Good morning! Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,177 words, < 5 min read.
Breaking: "One person is dead and at least five were injured in central Kentucky after a gas line ruptured and produced a fireball that could be seen around the region early Thursday," NBC News reports.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
As climate change and our debate around it intensifies, so are the words we use to describe it.
Why it matters: The presidential election season is directing more attention to our words and characterizations as we follow debates and rallies around the country. Words are especially important on a topic like climate change that is less tangible than others, such as health care.
Driving the news: Activists and many progressive politicians are calling climate change an emergency, while most Democrats say it’s a crisis.
My thought bubble: I use words like issue or problem to describe climate change. Elevating that description to crisis or emergency doesn't really fit because it implies a sudden urgency that doesn't capture the decades the problem has been developing or the centuries we'll be living with it.
The other side: The biggest drivers of Earth’s rising temperature — oil, natural gas and coal — also have huge benefits to the world. That point has often been absent in the discourse as the problem of climate change worsens.
The bottom line: Climate change is like diabetes for the planet — and, if left unchecked, could worsen crises like flooding and heat waves. The best we can do is simultaneously cut carbon emissions and adapt to a warmer planet. That may not be the best description to grab headlines, win debates and rally activists — but it's the most accurate.
Go deeper: Read my full story, which includes some good ol' fashioned dictionary references.
The second night of the second set of Democratic primary debates saw a spotlight on a candidate hardly anybody knows, a spat over coal and an area of criticism for the Trump campaign.
The big picture: The divide brewing within the Democratic Party between moderates and liberals was less stark last night compared to the first night, with most candidates supporting sweeping progressive goals.
Driving the news: 4 things caught my eye...
1. Joe Biden insisted his climate plan would eliminate coal and possibly natural gas too, when pressed by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.
2. Expect Trump's campaign to surface this in attacks, judging by a tweet from campaign manager Brad Parscale: “Bye bye coal, Democrats & @JoeBiden just said they are done with you. How do you feel about that Pennsylvania?”
3. Inslee had his day in the sun when at least 2 other Democratic presidential hopefuls gave him credit for raising awareness about climate change.
4. Andrew Yang said it was too late to address climate change, and that he wants to focus on “putting money into people's hands so they can afford higher ground" to avoid sea level rise.
Solar costs have dropped precipitously in the last decade across South Asia and the Pacific, new research from consultancy Wood Mackenzie shows.
Driving the news: It’s already cheaper than coal in India, and is poised to be in Australia next year. Check out the above chart, which shows the cost of different power sources over the lifetime of a facility, including the cost of building it (known as the levelized cost of electricity) across South Asia and Pacific nations.
What they’re saying: India’s “high-quality solar resources, market scale and competition have pushed solar costs down to half the level seen in many other Asia Pacific countries,” said WoodMac research director Alex Whitworth.
Why it matters: It’s a sign of potential good news to come for efforts to address climate change. As nations in South Asia rapidly increase their electricity consumption, renewable energy will increasingly be able to help fill that demand in the coming decades.
But, but, but: Coal is still king in the region. Wind and solar made up just 6% of the region’s electricity, a number Whitworth says will increase to a “much higher level in coming years.”
What's next: Chevron and Exxon report earnings Friday.
Sanctions: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 20-2 to approve a bill putting sanctions on companies and individuals involved in building a major natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, Reuters reports.
China: BP and Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing are partnering on a joint venture to deploy a network of electric vehicle charging stations in China, Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva reports.
Explosion: An explosion and fire at an ExxonMobil oil refinery in Texas caused minor injuries to 37 workers and forced nearby residents inside on Wednesday before being brought under control, per Reuters.
Investors: Axios Expert Voices contributor Anna Mikulska explores a trend we've covered a lot about big energy companies facing pressure from investors on climate change.
“We have to acknowledge that technology does not deploy itself.”
Who said it: Jason Grumet, president of the Bipartisan Policy Center, at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s energy innovation event Wednesday.
Why it matters: Grumet was arguing that adequately addressing climate change will require far greater investments in innovation than current levels. If that happens, then more controversial measures — like taxes and regulations — won't need to be so aggressive, he added.
Where it stands: The event was part of an effort by the Chamber, which is long known for fighting climate-change policies but has issued more recent statements supporting the need for action on climate change.
What’s next: Christopher Guith, acting president of the Chamber’s Global Energy Institute, said Wednesday the group is going to push for “comprehensive energy innovation legislation.”