Coral Davenport and
President Biden on Wednesday signed a raft of executive orders on climate that focus on three main themes: job creation, environmental justice and weaving climate change into every facet of the government.
In a significant step toward one of Mr. Biden’s campaign promises, one of the orders directs the secretary of the Interior Department to “pause” on entering into new oil and natural gas leases on public lands and waters.
Mr. Biden will have the support of some unlikely allies for the new measures. He’ll also face huge obstacles, some quite likely put up by members of his own party. That’s because an evenly divided Senate has given enormous power to any single senator and some lawmakers, even on the Democratic side, will very likely oppose any policies perceived as hurting industry in their home states. Here’s how the battle lines are shaping up.
What it means for America and the world: Serious efforts to address global warming could mean big changes for America’s trade, foreign relations and even defense strategy.
A ‘very small window’ to save sharks
In just the last half-century, humans have caused a staggering, worldwide drop in the number of sharks and rays that swim the open oceans, scientists have found in the first global assessment of its kind, published Wednesday in the journal Nature.
Oceanic sharks and rays have declined by 71 percent since 1970, mainly because of overfishing. The collapse is probably even more stark, the authors point out, because of incomplete data from some of the worst-hit regions and because fishing fleets were already expanding in the decades before they started their analysis.
“There is a very small window to save these iconic creatures,” said Nathan Pacoureau, a marine biologist at Simon Fraser University in Canada and the study’s lead author. More than three quarters of oceanic shark and ray species are now threatened with extinction, jeopardizing marine ecosystems and the food security of people in many nations.
The toxic gear that could be killing firefighters
Every day, firefighters put on bulky suits that protect them from the heat and flames they face on the job. But new research has raised an unsettling concern: Toxic chemicals on the very equipment meant to protect firefighters could instead be making them gravely ill.
This week, members of the International Association of Fire Fighters, the nation’s largest firefighters’ union, are demanding action. They’re asking officials for independent tests on gear and for the union to cancel sponsorship agreements with equipment makers and the chemical industry. With climate change causing increasingly devastating fires, the issue has special urgency. — Hiroko Tabuchi
The numbers: Over the past three decades, cancer has emerged as the leading cause of death for firefighters in the United States, making up 75 percent of active-duty firefighter deaths in 2019.
Quotable: “It’s a new kind of line-of-duty death,” said Jim Burneka, a firefighter in Dayton, Ohio. “It’s still the job that kills us. It’s just we die with our boots off.”
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Watching the weather at ‘the end of the world’
Marsibil Erlendsdottir runs a farm, maintains a lighthouse and provides weather reports from a remote outpost in eastern Iceland.
The job requires vigilance and an unfailing resolve. Her reports, along with those from the rest of the country, are published online and broadcast over the radio. For farmers, the information helps to dictate their daily work. For fishermen in the North Atlantic, it can mean the difference between life and death.
The region is incredibly remote. In the coldest months of the year, the farm is only accessible by boat and, when storms hit, can be cut off from the outside world for days on end.
Here’s a look at the rhythms of life at the station where, despite the isolation, Ms. Erlendsdottir says “it never gets boring.” — Marzena Skubatz
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