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Essential California: Dire warnings on climate change from the federal government

Essential California: Dire warnings on climate change from the federal government
The massive plume from the Camp fire as seen from Chico, Calif. A new federal government report warns to expect more of these types of catastrophes. (David Little / TNS)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, Nov. 24. Here’s what you don’t want to miss this weekend:



A new federal study is the latest to offer an alarming look at how climate change is radically changing the Earth and leaving an expansive tab. The Trump administration report comes amid unprecedented wildfires that have left a destructive and deadly path through California. The problems will only get worse without swift action to slash greenhouse gas emissions, the report says. Los Angeles Times

The latest on the fires

The survivors of the Camp fire aren’t the only ones with a story to tell about the fire that destroyed Paradise. Buried among the charred ponderosa pines and scorched rubble are clues to what transpired when a small fire broke out nearby on the morning of Nov. 8 and swallowed the California town of nearly 27,000 residents in a matter of hours. Los Angeles Times

Cal Fire investigator Jeff Hakala looks for clues among the ashes of a home destroyed by the Camp fire in Paradise, Calif.
Cal Fire investigator Jeff Hakala looks for clues among the ashes of a home destroyed by the Camp fire in Paradise, Calif. (Joseph Serna / Los Angeles Times)

-- Firefighters battling California’s deadliest fire continued to make progress Friday, with containment growing to 95% and the number of homes burned now at nearly 14,000. The Camp fire has scorched more than 153,000 acres and killed at least 84 people in Butte County, according to California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection officials. But hundreds of residents are still missing and thousands more have been displaced by the massive blaze. Los Angeles Times

-- “My mother stood there, in a biohazard mask and sunglasses, her apron belted in the Japanese manner, with a hand towel folded over in front of her stomach. She looked ready for fire.” The Atlantic

-- On social media, he alerted people to the Thousand Oaks shooting, then warned of the California fires that came next. Los Angeles Times

-- How the Walmart parking lot became such a symbol of the Camp fire disaster. Sacramento Bee

-- He stayed during the Paradise evacuation and survived. New York Times

-- Why so many famous chefs converged on the disaster scene. Chico Enterprise-Record


Colorism in the Trump years: Since the 2016 election, with a rise in hate crimes and the emergence of bigotry in public spaces, including many incidents that involve anti-immigrant motivations, a closer proximity to whiteness can provide yet another benefit. “People who can pass [as white] are less likely to be called names on the street or at sporting events and that kind of thing, which can make it easier to turn a blind eye to or to minimize when you’re not facing it as directly,” one expert said. Los Angeles Times

The desert is coming to us: “Of the many nasty names that L.A. has been called by our snooty friends and neighbors, the nastiest is ‘desert.’ Our exasperated and honest response has always been that no, we are not a desert. We have a Mediterranean climate. Check the rainfall totals. Average annual precipitation in Los Angeles is around 15 inches, well above the 10-inch cutoff that is a common definition of desert. But on a warming planet, the climate zones shift.” -- L.A. Times editorial on Southern California’s water crisis. Los Angeles Times

Shop till you drop: Black Friday was looking good for many retailers, who are counting on a Trump bump thanks to the strong economy. Los Angeles Times

Plus: Of course there were fights. Los Angeles Times


Groundbreaking: Los Angeles has a new living document of historic resources — the largest and most ambitious such undertaking in the U.S., and one that will shape city planning for generations to come.The exhaustive block-by-block inventory of 880,000 parcels scattered over 470 square miles began in 2010 and was completed last year. Los Angeles Times

The next generation: Disney’s StudioLab tries to use Silicon Valley-style experimentation to help studio executives and filmmakers stay ahead of rapid advances in technology by developing and showcasing new ideas for making and marketing movies. Some of its ideas have already spilled into the real world. Initiatives have included promotional efforts for the big-budget animated film “Ralph Breaks the Internet.” Los Angeles Times

In Berkeley: A moment of historical accountability. Los Angeles Times

At the border: A small faction of a larger group of 6,219 Central American migrants in Tijuana slowly and peacefully pushed within 500 feet of the U.S. border while armed Mexican federal police held a barrier near the pedestrian crossing. San Diego Union-Tribune

For the love of lutefisk: Saving the kinda gross fish delicacy many love to hate. LAist



1. Why Pepperdine stays put when wildfires rage. Curbed LA

2. What started as a tiny brush fire became California’s deadliest wildfire. Here’s how. Los Angeles Times

3. More than 17,000 buildings burned in Northern California. Here’s what that looks like from above. Los Angeles Times

4. There’s a hidden bar with a secret entrance at Disney California Adventure that almost nobody knows about — until now. Press-Enterprise

5. Aaron Rodgers gets blasted by his brother after pledging $1 million to California wildfire relief. CBS Sports


This is how I die: “She is standing in the driveway of a sand-colored house — she doesn’t know whose — and the air is choked with smoke. The sky is a nuclear orange. Wind is hurling embers against her body and into her blond wavy hair. She has just seen an ambulance melt. Transformers are blowing up around her. Homes are caving in and trees are bowing. Fleeing cars have jammed the roads, and flames dance on both sides of the asphalt.” Los Angeles Times

Those were the days: “I used to love Hollywood. Now, every time I visit, I’m struck by a mixture of sadness and rage. I’m still pissed that Hollywood’s makeover took away everything that made it beautiful and interesting. But, am I the only one who feels that way?” Chronicling being young in seedy Hollywood of the 1990s. L.A. Taco

Divine: Sitting in his Nob Hill apartment, director John Waters has a gift for San Francisco: demented holiday cheer. San Francisco Chronicle

That’s just, like, your opinion, man: The Big Lebowski” is so essential because it’s where the Old West meets the New West. The New Yorker

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints and ideas to Benjamin Oreskes and Shelby Grad. Also follow them on Twitter @boreskes and @shelbygrad.