Sep 3, 2021 - Podcasts

Rounding up a week of climate devastation

Natural disasters punished the country this week. There's been devastating flooding in Louisiana and the New York region, alongside wildfires in California and Nevada.

  • Plus, how Texas could affect abortion laws in other states.
  • And, inside the first all-civilian space flight.

Guests: Axios' Andrew Freedman, Oriana González, Miriam Kramer, and Nick Halter.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Hope King, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Dan Bobkoff, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Sabeena Singhani, and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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HOPE KING: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today! It’s Friday, September 3rd. I’m Hope King, filling in for Niala Boodhoo. Here’s what you need to know today: how Texas could impact abortion laws in other states. Plus, inside the first all-civilian space flight. But first: rounding up a week of climate devastation — is today’s One Big Thing.

Natural disasters punished the country this week. There’s been the flooding in Louisiana and now the New York region, alongside wildfires in California and Nevada. Typically on Fridays we round-up the week in politics but this morning, we are rounding up the week with climate news, because it’s catching up to us now, in our homes. We also want to talk about what we can do to better prepare for and live with more extreme weather events. With us again is Axios’ climate and energy reporter Andrew Freedman. Good morning Andrew.

​​ANDREW FREEDMAN: Good morning, Hope.

HOPE: Catch us up first on the flooding on the East Coast, we were talking throughout Thursday night and you mentioned that forecasters had warned of the situation. So why did it seem like it snuck up on a lot of people?

ANDREW: The warnings were there. The advanced forecasts were two days in advance that this would be an extreme event. There are disconnects between forecasters, between the people who issue these warnings, and clearly with both the public and policymakers.

HOPE: So we do talk a lot on the show about the policies that need to be put into place to mitigate these disasters. But I also want to know what the average person can do to start preparing for this new reality and as you said yesterday about wildfires to now live with these extreme events.

ANDREW: Yeah, so people really should educate themselves about what types of disasters they are vulnerable to in their area. There are ways, easy tools online now to tell your vulnerability to flash flooding. There are ways if you are near a forested area in the west and are concerned about wildfire dangers, there are organizations that can give you advice on how to better fireproof your property. Once you do something, you feel more in control, I think.

HOPE: One other thing that you say quite often is this is absolutely historic and it will escalate. So does this week then feel like it will be the wake-up call for people to start paying attention?

ANDREW: You know, people often say like this disaster is now the new normal and you know, it isn't. Things are going to continue to escalate from here. Even if we do take significant action to reduce our emissions in the near future, things are still baked into the climate system for the next couple of decades. That doesn't mean we shouldn’t do anything about climate change. We should. It just means we have to be prepared for where mother nature is being pushed and how mother nature is sort of pushing back.

HOPE: Andrew Freedman is Axios’ climate and energy reporter. Thank you.

ANDREW: Thank you for having me.

HOPE: We’ll be back in 15 seconds with how Texas could reshape the nation’s abortion laws.


HOPE: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Hope King in for Niala Boodhoo. More than a dozen states have tried and failed to pass abortion bills as restrictive as the one that just went into effect in Texas. With that precedent though, others may now try again. Axios’ Oriana Gonzalez is with me. Oriana, where else could we see similar legislation go into effect or at least new attacks?

ORIANA: We have actually a lot of states that have done exactly the same bills. The only exception is that Texas, as we know, is actually allowing private citizens to enforce the law instead of the state. However, states like North Dakota, Iowa, Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, they have all implemented very restrictive bans. In particular, Alabama actually had one that was even more restrictive than the six week ban. So those are states that are looking at this that have been challenged by the law that are really considering this as a loophole that they can use.

HOPE: Oriana Gonzalez is a newsdesk reporter for Axios. Thanks for this, Oriana.

ORIANA: Thanks for having me.

HOPE: You may have heard ... the newest season of the Axios podcast, How it Happened, is out now — It's hosted by Axios Space reporter and one of our favorite guests, Miriam Kramer. Miriam goes behind the scenes and shares what it's like to be a crew member on the first ever all-civilian flight to space. The series just kicked off, and Axios Today host Niala Boodhoo spoke to Miriam.

NIALA: Hey Miriam!

MIRIAM KRAMER: Hey, thanks for having me.

NIALA: Can you tell us the basics of this mission?

MIRIAM: So the mission got started by this guy named Jared Isaacman, who is a billionaire and he had this vision of taking three other people, not necessarily his friends, to space with him on a SpaceX mission. One of them, Sian Proctor, she read a poem as part of her application. It was this video application. She talked about her belief in JEDI space, which stands for a just, equitable, diverse, and inclusive space. She actually tried to become a NASA astronaut at one point and made it to sort of the finals and wasn't selected. So this has been a long time dream for her.

NIALA: So for people who are listening to this thinking, why should I care about a billionaire going to space, what would you say to them?

MIRIAM: Yeah. I mean, I understand that critique. But I think that the reason that Inspiration4 really, really caught me was it's not just a suborbital flight. These people are going to spend three days in orbit. They're trying to raise a hundred million dollars for St. Jude, on top of the hundred million that Jared Isaacman is donating as well. And you have a really interestingly diverse group of people that are getting to go.

NIALA: Miriam, I am the generation of Florida kids who grew up watching space launches and was in elementary school when the Challenger disaster happened. What are the stakes here when you have people who are going into space, who aren’t professional astronauts?

MIRIAM: Yeah. I mean, Christa McAuliffe was going to be the first teacher in space and she died tragically in the Challenger explosion. A lot of the rhetoric around Christa McAuliffe was this is an opening of space to ordinary people just like it is with Inspiration4. If this succeeds, it will be written as a huge accomplishment for SpaceX, for private space flight, for people who want to go to space. If it fails, it could completely halt the industry in ways that I don't think anyone is really prepared for.

NIALA: Miriam Kramer is a space reporter for Axios and the host of season two of How It Happened, which you can get wherever you find your podcasts. Thanks, Miriam.

MIRIAM: Thanks so much.

HOPE: Before we go today - an audio postcard from a state fair. State fairs across the country were cancelled last year due to the pandemic - but they're back this year. Covid-related issues, however, remain. Food and staff shortages are leading to higher prices and longer wait times at the state fair in Iowa, while the vaccine and mask divide has led to a smaller turnout in Minnesota. Axios' Twin Cities reporter Nick Halter was at that fair this week and sent us:

NICK HALTER: I am out here on day six of the fair. And so far attendance has been down about 35% compared to 2019. It is a big moneymaker for a lot of vendors - cookies and cheese curds and beer. And I don't think that some of these vendors are going to hit the money they're used to making this year. Some people have stayed away from the fair after it announced a couple of weeks before the beginning that they would not require vaccines or masks to enter. And so it's a smaller than normal crowd, but still people are out eating and drinking.

HOPE: That’s Axios’ Twin Cities reporter Nick Halter.

Well that’s all for this week. Axios Today is brought to you by Axios and Pushkin Industries. We’re produced by Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Sabeena Singhani, and Lydia McMullen-Laird. Our sound engineers are Alex Sugiura, Michael Hanf and Ben O’Brien. Dan Bobkoff is our Executive Producer. Sara Kehaulani Goo is our Executive Editor. And special thanks to Axios co-founder Mike Allen.

I’m Hope King - thanks for having me, Niala is back next week - stay safe and have the best weekend.

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