Arizona heat wave: US senator leans on astronaut past to call for climate crisis action


Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly on Sunday leaned into his experience as an astronaut to call for climate crisis action amid a blistering heatwave across the United States, including his home state of Arizona.

“When I went into space four times, I mean, I could see how thin the atmosphere is over this planet. It’s as thin as a contact lens on an eyeball, and we have got to do a better job taking care of it,” Kelly told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.”

“I have not seen in my time in the Senate many folks that deny that the climate is changing. That was a thing of the past. Now is: What do we do about it? We passed the Inflation Reduction Act, which is a big down payment on reducing the amount of carbon we put up into the atmosphere. That will make a difference over time. We obviously have to do more,” he added.

As the climate crisis ratchets temperatures higher and higher, scientists have warned there’s a growing likelihood that 2023 could be the Earth’s hottest year on record. Heat kills more Americans than any other form of severe weather, including flooding, hurricanes or extreme cold, according to National Weather Service data.

These climate crisis warnings have been especially potent in recent days as more than 85 million people remain under heat alerts while the weekslong heat wave continues and intensifies in the Southwest. Dangerously high temperatures have continued to plague the western parts of the US throughout the weekend, with temperatures expected to grow hotter in the South in the coming days.

More than 100 temperature records could be set through Monday across the West and South.

“My view hasn’t really changed. We are suffering a heat wave here in Arizona. It is typically very hot in the summer. This is obviously dangerous to seniors and folks who are living on the streets,” Kelly said Sunday.

While scientists say the heat records are alarming, most are unsurprised – though frustrated that their warnings have been largely ignored for decades.

The world is “walking into an uncharted territory,” Carlo Buontempo, director of the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, told CNN earlier this month. “We have never seen anything like this in our life.”

Kelly also said Sunday he was “concerned” about the impact the group “No Labels” – which is pushing for a third-party unity ticket in 2024 – could have on President Joe Biden’s reelection bid.

“I don’t think ‘No Labels’ is a political party. I mean, this is a few individuals putting dark money behind an organization, and that’s not what our democracy should be about; it should not be about a few rich people,” he told Tapper. “So I’m obviously concerned about what’s going on here in Arizona and across the country.”

Arizona Democrats have sued over the recognition of No Labels as a political party with the ability to place candidates on the state’s ballot – and potentially play a spoiler role in 2024, when Arizona, which Biden won by less than half a point in 2020, is poised to be a critical swing state.

No Labels is set to host an event Monday in New Hampshire, with centrist Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia as a keynote speaker. Kelly said he had spoken to Manchin about the issue but did not offer any details.

“I’m not going to go into details of conversations I have with my fellow senators. That’s sort of a policy of mine,” he said.

This story has been updated with additional details.

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