Climate

 Climate & Environment

Previously reported – January 2018
North Carolina’s coastal policies among worst in nation on climate change
Days after a federal report issued a harsh warning about climate change, an environmental group said North Carolina’s policies leave it among the most ill-prepared on the East Coast to deal with the effects of rising seas.
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Brunswick County eliminated plans to address rising sea levels. Apparently, no one knows why
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Previously reported – August 2018

N.C. beach homes and coast are ‘doomed’ and residents need to get out, scientist says
Sea level rise is an imminent threat to North Carolina’s 18 barrier islands — the Outer Banks — and the area just behind.
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Previously reported – December 2018
Scientific consensus: Earth’s climate is warming
Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities. In addition, most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position.

According to NASA, at least 97 percent of actively publishing climate scientists think that “climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely caused by human activities.” Americans overwhelmingly agree that the federal government needs to take significant action.
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U.S. Climate Report Warns of Damaged Environment and Shrinking Economy
A major scientific report issued by 13 federal agencies on Friday presents the starkest warnings to date of the consequences of climate change for the United States, predicting that if significant steps are not taken to rein in global warming, the damage will knock as much as 10 percent off the size of the American economy by century’s end. The report, which was mandated by Congress and made public by the White House, is notable not only for the precision of its calculations and bluntness of its conclusions, but also because its findings are directly at odds with President Trump’s agenda of environmental deregulation, which he asserts will spur economic growth.
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Climate Change Is Complex. We’ve Got Answers to Your Questions.
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Major Trump administration climate report says damage is ‘intensifying across the country’
The federal government on Friday released a long-awaited report with an unmistakable message: The effects of climate change, including deadly wildfires, increasingly debilitating hurricanes and heat waves, are already battering the United States, and the danger of more such catastrophes is worsening.

The report’s authors, who represent numerous federal agencies, say they are more certain than ever that climate change poses a severe threat to Americans’ health and pocketbooks, as well as to the country’s infrastructure and natural resources. And while it avoids policy recommendations, the report’s sense of urgency and alarm stands in stark contrast to the lack of any apparent plan from President Trump to tackle the problems, which, according to the government he runs, are increasingly dire.

The congressionally mandated document — the first of its kind issued during the Trump administration — details how climate-fueled disasters and other types of worrisome changes are becoming more commonplace throughout the country and how much worse they could become in the absence of efforts to combat global warming.
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FOURTH NATIONAL CLIMATE ASSESSMENT
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Previously reported – January 2019


Oceans Are Warming Faster Than Predicted
Earth’s seas are absorbing excess heat 40 percent faster than previous estimates
Up to 90 percent of the warming caused by human carbon emissions is absorbed by the world’s oceans, scientists estimate. And researchers increasingly agree that the oceans are warming faster than previously thought. Multiple studies in the past few years have found that previous estimates from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change may be too low. A new review of the research, published yesterday in Science, concludes that “multiple lines of evidence from four independent groups thus now suggest a stronger observed [ocean heat content] warming.”

Taken together, the research suggests that the oceans are heating up about 40 percent faster than previously estimated by the IPCC. Since the 1950s, studies generally suggest that the oceans have been absorbing at least 10 times as much energy annually, measured in joules, as humans consume worldwide in a year.
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Previously reported – March 2019
Ruined crops, salty soil: How rising seas are poisoning NC’s farmland
The salty patches were small, at first — scattered spots where soybeans wouldn’t grow, where grass withered and died, exposing expanses of bare, brown earth. But lately those barren patches have grown. On dry days, the salt precipitates out of the mud and the crystals make the soil sparkle in the sunlight. And on a damp and chilly afternoon in January, the salt makes Dawson Pugh furrow his brow in dismay. “It’s been getting worse,” the farmer tells East Carolina University hydrologist Alex Manda, who drove out to this corner of coastal North Carolina with a group of graduate students to figure out what’s poisoning Pugh’s land — and whether anything can be done to stop it. Of climate change’s many plagues — drought, insects, fires, floods — saltwater intrusion in particular sounds almost like a biblical curse. Rising seas, sinking earth and extreme weather are conspiring to cause salt from the ocean to contaminate aquifers and turn formerly fertile fields barren. A 2016 study in the journal Science predicted that 9 percent of the U.S. coastline is vulnerable to saltwater intrusion — a percentage likely to grow as the world continues to warm. Scientists are just beginning to assess the potential effect on agriculture, Manda said, and it’s not yet clear how much can be mitigated. “We spend a lot of time and money to try to prevent salt,” Pugh says. “I worry what the future is. If it keeps getting worse, will it be worth farming?” If farmers in coastal areas have any hope of protecting their land — and their livelihoods — the first step is to disentangle the complex web of causes that can send ocean water seeping into the ground beneath their feet. Though it’s known that saltwater intrusion is linked to sea-level rise caused by climate change, scientists aren’t certain exactly how salt winds up in farmers’ fields. One hypothesis is that strong winds may blow salt water from the sound into the canals and ditches that crisscross the county, which then leak into the soil. Another possibility is that the salt was left behind by storm-surge events and simply takes a long time to wash away. Or maybe the problem goes even deeper. Scientists are increasingly concerned that rising sea levels are shifting the “zone of transition” — the underground gradient where fresh groundwater meets salty seawater. This issue may be compounded by the slow sinking of North Carolina’s coastal plain since the end of the last ice age about 12,000 years ago.
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Previously reported – August 2019
Climate Change Threatens the World’s Food Supply, United Nations Warns
The world’s land and water resources are being exploited at “unprecedented rates,” a new United Nations report warns, which combined with climate change is putting dire pressure on the ability of humanity to feed itself. The report, prepared by more than 100 experts from 52 countries and released in summary form in Geneva on Thursday, found that the window to address the threat is closing rapidly. A half-billion people already live in places turning into desert, and soil is being lost between 10 and 100 times faster than it is forming, according to the report. Climate change will make those threats even worse, as floods, drought, storms and other types of extreme weather threaten to disrupt, and over time shrink, the global food supply. Already, more than 10 percent of the world’s population remains undernourished, and some authors of the report warned in interviews that food shortages could lead to an increase in cross-border migration.
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Previously reported – September 2019
Oceans are under threat, report warns
Climate change is disrupting seafood harvests, posing risks to important marine ecosystems and threatening the well-being of hundreds of millions of coastal residents, according to a United Nations report released today.

The report, based on more than 7,000 studies, represents the most extensive look so far at the effects of climate change on oceans, ice sheets, mountain snowpack and permafrost. (Read it here.)

Why it matters: The oceans have long served as a buffer against global warming, absorbing carbon dioxide and excess heat. Without those protections, the land would be heating much more rapidly.

New U.N. climate report: Monumental change already here for world’s oceans and frozen regions
Growing coastal flooding is inevitable, and damage to corals and other marine life has already been unleashed. But scientists say the world still has time to avert even more severe consequences.
Climate change is already having staggering effects on oceans and ice-filled regions that encompass 80 percent of the Earth, and future damage from rising seas and melting glaciers is now all but certain, according to a sobering new report from the United Nations. The warming climate is killing coral reefs, supercharging monster storms, and fueling deadly marine heat waves and record losses of sea ice. And Wednesday’s report on the world’s oceans, glaciers, polar regions and ice sheets finds that such effects foreshadow a more catastrophic future as long as greenhouse gas emissions remain unchecked. Given current emissions levels, a number of serious effects are essentially unavoidable, says the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
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Previously reported – December 2019
The biggest climate stories you might have missed — but still have time to read.
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Previously reported – January 202095 Environmental Rules Being Rolled Back Under Trump
President Trump has made eliminating federal regulations a priority. His administration, with help from Republicans in Congress, has often targeted environmental rules it sees as burdensome to the fossil fuel industry and other big businesses. A New York Times analysis, based on research from Harvard Law School, Columbia Law School and other sources, counts more than 90 environmental rules and regulations rolled back under Mr. Trump. Our list represents two types of policy changes: rules that were officially reversed and rollbacks still in progress. The Trump administration has often used a “one-two punch” when rolling back environmental rules, said Caitlin McCoy, a fellow in the Environmental and Energy Law Program at Harvard Law School who tracks regulatory rollbacks. “First a delay rule to buy some time, and then a final substantive rule.” But the process has not always been smooth. In some cases, the administration has failed to provide a strong legal argument in favor of proposed changes and agencies have skipped key steps in the rulemaking process, like notifying the public and asking for comment. In several cases, courts have ordered agencies to enforce their own rules. Several environmental rules — summarized at the bottom of this page — were rolled back and then later reinstated, often following legal challenges. Other regulations remain mired in court. All told, the Trump administration’s environmental rollbacks could significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions and lead to thousands of extra deaths from poor air quality every year, according to a report prepared by New York University Law School’s State Energy and Environmental Impact Center.
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2019 Was the Second-Hottest Year Ever, Closing Out the Warmest Decade
Last year was the second-hottest on record, government researchers confirmed on Wednesday in analyses of temperature data from thousands of observing stations around the world. They said that 2019 was only slightly cooler than 2016 and the end of what was the warmest decade yet. The independent analyses by researchers at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration showed that global average surface temperatures last year were nearly 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than the average from 1951 to 1980. Temperatures in 2019 were only a small fraction of a degree Celsius lower than in 2016, a year when a strong El Niño pumped a lot of heat from the Pacific Ocean into the atmosphere. The results closely match those from a separate analysis released last week by a European climate agency — one based more on computer modeling than on observational data from 2019 — and were yet more evidence of the relentless warming of the planet caused in large part by emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels. The warming trends “are clear and unequivocal,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, which conducted the NASA analysis. “The surface temperature record tells us that the last decade was more than 1 degree Celsius higher than the late 19th century and we know that this has been driven by human activities.” Six of the warmest years on record occurred during the past decade, and the five warmest all occurred in the last five years, the NASA and NOAA research shows.
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Previously reported – January 2020
The EPA just rolled back protections for wetlands.
What does it mean for Cape Fear region?
The Environmental Protection Agency and United States Army just finalized a historic rule that removes federal protections for wetlands. Under the new rule passed last week, wetlands and streams that do not continuously maintain a surface water connection will no longer have federal protections under the Clean Water Act. If implemented, the rule will likely have devastating national impacts on water quality and increase flood-related risks in already vulnerable coastal communities, including the Cape Fear region. The new ruling redefines Waters of the United States (WOTUS) protected from pollution and obstruction in the Clean Water Act. It ignores subsurface flow (i.e. underground water) connecting wetlands and streams that don’t have a direct surface water connection. This means wet, low-lying inland features that currently trigger federal and state review in the development process could soon get filled in with little to no oversight. “We could fully expect to see new development in areas that are very vulnerable to floodwaters,” Keri Allen, coastal advocate at the North Carolina Coastal Federation, said. “Without protections for these wetlands, you’re going to see building there.”

‘No basis in science’
In comments submitted last year, North Carolina’s Attorney General and Director of the Department of Environmental Quality described the rule as having been established “on the basis of arbitrary dividing lines that have no valid basis in science.” An estimated 17% of North Carolina’s total landmass is comprised of wetlands, at 5.7 million acres. Of these wetlands, 95% are located in the coastal plain. Nationwide, more than half of wetlands will no longer be protected under the new ruling. Even wetlands still technically defined as a WOTUS directly adjacent to jurisdictional waters would be impacted by this ruling. Should it be implemented, the ruling would open up development in areas protected for decades, leading to unprecedented stormwater runoff and flooding, which inevitably will bear down on the coast. Thirty-nine days into his presidency, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to initiate repealing the 1972 Clean Water Act. Last year, the new definition opened up to public comment, garnering 620,000 comments on the proposal, according to the EPA. Proponents of the change describe it as removing red tape to give breathing room to property owners who own land containing jurisdictional wetlands or streams. In announcing the finalized rule last week, the EPA characterized the changes as a simplification of the federal review process that will spur economic growth. Scores of environmental advocacy groups, scientific organizations, and state-level government agencies adamantly oppose the rule’s justification. “In the process, the agencies have abandoned their expertise,” the Southern Environmental Law Center wrote in its comments, submitted last year on behalf of 80 organizations, including the Cape Fear River Watch. The change was a top lobbying priority for the National Association of Realtors last year, according to the SELC. While the rule’s economic analysis
admits it would increase downstream flooding damages, put a greater cost burden on storm-restoration agencies, and increase costs for drinking water suppliers, it claims removing federal oversight would save money overall.

Environmental groups argue this methodology is flawed and fails to fully quantify the extent of imminent damage, should the rule go into effect. Soon, the new rule will be published in the Federal Register. After 60 days in the Federal Register, it will become effective — that is, baring delays from legal challenges, which are anticipated. “These revisions don’t just undo what was done under the Obama Administration,” Allen said. “These set us back decades.”

Wetlands
Wetlands are, in essence, sponges. Often described as nature’s kidneys, wetlands provide critical environmental and economic functions. Hydrophytic plants (i.e. plants that grow totally or partially submerged in water, or in waterlogged soil) absorb excess nutrients found in stormwater runoff, helping to protect bodies of water from harmful algal blooms and pollution. They both save and generate public money by reducing the need for investments in storm-control costs and spurring economic growth via tourism and commercial fisheries. One acre of wetlands is capable
of storing 330,000 gallons of water. When removed, these waters flow unimpeded, directly to traditional navigable waters, pushing storage capacity limits in storm events, causing rivers and stream to crest and ponds and lakes to overflow. Ephemeral streams — riverbeds that are alternately dry or filled by stormwater — would also lose federal protection under the new rule. Currently, if developers wish to impact wetlands or stream features, an extensive oversight process is initiated. Filling or dredging wetland features requires a 404 permit, obtained from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and a subsequent state-level version from the Division of Water Resources with a 401 permit. Property owners must prove impacts are “unavoidable” before impacting these resources; if such a determination is granted, the owner must invest in a 2:1 ratio in a public mitigation program that restores wetlands and streams. “Right now we have a pretty thorough process of inter-agency coordination,” Allen said. If the rule is implemented, Allen said the future permitting process is uncertain. “That’s something we don’t know,” she said. “It will definitely be a diminished review process.” The new WOTUS ruling shifts the burden of oversight responsibility to states — an unwelcome task for North Carolina. Both the DEQ and AG’s Office assert the state is too ill-equipped, over-burdened, and underfunded to pick up the jurisdictional review of these wetland and stream features. And according to the SELC, states lack the “political will” and funds to confront powerful polluters. It’s also worth noting that water quality issues are driven by interconnected water systems — networks that do not start or stop at state boundary lines.
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Dirty Water Rule puts the Cape Fear River and NC’s drinking water at risk
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized a rule Jan. 23 that leaves half the nation’s wetlands and thousands of streams, which provide millions of Americans with drinking water, without the federal protection of the Clean Water Act. “North Carolinians care deeply about clean water: for drinking, swimming, fishing and sustaining nature. Yet this Dirty Water Rule will leave the Cape Fear River and other waterways vulnerable to pollution and degradation, and put our drinking water at risk,” said Krista Early, Clean Water Advocate of Environment North Carolina. “Polluted water can make anyone sick, no matter where you live or your politics. This move defies common sense, sound science, and fifty years of bipartisan support for clean water. “The Dirty Water Rule puts the wetlands of North Carolina at risk. As unprotected wetlands become degraded or paved over, they will no longer help filter out pollution. Pollution from unprotected streams and lakes will flow into the rivers like the Haw and Cape Fear. North Carolina waterways like the Cape Fear River are already facing problems from toxic PFAS pollution and degrading our streams and wetlands around it will only make that problem worse. According to U.S. EPA’s own data, intermittent and ephemeral streams help provide drinking water to 117 million Americans. The Dirty Water Rule removes Clean Water Act protections for many of these streams, putting the drinking water of many North Carolinians at risk. Noting the nexus among streams, wetlands, and larger waterways, the Dirty Water Rule was recently rebuked by EPA’s own science advisors. Public support for maintaining Clean Water Act protections is widespread. More than one million Americans, including business owners, local officials, scientists, and hunters and anglers, provided comments to EPA, urging the agency to protect streams and wetlands under the Act. Those speaking up include North Carolina business owners, faith leaders, public health experts, swimmers, and anglers who are raising their “Voices for Clean Water.” Lobbyists for corporate agribusiness, developers, and the oil and gas industry have long demanded that federal protections be removed for streams and wetlands. Pollution from agribusinesses contributes to toxic algal out-breaks, fish kills, dead zones, drinking water contamination, and fecal bacteria that can make swimmers sick. Some developers are eager to build on wetlands and the oil and gas industry has countless pipelines running through them. Some of North Carolina’s Members of Congress are speaking up too. Representative David Price (NC-04) recently co-sponsored a House resolution urging EPA to reverse course on the Dirty Water Rule and several other attacks on clean water. “The Dirty Water Rule is a moment of truth for every single representative in Congress,” said Drew Ball, State Director of Environment North Carolina. “Representative Price is not sitting silently as this administration rips up protections for our rivers, our lakes and our drinking water and no member of Congress should.” “With the Dirty Water Rule, the administration has put the interests of polluters over those of the public and our drinking water,” said Early. “We’ll be calling on Congress and the courts to uphold the Clean Water Act.”
Beacon Article dated February 6

Previously reported –March 2020
More Heat, Floods, Storms ‘Virtually Certain’
North Carolina can expect large changes in climate by the end of the century, much larger than any time in the state’s history, and it’s very likely that temperatures here will increase substantially during all seasons unless the global increase in heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere is stopped. Temperatures warmer than historic norms, disruptive flooding from rising seas, increasingly intense and frequent rainstorms and more and more intense hurricanes are “virtually certain” in the next 80 years. That’s according to an independent, peer-reviewed report released Wednesday by North Carolina State University’s North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies, or NCICS. As a result of hotter temperatures and increased humidity, the state can face public health risks, more frequent and more intense heavy rains from hurricanes and other weather systems, increased flooding in coastal and low-lying areas and severe droughts that are more intense and that will increase the risk of wildfires.
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Previously reported –May 2020
Global warming pushes April temperatures into record territory, as 2020 heads for disquieting milestone
Last month tied for the warmest April on record for the globe, as 2020 hurtles toward the warmest year milestone. New data, released Tuesday from the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, lends further support to the prediction that 2020 will rank among the top two warmest years recorded. In April, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, using its own temperature monitoring data,
reported that there is a 75 percent chance that 2020 will become the planet’s warmest year since instrument records began in 1880, and very likely long before that. Human-caused climate change from increasing amounts of planet-warming greenhouse gases is vaulting temperatures higher, making it easier for a given month or year to set a new warmth milestone. Carbon dioxide is the most important long-lived greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, released by the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil for energy and transportation. Assuming NOAA ranks April as having global average temperatures above the 20th-century average, it would be the 424th straight month to have that distinction. In other words, those who are 35 years old and younger have never experienced a cooler-than-average month on Earth.
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Climate Change Is Making Hurricanes Stronger, Researchers Find
An analysis of satellite imagery from the past four decades suggests that global warming has increased the chances of storms reaching Category 3 or higher.
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The strongest, most dangerous hurricanes are now far more likely because of climate change, study shows
Researchers find, for the first time, a statistically significant global trend, especially in the Atlantic
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Previously reported – July 2020
Rising Seas Threaten an American Institution: The 30-Year Mortgage
Climate change is starting to transform the classic home loan, a fixture of the American experience and financial system that dates back generations.
Up and down the coastline, rising seas and climate change are transforming a fixture of American homeownership that dates back generations: the classic 30-year mortgage. Home buyers are increasingly using mortgages that make it easier for them to stop making their monthly payments and walk away from the loan if the home floods or becomes unsellable or unlivable. More banks are getting buyers in coastal areas to make bigger down payments — often as much as 40 percent of the purchase price, up from the traditional 20 percent — a sign that lenders have awakened to climate dangers and want to put less of their own money at risk. And in one of the clearest signs that banks are worried about global warming, they are increasingly getting these mortgages off their own books by selling them to government-backed buyers like Fannie Mae, where taxpayers would be on the hook financially if any of the loans fail. “Conventional mortgages have survived many financial crises, but they may not survive the climate crisis,” said Jesse Keenan, an associate professor at Tulane University. “This trend also reflects a systematic financial risk for banks and the U.S. taxpayers who ultimately foot the bill.” The trends foreshadow a broader reckoning. The question that matters, according to researchers, isn’t whether the effects of climate change will start to ripple through the housing market. Rather, it’s how fast those effects will occur and what they will look like.
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Previously reported – January 2021
NASA says 2020 tied for the hottest year on record.

In a new study, NASA found that 2020 ranked right alongside 2016 as the warmest year since record-keeping began in 1880. Scientists said rising levels of carbon dioxide and methane, which trap heat in the atmosphere, contributed to the rise. At times last year, parts of the Arctic hit temperatures of 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels dropped 7% in 2020, according to the Global Carbon project, a research consortium, largely because pandemic lockdowns reduced car and air travel. Still, the U.K.’s Met Office, which tracks climate change, has found the level of CO2 in the atmosphere is now higher than at any time in the past 800,000 years.

The Trump Administration Rolled Back More Than 100 Environmental Rules. Here’s the Full List.
Over four years, the Trump administration dismantled major climate policies and rolled back many more rules governing clean air, water, wildlife, and toxic chemicals. In all, a New York Times analysis, based on research from Harvard Law School, Columbia Law School and other sources, counts nearly 100 environmental rules officially reversed, revoked or otherwise rolled back under Mr. Trump. More than a dozen other potential rollbacks remained in progress by the end but were not finalized by the end of the administration’s term.
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Previously reported – May 2021
The Science of Climate Change Explained: Facts, Evidence and Proof
Definitive answers to the big questions.

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U.S. has entered unprecedented climate territory, EPA warns
The Trump administration delayed the report, which cites urban heat waves and permafrost loss as signs of global warming, for three years

For years, President Donald Trump and his deputies played down the impact of greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels and delayed the release of an Environmental Protection Agency report detailing climate-related damage. But on Wednesday, the EPA released a detailed and disturbing account of the startling changes that Earth’s warming had on parts of the United States during Trump’s presidency. The destruction of year-round permafrost in Alaska, loss of winter ice on the Great Lakes and spike in summer heat waves in U.S. cities all signal that climate change is intensifying, the EPA said in its report. The assessment, which languished under the Trump administration for three years, marks the first time the agency has said such changes are being driven at least in part by human-caused global warming. As it launched an updated webpage to inform the public on how climate change is upending communities throughout the country, the Biden administration gave the agency’s imprimatur to a growing body of evidence that climate effects are happening faster and becoming more extreme than when EPA last published its “Climate Indicators” data in 2016.
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Previously reported – August 2021
The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change just released a new report, and the message is clear: Deadly and irreversible effects of climate change are already here. Unlike previous assessments, the report also concludes it is “unequivocal” that humans have caused the climate crisis. It states the world has rapidly warmed 1.1 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial levels and is now careening toward 1.5 degrees — a critical threshold that world leaders have agreed should represent the upper limit of global warming. Scientists say the only way to keep from reaching this point of no return and to prevent even more catastrophic damage is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero.


United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has just proclaimed “a code red for humanity.” The unequivocal consensus of the world’s top climate scientists—unveiled in a landmark report Monday—is that not only are humans responsible for the catastrophes befalling the atmosphere, the oceans, the ice packs and the forests, but that without drastic moves by the planet’s leaders to eliminate greenhouse gas pollution, things are going to get a lot worse, and quite soon. The assessment from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that the crucial warming threshold of 2°C will be “exceeded during the 21st century” makes the Paris climate accord, its warnings and goals seem like sunny optimism by comparison. Other findings? The past decade was most likely hotter than any period in the last 125,000 years (when sea levels were up to 10 meters higher) and combustion and deforestation have raised CO2 in the atmosphere higher than it’s been in two million years. “This report,” Guterres warned the world, “must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels before they destroy our planet.”


  • IPCC report key points
      • Global surface temperature was 1.09C higher in the decade between 2011-2020 than between 1850-1900.
      • The past five years have been the hottest on record since 1850
      • The recent rate of sea level rise has nearly tripled compared with 1901-1971
      • Human influence is “very likely” (90%) the main driver of the global retreat of glaciers since the 1990s and the decrease in Arctic sea-ice
      • It is “virtually certain” that hot extremes including heatwaves have become more frequent and more intense since the 1950s, while cold events have become less frequent and less severe


Humans have pushed the climate into ‘unprecedented’ territory, landmark U.N. report finds
U.N. chief calls findings ‘a code red for humanity’ with worse climate impacts to come unless greenhouse gas pollution falls dramatically
More than three decades ago, a collection of scientists sanctioned by the United Nations first warned that humans were fueling a dangerous greenhouse effect and that if the world didn’t act collectively and deliberately to slow Earth’s warming, there could be “profound consequences” for people and nature alike. The scientists were right. On Monday, that same body — the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — issued its latest and most dire assessment about the state of the planet, detailing how humans have altered the environment at an “unprecedented” pace and cautioning that the world risks increasingly catastrophic impacts in the absence of rapid greenhouse gas reductions. U.N. Secretary General António Guterres called the findings “a code red for humanity” and said societies must find ways to embrace the transformational changes necessary to limit warming as much as possible. “We owe this to the entire human family,” he said in a statement. “There is no time for delay and no room for excuses.” But so far, the collective effort to slow climate change has proved gravely insufficient. Instead of the sort of emission cuts that scientists say must happen, global greenhouse gas pollution is still growing. Countries have failed to meet the targets they set under the 2015 Paris climate accord, and even the bolder pledges
some nations recently have embraced still leave the world on a perilous path. “What the world requires now is real action,” John F. Kerry, the Biden administration’s special envoy for climate, said in a statement about Monday’s findings. “We can get to the low carbon economy we urgently need, but time is not on our side.” It certainly is not, according to Monday’s report.
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Climate outlook grim but NC is inching toward resilience
The news on the climate front keeps getting worse. Regarding the report released Monday by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, the headlines paint a dire picture: “Code Red for humanity,” was CNN’s banner for its coverage, quoting UN Secretary-General António Guterres; “Humans have pushed the climate into ‘unprecedented’ territory,” was how The Washington Post topped its story; “A Hotter Future Is Certain, Climate Panel Warns. But How Hot Is Up to Us,” warned The New York Times’ analysis. All noted that even if nations of the world acted immediately to curb greenhouse gas emissions, enough damage is already done to guarantee a 1.5-degree Celsius rise in average global temperatures, or about 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit hotter. The consequences of not rapidly and permanently cutting emissions, as The Post reported, are “increasingly catastrophic impacts.” As we reported last year, North Carolina’s Climate Science Advisory Council’s 2020 assessment predicted warmer and wetter conditions with more flooding statewide and with coastal areas as risk from rising seas and increasingly frequent heavy downpours. At the time, our Kirk Ross interviewed State Climatologist Katie Dello about the report. She made it clear then that change was already happening. “We’re feeling climate change now, so we don’t get to the luxury of talking about this as a future problem anymore,” she said. “It’s here in North Carolina. It’s here in our backyard and we’re seeing it through the sea level rise and extreme downpours.” The IPCC’s summary of its findings for policymakers bears that out: “Human influence has warmed the climate at a rate that is unprecedented in at least the last 2000 years.” Some of the changes already happening, including sea level rise, are irreversible. In 2019, atmospheric CO2 concentrations were higher than at any time in at least 2 million years, according to the summary, and concentrations of other greenhouse gases were higher than at any time in at least 800,000 years. Global mean sea level has risen faster since 1900 than during any century in at least the last 3,000 years. Each of the last four decades has been successively warmer than any decade that preceded it since 1850. It is likely that human behavior contributed to changing rainfall patterns since the mid-20th century, and mid-latitude storm tracks have shifted toward the poles in both hemispheres since the 1980s. The scientists say it is virtually certain that oceans have warmed just since the 1970s and it is extremely likely that human influence is the main driver. It is also virtually certain that human-caused CO2 emissions are the main driver of ocean acidification. Coastal cities, towns, and villages “are particularly affected” by climatic factors that have already changed and will continue to change, whatever happens with regard to emissions. That means increases in extreme heat, flooding rainstorms, coastal erosion, and coastal flooding. Increasing relative sea levels are compounding the flood problems associated with storm surge and intense rainfall. There’s still much we can do to limit the damage. As the Times phrased it, “humanity can still prevent the planet from getting even hotter.” Doing so will require what the IPCC report describes as “strong and sustained reductions” in emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. And even then, it could take two to three decades before global temperatures stabilize. But we will have at least taken steps to lessen the damage that would otherwise only be worse for our children and grandchildren. And while there’s no silver lining, North Carolina, which still has a reputation for climate change denialism, has begun slowly moving in the right direction. As Coastal Review has reported in detail, debate here has shifted over the past decade from whether to do something to what should be done. Officials released in 2020 the North Carolina Climate Risk Assessment and Resilience Plan as a comprehensive guide for addressing the risks of climate change to the state’s infrastructure and economy. The plan was hailed for addressing both the causes and effects and providing planning tools for local governments. Also, the legislature has in recent sessions advanced bills that reflect a more comprehensive approach to flooding and stormwater management. The House’s proposed budget for the next two years would boost funding for the state’s Land and Water Fund and other conservation programs with nearly $2 billion for flood prevention, resiliency and stormwater and wastewater infrastructure. Meanwhile, new federal infrastructure and climate initiatives promise an even larger flow of funds if the state has programs in place to take advantage of it. While these efforts offer numerous reasons for optimism, as the IPCC report states, the time to act on resiliency and the kind of carbon reductions that will truly make an impact for the next generation is now. As we look ahead to the prospects outlined in the report and the state’s risk assessment, we know that what we do in the immediate future will have an impact on what the next generations face. At Coastal Review, our role is not just to report on the impacts of the climate crisis, but to critically examine the plans, the science, and proposed solutions in detail and to take a clear-eyed approach to the decisions at the state, federal and local levels that will affect our region and, ultimately, our planet.
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Previously reported – August 2021
Climate outlook grim but NC is inching toward resilience
The news on the climate front keeps getting worse. Regarding the report released Monday by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, the headlines paint a dire picture: “Code Red for humanity,” was CNN’s banner for its coverage, quoting UN Secretary-General António Guterres; “Humans have pushed the climate into ‘unprecedented’ territory,” was how The Washington Post topped its story; “A Hotter Future Is Certain, Climate Panel Warns. But How Hot Is Up to Us,” warned The New York Times’ analysis. All noted that even if nations of the world acted immediately to curb greenhouse gas emissions, enough damage is already done to guarantee a 1.5-degree Celsius rise in average global temperatures, or about 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit hotter. The consequences of not rapidly and permanently cutting emissions, as The Post reported, are “increasingly catastrophic impacts.” As we reported last year, North Carolina’s Climate Science Advisory Council’s 2020 assessment predicted warmer and wetter conditions with more flooding statewide and with coastal areas as risk from rising seas and increasingly frequent heavy downpours. At the time, our Kirk Ross interviewed State Climatologist Katie Dello about the report. She made it clear then that change was already happening. “We’re feeling climate change now, so we don’t get to the luxury of talking about this as a future problem anymore,” she said. “It’s here in North Carolina. It’s here in our backyard and we’re seeing it through the sea level rise and extreme downpours.” The IPCC’s summary of its findings for policymakers bears that out: “Human influence has warmed the climate at a rate that is unprecedented in at least the last 2000 years.” Some of the changes already happening, including sea level rise, are irreversible. In 2019, atmospheric CO2 concentrations were higher than at any time in at least 2 million years, according to the summary, and concentrations of other greenhouse gases were higher than at any time in at least 800,000 years. Global mean sea level has risen faster since 1900 than during any century in at least the last 3,000 years. Each of the last four decades has been successively warmer than any decade that preceded it since 1850. It is likely that human behavior contributed to changing rainfall patterns since the mid-20th century, and mid-latitude storm tracks have shifted toward the poles in both hemispheres since the 1980s. The scientists say it is virtually certain that oceans have warmed just since the 1970s and it is extremely likely that human influence is the main driver. It is also virtually certain that human-caused CO2 emissions are the main driver of ocean acidification. Coastal cities, towns, and villages “are particularly affected” by climatic factors that have already changed and will continue to change, whatever happens with regard to emissions. That means increases in extreme heat, flooding rainstorms, coastal erosion, and coastal flooding. Increasing relative sea levels are compounding the flood problems associated with storm surge and intense rainfall. There’s still much we can do to limit the damage. As the Times phrased it, “humanity can still prevent the planet from getting even hotter.” Doing so will require what the IPCC report describes as “strong and sustained reductions” in emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. And even then, it could take two to three decades before global temperatures stabilize. But we will have at least taken steps to lessen the damage that would otherwise only be worse for our children and grandchildren. And while there’s no silver lining, North Carolina, which still has a reputation for climate change denialism, has begun slowly moving in the right direction. As Coastal Review has reported in detail, debate here has shifted over the past decade from whether to do something to what should be done. Officials released in 2020 the North Carolina Climate Risk Assessment and Resilience Plan as a comprehensive guide for addressing the risks of climate change to the state’s infrastructure and economy. The plan was hailed for addressing both the causes and effects and providing planning tools for local governments. Also, the legislature has in recent sessions advanced bills that reflect a more comprehensive approach to flooding and stormwater management. The House’s proposed budget for the next two years would boost funding for the state’s Land and Water Fund and other conservation programs with nearly $2 billion for flood prevention, resiliency and stormwater and wastewater infrastructure. Meanwhile, new federal infrastructure and climate initiatives promise an even larger flow of funds if the state has programs in place to take advantage of it. While these efforts offer numerous reasons for optimism, as the IPCC report states, the time to act on resiliency and the kind of carbon reductions that will truly make an impact for the next generation is now. As we look ahead to the prospects outlined in the report and the state’s risk assessment, we know that what we do in the immediate future will have an impact on what the next generations face. At Coastal Review, our role is not just to report on the impacts of the climate crisis, but to critically examine the plans, the science, and proposed solutions in detail and to take a clear-eyed approach to the decisions at the state, federal and local levels that will affect our region and, ultimately, our planet.
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Previously reported – January 2022
2021 Was Earth’s Fifth-Hottest Year, Scientists Say

The finding, by European researchers, fits a clear warming trend: The seven hottest years on record have been the past seven.
Last year was Earth’s fifth hottest on record, European scientists announced on Monday. But the fact that the worldwide average temperature didn’t beat the record is hardly reason to stop worrying about global warming’s grip on the planet, they said. Not when both the United States and Europe had their warmest summers on the books. Not when higher temperatures around the Arctic caused it to rain for the first time at the Greenland ice sheet’s normally frigid summit. And certainly not when the seven hottest years ever recorded were, by a clear margin, the past seven. The events of 2021 “are a stark reminder of the need to change our ways, take decisive and effective steps toward a sustainable society and work toward reducing net carbon emissions,” said Carlo Buontempo, director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service, the European Union program that conducted the analysis made public on Monday. The mean temperature globally last year was 1.1 to 1.2 degrees Celsius (2 to 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than it was before industrialization led humans to begin pumping large quantities of carbon dioxide into the air. The year was fifth warmest by a slight margin over 2015 and 2018, by Copernicus’s ranking. The hottest years on record are 2016 and 2020, in a virtual tie. “If you look at all the last seven years, they’re not super close, but they’re quite close together,” said Freja Vamborg, a senior climate scientist at Copernicus. “And they stand well off from the ones that came before that.” Copernicus’s temperature records start in 1950, but in its analyses, the group combines these with other records that go back about another century. The steady warming corresponds with the scientific consensus that increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are causing long-lasting changes in the global climate. Copernicus said its preliminary analysis of satellite measurements had found that concentrations of heat-trapping gases continued to rise last year, helped by 1,850 megatons of carbon emissions from wildfires worldwide. The rate of increase in carbon dioxide levels appears to have been down somewhat from a few years earlier, the Copernicus analysis found. However, concentrations of methane, the second-most prevalent greenhouse gas, grew at their fastest pace in two decades, and Copernicus scientists said they were still trying to understand why. One big reason for 2021’s lower mean temperature was the presence during the early part of the year of La Niña conditions, a recurring climate pattern characterized by lower surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean. (La Niña has returned in recent months, which could presage a drier winter in the Southern United States but wetter conditions in the Pacific Northwest.) Those effects were offset in the 2021 average, however, by higher temperatures in many parts of the world between June and October, Copernicus said. “When we think about climate change, it’s not just a single progression, year after year after year being the warmest,” said Robert Rohde, the lead scientist at Berkeley Earth, an independent environmental research group. “The preponderance of evidence — which comes from looking at ocean temperatures, land temperatures, upper atmospheric temperatures, glaciers melting, sea ice changes — are telling us a coherent story about changes in the earth system which points to warming overall,” Dr. Rohde said. “Slight variations up or down, a year or two at a time, don’t change that picture.” Berkeley Earth is expected to issue its own analysis of 2021 temperatures this month, as are two U.S. government agencies: NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Unlike those groups, Copernicus uses a method called re-analysis, which produces a portrait of global weather conditions using a computer model that fills in the gaps between temperature measurements. Even so, the different groups’ conclusions usually line up quite closely. As ever, higher average temperatures were not observed uniformly across the planet last year. Most of Australia and parts of Antarctica experienced below-normal temperatures in 2021, as did areas in western Siberia. Europe’s summer last year was the warmest on record, though 2010 and 2018 were not far behind, according to Copernicus. Severe rainfall and flooding caused destruction and death in Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. Heat and dryness set the stage for wildfires that ravaged Greece and other places around the Mediterranean. The western side of North America experienced off-the-charts heat, drought, and wildfires last summer. Canada’s maximum temperature record was broken in June when the mercury in a small town in British Columbia hit 121.3 degrees Fahrenheit, or 49.6 Celsius. Scientists have concluded that the Pacific Coast heat wave would have been practically impossible in a world without human-induced warming. The question is whether the event fits into the present meteorological understanding, even if it is without precedent, or is a sign that the climate is changing in ways that scientists do not fully grasp. “From where I sit right now, I would tend to think that this was probably still a very rare event, even in the modern climate,” Dr. Rohde said. “But there’s a degree of ‘wait and see’ involved.” If the planet does not experience heat events of similar intensity in the coming decades, scientists are likely to look back and regard 2021 as an extreme fluke, he said. “If we do, it’s telling us that something is changed in a more fundamental way.”
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Previously reported – February 2022
UN climate report urges world to adapt now, or suffer later

Summary

    • U.C. climate report says drastic action needed
    • ‘Delay means death’ says U.N. secretary general Guterres
    • Change impacting world faster than anticipated – report
    • Breaching 1.5C threshold will cause irreparable damage
    • ‘Brief and rapidly closing window’ for action

Climate change is upon us, and humanity is far from ready, the United Nations climate panel warned in a major report on Monday. Noting that nearly half the world’s population was already vulnerable to increasingly dangerous climate impacts, the report calls for drastic action on a huge scale: A third to a half of the planet needs to be conserved and protected to ensure future food and freshwater supplies. Coastal cities need plans to keep people safe from storms and rising seas. And more. read more

“Adaptation saves lives,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said with the report’s release. “As climate impacts worsen – and they will – scaling up investments will be essential for survival… Delay means death.”

The report is the latest in a series by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) detailing the latest global consensus on climate science. This report, however, focuses on how nature and societies are being affected and what they can do to adapt. read more

On nearly all counts, the report makes clear that climate change is impacting the world far faster than scientists had anticipated. Meanwhile, countries have failed to rein in planet-warming carbon emissions, which continue to rise. “Unchecked carbon pollution is forcing the world’s most vulnerable on a frog march to destruction,” Guterres said in a video address Monday. “The facts are undeniable. This abdication of leadership is criminal.”

MITIGATION
While governments need to drastically curb their emissions to prevent runaway global warming, they can also work to limit suffering by adapting to the conditions of a warmer world, the report says. That will take a lot of money – to finance new technologies and institutional support. Cities can invest in cooling areas to help people through heatwaves. Coastal communities may need new infrastructure or to relocate altogether. “In terms of transformational adaptation, we can plan it and implement it now, or it’ll be thrust upon us by climate change,” said Kristina Dahl, a climate expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists, who was not involved in writing the report. But in some cases, the report acknowledges, the costs of adapting will be too high. The report’s release three months after global leaders met at a climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, highlighted the urgency of efforts to contain global warming to within 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) of pre-industrial temperatures. Breaching that threshold will deliver irreversible damage to the planet, it says. And every increment of warming will cause more pain. read more

“Adaptation is not a get-out-of-jail-free card. There are limits to adaptation,” said Maarten van Aalst, director of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre and a report co-author. “We should reduce greenhouse gas emissions because if we don’t, it’s going to get really bad.” Limiting global warming to close to 1.5C may not prevent losses to nature, societies, or economies, but will substantially reduce them, the report says. Having already warmed 1.1C, the planet is expected to hit the 1.5C threshold within two decades.

SOCIAL JUSTICE
Societies will fail to adjust well to a warming world if they aren’t socially inclusive in tackling the task, the report warns. Solutions need to consider social justice and include Indigenous populations, minorities, and the poor, it says. “It’s the poor and most marginalized who are most vulnerable,” said Timon McPhearson, an urban ecologist at The New School in New York and one of the report’s 270 authors. That includes people living in developing countries in Africa, South Asia, and small island nations, as well as marginalized communities in wealthy nations such as the United States. Without inclusive economic development in Africa, for example, climate change is expected to push 40 million more people into extreme poverty by 2030. Providing social welfare or jobs that also protect the environment – for example uprooting invasive trees that deplete water supplies – can go a long way towards helping vulnerable populations, said report co-author Christopher Trisos, a climate risk researcher at the University of Cape Town. read more

But time is running out to make the society-wide transformations needed, the authors warn. The decisions society makes in the next decade will set the climate path to come. “There is a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a livable future on the planet,” said Hans-Otto Portner, co-chair of the IPCC working group that generated the report. “We need to live up to this challenge.”
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Previously reported – February 2022
5 takeaways from the latest United Nations climate change report
Monday’s IPCC report is a warning letter to the world. Here’s what you need to know from the more than 3,500-page document.
The latest report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a warning letter to a world on the brink. A sweeping survey of the most advanced climate science on the planet, it recounts the effects rising temperatures are already having and projects the catastrophes that loom if humans fail to make swift and significant cuts to greenhouse gas emissions.

The more than 3,500-page document is rife with devastating details about the toll of rising sea levels, scorching heat and escalating natural disasters. Here are five key points from the report about what the world stands to lose and all that can still be salvaged.

1) A certain amount of suffering is inevitable, though adaptation can help

2) Every incremental increase in temperature will lead to dramatically more disease, death, and frequent, costly disasters

3) Climate change is battering the places and populations least able to adapt, and that is all but certain to continue

4) Global warming is wreaking havoc on plants and wildlife

5) For many locations on Earth, the capacity for adaptation is already significantly limited, even as it becomes more critical

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World must act now to slow global warming: report
Global temperatures will continue to rise unless the world takes action, stresses a new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC. Released Monday, “Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability” is the contribution of Working Group II to the Sixth Assessment Report of the IPCC. IPCC is the United Nations body that looks at climate change science. IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee said in a statement that the report recognizes the interdependence of climate, biodiversity and people and integrates natural, social, and economic sciences more strongly than earlier IPCC assessments. The report emphasizes the urgency of immediate and more ambitious action to address climate risks. “Half measures are no longer an option.” Hoesung Lee explained during a press conference Monday that Working Group I’s report released last August shows that human activities have warmed the climate at a rate not seen in at least the past 2,000 years. “We are on course to reaching global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius within the next two decades. And temperature will continue to increase unless the world takes much bolder action,” Hoesung Lee said. “The report is a dire warning about the consequences of inaction. It shows that climate change is a grave and mounting threat to our well-being and a healthy planet. It also shows that our actions today will shape how people adapt to climate change and how nature responds to increasing climate risks.” Human-induced climate change impacts noted throughout the report include increases in temperature, rainfall, and extreme weather, lengthening wildfire season, severe water shortages due to climate change and extreme events such as flooding and droughts, altered food webs and interruption of the supply chain. The report analyzes the effects of climate change by looking at ecosystems, biodiversity, and human communities at global and regional levels. “It also reviews vulnerabilities and the capacities and limits of the natural world and human societies to adapt to climate change,” according to IPCC. “The focus of our new report is on solutions. It highlights the importance of fundamental changes in society at the same time as conserving, restoring and safeguarding nature in order to meet the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals,” IPCC states. “Successful adaptation requires urgent, more ambitious and accelerated action and, at the same time, rapid and deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. The quicker and further emissions fall, the more scope there is for people and nature to adapt.” A section in the report details risks and options for action for cities and settlements. An atlas to present data and findings on observed and projected climate change impacts and risks is also new in this report. IPCC notes in the report that climate change interacts with global trends such as unsustainable use of natural resources, growing urbanization, social inequalities, losses and damages from extreme events and a pandemic, jeopardizing future development. “Our assessment clearly shows that tackling all these different challenges involves everyone – governments, the private sector, civil society – working together to prioritize risk reduction, as well as equity and justice, in decision-making and investment,” said IPCC Working Group II Co-Chair Debra Roberts. This report also reviews regional information to help areas with Climate Resilient Development, a solutions framework that combines strategies to adapt to climate change with actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to support sustainable development, according to IPCC. A fact sheet on North America states that “Even if global warming is limited to 1.5°C, human life, safety, and livelihoods across North America, especially in coastal areas will be placed at risk from sea level rise (SLR), severe storms, and hurricanes (very high confidence).” Daniel Bresette, executive director of the Environmental and Energy Study Institute said in a statement that the report released Monday is clear in its findings. “Climate change presents a grave threat to the health and wellbeing of everything on this planet and will require accelerated action to avoid the loss of life, biodiversity, and infrastructure.” EarthDay.org President Kathleen Rogers said in a statement that the latest IPCC report comes as no surprise. “While the fossil fuel economy and technologies of centuries past have created in many cases irreversible damage, new innovations, heightened regulations, and increased civic actions can bring about a sustainable future,” Rogers said. “Solving the climate crisis requires individuals, businesses, and governments to act boldly, innovate broadly, and implement equitably.”
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5 Takeaways From the U.N. Report on Limiting Global Warming
Current pledges to cut emissions, even if nations follow through on them, won’t stop temperatures from rising to risky new levels.
Nations are not doing nearly enough to prevent global warming from increasing to dangerous levels within the lifetimes of most people on Earth today, according to a new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of researchers convened by the United Nations. Limiting the devastation won’t be easy, but it also isn’t impossible if countries act now, the report says. The panel produces a comprehensive overview of climate science once every six to eight years. It splits its findings into three reports. The first, on what’s driving global warming, came out last August. The second, on climate change’s effects on our world and our ability to adapt to them, was released in February. This is No. 3, on how we can cut emissions and limit further warming.

Without swift action, we’re headed for trouble.
The report makes it clear: Nations’ current pledges to curb greenhouse-gas emissions most likely will not stop global warming from exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, within the next few decades. And that’s assuming countries follow through. If they don’t, even more warming is in store. That target — to prevent the average global temperature from increasing by 1.5 degrees Celsius over preindustrial levels — is one many world governments have agreed to pursue. It sounds modest. But that number represents a host of sweeping changes that occur as greenhouse gases trap more heat on the planet’s surface, including deadlier storms, more intense heat waves, rising seas and extra strain on crops. Earth has already warmed about 1.1 degrees Celsius on average since the 19th century.

Emissions are tied to economic growth and income.
So far, the world isn’t becoming more energy-efficient quickly enough to balance out continued growth in global economic activity, the report says. Carbon dioxide emissions from factories, cities, buildings, farms and vehicles increased in the 2010s, outweighing the benefits from power plants’ switching to natural gas from coal and using more renewable sources such as wind and solar. On the whole, it is the richest people and wealthiest nations that are heating up the planet. Worldwide, the richest 10 percent of households are responsible for between a third to nearly half of all greenhouse gas emissions, according to the report. The poorest 50 percent of households contribute around 15 percent of emissions.

Clean energy has become more affordable.
The prices of solar and wind energy, and electric vehicle batteries, have dropped significantly since 2010, the report finds. The result is that it may now be “more expensive” in some cases to maintain highly polluting energy systems than to switch to clean sources, the report says. In 2020, solar and wind provided close to 10 percent of the world’s electricity. Average worldwide emissions grew much more slowly in the 2010s than they did in the 2000s, partly because of greater use of green energy. It wasn’t obvious to scientists that this would happen so swiftly. In a 2011 report on renewables, the same panel noted that technological advances would probably make green energy cheaper, though it said it was hard to predict how much.

Still, altering the climate path won’t be easy or cheap.
The world needs to invest three to six times what it’s currently spending on mitigating climate change if it wants to limit global warming to 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius, the report says. Money is particularly short in poorer countries, which need trillions of dollars of investment each year this decade. As nations drop fossil fuels, some economic disruption is inevitable, the report notes. Resources will be left in the ground unburned; mines and power plants will become financially unviable. The economic impact could be in the trillions of dollars, the report says. Even so, simply keeping planned and existing fossil-fuel infrastructure up and running will pump enough carbon dioxide into the atmosphere to make it impossible to keep warming below 1.5 degrees, the report says.

There are other steps that could help and wouldn’t break the bank.
The report looks at a host of other changes to societies that could reduce emissions, including more energy-efficient buildings, more recycling and more white-collar work going remote and virtual. These changes do not have to be economy-dampening chores, the report emphasizes. Some, like better public transit and more walkable urban areas, have benefits for air pollution and overall well-being, said Joyashree Roy, an economist at the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok who contributed to the report. “People are demanding more healthy cities and greener cities,” she said. In all, steps that would cost less than $100 per ton of carbon dioxide saved could lower global emissions to about half the 2019 level by 2030, the report says. Other steps remain pricier, such as capturing more of the carbon dioxide from the gases that pour from smokestacks at power plants, the report says. The world also needs to remove carbon dioxide that is already in the atmosphere. Planting more trees is pretty much the only way this is being done at large scale right now, the report says. Other methods, like using chemicals to extract atmospheric carbon or adding nutrients to the oceans to stimulate photosynthesis in tiny marine plants, are still in early development. “We cannot ignore how much technology can help,” said Joni Jupesta, an author of the report with the Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth in Kyoto, Japan. “Not every country has a lot of natural resources.”
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  • There’s something happening here

    What it is ain’t exactly clear