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Outside the Beltway
2°C, BEYOND THE LIMIT: We have told you about actions by the Trump administration to roll back regulations to combat climate change. But it’s not often we present you with the reasons these policies were enacted to begin with. The future, according to a major new project out this morning from my Post colleagues, is already here and in some ways alarming.
🚨Enter The Post’s Steven Mufson, Chris Mooney, Juliet Eilperin, and John Muyskens who examined more than a century of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data across the Lower 48 states: They found that major areas are nearing or have already surpassed the 2-degree Celsius number that’s “emerged as a critical threshold for global warming.”
- Background: “In the 2015 Paris accord, international leaders agreed that the world should act urgently to keep the Earth’s average temperature increases ‘ well below’ 2 degrees Celsius by the year 2100 to avoid a host of catastrophic changes,” per Steven, Chris, Juliet, and John.
- Why keeping average temperature increases below 2 degrees Celsius is so important: “The potential consequences are daunting. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that if Earth heats up by an average of 2 degrees Celsius, virtually all the world’s coral reefs will die; retreating ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica could unleash massive sea level rise; and summertime Arctic sea ice, a shield against further warming, would begin to disappear.”
- “Basically … these hot spots are chunks of the future in the present,” Daniel Pauly, an influential marine scientist at the University of British Columbia, told my colleagues of the 2-degree Celsius hot spots — early warning sirens of a climate shift.
Here are some of the key takeaways from Steven, Chris, Juliet, and John
- By the numbers: “Today, more than 1 in 10 Americans — 34 million people — are living in rapidly heating regions, including New York City and Los Angeles. Seventy-one counties have already hit the 2-degree Celsius mark.”
- Rhode Island: Alaska may the fastest warming state in the U.S. but Rhode Island is “the first state in the Lower 48 whose average temperature rise has eclipsed 2 degrees Celsius. Other parts of the Northeast — New Jersey, Connecticut, Maine and Massachusetts — trail close behind.”
- “While many people associate global warming with summer’s melting glaciers, forest fires and disastrous flooding, it is higher winter temperatures that have made New Jersey and nearby Rhode Island the fastest warming of the Lower 48 states.”
- Crossing the freezing point threshold: “The average New Jersey temperature from December through February now exceeds 0 degrees Celsius, the temperature at which water freezes. That threshold, reached over the past three decades, has meant lakes don’t freeze as often, snow melts more quickly, and insects and pests don’t die as they once did in the harsher cold.”
Bottom line: Our colleagues found that global warming is already here, with consequences we can only begin to predict at this point. The Trump administration withdrew from the Paris climate accord, the landmark global agreement to try and hold temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius by slashing carbon emissions. And the president has said that warming temperatures aren’t necessarily a pattern.
“I believe that there’s a change in weather, and I think it changes both ways,” Trump said this summer on “Good Morning Britain.” “Don’t forget it used to be called global warming. That wasn’t working. Then it was called climate change. Now it’s actually called extreme weather, because with extreme weather, you can’t miss.”
CASE STUDY: “In Rhode Island, Narragansett Bay has warmed as much as 1.6 degrees Celsius in the past 50 years, and for want of cooler water, the state’s lobster catch has plummeted 75 percent in the past two decades,” Steven, Chris, Juliet, and John report.
- Context: “With 420 miles of coastline, Rhode Island is particularly vulnerable to the vagaries of the Gulf Stream, a massive warm current that travels up the East Coast from the Gulf of Mexico before making a right turn toward Greenland and Europe.”
- Yikes: “By 2030, sea level rise will flood 605 buildings six times a year, according to the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council’s executive director, Grover Fugate.”
In the Agencies
PUBLIC CHARGE: The Trump administration targeted legal immigrants yesterday by announcing it would scrutinize their use of public assistance programs, using that criteria to help determine if those immigrants can qualify for green cards or permanent citizenship.
- “Wealth, education, age and English-language skills will take on greater importance in the process for obtaining a green card, as the change seeks to redefine what it means to be a ‘public charge,’ as well as who is likely to be one under U.S. immigration law,” our colleague Abigail Hauslohner and Nick Miroff report.
- Spin from the White House: “Through the public charge rule, President Trump’s administration is reinforcing the ideals of self-sufficiency and personal responsibility, ensuring that immigrants are able to support themselves and become successful here in America,” Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, told reporters.
The rule change is part of the administration’s broader efforts to curb not just the flow of undocumented immigrants crossing the border but efforts to “build new bureaucratic obstacles to the U.S. immigration system,” per Nick and Abigail. It also “effectively circumvents earlier, failed efforts by the administration to build support in Congress for a similar ‘merit-based’ overhaul to the immigrant visa system.”
- Key: “The administration has slashed the number of refugees admitted to the United States, tightened access to the asylum system and expanded the power of the government to detain and deport those lacking legal status.”
- Anticipated consequences: “The New York mayor’s office and immigration think tanks say just the anticipation of that provision already has caused large numbers of legal immigrants to abstain from seeking help through such programs — despite being legally entitled to do so — because they are afraid it will hinder their ability to become citizens or remain in the United States.”
HONG PROTESTS SHUT DOWN AIRPORT: “Thousands of protesters shut down Hong Kong’s international airport Monday, defying an intensifying police crackdown, as China issued ominous warnings that described the protests as ‘terrorism’ and began massing a paramilitary force in a southern border city,” Timothy McLaughlin and Anna Kam report for The Post.
- The chaos continued on Tuesday, with protesters shutting down airport check-in counters for departing flights.
- The police are getting more confrontational: “Monday’s protest came in response to a sharp increase in the level of force employed by Hong Kong’s embattled police,” McLaughlin and Kam write. “Hours before the airport shutdown, two police officers elsewhere in the city pinned a black-clad demonstrator to the concrete, one officer’s knee pressing the young man’s face into a pool of his own blood.”
- What’s next: “Fears have been mounting that Beijing — squeezed by a trade dispute with the United States and approaching a nationwide celebration of the founding of the People’s Republic of China — will soon resort to military action to quell the pro-democracy protests in the semiautonomous territory. Chinese officials and state news media actively stoked those fears Monday.”
- Tensions running high: “Earlier, the Chinese government department responsible for Hong Kong held its third news conference in three weeks — it previously had not held a briefing in the 22 years since Britain returned the territory to the mainland,” McLaughlin and Kam write.
- If you want to know more: Michael C. Davis and Victoria Tin-bor Hui wrote a great explainer for Monkey Cage over the weekend.
The people of Hong Kong are trying to preserve the promise of One Country – Two Systems. If we don’t speak out for human rights in China because of commercial interests, we lose all moral authority to speak out elsewhere.
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) August 13, 2019
BERNIE SLAMS THE POST: “Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt. took aim at The Washington Post at two separate town hall meetings, accusing the newspaper of being biased against his campaign due to his criticism of Amazon’s labor practices and tax record,” our colleague Felicia Sonmez reports. Sanders cited no evidence for his claims.
- Sanders’s full quote: “See, I talk about that all of the time,” he said, after asking how much Amazon paid in taxes last year. “And then I wonder why The Washington Post — which is owned by Jeff Bezos, who owns Amazon — doesn’t write particularly good articles about me. I don’t know why. But I guess maybe there’s a connection. Maybe we helped raise the minimum wage at Amazon to 15 bucks an hour as well.”
- Our executive editor Martin Baron responds: “Sen. Sanders is a member of a large club of politicians — of every ideology — who complain about their coverage,” Baron told Felicia. “Contrary to the conspiracy theory the senator seems to favor, Jeff Bezos allows our newsroom to operate with full independence, as our reporters and editors can attest.”
- One story Sanders’s camp didn’t like: Our colleague Sean Sullivan’s scoop on how top campaign management was battling with unionized field organizers over a $15-an-hour wage, “which Sanders for years has said should be the federal minimum,” Felicia writes. The organizers reached an agreement on a raise four days after The Post story was published.
THE LATEST ON DAYTON: “A friend of the gunman who killed nine people outside a Dayton, Ohio, bar last week told authorities he bought body armor and equipment for the attacker and helped him assemble the weapon used in the rampage, according to a court filing unsealed Monday,” our colleague Mark Berman reports. “They are the first charges to arise out of the investigation into the massacre.”
- But charges do not directly relate to the shooting itself: “Benjamin C. Glassman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, stressed that while the charges emerged from the investigation into the Dayton shooting, they included no suggestion that [Ethan] Kollie knowingly played a role in plotting the attack,” Mark writes.