Editor’s Note: This story was excerpted from the September 8 edition of CNN’s Meanwhile in America, the daily email about US politics for global readers. Click here to read past editions and subscribe.
“We don’t have any more time.”
That’s Joe Biden, who spent the last few days touring devastation from Hurricane Ida and warning about super storms exacerbated by climate change. Last week, the President went to Louisiana, where thousands of people still lack power after Ida roared ashore — though, thankfully, levees held after being strengthened in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Remarkably, Ida was not at its deadliest on the Gulf Coast, where winds reached 140 mph, but a thousand miles away, when it hit New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New York. Flash floods, tornadoes and high winds left at least 50 dead in the Northeast, and in the process laid bare vulnerabilities faced by coastal cities amid global warming.
“For decades, scientists have warned of extreme weather, it would be more extreme and climate change was here and we’re living through it now,” Biden said in New Jersey on Tuesday in the latest stop of his wild weather tour. One analyst warned Tuesday on CNN that forecasters may have to come up with a new level on the hurricane magnitude scale — Category Six — if storms turned into monsters by warmer seawater get much worse. The US climate crisis has also sparked severe wildfires and drought this year.
Luckily, Biden does have a plan. His $1.2 trillion infrastructure deal with Republicans and a $3.5 trillion spending plan are packed with investments designed to cut carbon emissions and to develop green energy and energy efficient vehicles and modes of transport. The bill is vital to US hopes of showing leadership at November’s global climate meet in Scotland.
There’s a problem, though. Sen. Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat from West Virginia whose votes are key to passing bills in a 50-50 Senate, is having second thoughts about a $3 trillion-plus spending spree. Manchin says he’s worried about inflation. But it’s probably no coincidence that he’s a fierce defender of his storied coal-producing state. He can probably expect a call from Biden fairly soon.
“I think we’re at one of those inflection points where we either act or we’re going to be in real, real trouble; our kids are going to be in real trouble,” the President said.
‘I don’t think it’s smart’
Not a mask in sight.
America’s big college football kickoff weekend brought its usual huge crowds to massive stadiums – many of them across the pigskin-crazy South, where the Delta coronavirus variant is running rampant.
The scenes of tens of thousands of people crammed together was too much for the government’s top infectious diseases specialist, Dr. Anthony Fauci.
“I don’t think it’s smart,” Fauci, a world-renowned virologist, told CNN.
There’s not much chance that Fauci’s comments will suddenly empty stadiums. The massed crowds are a sign that many Americans – especially the young – have come to the end of their tether with Covid-19 restrictions – even as the pandemic hits historic levels in some states. And to borrow what may be an apocryphal quote attributed to a titan of round-ball football, legendary Liverpool FC manager Bill Shankly, football is not a matter of life and death; “it’s more important than that.”
At the very least, Fauci, said, events like football games should require vaccinations Other experts warn that mass crowds are likely to seed new outbreaks of the disease, especially as the weather cools and people spend more time indoors.
By this point, everyone in America – and nearly everywhere else – feels like the pandemic is endless. It’s like climbing a mountain and after scaling a steep slope, discovering that the summit still looms far above.
Nevertheless, Biden will try to instill a sense of urgency on Thursday. The White House is vowing a new six-point strategy to consign the crisis to the past. But if more than 1,500 new Covid deaths a day won’t convince vaccine skeptics to change their minds, the chances of them being moved by another presidential speech seem slim.