Why Biden is COPping out

The climate stories of the world, dug up by hard-working content miners


A friend asked me last night why President Joe Biden isn’t attending the COP28 climate negotiations in Abu Dhabi. They were a little worried there might be some emergency age-related infirmity. Don’t worry, I explained. If you had only read the third paragraph in the second section of the November 2nd edition of Hill Heat, I went on, you would know that Biden’s absence was long-planned.

At the annual climate talks, the United States delegation either works to impede progress, or tries to claim credit for any success, I said. The president only shows up in the latter case. This year, with the talks blatantly hijacked as an industry symposium for the United Arab Emirates state energy companies (in the words of Meteor Blades, “Carry On Pumping”), is not likely to produce much good news for climate diplomacy.

Relieved that this wasn’t a Weekend at Bernie’s scenario, my friend thanked me for the explanation.

I then quietly seethed. This “friend” claimed to “read” the newsletter, but it had been revealed to me that they were not, in fact, poring over every word every day and inscribing them all into memory! What does friendship even mean, I wondered. What is the purpose of cramming dozens of climate-related news stories into a vaguely themed overview, interspersed with photos of wildlife and memes, day after day, if not that?

A piercing whistle shattered my self-centered reverie. Break time was over, and my next shift toiling in the content mines, finding the nuggets of climate news for my readers to consider, began anew. It is in the work that I find purpose.

As COP 28 begins, Punchbowl News is sponsored by BP. Politico Power Switch is sponsored by Chevron. Axios Generate, also sponsored by Chevron. The only sponsors for Hill Heat are people like you who choose to contribute to our mission of independent, fossil-free reporting.

The Herbs who own media outlets nowadays quite simply do not value the work or craft of journalism. G/O Media CEO Jim Spanfeller has killed off Gizmodo’s once-amazing climate vertical, Earther, firing the last remaining climate reporter, Angely “Super” Mercado, before Thanksgiving. “Layoffs have impacted journalists on the science beat particularly hard in recent weeks, Emma Roth writes. “After 151 years, Popular Science will no longer be available to purchase as a magazine,” thanks to its Blackstone-backed private-equity owner Recurrent Ventures, run by Andrew Perlman. “National Geographic cut the remainder of the magazine’s editorial staff in June,” as its owner Walt Disney Corp, run by Bob Iger, fired thousands. And “CNBC shuttered its climate desk last week” because of Comcast pinhead CEO Brian Roberts.

And, perhaps most importantly, there are also fewer science journalists employed to write about the Adoptaxolotl campaign:

Ecologists from Mexico’s National Autonomous University on Friday relaunched a fundraising campaign to bolster conservation efforts for axolotls, a native, endangered fish-like type of salamander.

The campaign, called Adoptaxolotl, asks people for as little as 600 pesos (about $35) to virtually adopt one of the tiny “water monsters”. Virtual adoption comes with live updates on your axolotl’s health. For less money, donors can buy a virtual dinner for one of the creatures, which are relatively popular pets in the US.

In Mexican axolotls’ main habitat, the population density has plummeted 99.5% in under two decades, according to scientists behind the fundraiser.

But we will keep fighting to tell the stories of the world.

“Thousands of Nigerian villagers can bring human rights claims against the fossil fuel company Shell over the chronic oil pollution of their water sources and destruction of their way of life, the high court in London has ruled,” reports Sandra Laville.

Snowfall is declining globally as temperatures warm because of human-caused climate change, a new analysis and maps from a NOAA climate scientist show,” Eric Zerkel explains.

“It is not yet summer, but Australia’s fire season is well underway, in the latest example of how climate change is altering the rhythms of life across the Earth,” writes Yan Zhuang.

And each day reporters file the stories of new fossil-fueled storms, whether it is Adelaide, Crimea, Maine, or Hawai‘i.

It’s still quiet on the Hill today. This morning, House Homeland Security’s emergency management subcommittee chair Anthony D’Esposito (R-N.Y.) and ranking member Troy Carter (D-La.) held a bipartisan field hearing in New Orleans on federal, state, and local coordination of emergency preparedness in coastal communities. D’Esposito represents a coastal New York district ravaged by Superstorm Sandy while he was a local fire chief, and New Orleans, of course, was permanently reshaped by Hurricane Katrina. “The effects of climate change are being felt worldwide,” Carter said in his opening remarks, thanking the Biden administration for federal investments in responding to our growing climate disasters.

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One final news story: Chevron’s refinery in Richmond, California flared plumes of toxic black smoke for hours yesterday following a partial power outage. Weirdly, this not mentioned in the latest Chevron-sponsored Politico Power Switch or Axios Generate.

Hearings on the Hill:

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