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A Warming World

2020-08-07 09:50:58

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In the past 60 years, every decade has been hotter than the last, and 2020 is on track to be among the hottest years yet. But the burden of extreme heat is not shared equally — it’s significantly worse for people at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder.

Extreme heat can exacerbate poor health, ravage crops and make it dangerous to work outside. And in many parts of the world, simple ways to alleviate those effects — like water, or electricity for fans and air-conditioners — are a luxury.

Somini Sengupta, The Times’s international climate reporter, and a team of photographers have a new story that documents how rising temperatures are affecting people across multiple continents.

In Athens, heat waves have increased fivefold over the last century. Diminished rains and longer dry seasons are destroying Guatemala’s farmlands, where Indigenous farmers could see crop yields fall sharply. In Nigeria, hotter nights make it easier for mosquitoes to breed, increasing the risk of mosquito-borne diseases. And in the United States, heat kills older people more than any other extreme weather event, including hurricanes.

We spoke with Somini about what she described as “one of the most profound inequities of the modern age.”

“I have seen over the last couple of years the impact of what is truly a global problem,” she said. “We know that high heat and humidity is a dangerous combination for health, agriculture and economies of whole regions — nearly everywhere around the world, heat waves are more frequent and longer lasting than they were 70 years ago.”

What do experts recommend to combat rising temperatures?

“Draw down the combustion of fossil fuels,” Somini said. “The world is capable of getting off coal in many instances, capable of vastly reducing the burning of oil and gas.”

But the world also has to adjust to the extreme heat we’re seeing already, she said. That includes making water, air-conditioners and fans more accessible, and planting trees to bring down temperatures in cities.

A surge of mail-in voting during the pandemic has turned elections into multiday — and sometimes multiweek — events. On Tuesday, New York certified the winners of two congressional primary races six weeks after the last votes were cast.

The delays aren’t surprising; many states lack the infrastructure to quickly process large numbers of mail ballots. But the likelihood that it will take longer than usual to know the outcome of November’s presidential election has some political observers worried.

You’ve likely seen them all over your social feeds: crusty, rustic-looking sourdough loaves many people have grown fond of baking with all that extra time at home. But sourdough starters can lend themselves to so much more, as evidenced in this recipe for Honduran pan de coco by the baker Bryan Ford.

Traditionally made with coconut milk and whole-wheat flour, these buns incorporate a sourdough starter to add a delicious depth to the bread’s flavors. Tear off a piece and dip it into your coffee for an afternoon treat.

For years, many small farmers have tried to find new ways to make a living beyond selling crops alone. “The sleigh rides, the alpacas, the therapy ponies, the pick-your-own hemp,” writes Ellen Barry, The Times’s New England bureau chief. “It is a new thing, though, to make farm life into reality TV.”

Enter the “farmer-influencer.” Whether it’s uploading drone footage of sun-dappled farmland (“land porn for wistful cubicle dwellers”) or slow-motion videos of geese, some farmers have found they can earn more by streaming snippets of rural life to a growing online audience.


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