Morning news brief
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Heat waves with temperatures over 120 degrees for days on end, whole neighborhoods flooded after heavy rain - extreme weather has already taken a big toll this summer around the world.
LEILA FADEL, HOST:
So as the climate keeps changing, how much worse could weather-related disasters get?
MARTIN: Lauren Sommer from NPR's Climate Desk is here to answer that. Good morning, Lauren.
LAUREN SOMMER, BYLINE: Good morning.
MARTIN: So communities have been dealing with some life-threatening disasters. Is this what we should expect summers to be like from now on?
SOMMER: I wish I could say no. But what we're seeing this summer is exactly what the science says we should expect. You know, The planet has already gotten about two degrees Fahrenheit hotter, largely due to burning fossil fuels, and that's just amping up heat waves. They're more intense and more frequent. Extreme rain is the same. A hotter atmosphere can hold more moisture, so the rainstorms can be more intense, like what's happened in Vermont. In fact, you know, in the Northeast, the most extreme storms are dropping 55% more rain now than they did in the first half of the 1900s.
MARTIN: Could this get even more extreme? Could it get worse?
SOMMER: Yeah, you know, that will really depend on us. You know, so the greenhouse gases we're emitting now - you know from the cars we drive, the power we use - those will keep warming the planet, so some of it is already baked in. But then it's a question of how fast we can cut emissions. And Kim Cobb, who's a climate scientist at Brown University, says every little bit counts.
KIM COBB: Each increment of additional warming brings this host of climate-related extremes and impacts that are so devastating. So there is no doubt at all that we have to get to work more earnestly than ever.
SOMMER: If emissions don't fall and we stay on this track, extreme heat waves could be almost three times as common as they are now.
MARTIN: So are we learning things now that could help us deal with even more heat? And, you know, what about air conditioning?
SOMMER: Right. You know, we definitely need it, but it's not the only answer, right? So we run AC to cool a house when it's hot inside, but we could be doing a better job at just keeping the heat out in the first place. And one way is simply by painting the outside of a house lighter colors, which, you know, reflect sunlight so it doesn't really heat up as much. Or maybe pick a lighter roof color when the roof is replaced or use special cool roof materials. Those come in different colors. Ronnen Levinson is a climate scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory who studies this.
RONNEN LEVINSON: This is the time to start transforming our buildings - in fact, to continue transforming our buildings. We have to think long term now, and we can make a hot choice or we can make a cool choice.
SOMMER: Levinson says, you know, the light color walls and a cool roof can actually reduce a home's need to run the AC by 10 to 40%.
MARTIN: And what about this extreme rain and flooding?
SOMMER: Yeah, you know, that's also a question of just how we build. You know, many cities are still designing infrastructure - you know, like roads and storm drains - for the storms of last century because the rainfall data they're using is decades old, and it doesn't take climate change into account. So, you know, the federal government is in the process of updating that. It's going to take several years. So it's just really critical that every community think about how the infrastructure that's being built right now is going to fare as the climate continues to change.
MARTIN: That's Lauren Sommer from NPR's Climate Desk. Thank you, Lauren.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
MARTIN: Russia is taking an increasingly hard line on Ukraine exporting grain through the Black Sea.
FADEL: Yeah, on Monday, it pulled out of a deal that ensured the safe passage of ships exporting the grain. And yesterday, Russia's Defense Ministry said it will consider any ships in the sea heading toward Ukraine as hostile. Ukraine, meanwhile, has vowed to keep this vital supply route open and is asking its Western allies and the United Nations for help in doing so.
MARTIN: NPR's Joanna Kakissis is just back from the port city of Odesa and is with us now on the line from Kyiv. Joanna, welcome. Thanks for joining us.
JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: Thanks for having me.
MARTIN: Could you just start by talking about the ships that carry the grain? What is Russia threatening exactly?
KAKISSIS: Yeah, the Russians have not said explicitly that they will attack these ships, but the implication is clear. The Russian Defense Ministry said, quote, that "these ships will be considered as having entered the conflict on the side of the Kyiv regime," so on the side of Ukraine. So it's going to be very hard to convince commercial shipping companies to use the Black Sea shipping route right now. And since Russia's decision to leave the grain deal was announced on Monday, Russian forces have also been hitting the port cities of Odesa and Mykolaiv with drones and missiles. I was just in the Odesa port earlier this week, and with no grain deal, of course it was empty and eerily quiet during the day, but at night there were lots of explosions there. We could hear and see them from our hotel. Russian strikes damaged grain silos, a grain and oil terminal and loading equipment at that port.
MARTIN: So what does this mean for the global food supply?
KAKISSIS: Well, it's going - it's likely going to hurt food security. So for context, Ukraine and Russia have historically been major food exporters. And in the first months of Russia's full-scale invasion last year, the supply of grain and cooking oil really dropped because of two things - Russia's blockade of Ukrainian ports and Western sanctions against Russia. Prices went up. Parts of Africa and the Middle East were affected. That's why the United Nations and Turkey stepped in last summer to negotiate this deal with Russia. USAID administrator Samantha Power, who was in the Port of Odesa earlier this week, said that more than 32 million metric tons of grain and oilseed were transported while Russia was still participating in this deal.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
SAMANTHA POWER: The human consequences of a decision to deny food to the world's most vulnerable are devastating. Two-thirds of the wheat that was exported went to developing countries.
KAKISSIS: This week, she announced $250 million in U.S. aid to help Ukraine's agriculture and agribusiness.
MARTIN: Can anything be done to salvage the deal?
KAKISSIS: Yeah. Russia says it will resume participating in the deal if its conditions are met. Moscow wants better terms for exports of their grain and fertilizer than they were getting before. And if they get these things, they say they're in. Meanwhile, President Zelenskyy says the Russians can't be trusted, and he's trying to convince governments around the world that grain trade with Ukraine is still possible. Of course, there are alternative routes outside the sea, transporting the grain by river or train, but the volumes are much smaller. In Odesa, I spoke with Shota Khadzhishvili. He's a prominent grain dealer in Ukraine, and he explained why he was preparing for worst-case scenarios when it came to the future of his company.
SHOTA KHADZHISHVILI: (Non-English language spoken).
KAKISSIS: So he's saying that Russia will thwart any plans to restart shipping here, and he says that they will keep attacking ships and ports. And he says the only way for Ukraine's Black Sea export deal to begin again is for Ukraine to win this war.
MARTIN: That's NPR's Joanna Kakissis. Joanna, thank you so much.
KAKISSIS: You're welcome, Michel.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
MARTIN: It's the second day of a court hearing challenging abortion bans in Texas.
FADEL: Thirteen women who had pregnancy complications and were denied abortions sued Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and the state medical board. Some of these women took the stand and shared their heartbreaking experiences.
MARTIN: NPR's Selena Simmons-Duffin is in Austin covering the proceedings, and she's with us now. Selena, welcome. Thanks for joining us.
SELENA SIMMONS-DUFFIN, BYLINE: Hi, Michel.
MARTIN: So let's just start with the hearing that began yesterday. Would you tell us about it?
SIMMONS-DUFFIN: Yeah, I mean, it was extremely intense. There was emotional testimony. The room was very quiet, and at times everybody was crying, including attorneys for the state. One of the people who testified was Samantha Casiano. I was actually the first person to publish her story in April. She found out around Christmas of last year that she was pregnant with a fetus who had anencephaly, which means part of its brain and skull did not form. It is always fatal, but she couldn't afford to get an abortion out of state, and she couldn't get one in Texas because of the bans. Her daughter was born early and lived for only four hours. Here is her attorney, Molly Duane, questioning her on the witness stand yesterday.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
MOLLY DUANE: What did you think about during those four hours?
SAMANTHA CASIANO: (Crying) I just kept telling myself and my baby that I'm so sorry that this had to happen to you. I felt so bad. She had no mercy. There was no mercy there for her.
SIMMONS-DUFFIN: At one point, Casiano was so overcome with emotion, she actually became physically ill on the stand, and the court quickly adjourned for a break.
MARTIN: That does sound intense. What are the plaintiffs asking for?
SIMMONS-DUFFIN: Attorneys from the Center for Reproductive Rights are asking the judge in this court in Travis County, Judge Jessica Mangrum, for a temporary injunction on the abortion bans in cases of pregnancy complications. There is a very narrow exception for emergency abortions in Texas, but they argue that the language is unclear, and it leaves out many of the patients in this suit who were harmed by having to wait or travel for - out of state for care.
MARTIN: And how is the state of Texas responding?
SIMMONS-DUFFIN: The state is asking the judge to dismiss the case. They're arguing that the patients don't have standing because they're not currently being harmed, and future harm in future pregnancies is only hypothetical. And they're saying that the state can't be blamed for the denial of care, but rather their doctors should be blamed. Here's Texas Assistant Attorney General Amy Pletscher questioning one of the plaintiffs.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
AMY PLETSCHER: At any time, did Attorney General Paxton tell you that you couldn't receive an abortion?
AMANDA ZURAWSKI: I never spoke to Attorney General Ken Paxton directly, no.
SIMMONS-DUFFIN: She actually asked that question of every patient on the stand yesterday. And answering her in that clip was Amanda Zurawski. Her water broke too early at 17 weeks, but she was denied an induction or abortion. And while waiting for treatment, she actually went into septic shock and was in the ICU for three days. After the hearing yesterday, Zurawski said she was shocked by how callous the state's cross-examination of her was.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
ZURAWSKI: I survived sepsis, and I don't think today was much less traumatic than that.
MARTIN: The whole experience sounds, you know, gut-wrenching. And I understand that there's more testimony today.
SIMMONS-DUFFIN: Yes. The witnesses today are all physicians. One is actually suing as a patient who herself had to travel out of state for an abortion. The others are expert witnesses. And one of the physicians is being called by the state. And we'll explain why she does not think the medical exception is too narrow or unclear. It's expected to be another full day, and the ruling could come at any point after it concludes.
MARTIN: That's NPR's Selena Simmons-Duffin. Selena, thank you so much for sharing this reporting with us.
SIMMONS-DUFFIN: Yes, thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.