Saturday, 19 Sep 2020

Climate Change, Wildfires, Life on Venus: Your Monday Evening Briefing

Here’s what you need to know at the end of the day.

By Victoria Shannon and Judith Levitt

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Good evening. Here’s the latest.

1. A campaign clash over climate change.

President Trump arrived in California in a smoky haze today and promptly blamed the wildfires ravaging the West Coast not on climate change but on the failure by states to properly manage their forests. Above, Mr. Trump arriving at the Sacramento McClellan Airport today.

By contrast, his opponent in the November election, former Vice President Joe Biden, directly connected the blazes that have displaced thousands of people to climate change. In a speech in Delaware, he called Mr. Trump a “climate arsonist.”

Firefighting teams faced unpredictable wind gusts and drier weather today, conditions that threatened to strengthen already dire wildfires that have burned more than five million acres, destroyed scores of homes and left at least 26 people dead.

To the global scientific community, the ash-filled skies are the tragic, but predictable, result of accelerating climate change. Federal government scientists predicted two years ago that greenhouse gas emissions could triple the frequency of severe fires across the Western states.

2. New signs of life — on Venus.

There was awe, excitement and plenty of wry jokes about heading there after scientists asserted today that something now alive is the only explanation for the existence of a chemical, phosphine, detected high in the planet’s toxic atmosphere. The discovery needs to be confirmed by additional telescope observations and future space missions.

In the meantime, a question: Did humanity overlook a planet that may have once been more Earthlike than any other in our solar system?

3. A top government health official made outlandish and false claims about government scientists and left-wing hit squads.

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