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As the climate summit approaches, Biden is feeling the pressure on his carbon target.



‘Say something:' On their visit to Atlanta, Biden and Harris both denounced racism.

As President Joe Biden convenes a virtual climate summit with 40 world leaders on Thursday, he faces a difficult task: how to propose a nonbinding yet symbolic target to curb greenhouse gas emissions that will have a meaningful effect on climate change initiatives not just in the United States, but globally.

The carbon target, which will be enthusiastically anticipated on both sides of the climate debate, will signal how vigorously Biden intends to act on climate change, a controversial and costly problem that has riled Republicans to warn about job-killing government overreach while those on the left fear Biden has not gone far enough to resolve a fundamental challenge to the world.

The climate crisis presents a more challenging political challenge for Biden because it is more difficult to see and measure than either the coronavirus pandemic relief package or the infrastructure bill.

According to Kate Larsen, a former White House strategist who helped shape President Barack Obama’s climate action plan, the goal Biden chooses “sets the tone for the degree of urgency and the speed of pollution reductions over the next decade.”

The figure must be realistic by 2030 but still being ambitious enough to please scientists and activists who see the coming decade as a critical, make-or-break moment for slowing climate change, according to Larsen and other experts.

Scientists, advocacy activists, and even industry leaders are urging Biden to set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas pollution in the United States by at least 50% below 2005 levels by 2030.

The 50 percent goal, which most economists believe is a possible result of vigorous White House negotiations, would virtually double the country’s previous pledge and would necessitate drastic improvements in the electricity and transportation industries, including major growth in renewable energy such as wind and solar power and steep cuts in emissions from fossil fuels such as coal and oil.

Anything less than that target, analysts warn, might jeopardise Biden’s pledge to keep temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, while also provoking harsh opposition from foreign partners and Biden’s supporters.

The aim is important not only as a visible goal for the United States to meet after four years of climate inaction under President Donald Trump, but also for “leveraging other countries,” according to Larsen. “Which helps domestically in the war that follows, which is putting policies in place to accomplish that goal. We will present a stronger political argument at home if other countries behave with the same degree of ambition as the United States.′′

The 2030 goal, known as a Nationally Determined Contribution, or NDC, is an important component of the Paris climate agreement, which Biden entered on his first day in office. It’s also a significant step toward Biden’s ultimate target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“Clearly, the evidence requires at least 50 percent” reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, according to Jake Schmidt, a climate analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council, a major environmental organisation.

In an interview, he said that the 50% goal is “ambitious, but realistic.” It’s also a positive climate appeal, he says: “People get what 50% entails — it’s half.”

Whatever goal Biden chooses, the climate summit itself “demonstrates the United States is back in rejoining the international effort′′ to combat climate change, according to Larsen, now a director at the Rhodium Group, an independent consulting company.

She described the summit as “the starting gun for climate diplomacy” after a four-year “hiatus” under Trump. Biden’s climate envoy, John Kerry, has been pushing world leaders in person and online in the run-up to the summit for promises and partnerships on climate initiatives.

According to Nathaniel Keohane, a former Obama White House strategist who is now a vice president at the Environmental Defense Fund, analysts have agreed on the need to cut pollution by at least 50% by 2030.

“The number has to begin with 5,” he said, adding, “We did the math.” We need at least 50%.′′

The 2030 target is only one of many, often contradictory, climate-related targets highlighted by Biden. He has also stated that he plans to introduce a renewable energy standard that will make power fossil-free by 2035, as part of a larger target of achieving net-zero carbon emissions across the economy by 2050.

Gina McCarthy, Biden’s environment advisor, admitted that the sheer amount of data can be perplexing. She and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said last week at a conference that climate campaigners should rely on measures for the next decade.

“Let’s stop dreaming about 2050,” said McCarthy, who is overseeing White House efforts to create 2030 climate commitments for the United States.

Bloomberg, 79, went even further: “2050 is a decent number for people who give speeches, but I don’t know anybody who gives such speeches who will be alive in 2050.”

Some Republican politicians argue that focusing on lowering US emissions is counterproductive, claiming that Biden’s proposal will lift oil prices and destroy American jobs while encouraging Russia, China, and other countries to increase their greenhouse gas emissions.

“While our enemies maintain the status quo, the Biden administration would set punishing priorities for the United States. That will not address climate change,′′ said Wyoming Senator John Barrasso, the top Republican on the Senate Energy Committee. According to Barrasso, the United States currently leads the world in cutting carbon emissions, and Biden should continue to “make American electricity as renewable as we can, as soon as we can, without raising consumer costs.”

Those on the left believe Biden does not go far enough.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat who has advocated for a big Green New Deal, said Biden deserves “a tonne of credit” for the ambition and reach of his infrastructure strategy, but that it stops well short of what is needed to meaningfully tackle the climate crisis. She and her allies are urging the federal government to spend at least $10 trillion over the next decade to fix climate change and other issues.

McCarthy refuted the notion that Biden had reneged on campaign pledges to lead on climate change.

“We’re either doing too little or too much,” she said earlier this month to reporters. “However, be assured that the president placed a (spending) amount out here that he thought was not only defensible, but also necessary to reach this moment in time.”

Many of the increased climate change funding is found in Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure package.

McCarthy said that if Republicans believe that less funds can be spent on renewable energy and utilities, “then we’ll have some talks.”

Marcella Burke, a former Trump administration official who is now an energy lawyer in Houston, gives Biden a “A-Plus” for passion on climate change but a “F” for specifics. “We’ve got a lot of targets released, just not a lot of plan to get there,” she said. “So the verdict is already out.”

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Miner’s Candle fire burning near Idaho Springs is 100% contained



Miner’s Candle wildfire forces evacuations near Idaho Springs

The Miner’s Candle fire burning near Idaho Springs is 100% contained, fire officials said Tuesday.

The wildfire started Sunday as a structure fire and it forced residents of about two dozen homes to evacuate. The fire, which destroyed two homes, a cabin and a small number of outbuildings, burned about 15 acres, according to the Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Office.

Strong winds on Sunday and extremely dry weather fueled the fire. There were no reports of injuries or fatalities.


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This “bizarre” creature is a massive sunfish spotted near Laguna Beach



This “bizarre” creature is a massive sunfish spotted near Laguna Beach

A pair of paddlers encountered a massive sunfish just a few hundred yards off Laguna Beach’s shoreline that could rival in size a Guinness World Record set in 1996.

Rich German and friend Matt Wheaton, both of Laguna Beach, set out on Thursday, Dec. 2, to enjoy the clear waters off the coast. They came across a massive mola mola, also known as sunfish, floating on the ocean’s surface.

“We were just paddling and all of a sudden we were like ‘Oh my god.’ That thing was massive,” said German, author of the book “Blue Laguna” and founder of the ocean conservation nonprofit Project O.  “Most of my encounters are with dolphins and whales, but you never know what you’re going to see.”

German, comparing to Wheaton’s 14-foot stand-up paddleboard, guessed the fish was close to 9 feet in length.

Once home, he found a Guinness World Record set in 1996 when a fisherman caught an 8-foot-11 mola mola that weighed 5,070 pounds off the coast of Japan. While that record was for the heaviest fish, which would be tough to compare with the sunfish the pair encountered off Laguna Beach, German said he thinks theirs could be longer in length and is hoping to consult with marine scientists to see if it could be measured based on the size of the board.

Julianne Steers, founding board member of the Beach Ecology Coalition, said the sunfish was larger than most seen here – she’s seen fish about 6- to 7-feet long. But whether it was a record-holder would be tough to tell.

“The only true way to know is if it was out and weighed and officially measured,” she said, noting that there’s some records up in Northern California of sunfish reaching 13-foot long. “But it does look much larger than what we typically see out here.”

She called the mola mola a “lumbering” fish that likes to lazily float on the ocean’s surface to bask in the sun, hence their nickname, eating jellyfish and salps.

The species looks like a mad scientist put them together with spare parts, Steers said. “It’s such an oddball kind of assembly of parts.”

The mola mola is also the largest fish in the world that has a skeleton structure, she said.

Scientists once thought the mola mola drifted with ocean currents, but they’ve been tracked in Southern California swimming 16 miles a day at a top speed of 2 mph, the Monterey Bay Aquarium says on its website.

“With its tank-like body, the mola was clearly not built for life in the fast lane. But it holds its own against faster and flashier fish and is able to live in almost all of the world’s oceans,” the aquarium says. “It’s known to spend time near the surface, but tagging shows that the mola is also a prolific diver and migrates long distances at depth.”

German said he has seen many mola molas through the years, but typically further offshore and about half the size of the one encountered just south of Main Beach.

“The first time I saw one, I didn’t know what it was. I thought it was a mutilated shark,” he said, noting the fish’s fin often stands up above the surface. “They are so bizarre looking. They just lay there.”

Even if it’s not an official record-setter, German is still soaking in the interesting encounter.

“I just know it was really big,” he said. “It was a unique and very cool thing to experience, and another example of why we need to protect the ocean and the amazing life that calls it home.”

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Pearl Harbor survivors gather on 80th anniversary of attack



Pearl Harbor survivors gather on 80th anniversary of attack

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii — A few dozen survivors of Pearl Harbor and other veterans gathered Tuesday at the site of the bombing 80 years ago to remember those killed in the attack by Japan that launched the U.S. into World War II.

The USS Chung-Hoon, a guided missile destroyer, passed in front of the pier with its sailors “manning the rails,” or lining the ship’s edge, to honor the World War II veterans present.

David Russell, a 101-year-old from Albany, Oregon, who survived the attack while on the USS Oklahoma, stood to salute to the destroyer on behalf of the veterans.

Herb Elfring, 99, said he was glad to return to Pearl Harbor considering he almost didn’t live through the aerial assault.

“It was just plain good to get back and be able to participate in the remembrance of the day,” Elfring told reporters over the weekend.

Elfring was in the Army, assigned to the 251st Coast Artillery, part of the California National Guard on Dec. 7, 1941. He recalled Japanese planes flying overhead and bullets strafing his Army base at Camp Malakole, a few miles down the coast from Pearl Harbor.

Elfring, who lives in Jackson, Michigan, said he has returned to Hawaii about 10 times to attend the annual memorial ceremony hosted by the Navy and the National Park Service.

About 30 survivors and about 100 other veterans of the war joined him this year. Veterans stayed home last year due to the coronavirus pandemic and watched a livestream of the event instead. Most attendees this year wore masks.

They observed a moment of silence at 7:55 a.m., the same minute the attack began decades ago.

Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro recounted in his keynote address how Petty Officer 1st Class Joe George tossed a line to the USS Arizona that six men trapped by fire in the battleship’s control tower used to cross to his ship, the USS Vestal. Five of the six survived. Among them was Donald Stratton of Red Cloud, Nebraska, who died last year. Del Toro said he recently met with Stratton’s family.

“We sometimes talk about our victory in World War II as though it was inevitable. Only a matter of time. But there was nothing inevitable about one sailor’s decision to toss that line,” Del Toro said.

He said it took millions of individual acts of valor and courage at home and overseas to get the nation through the war.

The bombing killed more than 2,300 U.S. troops. Nearly half — or 1,177 — were Marines and sailors serving on the USS Arizona.

David Dilks, 95, traveled to Hawaii from Hatfield, Pennsylvania, with his son-in-law. Dilks enlisted out of high school in 1944, going from playing basketball one day to serving in the Navy the next.

Dilks said his battleship, the USS Massachusetts, bombarded targets like Iwo Jima, Okinawa and the Philippines during the war.

He recalls one day in March 1945 when he and his shipmates were watching the movie “Stage Door Canteen” on the ship’s fantail when a loud noise interrupted the film. They then saw a Japanese kamikaze plane crash into the USS Randolph aircraft carrier next to them.

“We never had a movie up topside after that,” he said.

Sitting at Pearl Harbor on the 80th anniversary of the attack, he said he’s thinking in particular about those that died.

“All of the sailors and soldiers who fought here — you should be proud of them. But more proud of those who didn’t make it,” he said.

Several women who helped the war effort by working in factories have come to Hawaii to participate in the remembrance this year.

Mae Krier, who built B-17s and B-29s at a Boeing plant in Seattle, said it took the world a while to credit women for their work.

“And we fought together as far as I’m concerned. But it took so long to honor what us women did. And so of course, I’ve been fighting hard for that, to get our recognition,” said Krier, who is now 95. “But it was so nice they finally started to honor us.”

This year’s ceremony took place as a strong storm with extremely heavy rains hit Hawaii, flooding roads and downing power lines. The ceremony was conducted under a pier with a metal roof. Skies were overcast but it was not raining during the ceremony.

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