Food for Thought

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Welcome to Hot Take! Your weekly (at least) newsletter surveying the state of the climate crisis and all the ways we’re talking—and not talking about it! We give you a round up of the latest climate stories and articles of the week, plus exclusive original reporting and commentary from us. Oh, and who are we? Amy Westervelt, long-time climate journalist with more seasoning than an everything bagel, and Mary Annaïse Heglar, a literary writer known for her essays on climate, race, and emotion—and her enthusiasm for dad jokes!

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Hot Take
A newsletter about the climate crisis and all the ways we’re talking and not talking about it.

Food for Thought

By Amy Westervelt

April is always a big month for climate stories, but last year it came around during our first full month of Covid lock down, so to the extent that any "Earth Month" stories ran they were mostly of the "will Covid help solve climate change" variety.

This year brought a return to the usual April bump for climate coverage. According to the latest numbers from the Media and Climate Change Observatory (MeCCO), coverage was up globally 9 percent from March 2021, and coverage has doubled from April 2020, too. The monthly report highlighted several stories in particular where the economic case for acting on climate was being made, including features in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, and even the more conservative Wall Street Journal, all of which ran stories that connected Biden's infrastructure plan to climate adaptation in a positive way, and covered the open letter from several corporate executives that urged Biden to do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

There was a lot of good news on climate coverage in April, but one thing to watch out for: the spotlight on climate policy also gave way to a whole fake news cycle. Yes, the ol' "they're gonna take your burgers" trope came back. One thing the MeCCO folks pointed out is that all the mainstream media outlets felt compelled to respond to a fake claim that started in The Daily Mail and was amplified by Fox. I've been saying for a while now that the media needs to include itself in the circle of climate accountability, and this might be a good place to start: When does it make sense to debunk a myth and when are you just giving it more air time?

Food for thought as we head into May, and here's hoping we don't see a big drop in coverage just because there's no Earth Day to celebrate this month!

Renaming Can Be Simple

By Mary Annaïse Heglar

One of the most frustrating things about the climate crisis is how difficult it is to find the right language for it. It’s so unprecedented that the English language, famous already for its inadequacies, seems to cower in the face of it. But a big part of that is because the industry responsible for the crisis has usually dictated the terms. Enter: natural gas.

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Week in Greentrolling: API Is Trolling Back

By Amy Westervelt and Mary Annaïse Heglar

The American Petroleum Institute has never been one to shy away from a bald-faced lie. Like the time they claimed that Black people get sick from air pollution not because power plants are systematically placed closer to their communities, but because Black people are genetically inferior. Or like how they knew about climate change in the damn 60’s. But this week, their bullshit on Twitter was still pretty gross.

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Stop the Amy Westervelt Erasure

By Mary Annaïse Heglar

Now that greentrolling has gone beyond my personal favorite pastime and become a D-list twitter trend, an interesting and frustrating thing has happened: Amy is consistently and maddeningly written out of the narrative. And not just written out, but often replaced by people who had nothing to do with creating or popularizing it other than writing about it or interviewing me. While, yes, I troll way more often than Amy because she has journalistic integrity to maintain and I, as an essayist, could give a fuck, there’s no way I would have started trolling without the work of investigative journalists. Or without Amy, specifically.

The thought process that led to trolling came one chilly weekend in March of 2019 when I binged the entire first season of Drilled in one day and listened to it again the next day. I’d known how hypocritical and maniacal the fossil fuel industry was, but it was more instinct than anything else. With Drilled, Amy catalogued the evidence, pulled out the receipts, in a way that was engaging and enraging. Several months later I slid into her DM’s and a few months after that, we spawned Hot Take.

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The "Energy Independence" Myth

By Amy Westervelt

One of the fossil fuel industry's most powerful arguments against clean energy is that cutting down U.S. production of fossil fuels will make us  dependent on foreign oil. That dependence  puts us in a precarious position, the thinking goes, therefore any regulation of oil and gas development is a bad move for national security. The American Petroleum Institute in particular has been banging that drum as a response to the fracking ban California announced last week.

Here's the thing, though: the U.S. has been importing more crude oil than it exports for years. We had one year—2020, when the pandemic drove down demand—in which the U.S. exported more oil than it imported. And analysts had been predicting that the U.S. would begin importing again in 2021, not because of environmental regulations but because as pandemic restrictions eased consumption and demand would go up.

Yes, we get to the gas situation too. Upgrade to a paid subscription to read the full post!

The Week in Climate Coverage

A curated list of the stories we're reading this week.

Rising Temperatures, Rising Tides

If the Paris Agreement Fails, Sea Levels Could Rise 33 Feet, by Molly Taft for Earther

NOAA's New Climate Normals Show the US Has Never Been Hotter, by Dharna Noor for Earther

Siberia Is on Fire—and It's Only May, by Molly Taft for Earther

Emissions Cuts Could Halve the Impact of Melting Ice on Oceans, by Henry Fountain for The New York Times

The World Is Starting to Acknowledge That Methane Is a Serious Problem, by Kate Aronoff for The New Republic

A Climate Dystopia in Northern California, by Naomi Klein for The Intercept

Jair Bolsonaro is asking for billions to stop Amazon deforestation, by Benji Jones for Vox

Global heating pace risks ‘unstoppable’ sea level rise as Antarctic ice sheet melts, by Olivre Milman for The Guardian

Giant sequoia found still smoldering after 2020 California wildfire, by Jack Herrera for The Guardian

Climate Presidency

Biden aim to balance infrastructure and conservation goals won’t be easy, by Ysabelle Kempe for Grist

Minnesota Republicans Hold State Parks Hostage Over Clean Car Rule, by Molly Taft for Earther

New Climate Pledges Give a 50-50 Shot to Meet Paris Agreement, by Dharna Noor for Earther

EPA Takes First Step to Reduce Dangerous HFC Emissions, by Dharna Noor for Earther

Biden Promises to ‘Build Back Better.’ Some Climate Experts See Trouble, by Christopher Flavelle for The New York Times

EPA to Sharply Limit Powerful Greenhouse Gases, by Lisa Friedman for The New York Times

Biden's historic 30 by 30 conservation plan, explained, by Benji Jones for Vox

Meeting the Paris Climate Goals is Critical to Preventing Disintegration of Antarctica's Ice Shelves, by Bob Berwyn for InsideClimate News

Nature is Critical to Slowing Climate Change, But It Can Only Do So If We Help It First, by Bob Berwyn for InsideClimate News

Washington moves to cut greenhouse gases, by Lisa Friedman for The New York Times

Climate Accountability

Advocates are suing to stop a blanket pipeline building permit, by Alexandria Herr for Grist

Alabama Coal Mine Seems to Be Leaking Pollution While Workers Strike, by Dharna Noor for Earther

Leaked Slides Show the Gas Industry Is Freaking Out, by Molly Taft for Earther

Coal Phase-Down Has Lowered, Not Eliminated Health Risks From Building Energy, Study Says, by Marianne Lavelle for InsideClimate News

The Climate Solution Actually Adding Millions of Tons of CO2 Into the Atmosphere, by Lisa Song, ProPublica, and James Temple, MIT Technology Review in InsideClimate News

World's Biggest Banks Make Climate Change Promises, Invest in Fossil Fuels Anyway, by Jennifer Johnson for Vice

BP's Carbon-Offsets Strategy Is Bearing Fruit in Washington State, by Kate Aronoff for The New Republic

EPA says it will regulate hydrofluorocarbons in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, by Rebecca Leber for Vox

A Big Oil project in Africa threatens fragile Okavango region, by Heather Richardson for Grist

How to spot the difference between a real climate policy and greenwashing guff, by Damian Carrington for The Guardian

Carbon offsets used by major airlines based on flawed system, warn experts, by Patrick Greenfield for The Guardian

Justice Is Justice Is Justice

Is hope on the horizon for Western tribes' water woes? by Zoya Teirstein for Grist

Why poor American neighborhoods have fewer trees, by Adam Mahoney for Grist

Global Vaccine Crisis Sends Ominous Signal for Fighting Climate Change, by Somini Sengupta for The New York Times

Erased From a Davos Photo, a Ugandan Climate Activist Is Back in the Picture, by Abdi Latif Dahir for The New York Times

The young people taking their countries to court over climate inaction, by Matthew Taylor, Emily Holden, Dan Collyns, Michael Standaert and Ashifa Kassam for The Guardian

Glimmers of Hope

Erased From a Davos Photo, a Ugandan Climate Activist Is Back in the Picture, by Abdi Latif Dahir for The New York Times

Why California Is Planning to Ban Fracking, by Jill Cowen for The New York Times

How weird, bouncy cell signals can help track wildfire smoke, by Matt Simon for Grist

Climate in Culture

The Weird, Unholy Alliance of Tucker Carlson and Environmentalists, by Molly Taft for Earther

Why the Ford Mustang Mach-E Is So Important, by Robinson Meyer for The Atlantic

Video: Opinion | ‘Climate Change Is Not a Subjective Thing.’ How Does the U.S. Approach to the Environment Look From Abroad? by Chai Dingari, Adam Westbrook and Brendan Miller for The New York Times

How To Grow Clothes With Yeast, by Vice News for Vice

Make Air Conditioners Suck Less, by Nick Martin for The New Republic

Do You Know Where Your Grilling Charcoal Comes From? By Chikezie Omeje for The New Republic

These Singapore Marine Scientists Are Using Lego To Rebuild Coral Reefs, by Heather Chen for Vice

How Bitcoin revived Greenidge Generation, a coal plant on Seneca Lake, by Jessica McKenzie for Grist

What does it matter when an elite restaurant cancels meat? By Eve Andrews for Grist

Plus more

The Human Rhythms of Hurricane Katrina, by Alexandra Schwartz for The New Yorker

In Defense of Liberal Conspirators, by Astra Taylor for The New Republic

The Pandemic Has Changed Their Shower Habits. How About Yours? By Maria Cramer for The New York Times

Pesky Condors Invade California Home, by Johnny Diaz for The New York Times


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