climate change is real and it's happening
January 25, 2021

The world's ice is melting so fast that sea level rise predictions can't keep up.

In the 1990s, the Earth's ice was melting at a rate of about 760 billion tons per year. That has surged 60 percent to an average of 1.2 trillion tons per year in the 2010s, a study published Monday in the journal The Cryosphere estimates. And as another study published earlier this month in Science Advances makes clear, the problem is feeding into itself.

Climate change is largely responsible for the huge ice melt surge, the Cryosphere study reports. In fact, about three percent of all the energy trapped within the Earth's systems because of climate change has gone toward that ice melt, the study estimates. "That’s like more than 10,000 'Back to the Future' lightning strikes per second of energy melting ice around-the-clock since 1994," William Colgan, an ice-sheet expert at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, told The Washington Post. "That is just a bonkers amount of energy."

Climate change not only melts ice sheets on land, but also warms ocean waters to melt glaciers from the bottom up as well. Past sea level rise projections have failed to account for this glacial undercutting by "at least a factor of 2" the Science Advances study found.

"Together, the two studies present a worrying picture," the Post writes. The first study found "the ice sheets are now following the worst-case climate warming scenarios set out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change," study author Thomas Slater said in a statement. But the second reveals that the panel's sea level projections, which were already criticized as too conservative, may have underestimated the role of glacial undercutting in accelerating ice melt even more. Read more at The Washington Post. Kathryn Krawczyk

January 14, 2021

2020 has tied with 2016 for the hottest year on record — and there's no end to the warming in sight.

A wave of scientific institutions' analyses released in the past week point to a "photo finish" between the two years for the hottest on record, Zeke Hausfather, a climate expert at the Breakthrough Institute, told The Washington Post. And regardless of which year is on top, 2020 and the six years before it make up the top 7 hottest years in more than a century and a half of recorded history, once again showing how human-caused global warming is continuing to warp the planet.

When looking at the top two finishes, 2016 had everything it needed to be a hot year, experiencing an El Niño event that brings warm waters to the Pacific and hotter temperatures as a result. Meanwhile 2020 saw a La Niña, which usually brings cooler weather. But even the chilly phenomenon couldn't dampen the Earth's increasingly hot streak. A tenth of the planet can count 2020 as its hottest year, leading to wildfires above the Arctic Circle and the busiest Atlantic hurricane season on record, reports the Post. Those wildfires have a compounding effect, as they released massive amounts of carbon dioxide that will likely only add to the Earth's warming.

The past year's La Niña didn't emerge until September, meaning its strongest effects will likely be reserved for 2021, Gavin Schmidt, the director of NASA's Goddard Institute, noted to The New York Times. So while 2021 probably won't be a "record-warm year," it'll likely be "another top-five year, and clearly part of the string of very warm years that we've been having," Schmidt said. See just where 2020's record heat had its strongest effects at The New York Times. Kathryn Krawczyk

December 7, 2020

If you thought 2020 couldn't get worse, well, it did.

Last month just beat out November 2016 to become the hottest November on record, scientists with the European Union's Copernicus Climate Change Service said Monday. Temperatures before November were about the same as 2016, the hottest year on record, setting 2020 up to make history, The New York Times reports.

Copernicus scientists said November 2020 was about .1 degree Celsius — .2 degree Fahrenheit — warmer than November 2016 and November 2019, which were tied for the warmest months before. And when it comes to the average November temperature from 1981 to 2010, this year's November was about .8 degree Celsius, or 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit, warmer. The record came as countries across Europe saw their warmest fall of all time, while Australia saw massive heat waves that led to its hottest November as well. Those warm spells negated even the cooling effects of La Niña, which brought cold weather to Africa, Canada, and other parts of the world.

"These records are consistent with the long-term warming trend of the global climate," Copernicus director Carlo Buontempo said in a statement. "All policymakers who prioritize mitigating climate risks should see these records as alarm bells." Several other scientists agreed that human-led climate change is the biggest cause of this warmer weather. Kathryn Krawczyk

September 15, 2020

Even moderate warming from human-caused climate change could make much of the southern U.S. barely habitable and completely change where Americans farm and live.

A report published in May in the National Academy of Sciences' journal examines what's known as the "human climate niche:" Parts of the globe where humans have congregated for the past 6,000 years because of their hospitable temperatures and precipitation rates. But climate change is transforming that inhabitable zone at a rate never seen before, the report found, prompting ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine to transform that data into a series of staggering maps published Tuesday.

As it stands today, and as it has stood for millennia, North America's "human climate niche" consisted of a large bloc in southeastern U.S., from the east coast through northern Texas and Nebraska; as well as most of the west coast. "But as the climate warms, the niche could shift drastically northward," ProPublica and the Times' analysis of the report found. A moderate carbon emissions scenario — what's expected if the world lets emissions peak at mid-century and then ratchets them down with green technologies — would move that zone into the American midwest. And if we allow extreme emissions and warming to continue, the niche zone will move into the northern U.S. and even Canada.

All of this could lead to a huge increase in extreme wildfires, sea level rise, and high heat and humidity; some parts of Arizona may even reach temperatures over 95 degrees for half the year. Find all of ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine's analysis here, and find the whole report here. Kathryn Krawczyk

September 14, 2020

Climate change is warming more than just the U.S.'s west coast.

Up north in Greenland, a 42-square-mile glacier broke off the Arctic's largest remaining ice shelf as ocean temperatures continue to warm. The Spalte Glacier has been disintegrating for several years, and after another year of record highs, finished its break this summer, BBC reports.

The Spalte Glacier was a piece of Nioghalvfjerdsfjorden, a massive ice shelf at the end of Northeast Greenland Ice Stream. It only recently became the largest remaining ice shelf as others also began to melt in warming waters. But it's starting to lose its area as well, as the part Greenland surrounding the ice stream has warmed by about 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1980. Satellite imagery had shown the Spalte Glacier offshoot cracking since 2013, Business Insider notes. The broken Spalte Glacier and remaining ice shelf will only continue to melt as runoff water from melting pools on top of the ice.

Temperatures are spiking all over the world, leading glaciers to melt and contribute to sea level rise; to hotter and drier summers that exacerbate wildfires; and to warming oceans that worsen tropical storms. Kathryn Krawczyk

September 10, 2020

California hit a disastrous milestone Thursday as wildfires continue to torch the west coast.

The August Complex fire burning in northern California became the largest fire in state history Thursday as it encompassed 471,185 acres in the Mendocino National Forest. It beat the record 459,000 acres burned during the Mendocino Complex fire in the same forest two years ago, and continues to rage largely uncontained as the state's third and fourth largest fires burn too.

As of Thursday, the August Complex — a combination of 37 fires that all merged together — is 24 percent contained, says the National Wildfire Coordinating Group. Meanwhile the SCU Lightning Complex outside San Jose has burned 396,624 acres and is 97 percent contained, making it the third largest fire in state history. The LNU Lightning Complex north of San Francisco has burned 363,220 acres and is 94 percent contained, putting it at the No. 4 spot in state history.

Fires raging across California have killed at least 12 people and destroyed 3,900 structures, officials told the Los Angeles Times. Still, scientists warn the most dangerous effects of the wildfires are likely the smog they're casting throughout some of America's most populous metropolitan areas.

Oregon is meanwhile undergoing its most intense fires in history as well. Gov. Kate Brown (D) said Thursday that 900,000 acres have burned throughout the state in the past week — nearly twice as much than what typically burns in a year. The five largest fires, each larger than 100,000 acres, are barely contained at all. Kathryn Krawczyk

December 6, 2018

The Environmental Protection Agency is planning on eliminating a 2015 requirement that new coal-fired power plants be built with technology to capture carbon dioxide emissions.

Andrew Wheeler, the acting EPA administrator and a former coal industry lobbyist, said the agency is "rescinding unfair burdens on America's energy providers and leveling the playing field so that new energy technologies can be part of America's future." He added that capturing carbon is too expensive, and businesses will be able to come up with other innovative solutions if they have the money.

The government recently released its dire National Climate Assessment, which says climate change caused by humans is making temperatures rise, leading to more extreme weather conditions. Scientists warn that only "decisions made today" can stop the damage. Catherine Garcia

November 23, 2018

The wildfires and hurricanes are not a fluke, and their economic and human costs are only growing.

Human-made climate change is warping every aspect of American life and can only be mitigated by "decisions made today," the fourth National Climate Assessment, produced by the Trump administration, has found. The Friday assessment follows the United Nations' scathing September report showing the world is "nowhere near on track" to beat climate change, and seemingly reveals every anti-environmental step the Trump administration has taken will cost Americans dearly in the near future.

America's temperatures have risen by 1.8 degrees in the past 100 years, and sea levels are 9 inches higher than 50 years ago, The Washington Post reports via the assessment. Those numbers are growing exponentially, with the U.S. slated for another 2.3 degrees of temperature growth by 2050. In a worst-case scenario, this could annually cost $155 billion in lost labor due to the inability for people to work outside. There would be another $141 billion cost due to deaths per year from extreme weather, and other $118 billion in annual damage to properties on the water. The risks of these massive climate swings affect everyone, but mostly "people who are already vulnerable, including lower-income and other marginalized communities," the report states.

The report is congressionally mandated to come out every four years. But it was released just after a record cold Thanksgiving hit the Northeast — something Trump falsely suggested disproved global warming in a Thursday tweet. It also comes on "one of the slowest news days of the year," the Post writes, frustrating scientists and potentially underscoring the administration's lack of seriousness on the issue.

Read more about the report at The Washington Post, or read the whole thing here. Kathryn Krawczyk

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