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Politics

Who Will Bring Up Climate at the First Presidential Debate?

On Biden’s 2024 tightrope, climate lawsuits, and flood insurance

Who Will Bring Up Climate at the First Presidential Debate?
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: Severe storms dropped hail stones on Madrid • More than 500 people have died during a heat wave in Pakistan • A home near Minnesota’s failing Rapidan Dam was swept into the raging Blue Earth River.

THE TOP FIVE

1. Biden and Trump to debate in Atlanta

President Biden and former President Donald Trump will meet in Atlanta tonight for the first presidential debate of 2024. The head-to-head comes as millions of Americans endure extreme weather events – from dangerous heat waves to wildfires to unprecedented flooding – made worse by climate change and our use of fossil fuels. If climate change comes up at the debate (and it may not), it’ll be interesting to see how both candidates handle it. Trump will probably attack Biden for cracking down on the fossil fuel industry. And while oil and gas production is soaring under Biden, he may not want to draw attention to that particular accolade as he vies for young progressive voters and touts his green agenda. “The dynamic could force Biden, who has made fighting climate change a pillar of his second-term pitch, to walk a rhetorical tightrope,” E&E Newsnoted.

2. Report: Corporate climate lawsuits are on the rise

A new report finds that climate lawsuits have risen in the last 20 years. While the overall number of cases has leveled off slightly recently, those filed against companies (as opposed to governments) are growing. About 230 were filed between 2015 and 2023, and the majority of those were launched in the last three years, according to the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. Here you can see the number of cases targeting corporations specifically since 2015:

Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment

The report says the trend is driven in part by a rise in lawsuits targeting the “professional and financial services that enable the work of fossil fuel companies.” For example, marketing and advertising companies that create positive campaigns for oil and gas firms. And another factor here is sectors that rely heavily on fossil fuels (airlines, for example) but may attempt to “climate wash” by overstating their environmental initiatives. These kinds of corporate lawsuits are becoming more and more common, and more than 70% have been successful. The report concludes that “companies from many sectors are now at risk of being taken to court over the climate.”

3. Ford picks Long Beach for low-cost EV hub

Ford has chosen Long Beach, California, as the place where it will build its low-cost EV platform. The city’s mayor, Rex Richardson, announced the news yesterday. Ford has been bulking up its “secretive low-cost EV team” in recent months, hiring workers away from rivals like Rivian and Tesla. The Long Beach campus will open in early 2025 and house 450 employees who will focus on “developing a new generation of small, affordable vehicles,” according to Emma Bergg, a spokesperson for Ford’s EV division.

4. Many Midwesterners hit by flooding lack flood insurance

Many Midwesterners don’t have flood insurance that would help them cover the damage from recent flooding events, ABC News reported. In the parts of Iowa that were inundated over the weekend, less than 1% of single-family homes have flood insurance from the government. One reason is because residents don’t expect to be flooded because they don’t live near major rivers or in areas that have historically been at high risk. But climate change is making extreme rainfall more common. As Heatmap’s Jeva Lange explained, “put simply, a warmer atmosphere can hold more water, which means worse deluges.”

5. Heat battery startup Rondo Energy lands new customers

Rondo Energy, a Silicon Valley startup building “heat batteries” to replace fossil fuels in heavy industries, announced three new customers yesterday. As Heatmap’s Emily Pontecorvo reported, in just a few months’ time, the company has gone from serving a single industry — ethanol — at its pilot plant in California, to making deals around the globe that demonstrate the technology’s potential versatility. With grant funding from Breakthrough Energy Catalyst, as well as the European Investment Bank, the company will install three commercial-scale batteries at factories in Denmark, Germany, and Portugal. Each one will prove Rondo's compatibility with a different industry: In Denmark, the battery will be used to produce low-carbon biogas. In Germany, it will power a Covestro chemical plant that produces polymers. In Portugal, it will power a to-be-announced food and beverage factory.

THE KICKER

Scientists are surprised to find that some small, low-lying islands in the tropics aren’t sinking even as sea levels rise due to climate change, The New York Times reported. Instead, it seems the islands can “adjust naturally” to the sea level changes, which offers a glimmer of hope to the islands’ residents.

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Jessica  Hullinger profile image

Jessica Hullinger

Jessica Hullinger is a freelance writer and editor who likes to think deeply about climate science and sustainability. She previously served as Global Deputy Editor for The Week, and her writing has been featured in publications including Fast Company, Popular Science, and Fortune. Jessica is originally from Indiana but lives in London.

Politics

Energy Is a Culture War

JD Vance is making the conversation less about oil vs. solar and more about us vs. them.

JD Vance.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

“We need a leader,” said JD Vance as he accepted the Republican nomination for vice president, “who rejects Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’s Green New Scam and fights to bring back our great American factories.” The election, he said, is “about the auto worker in Michigan, wondering why out-of-touch politicians are destroying their jobs,” and “the energy worker in Pennsylvania and Ohio who doesn’t understand why Joe Biden is willing to buy energy from tinpot dictators across the world, when he could buy it from his own citizens right here in our own country.”

This is the tale Vance tells about energy and climate — one of contempt and betrayal, elitists sacrificing hard-working blue-collar Americans on the altar of their alien schemes. On the surface it may sound like it’s about jobs and economics, but it’s really about the eternal culture war that divides us from them.

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Politics

AM Briefing: A Quick RNC Energy Recap

On Doug Burgum’s speech, green steel, and electric jets

What Republicans Have Been Saying About Energy at the RNC
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: The Acropolis in Greece was closed yesterday due to excessive heat • The Persian Gulf International Airport recorded a heat index of 149 degrees Fahrenheit • Recent flooding in Brazil exposed a 233-million-year-old dinosaur fossil.

THE TOP FIVE

1. Republicans slam Biden energy policy at RNC

Energy hasn’t dominated the conversation at the Republican National Convention this week, but it’s certainly been a talking point. Last night North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum gave a speech focusing on the topic. “Teddy Roosevelt encouraged America to speak softly and carry a big stick,” Burgum said. “Energy dominance will be the big stick that President Trump will carry.” He accused President Biden of making Russia and Iran “filthy rich” with his energy policies, blamed him for higher electric bills and grid problems, and said “four more years of Joe will usher in an era of Biden brownouts and blackouts.” Oh, and he promised that Trump would “let all of you keep driving your gas-powered cars.” CNN called the speech “Burgum’s audition to be energy secretary.”

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Technology

Florida’s Climate Tech Hub Has a Florida Problem

One of the most vulnerable states in the U.S. wants nothing to do with “climate change.”

A Florida postcard.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

The Biden administration loves a hub. There are the hydrogen hubs, the direct air capture hubs, and now there are the tech hubs. Established as a part of the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, the $10 billion program has so far seeded 12 such hubs across the country. Four of these are focused on clean energy and sustainability, and one is located in the great state of Florida, which recently passed legislation essentially deleting the words “climate change” from state law.

The South Florida ClimateReady Tech Hub did not, in the end, eliminate climate from its name. But while Governor Ron DeSantis might not approve, the federal government didn’t seem to mind, as the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration awarded the hub $19.5 million to “advance its global leadership in sustainable and resilient infrastructure.”

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