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How Disaster Aid Favors White People

The two cases were remarkably similar: Hurricane Laura sent pine trees crashing through the roofs of two modest houses not far apart in Southwest Louisiana. Neither homeowner had insurance, and each sought help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

But that’s where the similarities end. Despite suffering roughly the same amount of damage, one homeowner, Roy Vaussine, who is white, got $17,000 in initial assistance from FEMA. The other couple, Charlotte and Norman Biagas, who are Black, got $7,000.

A growing body of research shows that FEMA often helps white disaster victims more than people of color, even when the amount of damage is comparable. The problem seems to stem from complex systemic factors, like the difficulty of navigating the federal bureaucracy and a real estate market that often places higher values on properties in communities with white residents.

FEMA faces growing pressure to address those racial disparities. But as I wrote this week, the research suggests that the scale of the problem is immense.

The numbers: White residents of counties hit by major disasters saw their wealth grow, on average, five times as much as the wealth of white residents in counties without major disasters, one paper found. For Black residents of those same counties, wealth levels shrank on average.


Matt Apuzzo and

Over the next week, the United Nations agency that regulates international shipping is scheduled to enact its first greenhouse gas rules since the Paris Agreement.

Those new regulations, from the International Maritime Organization, do not cut emissions, have no enforcement mechanism and leave key details shrouded in secrecy. No additional proposals are far along in the rule-making process, meaning additional regulations are likely five years or more away.

The reason, records show, is that some of the same countries that signed the Paris accord have repeatedly diluted efforts to rein in shipping emissions — with industry representatives in their ears at every step.

Why it matters: Shipping produces as much planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions as all of America’s coal plants combined.


Coral Davenport and

Early this month, the Interior Department suspended drilling leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, one of the last remaining stretches of untouched wilderness in the United States, that were auctioned off in the waning days of the Trump administration.

That decision freezes, for now, a signature achievement of the Trump presidency. But the matter is far from closed: In a twist, President Biden might be forced to hold a second sale of leases before he leaves office. That’s because the law passed by the Republican-controlled Congress in 2017 that allowed oil leasing in the refuge requires a second auction before the end of 2024.

“It’s a very clever strategy,” said one lawyer who worked at the Interior Department during the Trump administration, of the 2017 law. To find out what options the Biden administration has, you can read our article here.


The amount of planet-warming carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached the highest level in human history in May, according to two separate analyses. The data showed that the pandemic dip in emissions last year wasn’t enough to halt the buildup of greenhouse gases and that countries are still far from getting global emissions under control.



The New York Times didn’t just start writing about climate change yesterday. Our archives show coverage of the accumulation of greenhouse gases and their possible damaging effects through global warming that go back decades; I’ve found discussions of climate science going back to the 1960s. It’s no surprise: science coverage has always been one of the mainstays of New York Times journalism.

For today, take a look at this story, published 35 years ago this month, on June 11, 1986: “Aide Sees Need to Head Off Global Warming.”

It’s a pretty early use of the phrase “global warming” by the Times, and the story discusses testimony by the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency at the time, Lee M. Thomas.

In the story, Philip Shabecoff, a pioneer of climate coverage, wrote that Mr. Thomas told the senators that “‘some intervention’ by Government to address the buildup of manmade gases in the atmosphere now appears to be necessary.”

The official noted that political action might have to be taken to deal with the problems “even while there is scientific uncertainty.”

Other Reagan administration officials were not so certain, and said that more research was necessary to resolve scientific questions before taking action.

It sounds a bit familiar, right?


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