First Thing: Biden under pressure to act on climate crisis warnings | US news


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A stark UN report showing that the US, like the rest of the world, is running out of time to avoid disastrous climate impacts is turning up the heat on Joe Biden, who will be keen to do his part in preventing a critical global heating threshold of 1.5C being breached far earlier than previously expected.

The IPCC report on how humanity has caused unprecedented, and in some cases “irreversible”, changes to the world’s climate has heaped further pressure on the president to pass significant legislation to confront the climate crisis.

  • Biden said the release on Monday of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report showed that “we can’t wait to tackle the climate crisis. The signs are unmistakable. The science is undeniable. And the cost of inaction keeps mounting.”

  • Leah Stokes, a climate policy expert at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said: “This summer is the best chance we have ever had to pass a big climate bill. This is it. President Biden is poised to become the climate president we need. But there are no more decades left to waste.”

Fire-friendly weather returns as second-largest blaze in California history burns

A member of a ground crew works as more structures are burned by the Dixie Fire near Greenville, in Indian Valley, California, US, on 9 August, 2021.
A member of a ground crew works as more structures are burned by the Dixie fire near Greenville, in Indian Valley, California. Photograph: David Swanson/Reuters

Firefighters battling the second-largest wildfire in California history are bracing themselves for a turn for the worse, as changing weather conditions began lifting the thick smoke that held down winds and temperatures.

Concern is growing among firefighters battling the Dixie fire in unprecedented conditions to protect thousands of threatened homes in rural communities of the Sierra Nevada.

  • Fueled by strong winds and bone-dry vegetation, the fire incinerated much of the mountain town of Greenville on Wednesday and Thursday, destroying 370 homes and structures and threatening nearly 14,000 buildings in the northern Sierra Nevada.

  • The fire, named after the road where it started nearly four weeks ago, has scorched an area more than twice the size of New York City. It was just 21% contained by Sunday evening and grew by more than 40 sq miles Sunday.

Epstein accuser Virginia Giuffre sues Britain’s Prince Andrew

Virginia Giuffre says she was trafficked by sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
Virginia Giuffre says she was trafficked by the sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Photograph: Bebeto Matthews/AP

An alleged victim of the sex offender Jeffrey Epstein filed a lawsuit against Prince Andrew in federal court in New York on Monday.

Virginia Roberts Giuffre accused the British royal of sexually abusing her at Epstein’s mansion in Manhattan and at other locations in 2001 when she was under the age of 18, according to court records. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages. Giuffre accuses Andrew of sexual assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

  • The lawsuit alleges that on one occasion, the prince sexually abused Giuffre in London at the home of Ghislaine Maxwell, when Epstein, Maxwell and Prince Andrew forced her to have sexual intercourse with the prince against her will.

  • Prince Andrew has denied having sex with her, telling BBC Newsnight in late 2019: “I can absolutely categorically tell you it never happened.”

  • He also said he has “no recollection” of ever meeting her and told an interviewer there were “a number of things that are wrong” about Giuffre’s account, which alleges the encounter occurred in 2001.

In other news …

The Canadian Robert Lloyd Schellenberg attends a retrial in Dalian, north-east China, in 2019
The Canadian Robert Schellenberg attends a retrial in Dalian, north-east China, in 2019. Photograph: Anonymous/AP

Stat of the day: Hundreds of tons of dead marine life have washed ashore in Florida

A dump of toxic wastewater may have contributed to a deadly red tide algal bloom, residents say, as hundreds of tons of dead marine life have turned up on Florida’s beaches alongside a putrid stench in recent weeks. Experts feared a large bloom was imminent after a toxic breach at the Piney Point phosphate plant in late May.

Don’t miss: Growing alarm in Kenya over a shocking rise in suicides

Almost 500 people are reported to have killed themselves in the three months to June this year in Kenya, more than the whole of 2020, according to the police. In a quest to identify possible reasons for the rise, mental ill health and “warped” notions of masculinity are among causes mooted for a rise in suicides of nearly 50% in a year.

Climate check: ‘Entire countries’ could be lost to climate crisis within the century, IPCC report shows

Rising sea levels caused by global warming threaten the very existence of the tiny Pacific nation of Kiribati, one of the lowest lying countries on Earth.
Rising sea levels caused by global warming threaten the very existence of the tiny Pacific nation of Kiribati, one of the lowest lying countries on Earth. Photograph: Richard Vogel/AP

Global heating above 1.5C will be “catastrophic” for Pacific island nations and could lead to the loss of entire countries due to sea level rise within the century, experts have warned. King tides, catastrophic cyclones, increasing salinity in water tables making growing crops impossible, sustained droughts, and the loss of low-lying islands to sea level rise are expected to increase in frequency and severity in the Pacific region as the world heats.

Last Thing: life with a robot dog

Sony’s new robot ‘’aibo’’ on display during a news conference at the company’s headquarters on November 1, 2017, Tokyo, Japan.
Sony’s robot, Aibo, on display during a news conference at the company’s Tokyo headquarters. Photograph: Aflo Co. Ltd./Alamy

The creators of the Aibo robot dog say it has “real emotions and instinct”. When the writer Meghan O’Gieblyn unboxed hers, she was surprised by how lifelike it was, by its responsiveness and by its eagerness for touch. Deep-learning algorithms allow the dog to interpret vocal commands, differentiate between members of the household and adapt to the temperament of his owners. By the end of the first week, she says in a Guardian long read, it seemed cruel to her to turn him off when she left the apartment.

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