Updated Feb 1, 2018

Two ships colliding in the night: Fossil fuels and climate change

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

The far left corners of the Democratic party and environmental movement held an event Wednesday night to launch Fossil Free USA, a campaign urging America to transition entirely away from oil, natural gas and coal, with no regard to the reality that the global economy remains heavily dependent on fossil fuels.

That follows Tuesday’s State of the Union speech, where President Trump said America is forging ahead with its fossil-fuel dominance, with no regard to the serious problem of climate change.

My thought bubble: It’s like they’re two ships not passing, but colliding in the night. Trump’s backers say the far left and their alarmist messaging pushes them away from acknowledging climate change, while the far left is fed up with decades of delay and neglect of climate change.

There’s no public dialogue between the two extremes while a quieter middle tries to get something done, to little avail yet. Meanwhile, we keep burning fossil fuels unabated, climate change is getting worse and most people don’t care.

Washington usually operates in black and white political terms, but it’s times like these — rhetoric-rich, substance-poor State of the Union moments — where things crystallize. Energy and climate is one of the biggest policy areas where leaders of both parties have almost no common ground:

  • Democrats want to do something, but they can’t agree on what. Their response to Trump’s Tuesday address didn’t even mention climate change.
  • Conservatives are fighting with each other over whether to publicly acknowledge basic climate science. No elected congressional Republicans are advocating doing anything about it.

The upshot: Congress hasn’t passed a standalone energy bill in more than a decade, it’s never passed a climate bill and there isn’t any policy on the immediate horizon. A stubborn trend underlies this. Climate change ranks as the second-to-last priority among nearly 20 by respondents in this Pew Research poll released a couple weeks ago. It’s also the most polarized issue.

The bottom line: Extreme partisanship + very low voter priority = perfect recipe for deep political stalemate, which is what we have here.

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U.S. and Taliban sign peace deal

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad (L) and Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (R) sign a peace agreement during a ceremony in Qatar. Photo: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP via Getty Images

The United States signed a peace deal with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar on Saturday after over a year of off-and-on negotiations, The New York Times reports.

Why it matters: The signing of the deal officially begins the process to end the United States' longest war, which has spanned nearly two decades. The agreement sets a timetable to pull the remaining 13,000 American troops out of Afghanistan, per the Times, but is contingent on the Taliban's completion of commitments, including breaking ties with international terrorist groups, such as al Qaeda.

Biden bets it all on South Carolina

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Most Joe Biden admirers Axios interviewed in South Carolina, where he's vowed to win today's primary, said they're unfazed by his embarrassing losses in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.

Why it matters: Biden has bet it all on South Carolina to position himself as the best alternative to Bernie Sanders — his "good buddy," he tells voters before skewering Sanders' record and ideas.

Coronavirus updates: Market ends worst week since financial crisis

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The stock market ended its worst week since the financial crisis, prompting the Fed to release a statement. Meanwhile, the WHO warned that countries are losing their chance to contain the novel coronavirus and raised its global risk assessment to "very high" Friday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,860 people and infected more than 84,000 others in over 60 countries and territories outside the epicenter in mainland China. The number of new cases reported outside China now exceed those inside the country.

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