks like for June, July, August? Who knows,” McNoldy said. “But it’s not off to a promising start.”

Ashley Miznazi is a climate change reporter for the Miami Herald funded by the Lynn and Louis Wolfson II Family Foundation in partnership with Journalism Funding Partners.