Author: Carla W

Unchecked global warming could collapse whole ecosystems, maybe within 10 years

Bob Berwyn – InsideClimate News, 4/8/20

A new study shows that global warming is about to push temperatures beyond the tolerance of thousands of animals at the same time. As some key species go extinct, entire ecosystems like coral reefs and forests will crumble, and some will collapse abruptly, starting as soon as this decade, a new study in the journal Nature warns…

 

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Eleven of 12 hottest years have occurred since 2000, new report warns

Isabelle Gerretsen – UK Independent, 4/22/20

Eleven out of the 12 hottest years to date have all occurred since 2000, according to a new report by the European Union’s climate  monitoring service. 2019 was the hottest year on record for Europe after scorching heatwaves led to record-breaking temperatures in February, June and July, scientists said in the annual European State of the Climate report…

 

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Climate change is accelerating, bringing the world ‘dangerously close to irreversible change’

Henry Fountain – New York Times, 12/5/19

“Things are getting worse,” said Petteri Taalas, Secretary General of the World Meteorological Organization, which on Tuesday issued its annual state of the global climate report, concluding a decade of what it called exceptional global heat. “The only solution is to get rid of fossil fuels in power production, industry and transportation,” he said…

 

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Pandemic Insights Two: Our capacity to sacrifice to contain a global threat

It’s not usually advisable to speak for others, yet I think I know how many climate experts are feeling right now. There’s this particular twinge I feel as a climate advocate: seeing how humans are mobilizing globally and instantaneously to fight the coronavirus yet we’ve been unable–for three decades–to mobilize against the slower-moving yet ultimately more catastrophic and irreversible threat of climate change. For someone deeply engaged in climate facts, this unequal crisis response feels dizzying. And yet, our global action against the pandemic shows that we are capable of massive, lightning-fast change.

I want to talk about our emerging awareness of the scale and speed of change we are capable of in a crisis. I don’t think any of us born after World War II have seen this capacity before, but we are seeing it now. In our country and around the world, hundreds of millions of people have stopped going to work, school, church, social events, and sporting events. Leisure and work travel has been suspended, skies have cleared, traffic jams are gone, classrooms, sports arenas, and concert halls sit empty, and nearly everything considered “non-essential” that requires being with others has stopped. Along with all the tragedy, fear and insecurity of the pandemic, we are also seeing a tremendous capacity for sacrifice, generosity, and change.

Naomi Oreskes, an historian of science at Harvard I’ve long admired, recently spoke with journalist David Green about the lessons of coronavirus that might help humanity respond to climate change. She highlighted the breathtaking sacrifices people are making in response to COVID-19 that were previously unimaginable:

“I think that the crisis brings into sharp relief the difference between “can’t” and “won’t.” We can act, we know how to mobilize expertise, to mobilize technology. And we now see that the American people and people around the world are great at sacrificing. Whereas, it’s always been said that the problem with solving climate change is that people are not willing to sacrifice.”

And here’s the kicker:

“People not only can, but will, sacrifice, if they’re given the right information and leadership.” (emphasis mine)

This is the hopeful heart of her message. Because, as Oreskes points out, what most people need to sacrifice to solve the climate crisis is a whole lot less than what they are sacrificing during this pandemic. Decarbonizing quickly is achievable: we have the technology, resources, and policy tools to do it without widespread harm. In fact, most experts believe a well-organized clean energy transition will lead to widespread health benefits, a surge in good jobs and economic benefits for most people.

So as we navigate this crisis, let’s keep our eye on this prize: an economic recovery that builds clean energy and decarbonizes our economy at the same time. To get there, Oreskes says, we need two key ingredients: the right information and leadership, and breaking the control the fossil fuel industry has over our country and our politics. If the last four months illustrate anything, it’s that once we commit, we can get there quickly.

Pandemic Insights One: What matters to us and what we fear

Like many of you, I’m working from home, going out only to grocery shop and take walks. I’m trying to keep what I can of my schedule, which means posting my monthly blog by the end of March. But I’ve been unsure about what to say during this disorienting time. Is there a constructive way to talk about the connections between the coronavirus pandemic and the slower-moving catastrophe of climate change?

Two climate thinkers I admire have insights about what the coronavirus pandemic shows about what we care about and what we fear. These insights illuminate a possible path forward in our efforts to tackle the climate crisis, offering some inspiration.

Katherine Hayhoe: What matters to all of us is the same: the health and safety of our loved ones and our communities. Climate change and the coronavirus are alike in that they both threaten what matters to all of us.

Climate scientist Dr. Katherine Hayhoe, one of my favorite climate communicators, was asked about the connections between the coronavirus pandemic and climate change by John Schwartz of the New York Times. Here is part of her response:

“This crisis really brings home what matters to all of us. What really matters is the same for all of us. It’s the health and safety of our friends, our family, our loved ones, our communities, our cities and our country. That’s what the coronavirus pandemic threatens, and that’s exactly what climate change does, too.”

Claire Cohen-Norris: A major reason we haven’t yet eliminated fossil fuels is our fear of change and disruption. Now, coronavirus has turned our world upside down. This give us an opening to make the big shifts we need to decarbonize quickly as we navigate the global pandemic.

In a new blog post from climate advocate and biology teacher Claire Cohen-Norris, she says:

“Why have we been slow to eliminate fossil fuels? The short answer is fear of disruption…Well, disruption is here. COVID-19 has made sure of that.”

The pandemic, she argues, has almost instantaneously disrupted our entire society, shifting our expectations for the future. This creates an opening for facing the climate crisis and rapidly decarbonizing our entire economy (I’ve written elsewhere about having the policy tools and knowledge to decarbonize, as soon as we build the social and political will to do so). Our world, Cohen-Norris reasons, is going to be upside down no matter what we do now. So we might as well tackle the climate crisis–a slower moving global catastrophe that threatens everything we care about–as we navigate the global pandemic.

If we can see that the climate crisis, like COVID-19, threatens all we care about, and we accept that total disruption is already here, it becomes more imaginable we can rapidly decarbonize now to protect a livable world. The possibilities are extraordinary.