climate change is real and it's happening
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

June 21, 2017

Weather scientists with the American Meteorological Society sent Energy Secretary Rick Perry a letter on Wednesday, hoping to educate him on climate change.

The letter came after Perry said during an interview with CNBC that he does not think carbon dioxide plays a primary role in contributing to climate change. This shows he lacks a "fundamental understanding of the science," the scientists said, and it is "critically important that you understand that emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are the primary cause. This is a conclusion based on the comprehensive assessment of scientific evidence. It is based on multiple independent lines of evidence that have been affirmed by thousands of independent scientists and numerous scientific institutions around the world."

The letter included the AMS' current statement on climate change, and asserted that if Perry does not understand what's behind climate change, "it is impossible to discuss potential policy changes in a meaningful way." Catherine Garcia

March 21, 2017

The year 2016 saw "extreme and unusual" climate conditions, the World Meteorological Organization says, and they're sticking around.

To put together its State of the Global Climate 2016 report, the WMO looked at research from 80 national weather services. The organization found that in 2016, atmospheric CO2 rose to a new high, Arctic sea ice recorded a new winter low, and the year itself was the warmest on record. Compared to the 1961-1990 average, 2016 was .83 degrees Celsius warmer than average, and .06 degrees Celsius warmer than 2015 — the pervious warmest year on record. In the Arctic, temperatures were about 3 degrees Celsius above the 1961-1990 average.

There were several extreme weather events in 2016, including devastating droughts in southern and eastern Africa and Central America, and Hurricane Mathew, which slammed into Haiti and across the North Atlantic, and this year, the Arctic is experiencing its own severe weather — so far, there have been at least three events that are the equivalent of a heat wave, with warm, moist air being pushed into the region by Atlantic storms. The report also said because of weather changes in the Arctic and the melting of sea ice, there has been a shift in atmospheric circulation patterns, which has led to more than 11,000 warm temperature records being shattered this year in the United States.

President Trump has targeted global warming measures enacted by former President Barack Obama, and the new head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, has denied that CO2 is a primary contributor to climate change, causing scientists to speak out. "Human-driven climate change is now an empirically verifiable fact, combining year-to-year variability with the consequences of our release of extra greenhouse gases," Dr. Phil Williamson of the University of East Anglia told BBC News. "Those who dispute that link are not skeptics, but anti-science deniers." Catherine Garcia

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