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Newsletter: The world is roasting even if it’s cool in L.A. Take climate change seriously

A woman tries to cool a child as the temperature eclipses 100 degrees in Beijing on June 29.
(Andy Wong / Associated Press)
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Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, July 8, 2023. Let’s look back at the week in Opinion.

This is the part where I drop in “cocaine at the White House” or “Britney Spears getting slapped,” because those two stories are drawing more coverage and clicks (and mentioning them here might optimize the newsletter for greater prominence on Google and social media) than the biggest story of our time. Of course, I’m talking about climate change — or more specifically the hottest week for our planet on record, which we can almost certainly attribute to climate change.

“But even climate scientists say we cannot say global warming has caused any single weather event,” someone might reply. Which is true, as far as it goes, but at this point that’s a dodge. Hedging like that in an era of sustained temperature extremes and epic droughts and floods serves more as an excuse for inaction than a reminder of scientific prudence.

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And as The Times’ editorial board pointed out, the planet breaking its average temperature record three days in a row begs for drastic, immediate action. The board says leaders of “major economies of the world have to immediately switch to renewable energy and slash planet-warming pollution in half by 2030.”

We hear a lot about national commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions, but what would it look like locally if we seriously fought climate change? Metro wouldn’t widen freeways as it opens new transit lines. Every setback in the state’s high-speed rail project wouldn’t be taken as a sign that a bullet train in California is intrinsically nonviable. We’d ban most private jet use instead of seeing it take off to new records.

And we (journalists included) would pay less attention to cocaine in the West Wing than a planet in peril.

Before you say it’s been relatively cold in L.A. (which is has been), look at this map of global temperature anomalies for the month of June. For every highly populated cold spot like California, there are much larger, warmer, sparsely populated swaths of Canada that saw an exceptionally warm month. Which is to say that a cold few months in L.A. do not a “normal” global climate make — and soon enough, it’ll be our turn in the barrel.

We’ve got it all wrong about sequoias and wildfire. Forest ecologist Chad Hanson says the federal government has been telling us that without drastic action (usually in the form of more logging and bulldozers), the ancient sequoias that have adapted to moderate wildfires risk being lost to the more intense conflagrations of recent decades. But his recent experiences with regenerating forests belie what logging interests would have the public believe about these beloved trees.

Wimbledon favorite Novak Djokovic can win anything — but not tennis fans’ love. LZ Granderson on the mercurial tennis great’s inability to woo fans: “The business of professional sports also requires star athletes to be attractive to as many fans as possible. During his anti-vax drama in Australia, Djokovic lost sponsors as well as the benefit of the doubt. Djokovic’s desire to be the game’s ambassador is at odds with his need to be its chief antagonist. He splits the difference, which doesn’t satisfy anyone.”

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Streaming is TV’s future. Can the writers’ strike get executives to pay accordingly? The emergence of coaxial cable after World War II spawned the labor unrest in Hollywood that led to residual payments for rebroadcasts. Now, streaming and artificial intelligence demand yet more adaptation in entertainment, but what hasn’t changed is the drive to make money and the need for talent to do it. Television executive Jordan Beck says Hollywood should pay its creators accordingly.

Angry about the Supreme Court? Blame Congress. The conservative justices are overreaching, but law professors Francesca Procaccini and Nikolas Guggenberger say the problem stems from Congress underreaching: “The American model of government is not one of voluntary self-restraint but of countervailing power. It requires strong institutions vying against one another to prevent the concentration and abuse of power. It does not do well when a branch is content — even eager — to cede power and retreat from its constitutional role. For decades, however, Congress has done just this.”

More from this week in opinion

From our columnists

From the Op-Ed desk

From the Editorial Board

Letters to the Editor

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As always, you can share your feedback by emailing me at paul.thornton@latimes.com.

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