Oct 13, 2018

How the climate debate changed this week

Hurricane Michael was captured from the International Space Station on Oct. 10. Photo: NASA/ISS

There was a quiet change this week in the tone of climate coverage. Long siloed, the conversation took on at least a temporary new urgency and insistence after a UN report predicting dire effects as soon as 2040 — just 22 years from now.

Why it matters: If there was any doubt that this should be story #1, it was laid to rest by the combination of this report and the events of this week: An astonishingly strong hurricane, which ravaged the Gulf Coast, was forming at the same time scientists held a press conference in Incheon, South Korea, to release the findings.

Insights about Sunday night's UN report:

  • It wasn't expected to get the blanket coverage that it did. It was easier to assume that reporters would dismiss it as 'scientists call for totally unrealistic thing to happen.'
  • However, the sense of urgency came with which these scientists approached their work, and the message they intended to send — that the warming impacts we thought we'd see at higher amounts of warming, we're already seeing.
  • Time's up: It's take action now, or pay for it later.
  • Unfortunately, some stories may have gone too far, and conveyed a 'Time's up: It's act now or we all die' sort of message, which isn't accurate and is utterly immobilizing.

Some publications have recognized this more than others: Climate change is not just a political story. It's not a he said/she said thing anymore — the science is too clear, the impacts too obvious, the serious impacts as well as deployable solutions too imminent.

  • Now it's a business story, a human interest story, a legal story and increasingly a technology one as well.

The report lit a bigger fire than anticipated, since it said something not entirely new, but definitely more urgent.

  • Many climate experts tend to think, perhaps for sanity's sake, that we can't really be so stupid a species as to drive straight off the climate cliff. Yet so far, that's the direction we've been heading. This report was like a quick pit stop along that road, with everyone at a roadside diner warning us to turn around.

Go deeper: In a new story, Andrew talked with three scientists who have gravitas in terms of their research work, but are also skilled at humanizing the problem.

Go deeper

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

There are no COVID-19 patients in hospital in New Zealand, which reported just 21 active cases after days of zero new infections. A top NZ health official said Tuesday he's "confident we have broken the chain of domestic transmission."

By the numbers: Almost 5.5 million people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus as of Tuesday, and more than 2.2 million have recovered. The U.S. has reported the most cases in the world (over 1.6 million from 14.9 million tests).

U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

Coronavirus antibody tests are still relatively unreliable, and it's unclear if people who get the virus are immune to getting it again, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cautioned on Tuesday.

By the numbers: More than 98,900 people have died from COVID-19 and over 1.6 million have tested positive in the U.S. Over 384,900 Americans have recovered and more than 14.9 million tests have been conducted.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 11:00 p.m. ET: 5,589,626 — Total deaths: 350,453 — Total recoveries — 2,286,956Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 11:00 p.m. ET: 1,680,913 — Total deaths: 98,913 — Total recoveries: 384,902 — Total tested: 14,907,041Map.
  3. Federal response: DOJ investigates meatpacking industry over soaring beef pricesMike Pence's press secretary returns to work.
  4. Congress: House Republicans to sue Nancy Pelosi in effort to block proxy voting.
  5. Business: How the new workplace could leave parents behind.
  6. Tech: Twitter fact-checks Trump's tweets about mail-in voting for first timeGoogle to open offices July 6 for 10% of workers.
  7. Public health: Coronavirus antibodies could give "short-term immunity," CDC says, but more data is neededCDC releases guidance on when you can be around others after contracting the virus.
  8. What should I do? When you can be around others after contracting the coronavirus — Traveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  9. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 1 min ago - Politics & Policy