Category Archives: Hagen

Here’s what Trump learned after Prince Charles dropped climate science on him


Here’s what Trump learned after Prince Charles dropped climate science on him

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It looks like Banksy just created an Extinction Rebellion mural

Banksy, the famously anonymous street artist, appears to have lent his (or maybe her) talents to sounding the alarm about the climate crisis.

A new mural showed up in central London near Hyde Park on Thursday night, and a Banksy collector thinks it’s legit. The mural depicts a young girl with a just-planted seedling who’s holding a tiny sign bearing the symbol of Extinction Rebellion, a new group using civil disobedience to draw attention to government inaction on climate change. The words alongside it say “From this moment despair ends and tactics begin.”

The child is stenciled on a concrete block at the Marble Arch landmark, where Extinction Rebellion protestors had recently set up camp. Over the past week and a half, activists have barricaded roads and bridges across London, demanding that the British government set a target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. More than a thousand of them have been arrested in the nonviolent protests.

Banksy has not yet confirmed that the mural is authentic, but the artist has created artwork about similar themes, like rising seas and sooty air, before.

Back in 2009, for instance, Banksy depicted a classic climate denial statement — “I don’t believe in global warming” — sinking into the water of a canal in north London.

Zak Hussein / PA Images via Getty Images

Another Banksy artwork last December took on air pollution. Painted on the corner of a garage in Port Talbot, one of the most polluted towns in the U.K., it looked like a kid enjoying the snow. Until you see around the corner, when it becomes clear that the “snow” is actually debris from a flaming dumpster.

Matt Cardy / Getty Images

So if Banksy is an activist trying to raise awareness about our present peril, well, unlike his or her identity, that’s not a well-kept secret.

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It looks like Banksy just created an Extinction Rebellion mural

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The Green New Deal is an opportunity for America to get right with the world

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There’s an inescapable truth when it comes to climate change: Through its historical emissions and political role throughout history, the United States is responsible for this problem more than any other country on Earth.

The unveiling of a sweeping Green New Deal resolution by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey, along with several leading presidential candidates and dozens of other co-sponsors, is a legitimate effort to right those wrongs and repair our standing in the world on the biggest problem in human history.

The historical context for this moment should not be forgotten: After World War II, the U.S. normalized fossil fuel use on a massive scale, launching an explosive rise in carbon emissions that has continued largely unabated even after climate change was identified as a potentially existential problem decades ago. With 4 percent of the world’s population, the United States has produced 25 percent of all human-related greenhouse gases since the Industrial Revolution, twice that of China.

Beyond our direct emissions, U.S. politicians have a history of sabotaging global efforts to fight climate change, most notably American reluctance to keep its commitments to the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Accord. Even American climate champions have fallen short: Obama presided over the failure of cap-and-trade legislation, the botched global deal in Copenhagen, and the rise of the natural gas industry. And all along, American fossil fuel companies have funded a campaign of disinformation designed to promote the status quo — regardless of who held the presidency. Current U.S. policy is “critically insufficient” to address climate change.

In 2019, after decades of delay, the world finds itself at the brink of locking in irreversible changes to the biosphere, oceans, land, ice, and atmosphere of the planet. There is no more time left to wait.

“Even the solutions that we have considered big and bold are nowhere near the scale of the actual problem that climate change presents to us, to our country, and to the world,” Ocasio-Cortez said in an interview with NPR this morning. “If we want the United States to continue to be a global leader, then that means we need to lead on the solution of this issue.”

Today’s Green New Deal resolution acknowledges America’s unique climate legacy and its outsized responsibility in its second paragraph, concluding “the United States must take a leading role in reducing emissions through economic transformation.”

That call for historic, transformative change — at an emergency pace — could see the U.S. kickstart a new era of responsible climate policy, “a new national, social, industrial, and economic mobilization on a scale not seen since World War II,” according to the resolution.

Simply put, the Green New Deal is a chance for the U.S. to make amends.

The resolution, which is non-binding, is designed to be a talking point in the upcoming presidential campaign and as a means gather support for a broad legislative push in the near term. Its 10-year plan would provide “100 percent of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources” and a “just transition for all communities and workers.” This is likely at the limits of technical feasibility, even with the hedge of “net-zero” emissions, which would allow for a slower complete phase-out of fossil fuels.

Most of the resolution isn’t so much a concrete plan to cut emissions so much as a manifesto for a restructuring of American society to thrive in the climate change era — and to serve as a model to the rest of the world. The Green New Deal would address “systemic injustices” head-on in “frontline and vulnerable communities” through a living wage job guarantee, public education, universal health care, universal housing, and “repairing historic oppression,” all the while promoting a resurgence in community-led democratic principles.

Paying for it, judging from separate statements by its supporters, would likely require massive tax hikes on the wealthiest Americans and trillions of dollars of deficit spending. Polling for earlier versions of the plan showed overwhelming support from the public, even among Republicans.

In the context of our ongoing planetary emergency and America’s long struggle to productively confront climate change, it’s impossible not to see this as an investment in the future of our country, an investment in the stability of the planet and the survival of human civilization.

“I think that this is a very special moment,” Ocasio-Cortez told NPR. “We have a responsibility to show what another America looks like.”


The Green New Deal is an opportunity for America to get right with the world

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Shipping giants look lustily at the warming Arctic

When a blue-hulled cargo ship named Venta Maersk became the first container vessel to navigate a major Arctic sea route this month, it offered a glimpse of what the warming region might become: a maritime highway, with vessels lumbering between Asia and Europe through once-frozen seas.

Years of melting ice have made it easier for ships to ply these frigid waters. That’s a boon for the shipping industry but a threat to the fragile Arctic ecosystem. Nearly all ships run on fossil fuels, and many use heavy fuel oil, which spews black soot when burned and turns seas into a toxic goopy mess when spilled. Few international rules are in place to protect the Arctic’s environment from these ships, though a proposal to ban heavy fuel oil from the region is gaining support.

“For a long time, we weren’t looking at the Arctic as a viable option for a shortcut for Asia-to-Europe, or Asia-to-North America traffic, but that’s really changed, even over the last couple of years,” says Bryan Comer, a senior researcher with the International Council on Clean Transportation’s marine program. “It’s just increasingly concerning.”

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Venta Maersk departed from South Korea in late August packed with frozen fish, chilled produce, and electronics. Days later, it sailed through the Bering Strait between Alaska and Russia, before cruising along Russia’s north coast. At one point, a nuclear icebreaker escorted Venta Maersk through a frozen Russian strait, then the container vessel continued to the Norwegian Sea. It’s expected to arrive in Germany and St. Petersburg later this month.

The trial voyage wouldn’t have been possible until recently. The Arctic region is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, with sea ice, snow cover, glaciers, and permafrost all diminishing dramatically over recent decades. In the past, only powerful nuclear-powered icebreakers could forge through Arctic seas; these days, even commercial ships can navigate the region from roughly July to October—albeit sometimes with the help of skilled pilots and icebreaker escorts.

Russian tankers already carry liquefied natural gas to Western Europe and Asia. General cargo vessels move Chinese wind turbine parts and Canadian coal. Cruise liners take tourists to see surreal ice formations and polar bears in the Arctic summer. Around 2,100 cargo ships operated in Arctic waters in 2015, according to Comer’s group.

“Because of climate change, because of the melting of sea ice, these ships can operate for longer periods of time in the Arctic,” says Scott Stephenson, an assistant geography professor at the University of Connecticut, “and the shipping season is already longer than it used to be.” A study he co-authored found that, by 2060, ships with reinforced hulls could operate in the Arctic for nine months in the year.

Stephenson says that the Venta Maersk’s voyage doesn’t mean that an onrush of container ships will soon be clogging the Arctic seas, given the remaining risks and costs needed to operate in the region. “It’s a new, proof-of-concept test case,” he says.

Maersk, based in Copenhagen, says the goal is to collect data and “gain operational experience in a new area and to test vessel systems,” representatives from the company wrote in an email. The ship didn’t burn standard heavy fuel oil, but a type of high-grade, ultra-low-sulfur fuel. “We are taking all measures to ensure that this trial is done with the highest considerations for the sensitive environment in the region.”

Sian Prior, lead advisor to the HFO-Free Arctic Campaign, says that the best way to avoid fouling the Arctic is to ditch fossil fuels entirely and install electric systems with, say, battery storage or hydrogen fuel cells. Since those technologies aren’t yet commercially viable for ocean-going ships, the next option is to run ships on liquefied natural gas. The easiest alternative, however, is to switch to a lighter “marine distillate oil,” which Maersk says is “on par with” the fuel it’s using.

But many ships still run on cheaper heavy fuel oil, made from the residues of petroleum refining. In 2015, the sludgy fuel accounted for 57 percent of total fuel consumption in the Arctic, and was responsible for 68 percent of ships’ black carbon emissions, according to the International Council on Clean Transportation.

Black carbon wreaks havoc on the climate, even though it usually makes up a small share of total emissions. The small dark particles absorb the sun’s heat and directly warm the atmosphere. Within a few days, the particles fall back down to earth, darkening the snow and hindering the snow’s ability to reflect the sun’s radiation—resulting in more warming.

When spilled, heavy fuel oil emulsifies on the water’s surface or sinks to the seafloor, unlike lighter fuels which disperse and evaporate. Clean-up can take decades in remote waters, as was the case when the Exxon Valdez crude oil tanker slammed into an Alaskan reef in 1989.

“It’s dirtier when you burn it, the options to clean it up are limited, and the length it’s likely to persist in the environment is longer,” Prior says.

In April, the International Maritime Organization, the U.N. body that regulates the shipping industry, began laying the groundwork to ban ships from using or carrying heavy fuel oil in the Arctic. Given the lengthy rulemaking process, any policy won’t likely take effect before 2021, Prior says.

One of the biggest hurdles will be securing Russia’s approval. Most ships operating in the Arctic fly Russian flags, and the country’s leaders plan to invest tens of billions of dollars in coming years to beef up polar shipping activity along the Northern Sea Route. China also wants to build a “Polar Silk Road” and redirect its cargo ships along the Russian route.

Such ambitions hinge on a melting Arctic and rising global temperatures. If the warming Arctic eventually does offer a cheaper highway for moving goods around the world, Comer says, “then we need to start making sure that policies are in place.”

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Shipping giants look lustily at the warming Arctic

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Through Two Doors at Once – Anil Ananthaswamy


Through Two Doors at Once

The Elegant Experiment That Captures the Enigma of Our Quantum Reality

Anil Ananthaswamy

Genre: Physics

Price: $13.99

Expected Publish Date: August 7, 2018

Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group


The intellectual adventure story of the "double-slit" experiment, showing how a sunbeam split into two paths first challenged our understanding of light and then the nature of reality itself–and continues to almost 200 years later. Many of the greatest scientific minds have grappled with this experiment. Thomas Young devised it in the early 1800s to show that light behaves like a wave, and in doing so opposed Isaac Newton's view that light is made of particles. But then Albert Einstein showed that light comes in quanta, or particles. Quantum mechanics was born. This led to a fierce debate between Einstein and Niels Bohr over the nature of reality–subatomic bits of matter and its interaction with light–again as revealed by the double-slit experiment. Richard Feynman held that it embodies the central mystery of the quantum world. Decade after decade, hypothesis after hypothesis, scientists have returned to this ingenious experiment to help them answer deeper and deeper questions about the fabric of the universe. How can a single particle behave both like a particle and a wave? Does a particle, or indeed reality, exist before we look at it, or does looking create reality, as the textbook "Copenhagen interpretation" of quantum mechanics seems to suggest? How can particles influence each other faster than the speed of light? Is there a place where the quantum world ends and the familiar classical world of our daily lives begins, and if so, can we find it? And if there's no such place, then does the universe split into two each time a particle goes through the double-slit? Through Two Doors at Once celebrates the elegant simplicity of an iconic experiment and its profound reach. With his extraordinarily gifted eloquence, Anil Ananthaswamy travels around the world, through history and down to the smallest scales of physical reality we have yet fathomed. It is the most fantastic voyage you can take.


Through Two Doors at Once – Anil Ananthaswamy

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America’s best friends ready to take on climate … without Trump

At the G7 summit in Canada this past weekend, nearly all the leaders of the world’s richest and most powerful countries were united behind a bold proclamation: There can be no global economic progress without climate action. Take it or leave it.

And then Trump left.

It now looks like that move could help usher the United States out of the world’s premier economic alliance. The remaining six countries, call them the “G6,” have put climate action ahead of maintaining normal relations with the United States — an unthinkable development not very long ago. That’s huge.

This is something greens have been demanding for years: climate change at the core of global geopolitics. Now it’s here.

While there are plenty of disagreements between Trump and the rest of the world  — some summaries of the meeting didn’t even get around to mentioning climate change — it’s impossible to view what happened over the weekend without considering other countries’ desire to reduce emissions.

Long-simmering tensions between the U.S. and the other countries simply boiled over. It all started when Donald Trump decided to bail on the Paris climate agreement this time last year — a shock to the global community still coming to terms with the prospect of a United States not playing by the rules as a matter of principle. In the run-up to this weekend’s meeting, Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister and the meeting’s host set the agenda, with climate change scheduled for the last day. The timing of Trump’s departure — skipping out just ahead of time — seems curiously timed to avoid the issue.

Emerging from the the wreckage of the summit is a global community that appears surprisingly OK with moving on from an increasingly childish and untrustworthy leader of the United States. A quick survey of initial reactions from observers around the world are nearly unanimous in assessing how events played out over the weekend. In the U.K., the Guardian called it a “watershed moment.” In Germany, Deutsche Welle said: “It’s probably better this way.”

An instantly iconic image of Trump sitting with his arms folded and what looks like a pout on his face, while Germany’s Angela Merkel and leaders of other countries plead their case, seems a perfect encapsulation of where we are now. The adults in the room are fed up.

That a would-be authoritarian American leader has taken a “wrecking ball” approach to diplomacy has implications that will last for years. And when it comes to climate change, we simply don’t have that time to spare.

What the G6 decided to say on climate this weekend was relatively tame compared to what needs to happen. Yet Trump refused to sign on. Instead, the U.S. attempted to insert language into the meeting’s official summary document that encouraged the use of fossil fuels.

Appeasing the U.S. right wing on climate hasn’t worked out well for the world in the past. In the run-up to the 2009 Copenhagen climate conference, delegates decided to water down the draft proposal to try to woo the Republican-led U.S. Senate into signing on. The entire agreement ultimately collapsed as a result — paving the way for a relatively weaker agreement in Paris six years later.

Europe has continued efforts to fight climate change with the U.S. as an inconsistent ally. The European Union, which now makes up the bulk of the G6, is in the process of assembling a new long-term climate strategy that has the potential to usher in a new era of European climate action, aiming to ditch incremental action for transformational change. Before the summit, France’s President Emmanuel Macron had already hinted that an EU-U.S. trade war on climate grounds may be necessary should Trump remain obstinate.

Going forward, neither Trump’s “America First” vision of a G1 world, or the associated fears of a collapse of Western civilization as we know it — a G0 world — seem likely. What seems bound to happen is the elevation of marginally important groups, like the China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a NATO-like security organization which now claims half of humanity as members after the high-profile addition of India over the weekend. No single country — the United States, for instance — is likely to dictate the terms of global climate politics.

In an era that demands urgent, radical action, it’s good to see world leaders making climate change a priority. It might sound like hyperbole, but what happened this weekend could signal a major turning point in world history — as well as a hopeful development for the climate.


America’s best friends ready to take on climate … without Trump

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8 Easiest Hacks to Reduce Your Plastic Consumption

Plastic is literally everywhere. Shopping bags, toothbrushes, backpacks, shoes, wrappers, you name it. Is it even possible to avoid all of it while enjoying a normal social life?

We all know that plastic is no good for the environment, but it can be a real challenge to get away from it.

Rather than sitting there with your head spinning, it?can be?less stressful?to just give in?everyone else uses plastic, why not me, too? ? ? ? ? ??

But reducing your plastic consumption doesn?t have to be an all-or-nothing endeavor. By shifting your daily habits slightly, you can keep a lot of single-use plastics out of our landfills, waterways and oceans.

Here are a handful of?habits to leave behind for a cleaner planet (and body).

1. Say no to plastic straws.

If there is a piece of plastic pollution that is entirely pointless, it is the plastic straw. The straw?doesn?t have a reasonable purpose. It is simply an unnecessary convenience that ends up painfully jammed in the noses of sea turtles.

And guess what–Americans use 500 million straws every single day! Do your environment a favor and refuse the straw. Just sip your drinks instead, like a regular human.

Of course, if you?re a major straw fanatic, you do have other options. Paper straws are growing in popularity, as are edible straws. And of course, there is the reusable metal, glass, or bamboo straw if you’re a true aficionado.

Let your straw be your passion, not an environmental inconvenience.

2. Abandon to-go cups and bottles.

Not only are plastic bottles and to-go cups horrible for the environment, but the chemicals that leach out of them are horrible for your health. But there’s an easy fix.

If you’re staying at a cafe, ask for a?glass?or mug. If you’re bringing your drink on the run, just bring a reusable bottle or thermos with you. It’s really not difficult once it becomes habitual.

Plus, many stores offer a small discount for customers who bring their own cups. Sure, it’s just a few cents, but it can add up over time, especially if you get a few iced coffees on the go?every day.

3. Stop buying single-use coffee pods.

Speaking of coffee, coffee pods are a big no-no. They are single-use and all plastic. Not only do these build up fast in landfills, but the chemicals in the plastic can leach into the hot water when you’re making your coffee. Ew.

But here’s the big issue: almost 1 out of every 3 Americans own a single-cup coffee machine, meaning pods aren’t going away anytime soon. Luckily?there is a?healthier option–reusable pods.

Buying a reusable pod isn?t expensive (even a plastic-free one), and you?ll no longer be restricted to the variety packs of manufacturers. You can fill your pod with the best direct trade, organic coffee you can find. It will be a lot fresher than the single use pods, too.

4. You don’t need plastic baggies or plasticwrap.

For years I felt guilty about buying and using non-recyclable plasticwrap and baggies. But then I discovered other solutions. Seriously, I?haven’t purchased plasticwrap for 4 years.

For one, try reusing the produce bags from the grocery store instead of buying plastic snack baggies. Ideally, you’d cut those produce bags out at some point, too, since they’re plastic, but for now we are taking baby steps.

For covering or storing food, in lieu of plasticwrap, try securing?parchment paper with a rubber band?or invest in sustainable and reusable wrap like Bee’s Wrap. They wraps are both reusable and way more environmentally sustainable.

People have existed for millennia without plasticwrap. We don’t need it now.

5. Watch out for your cotton swabs.

There are two types of cotton swabs: those with plastic handles and those with paper handles.

Neither can be recycled, so don’t even try. But believe it or not, cotton swabs with the cardboard handle can be composted, so opt for these if you have a compost bin. Even if you don’t compost, just stop buying the plastic ones.

If?anyone discovers cotton swabs that use 100 percent recycled materials in their handles, let us?know. Cotton swabs aren’t a very eco-friendly product, so use them only when necessary.

6. Choose solid personal care products.

Think of all the personal?products?you buy that come in plastic containers.

Reduce that number by buying more dry?items, like a bar of soap (rarely packed in plastic) instead of a liquid body wash. Or swap out your liquid laundry detergent in a plastic jug?for a box of?cardboard-clad powdered. Ladies, consider?tampons?without?the plastic applicator or even a reusable menstrual cup.

While this doesn’t work for all products, you can cut out some of the wasteful plastic packaging in your bathroom, kitchen, and laundry room by being a bit more aware of what you’re consuming.

7. Ditch disposable razors.

Not only are?disposable razors?not ideal for shaving, they are also pretty wasteful in the plastic department.

In the US, 200 billion plastic razors end up in the trash every year. Even if the plastic handle isn’t necessarily disposable,?the blades are loaded with plastic, and there is just no good way to recycle either when you’re done with them.

Do yourself a favor and invest in a metal safety razor. The handles range in price from $20 to $100+, but remember that it is a one-time purchase. It’s also a lot cheaper in the long run since the blades come in 100 packs for less than a Hamilton.

And of course, the shave is way better (for both men and women).

8. B.Y.O.B. (bring your own bag)

And, of course, always bring your own shopping bag. Plastic shopping bags are one of the biggest pollutants, and they are really challenging to recycle in a facility. They are small enough to fit on your keychain nowadays, so no excuses.

These are all really easy lifestyle habits to change, and they pay off environmentally in a big, big way. How are you going to reduce you plastic consumption this month? Share your goals with the community below. ? ??

Related Care2

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Images via Thinkstock.

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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8 Easiest Hacks to Reduce Your Plastic Consumption

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What Is Real? – Adam Becker


What Is Real?

The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics

Adam Becker

Genre: Physics

Price: $19.99

Publish Date: March 20, 2018

Publisher: Basic Books

Seller: Hachette Digital, Inc.

The untold story of the heretical thinkers who dared to question the nature of our quantum universe Every physicist agrees quantum mechanics is among humanity's finest scientific achievements. But ask what it means, and the result will be a brawl. For a century, most physicists have followed Niels Bohr's Copenhagen interpretation and dismissed questions about the reality underlying quantum physics as meaningless. A mishmash of solipsism and poor reasoning, Copenhagen endured, as Bohr's students vigorously protected his legacy, and the physics community favored practical experiments over philosophical arguments. As a result, questioning the status quo long meant professional ruin. And yet, from the 1920s to today, physicists like John Bell, David Bohm, and Hugh Everett persisted in seeking the true meaning of quantum mechanics. What Is Real? is the gripping story of this battle of ideas and the courageous scientists who dared to stand up for truth.

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What Is Real? – Adam Becker

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Einstein’s Cosmos: How Albert Einstein’s Vision Transformed Our Understanding of Space and Time (Great Discoveries) – Michio Kaku


Einstein’s Cosmos: How Albert Einstein’s Vision Transformed Our Understanding of Space and Time (Great Discoveries)
Michio Kaku

Genre: Physics

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: May 17, 2005

Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company

Seller: W. W. Norton

“A fresh and highly visual tour through Einstein’s astonishing legacy.” —Brian Greene There’s no better short book that explains just what Einstein did than Einstein’s Cosmos. Keying Einstein’s crucial discoveries to the simple mental images that inspired them, Michio Kaku finds a revealing new way to discuss his ideas, and delivers an appealing and always accessible introduction to Einstein’s work.

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Einstein’s Cosmos: How Albert Einstein’s Vision Transformed Our Understanding of Space and Time (Great Discoveries) – Michio Kaku

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Greenland, the land of ice and snow, is burning

This is going to sound weird, but there’s a wildfire right now in west Greenland. You know, that huge island of mostly ice? Part of it is on fire.

There’s been nothing even close to this since reliable satellite-based fire detection records began in Greenland in 2000. Very small wildfires can evade satellite detection, and old-timer scientists who have worked in Greenland for decades say that micro-fires there aren’t necessarily uncommon.

This week’s fire, however, is on another level.

“This is the largest wildfire we know of,” says Stef Lhermitte, a satellite expert at Technische Universiteit in Delft, Netherlands, who did some of the initial mapping of the fire. “For a lot of people, it’s been a bit of discovery on the go.” The fire was first spotted by a local aircraft on July 31.

What’s striking about the Greenland fire is that it fits a larger trend of rapid change across the northern reaches of the planet. A 2013 study found that across the entire Arctic, forests are burning at a rate unseen in at least 10,000 years.

By American standards, the Greenland fire is small, covering around 1,200 acres (about two square miles) — about the size of midtown Manhattan. The massive Lodgepole Complex wildfire that scorched eastern Montana in July — the largest fire in the country this year — was more than 200 times bigger. But for Greenland, a fire of this size is so unusual that even scientists who study the huge island don’t really know what to make of it.

The Danish meteorological service (Greenland is technically an autonomously governing part of Denmark) said it has no experts who specialize in Greenland fire. The European Commission has tasked its Emergency Management Service with a rapid mapping of the region of the fire, in part to help local officials assess the risks to public health. Mark Parrington, a meteorologist with the European government, said on Twitter that he “didn’t expect to be adding Greenland into my fire monitoring,” adding that he may need to recalibrate his air pollution models to account for the smoldering way that fire tends to burn in permafrost soil.

Riikka Rinnan, an ecologist at the University of Copenhagen, said her research team had started work earlier this summer on how potential fires could impact Greenland’s tundra, but didn’t expect one so soon. Jessica McCarty, a satellite data expert at Miami University in Ohio, said she’s planning to have one of her students construct what might be the first-ever comprehensive history of fires in Greenland.

And yes, as you might expect, climate change probably made this whole thing more likely.

“Everything we know suggests that fire will increase in the Arctic,” climate scientist Jason Box, whose work focuses on Greenland, told me. “It’s fair to say that it’s part of the pattern of warming. We should see more such fires in Greenland.”

Though west Greenland, where the fire is burning, is a semi-arid region, rainfall and temperatures there have been increasing, helping to foster more dense vegetation. Box says this is part of the “shrubification” of the entire Arctic as temperatures warm and the growing season lengthens. Denser vegetation is making large fires more likely, in combination with the simultaneous tendency for longer and more intense droughts and the rise in thunderstorm likelihood due to erratic weather patterns.

Box says he saw a fire in west Greenland back in 1999. “It’s pretty interesting for Greenland, people don’t think about it as a place where that’s possible — nor did I until I saw it with my own eyes.” Once he realized he was watching a wildfire, he said, “It was like, what the heck? What is going on?”

What set off this blaze? The scientists I spoke with aren’t sure. The primary cause of Arctic wildfires is lightning, but a lightning storm in Greenland would have been news. Thunderstorms typically need warm, humid air for fuel, and both are in short supply so close to the world’s second largest ice sheet.

According to John Kappelen, a Danish meteorologist, the region surrounding the fire has had well below average rainfall since June, making wildfire more likely.

“This time of year, everybody’s going out and picking berries and fishing and hunting,” says Ruth Mottram, a climate scientist at the Danish meteorological service who conducts frequent fieldwork in Greenland. Maybe someone in the area set a fire that grew into the big blaze. Greenland’s second largest town, Sisimiut, with a population of 5,500, is about 90 miles away.

Mottram says that if the fire is burning in peatland, it could rage for weeks. If the winds shift, soot from the fire could be transported up to the ice sheet, where it might speed local melting in the coming years by darkening the surface of the ice, helping it to absorb more energy from the sun. This is something that scientists like Box and Mottram are spending their careers studying, but up to now, they thought that virtually all the soot that’s making the bright white ice darker was transported there from Canada or Russia. Now, a new source may be emerging.

Should wildfires like this one increase in frequency, we may have just witnessed the start of a new, scary feedback loop.

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Greenland, the land of ice and snow, is burning

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