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Should Biden and Sanders steal Elizabeth Warren’s climate plans?

Elizabeth Warren dropped out of the 2020 presidential race on Thursday morning, 390 days after officially announcing her run. Several months ago, the senator from Massachusetts was widely regarded as a frontrunner with momentum to spare. But her support started to waver in the lead-up to the first contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada. Ultimately, she never placed higher than third in any of the state caucuses and primaries she competed in.

Warren’s slogan, “I have a plan for that,” is an apt description of her biggest contribution to the presidential race — especially when it comes to climate policy. Over the course of her campaign, she released more than a dozen proposals to address climate change — more plans than any other candidate. Warren left no stone unturned in her quest to come up with an answer to what is arguably the biggest threat facing the nation.

Her plans offered solutions to problems as big as warming oceans and as small as inaccessible national parks. She had a plan to green the military (think zero-emissions vehicles and combat bases that run on clean energy) and a plan to base trade agreements with other countries on their emissions goals. The strength of Warren’s climate game lay not just in the quantity of her plans but also in their quality.

Warren’s candidacy may be dead, but her 14 plans could live on. And there’s reason to believe they might. After Washington governor Jay Inslee dropped out of the race in August, he encouraged the remaining candidates to crib from his climate plans, which he called “open-source.” Warren adopted planks of his sweeping climate platform and even hired one of his climate advisers. There’s nothing stopping the remaining candidates from similarly picking over Warren’s plans now that she’s out of the race.

“Any candidate who wants to win Warren voters should think seriously about embracing Elizabeth’s climate platform,” a Warren aide told Grist.

Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, the two remaining candidates with a viable path to the nomination, both have comprehensive climate plans. Sanders’ plan earned him an A+ from Greenpeace, which ranks candidates based on their dedication to phasing out fossil fuels and passing a Green New Deal. Biden’s plans got him a B+. But both stand to benefit from adopting some of Warren’s plans, which got more and more ambitious in the lead-up to her decision to drop out. Here are three plans that deserve to outlive Warren’s campaign.

“Stop Wall Street From Financing the Climate Crisis.” This plan is aimed directly at making sure Wall Street doesn’t leave Americans high and dry by continuing to invest in oil and gas infrastructure that could lose all their value in the transition to clean energy. Climate change, Warren says, destabilizes the American financial system by jeopardizing Wall Street’s investments and inflicting physical property damage (think the wreckage of coastal cities in the wake of catastrophic hurricanes or Western towns post-wildfires). She proposed using the regulatory tools in the Dodd-Frank Act — enacted in the wake of the 2008 crash — to regulate Wall Street and address those risks.

Warren’s plan for public lands. In April 2019, Warren became the first front-runner to release a sweeping public lands plan aimed at reducing emissions from public lands. She set the bar for similar plans from other candidates by advocating for an executive order banning new fossil fuel leases on federally owned lands on her first day in office. Most interestingly, she introduced the framework for a conservation workforce that would put a smile on FDR’s face: the “21st Century Civilian Conservation Corps,” which would “create job opportunities for thousands of young Americans caring for our natural resources and public lands.”

“Fighting for justice as we combat the climate crisis.” This plan has a lot in common with environmental justice plans from other candidates. It would direct at least $1 trillion to low-income communities on the frontlines of climate change. But it differs in one important respect: It uses wildfire wisdom from tribes to help the U.S. prevent deadly wildfires like the one that razed Paradise, California in 2018. In addition to investing in wildfire prevention programs and improved mapping of active wildfires, she aimed to incorporate “traditional ecological practices” and explore “co-management and the return of public resources to indigenous protection wherever possible.”

Will Biden and Sanders poach Warren’s climate plans? Time will tell. Her campaign certainly hopes they will. “The urgency of the moment calls for it,” the Warren aide said.

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Should Biden and Sanders steal Elizabeth Warren’s climate plans?

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The plastic industry is on track to produce as many emissions as 600 coal-fired power plants

When you think about plastic, what comes to mind? Microplastics at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, whales dying with truckloads of garbage in their bellies, that zero-waste Instagram influencer you follow?

A new report shows it’s high time to think more about the fossil fuels that go into making those plastic products. The global plastic industry is on track to produce enough emissions to put the world on track for a catastrophic warming scenario, according to the Center for International Environmental Law analysis. In other words, straws aren’t just bad for unsuspecting turtles; plastic is a major contributor to climate change.

If the plastic industry is allowed to expand production unimpeded, here’s what we’re looking at: By 2030, global emissions from that sector could produce the emissions equivalent of more than 295 (500-megawatt) coal plants. By 2050, emissions could exceed the equivalent of 615 coal plants.

That year, the cumulative greenhouse gas emissions from production of single-use plastics like bags and straws could compose between 10 and 13 percent of the whole remainder of our carbon budget. That is, the amount of CO2 we’re allowed to emit if we want to keep emissions below the threshold scientists say is necessary to ensure a liveable planet. By 2100, even conservative estimates pin emissions from plastics composing more than half of the carbon budget.

So, congrats on ordering that metal straw from Amazon! But the report shows that the plastics industry is still planning on a major expansion in production.

Here are a few more takeaways from the report, which looked at the emissions produced by the plastics industry starting in 2015 and projected what emissions from that sector could look like through the end of the century:

Of the three ways to get rid of plastics — recycling, landfilling, or incinerating — incinerating is the most energy intensive. In 2015, emissions from incinerating plastic in the United States were estimated to be around 5.9 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent.
This year, production and incineration of plastic products will make as many emissions as 189 coal power plants — 850 million metric tons of greenhouse gases.
Plastics that wind up in the ocean could even fuck with the ocean’s ability to do what it has historically done a superb job at: sequestering carbon. That’s because the phytoplankton and lil ocean critters that help capture the CO2 at the surface of the ocean and drag it under are being compromised by — you guessed it — microplastic.

But it doesn’t look like the industry is going to slow its roll on refining oil for plastics anytime soon. In 2015, 24 ethylene facilities in the U.S. produced the emissions equivalent of 3.8 million cars. There are 300 more petrochemical facilities underway in the U.S. Two of those, one being built by ExxonMobil and another by Shell, could produce emissions equivalent to 800,000 new cars on the road per year.

So if you’re gonna boycott single-use plastics, keep in mind that you’re not just doing it for the turtles — you’re doing it for us.

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Climate change drives collapse of baby corals in Great Barrier Reef

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This story was originally published by HuffPost and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

The deadly back-to-back bleaching events that hammered Australia’s Great Barrier Reef in 2016 and 2017 led to a collapse in the recruitment of new corals, severely affecting the ecosystem’s ability to recover from the devastation.

That’s according to a new study published Wednesday in the journal Nature, which found that the number of juvenile corals that settled across the entire Great Barrier Reef in 2018 was 89 percent lower than historical averages before major bleaching events. The loss of so many mature adults during the climate-change-driven ocean heat waves left the ecosystem — the largest living structure on the planet — largely unable to replenish itself.

The report highlights the plight of corals in a warming world.

Along with an overall shortage of offspring, the study documents an alarming shift in the makeup of coral larvae. Dominant branching staghorn corals and table corals, the species that provide most of the habitat on the reef, produced fewer offspring than less-common stony corals. It’s a change that is likely to reduce the diversity of the reef, leaving it less resilient to future warming.

“The whole way that the Great Barrier Reef is behaving has changed,” Terry Hughes, the study’s lead author and the director of the ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, said by phone. “The mix of adult species is different. The mix of baby species is radically different. And the way it’s interconnected has shifted.”

The Great Barrier Reef has been hit by four mass bleaching events since 1998. Nearly 30 percent of the reef died off in 2016 alone. Scientists at the time described the damage at places like Lizard Island, in the northern part of the reef, as “so, so sobering” and warned that “something akin to a train crash” was about to occur.

Hughes said that under normal conditions, it would take about 10 years for coral recruitment to bounce back.

“The adult population will need to reassemble,” he said. “There’s a dearth of large, highly productive corals in the system. It will take some time to regroup so the production of larvae gets back up to normal levels.”

But with climate change forecast to drive more frequent extreme heat waves, Hughes said, “the big question is whether we’ve got the luxury of a decade for that recovery to fully unfold.”

Coral bleaching is a phenomenon in which heat-stressed corals turn white after expelling their algae, which provide most of the coral polyps’ energy. If not allowed to recover free of stressors, the corals can perish. The most recent bleaching event, which lasted from June 2014 to May 2017, was the “longest, most widespread, and possibly the most damaging coral bleaching event on record,” Coral Reef Watch said.

Scientists say failing to cut global greenhouse gas emissions would spell doom for reefs around the globe. A U.N.-backed study published in 2017 predicted that “annual severe bleaching” will affect 99 percent of the world’s reefs within the century. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned in a dire report late last year that the world’s tropical reefs could decline by 70 to 90 percent with an average global rise of 1.5 degrees C from preindustrial temperatures ― the upper limit that is the goal of the Paris Climate Accord. At 2 degrees C warming, 99 percent of reefs could be lost. And the latest federal climate assessment, released by the Trump administration in November, concluded that the loss of unique coral reef ecosystems “can only be avoided by reducing carbon dioxide emissions.”

Hughes said that the Great Barrier Reef is undergoing rapid change and is in serious trouble but that it’s not too late to save it from total destruction.

“It still has a pulse,” he said. “I think if we can hold global warming to 1.5 degrees C, we will certainly still have a Great Barrier Reef, but the mix of species will be quite different from today.”

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Climate change drives collapse of baby corals in Great Barrier Reef

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The vault holding humanity’s precious seeds is on thin ice

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The Crop Trust — the organization tasked by the U.N. with preserving the world’s diversity of crops — has a slippery problem on its hands. Its most important effort, a global seed vault, is buried in an abandoned coal mine in the Svalbard archipelago, a chain of Norweigan islands several hundred miles from the North Pole. Kept at an icy 18 degrees C year-round, and insulated by layers of thick rock and permafrost, the seed tomb holds 968,000 varieties of crops and has the capacity to store 2.5 billion individual seeds.

The Crop Trust says “the Vault is in an ideal location for long-term seed storage,” in part because the surrounding permafrost provides a “cost effective and fail-safe method to conserve seeds.” There’s just one problem: Rising temperatures are melting that critical permafrost, jeopardizing the doomsday vault, the towns in the archipelago, and humanity as a whole.

A researcher at the Norwegian Meteorological Institute recently told CNN that Longyearbyen, the capital of Svalbard, “is probably warming faster than in any other town on Earth.”

A report published earlier this year by the Norwegian Center for Climate Services shows that the climate in Svalbard is going to change drastically by the year 2100. If humanity continues emitting greenhouse gases business-as-usual, Svalbard is looking at an annual air temperature increase of 10 degrees C (18 degrees F). Even under a medium emissions scenario where greenhouse gases are reduced, it could still see 7 degrees C (12.6 degrees F) of warming. Climate change is projected to increase rainfall in the region by as much as 65 percent by the end of the century, in addition to making avalanches and landslides more frequent.

Norway already committed to spending $13 million to upgrade the facility early last year after melted permafrost threatened to leak into the vault. New additions to the structure will include a concrete tunnel, backup power sources, and refrigeration. But after a frighteningly warm Arctic winter season this year, who knows how much more money will need to be spent to safeguard the vault against the myriad threats posed by climate change.

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The vault holding humanity’s precious seeds is on thin ice

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Coal, oil, and natural gas demand hits record high in 2018

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If the world is going to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we need to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Last year, we took another lurching step toward planetary catastrophe.

Demand for coal, oil, and natural gas hit new all-time highs in 2018, according to a worrying new report from the International Energy Agency, an intergovernmental organization that compiles statistics on global energy use.

IEA data released on Monday show that nearly every major economy on Earth boosted its use of polluting energy sources. Continuing on like this amounts to knowingly sentencing the world to an unlivable future.

The report provides further evidence that the world’s two biggest emitters, the United States and China, are choosing to switch from coal to natural gas, not coal to renewables. While natural gas is often touted as being lower in CO2 emissions than coal, it still releases plenty of CO2 as well as methane — an even more powerful greenhouse gas. The move could lock in decades of emissions.

In Asia, coal demand itself also continued to grow. In China and India, 2018’s growth came from coal power plants that are only 12 years old on average (coal plants typically last about 40 years). Although coal demand continued to drop in the U.S., natural gas consumption surged to its highest level since record-keeping began 46 years ago.

Despite strong growth from wind, solar, and nuclear, carbon-free sources accounted for just one-third of the world’s new energy in 2018, meaning fossil fuels remain firmly dominant.

For the most part, humanity’s growing demand for energy still means a growing demand for fossil fuels. Europe was the only region in the world that managed to stabilize its total energy demand through expanded use of renewable energy.

China added more than six times the amount of renewable energy to its grid than the United States did — but even that is nowhere near enough to offset continued investment in fossil fuels.

The IEA also said that efforts to improve energy efficiency failed to offset global economic growth. Society’s basic energy challenge is to simultaneously build huge amounts of carbon-free energy sources and radically boost efficiency. Energy efficiency is normally responsible for a huge offsetting of growth, but it fell last year due to the combination of ineffective and poorly enforced policies. In other circles, the idea of abandoning economic growth entirely is gaining steam.

There is a huge gap between global climate policy and the urgent demands placed on leaders by the bare truths of climate science: On our current pace, with current policies, the world will warm by about 3.3 degrees C this century — roughly in-line with the worst-case scenario, according to climate scientists.

It doesn’t have to be this way. A new research report from a clean-energy policy think tank found that solar and wind have become so cheap in the United States that it’s more cost-effective to immediately tear down and replace 74 percent of the country’s coal-fired power plants than to continue fueling them. That poses an important question to utilities and elected officials: What, exactly, are you waiting for?

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Coal, oil, and natural gas demand hits record high in 2018

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Who stands to lose the most from climate change? Red states.

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A new analysis from the Brookings Institution shows that many of the states and counties with the most to lose from climate change have been voting for candidates least likely to do something about it.

Of the 16 states facing the highest long-term losses of income from climate change — starting with Florida, Mississippi, and Louisiana — all but one voted for Donald Trump in 2016. That exception: Hawaii.

The data, sourced from Climate Impact Lab, tell a similar story when you look at counties and congressional districts. On average, the districts that voted Republican in November stand to lose 4.4 percent of their income this century, compared with a loss of 2.7 percent for those that backed Democrats. Those red districts tend to be less affluent, more rural, and more exposed to rising seas, stronger storms and punishing droughts, particularly in Florida and Texas.

Typically blue regions like the Pacific Northwest and New England could actually stand to gain from climate change, the report says. For chillier states, warmer temperatures could mean lower energy bills and a boost in crop yields. But a lot of other bad stuff too, don’t forget.

So, does this mean that red states are doomed, and liberal northerners will be left saying I told ya so? Well, it might not get to that if this new data — combined with the actual observable effects of climate change — changes people’s minds. Recent polls suggest that voters are coming around on the issue, as hurricanes, droughts, and wildfires get harder to ignore.

The Brookings Institution, for its part, offers this advice to climate activists: “A harder charging, grittier, and more palpable campaign focused on climate impacts in ‘red’ America could prove a lot more effective. And the data now exist to make that happen.”

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Who stands to lose the most from climate change? Red states.

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The Perfect Theory – Pedro G. Ferreira


The Perfect Theory

A Century of Geniuses and the Battle over General Relativity

Pedro G. Ferreira

Genre: Physics

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: February 4, 2014

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Seller: OpenRoad Integrated Media, LLC

“One of the best popular accounts of how Einstein and his followers have been trying to explain the universe for decades ” ( Kirkus Reviews , starred review).   Physicists have been exploring, debating, and questioning the general theory of relativity ever since Albert Einstein first presented it in 1915. This has driven their work to unveil the universe’s surprising secrets even further, and many believe more wonders remain hidden within the theory’s tangle of equations, waiting to be exposed. In this sweeping narrative of science and culture, an astrophysicist brings general relativity to life through the story of the brilliant physicists, mathematicians, and astronomers who have taken up its challenge. For these scientists, the theory has been both a treasure trove and an enigma.   Einstein’s theory, which explains the relationships among gravity, space, and time, is possibly the most perfect intellectual achievement of modern physics—yet studying it has always been a controversial endeavor. Relativists were the target of persecution in Hitler’s Germany, hounded in Stalin’s Russia, and disdained in 1950s America. Even today, PhD students are warned that specializing in general relativity will make them unemployable.   Still, general relativity has flourished, delivering key insights into our understanding of the origin of time and the evolution of all the stars and galaxies in the cosmos. Its adherents have revealed what lies at the farthest reaches of the universe, shed light on the smallest scales of existence, and explained how the fabric of reality emerges. Dark matter, dark energy, black holes, and string theory are all progeny of Einstein’s theory.   In the midst of a momentous transformation in modern physics, as scientists look farther and more clearly into space than ever before, The Perfect Theory exposes the greater relevance of general relativity, showing us where it started, where it has led—and where it can still take us.  

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The Perfect Theory – Pedro G. Ferreira

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Wisconsin’s catastrophic flooding is a glimpse of the Midwest’s drenched future

An entire summer’s worth of rain has fallen across a broad swath of the Midwest in recent days. The resulting record floods have wrecked homes and altered the paths of rivers, in one case destroying a waterfall in Minnesota. The worst-affected region, southwest Wisconsin, has received more than 20 inches of rain in 15 days– more than it usually gets in six months.

Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin declared a statewide emergency last week, mobilizing the Wisconsin National Guard to assist flood victims if necessary. The Kickapoo River in southwest Wisconsin rose to record levels — as high as six feet above the previous high water mark — producing damage that local emergency management officials described as “breathtaking.”

In the tiny Wisconsin town of Gays Mills, this is the third catastrophic flood in 10 years. After floods a decade ago, about a quarter of the residents left, and the town was partially rebuilt on higher ground. But this time around is even worse — with almost every home in the town damaged.

Is there a connection to climate change? Well, a warmer atmosphere can hold more water vapor, and the region’s main moisture source — the Gulf of Mexico — has reached record-warm levels in recent years, helping to spur an increase in precipitation intensity. Since the 1950s, the amount of rain falling in the heaviest storms has increased by 37 percent in the Midwest.

But there’s more to it than that. Decades of development have also paved over land that used to soak up rainwater. Earlier this year, Wisconsin took controversial steps to loosen restrictions on lakeside development.

Madison, home to the state’s flagship university, has seen the brunt of the flooding so far. The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s center that specializes in studying lakes is itself flooded. “This is what climate change looks like,” Adam Hinterthuer, the center’s spokesperson, wrote in a blog post. On Twitter, the center posted maps of recent floods alongside projections for the worst expected floods later this century. They matched remarkably well.

For Eric Booth, a climate scientist at the university, the whole thing is almost too much to comprehend. His research project on small stream water temperatures was washed away by the flooding. “The scale of what is happening is absolutely unbelievable to witness,” Booth wrote in an email. Booth’s own calculations showed that rainfall over the past 30 days is an approximately 1-in-1,000 year occurrence, assuming a stable climate. (That, obviously, isn’t a good assumption anymore.)

Flooding in the Madison area has boosted lake levels to all-time highs, reigniting a more than 150-year dispute between boaters (who like lake levels high to avoid damage to their boats), conservationists (who want to avoid damage to sensitive shoreline ecosystems and wetlands), and property owners downstream (whose land gets flooded when water is released too quickly). That conflict has creeped into Madison’s mayoral election, where candidates have called for a new lake management plan in the face of more frequent extreme storms.

By late this century, on a business-as-usual path, those storms could nearly double in frequency, according to University of Wisconsin research. As an editorial earlier this summer in the Des Moines Register said, “Climate change never feels more real than when you’re dragging wet carpet from a flooded basement.”

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Wisconsin’s catastrophic flooding is a glimpse of the Midwest’s drenched future

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Generation Robot – Terri Favro


Generation Robot
A Century of Science Fiction, Fact, and Speculation
Terri Favro

Genre: Science & Nature

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: February 6, 2018

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Seller: Perseus Books, LLC

Generation Robot covers a century of science fiction, fact and, speculation—from the 1950 publication of Isaac Asimov’s seminal robot masterpiece, I, Robot, to the 2050 Singularity when artificial and human intelligence are predicted to merge. Beginning with a childhood informed by pop-culture robots in movies, in comic books, and on TV in the 1960s to adulthood where the possibilities of self-driving cars and virtual reality are daily conversation, Terri Favro offers a unique perspective on how our relationship with robotics and futuristic technologies has shifted over time. Peppered with pop-culture fun-facts about Superman’s kryptonite, the human-machine relationships in the cult TV show Firefly, and the sexual and moral implications of the film Ex Machina, Generation Robot explores how the techno-triumphs and resulting anxieties of reality bleed into the fantasies of our collective culture. Clever and accessible, Generation Robot isn’t just for the serious, scientific reader—it’s for everyone interested in robotics and technology since their science-fiction origins. By looking back at the future she once imagined, analyzing the plugged-in present, and speculating on what is on the horizon, Terri Favro allows readers the chance to consider what was, what is, and what could be. This is a captivating book that looks at the pop-culture of our society to explain how the world works—now and tomorrow.

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Generation Robot – Terri Favro

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Climate science’s official text is outdated. Here’s what it’s missing.

The first-ever courtroom tutorial of climate science this week went about as you’d expect. The scientists representing Oakland and San Francisco had Powerpoint problems, and the oil industry’s lawyer cherry-picked his facts.

For all their differences, both sides drew from a common source: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the gold-standard for mainstream climate science. Problem is, the last IPCC report came out way back in 2013. As it turns out, we’ve learned a lot about our climate since then, and most of that new information paints an increasingly urgent picture of the need to slash fossil-fuel emissions as soon as possible.

It’s convenient that Chevron’s attorney relied on that aging five-year-old report. The next IPCC report isn’t planned for public release until the fall of 2019. Gathering consensus takes time, and the result is that IPCC reports are out of date before they’re published and necessarily conservative.

The climate models used in these reports grow old in a hurry. Since the 1970s, they’ve routinely underestimated the rate of global warming. Some of the most recent comprehensive assessments of climate science, including last year’s congressionally-mandated, White House-approved, Climate Science Special Report, include scary new sections on “climate surprises” like simultaneous droughts and hurricanes, that have wide-reaching consequences. The scientists representing the two cities knew this, and didn’t limit their talking points to the IPCC.

“Positive feedbacks (self-reinforcing cycles) within the climate system have the potential to accelerate human-induced climate change,” says a section from that Climate Science Special report, “and even shift the Earth’s climate system, in part or in whole, into new states that are very different from those experienced in the recent past.” None of this was included in the last IPCC report.

Actually, a helluva lot has changed in our understanding of the Earth’s climate system since the 2013 IPCC report. Here are some of the highlights:

  1. Sea-level rise is going to be much worse than we thought. Like, potentially a lot worse. In the last IPCC assessment, the worst case scenario for sea-level rise this century was about three feet. That’s now about the midpoint of what’s expected; the worst-case has ballooned to about eight feet. That’s largely because …
  1. Antarctica’s massive ice sheets could collapse much more quickly than we thought. Newly discovered mechanisms of collapse in some of the planet’s largest and most vulnerable glaciers in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet are beginning to capture the attention of the scientific community. Should these mechanisms kick in over the next few decades, they’d unleash enough meltwater to flood every coastal city on Earth.
  1. Extreme weather is here and can now be linked to climate change in real time. From the Arctic to the tropics, wildfires, intense storms and other extreme weather events have been increasingly fierce in recent years, and climate change has played a measurable role. A 2016 report from the National Academies of Sciences opened the floodgates, so to speak, of the burgeoning field of extreme weather attribution. From last year’s Hurricane Harvey to last month’s nor’easter-linked floods in Massachusetts, nearly every weather event now bares a traceable connection to human-caused climate change.
  1. Global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius is pretty much locked in. A forthcoming special report of the IPCC will say that meeting the 1.5 degree target — one of the most ambitious commitments of the Paris Agreement — looks “extremely unlikely.” Humanity’s shift to zero-carbon energy sources is moving about 10 times too slowly. At this point, it would probably take geoengineering to prevent it. Researchers have started testing ways to do that.
  1. We’ve already lost entire ecosystems, most notably coral reefs. During a record-breaking El Niño event in 2015, the world lost massive swaths of coral in a global bleaching event “unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.” More than 90 percent of the world’s coral will surely die by 2050 without rapid emissions reductions. That means one of the richest stores of biodiversity on the planet is already in jeopardy.

The climate system is moving much more quickly than we thought, and human action to curb climate change is moving much too slowly. Nasty surprises are increasingly possible, and hopeful surprises are more necessary than ever. But there’s some solace to take from this week’s events. The hearing this week is just one of the many courtrooms in which Big Oil has been forced to defend itself. Challenging polluters directly through the courts might result in one of those hopeful surprises people weren’t betting on five years ago.

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Climate science’s official text is outdated. Here’s what it’s missing.

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