Both sides of a lawsuit on damages from climate change will today in court reaffirm the scientific consensus that human activity is extremely likely to have caused global warming over the last century.

Why it matters: EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has said he wants to host a public debate discussing to what degree humans are driving the Earth’s temperature to rise. Wednesday’s federal court hearing in San Francisco, in which California cities are suing big oil companies alleging they’re liable for damages related to climate change, is surprisingly providing that debate.

The hearing will directly contradict what Pruitt and other Trump administration officials have said, doubting human activity is a leading driver of climate change. Even the defendants in this case, including Exxon, Shell and Chevron, are expected to confirm the scientific consensus and contradict Pruitt’s positions.

The big picture: Wednesday's hearing, in a case brought by San Francisco and Oakland, is part of a broader legal push by liberal cities alleging that big oil companies have concealed what they knew about climate change and are liable for billions of dollars of damage caused by rising global temperatures.

The bottom line:

While conservative think tanks, political pundits, and industry-funded researchers are at liberty to say whatever they want, the courtroom demands a higher level of integrity. I expect the defendants will underscore points of uncertainty in the science, and highlight difficulties in attributing causation to particular actors. But the basics of climate science are not legitimately open to debate.”
— Michael Burger, director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University

Go deeper: The flawed climate gambit against big oil.

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Biden releases 2019 tax returns ahead of debate

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Joe Biden's campaign released his 2019 tax returns on Tuesday, showing that he and his wife, Jill, paid nearly $300,000 in federal taxes last year.

Why it matters: The release, timed just hours before the first presidential debate, comes days after a bombshell New York Times report said that President Trump paid only $750 in federal taxes in 2016 and 2017. Biden's team is hoping to make the tax contrast a sticking point during their showdown.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 2:15 p.m. ET: 33,454,037 — Total deaths: 1,003,571 — Total recoveries: 23,204,219Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 2:15 p.m. ET: 7,165,067 — Total deaths: 205,476 — Total recoveries: 2,794,608 — Total tests: 102,342,416Map.
  3. Health: Americans won't take Trump's word on the vaccine, Axios-Ipsos poll finds.
  4. States: NYC's coronavirus positivity rate spikes to highest since June.
  5. Sports: Tennessee Titans close facility amid NFL's first coronavirus outbreak.
  6. World: U.K. beats previous record for new coronavirus cases.

NYC's coronavirus positivity rate spikes to highest since June

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images

New York City's coronavirus positivity rate has ticked up to 3.25%, its highest since June, Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference on Tuesday.

Why it matters: The jump — from 1.93% on Monday — came on the first day that public elementary classrooms reopened in the city after months of closures, but guidelines state that all public schools will have to shut if the citywide seven-day positivity rate stays above 3%.