What can a president do against forest fires?

President Biden visited California this week to showcase his efforts to better protect the state from the raging forest fires that have...


President Biden visited California this week to showcase his efforts to better protect the state from the raging forest fires that have burned more than two million acres, displaced thousands of people and pushed responders to the brink of exhaustion.

But Mr Biden’s wildfire record, which includes more salaries for firefighters and more money to strengthen communities against fires, demonstrates a disturbing truth, experts say: There are limits. what the federal government can do to reduce the scale and destructive power of the fires, at least in the short term.

“The impacts of climate change cannot be resolved in a single year,” said Roy Wright, who was in charge of risk mitigation at the Federal Emergency Management Agency until 2018. The goal, he said, should be “investments that will pay off more over the next three to five years.”

Federal action is largely dependent on Congress approving new funding – but even if approved, that money might not make much of a difference anytime soon, because Zolan Kanno-Youngs and I wrote this week. And even so, much of the damage reduction rests with state and local governments, which experts say should reduce development in fire-prone areas.

Mr Biden could use the presidential megaphone to encourage such restrictions, according to Michele Steinberg, director of the wildfire division for the National Fire Protection Association. But that would mean competing with a deeply held American view that land is something to be enjoyed, rather than conserving or protecting.

“It’s more like squeezing the value out of this land that we can right now,” Ms. Steinberg told me, “and let the next generation take care of it”.

The increasing scale of fires: Until 2018, the state’s largest wildfires rarely burned more than 300,000 acres, state data shows. In 2018, the ranch fire consumed more than 400,000 hectares, and last year, the August complex fire topped 1 million acres, making it the the biggest fire in the history of the state. Just north of the Caldor Blaze is the Dixie Blaze, which has already burned over 960,000 acres and is yet to be brought under control. This fire could break last year’s record.


Democrats aim to pour tens of billions of dollars into a New Deal-style program that would hire young people to work on projects to protect communities and the environment from disasters that are becoming increasingly destructive due to climate change .

The momentum for a civilian climate body has grown steadily since President Biden requested its creation in March. While the program does not directly reduce greenhouse gas emissions that warm the planet, it is a top priority for environmentalists as part of a A $ 3.5 trillion bill Democrats hope to make it through this fall.

Republicans denounced the program as a mess that would create eco-vigilants who, as California Representative Tom McClintock recently warned, “will denounce who waters their lawns, whose chimneys smoke.”

But the biggest obstacle may be the Democrats themselves, who have yet to agree on how to design a climate body. Some want to fund the program under the umbrella of AmeriCorps, a federally funded national service program. Others called for expanding existing apprenticeship and vocational training programs through the Ministry of Labor and other agencies. And legislation introduced by Senator Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, both Democrats, would require at least half of the members of a climate body to come from “underfunded communities in the United States. the need”.

Can they agree? Learn more about the debate in the full article here.

Quote: “Anytime you negotiate how to do it rather than whether to do it, you’re in a pretty good position. And we negotiate how, ”said Collin O’Mara, president of the National Wildlife Foundation.


The plane is one of the most difficult travel methods to make more climate-friendly. We are a long way from being able to travel from New York to Tokyo in a battery-powered plane.

But making the fuel used by airplanes more sustainable is an important step. Last week, the Biden administration and the airline industry announced an ambitious goal: to replace all jet fuel with sustainable alternatives by 2050.

Like many climate policies, the devil is in the details. I wrote about how, depending on what kind of alternative fuel we use, using billions of gallons of it could harm, not help, the climate. This concern centers on the complicated calculations that make it possible to assess the true climate friendliness of biofuels, a major subset of sustainable fuels.

Quote: “The problematic part is that today’s biofuels do not reduce greenhouse gas emissions. That’s not where the state of science is, ”said Jason Hill, professor of bioproducts and biosystems engineering at the University of Minnesota. “They can actually make them worse.”


Black in bloom: How do you find purpose, joy and peace in the great outdoors? A Times event, Black in bloom, explores these questions at a virtual event on September 19, as part of the Black History series, Continued. Get inspired to experience the outdoors with historian and author Blair Imani and a performance by singer Mumu Fresh, and participate in a discussion on food justice with Alexis Nikole Nelson, known as Black Forager on TikTok, and others. RSVP to attend this Sunday at 2 p.m. EST.

Zero compensation: In episode 10 of Netting Zero (a series of virtual climate events, hosted by The New York Times), Times climate reporter Brad Plumer is joined by experts to discuss the return of international freight or the era of cheap mobility. more. RSVP now to join us on September 23 at 1:30 p.m. EST.



Aatish Bhatia and

This summer has been unusually hot in the United States, especially at night. Minimum temperatures were the hottest on record for every state on the west coast and parts of the northeast. Most other states approached their nighttime record highs from June through August.

This is part of a trend that aligns with climate model predictions: across the United States, the nights heat up faster than the days. This effect is magnified in cities, which are generally warmer than their surroundings.

“At night, the deserts cool very, very quickly, but not our city,” said Jennifer Vanos, professor at Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability, referring to Phoenix.

“Not having that break from the heat is really hard on the human body – it just builds up,” she said. “And knowing the temperatures in Phoenix, we’re going to be in the 90s at night and we’re going to hit 110 sometime during the day. None of these are safe for a person who does not have access to air conditioning.

To see how summer nights have gotten warmer in recent decades, the New York Times mapped 60 years of daily weather data from nearly 250 airports in the United States which have maintained consistent weather records.


one last thing:

In last week’s newsletter, a caption with the first photo misspelled the name of a town affected by Hurricane Ida. It’s Lafitte, La., Not Lefitte.


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Newsrust - US Top News: What can a president do against forest fires?
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