Tag Archives: the atlantic
In late March, the British banking giant Barclays announced its ambition to become a net-zero bank by 2050. While the fine print of how one of the biggest lenders to fossil fuel companies will make this transition is yet to be determined, one of the other key underlying challenges is that it’s impossible for the bank to accomplish this on its own. It will need every company it lends to to disclose data on their carbon accounting.
A surprising number of companies — more than 8,400 — already report this kind of data to CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project), an international nonprofit that runs a public environmental disclosure database. CDP asks companies to disclose data about their environmental footprint on behalf of investors who are concerned about climate change and the financial risks associated with it. But some companies refuse to participate, even after repeated requests from investors themselves.
In a sign of just how serious investors are getting about this, in recent years CDP’s investor partners have agreed to release a sort of shit list outing the companies that turned their disclosure requests down. This year’s list includes 1,051 companies, including fossil fuel giants like ExxonMobil and Chevron, media companies like Netflix and Facebook, and ostensibly climate-friendly businesses like Tesla. The companies on the list are estimated to collectively emit more than 4,800 megatons of carbon dioxide equivalent annually, which is equal to the amount emitted by the U.S. in 2017.
Not every company that refused to disclose is on CDP’s list — only the ones that investors wanted to put in the spotlight. The hope is that this public shaming will spur companies to disclose in the future. The 707 companies targeted by last year’s campaign were more than twice as likely to increase their disclosure this year.
To be fair, disclosure is not an easy ask. “No one person can sit down and, like, do their homework last minute,” Emily Kreps, global director of capital markets at CDP, told Grist. CDP collects data across three categories — climate change, deforestation, and water security. The reporting process requires going into every part of a company’s value chain, from the sourcing of raw materials all the way to the end use of its products. Kreps said the disclosure reports from CDP’s top-rated companies usually come out to between 60 and 70 pages long. Sometimes it takes a few years for a company to get the information together.
Some companies on CDP’s nondisclosure list used to participate and stopped. Exxon, for example, disclosed with CDP until 2018. At that point CDP changed its questionnaire for oil and gas companies to include more specific questions around fuel reserve levels and inventory, and Exxon decided it would release its own disclosure reports instead. “The report that Exxon put out on their own is not helpful, necessarily, in addressing all of the environmental points that investors are looking for,” said Kreps.
The CDP’s reporting process was designed to align with the recommendations of a group called the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), which was started in 2015 by Mark Carney, the former governor of the Bank of England, and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The TCFD provides a widely applicable framework to help financial-sector organizations understand how the companies in their portfolios assess climate-related risks and opportunities. It suggests four areas for disclosure — governance, strategy, risk management, and metrics and targets — but it doesn’t dictate exactly what to disclose or how. What CDP has done is take TCFD’s recommendations and translate them into a 26-question reporting sheet. “We’re trying to standardize the indicators and data points that people look for year after year to track progress,” said Kreps.
Kreps emphasized that what’s critical about CDP’s disclosure process is that it helps companies look at both risks and opportunity. There is money to be made in the transition to a low carbon economy, she said, and those opportunities are illuminated by the reporting process. If some of the 1,051 companies that avoided disclosure this year decide to get on board, they could benefit in the long run.
As you read this, the third named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, which officially started on June 1, is churning its way across southern Mexico. Meteorologists expect it to soon head northward, where it could gather strength over the warm, open waters of the Gulf of Mexico. It’s unlikely that Cristobal will turn into a full-blown hurricane, but experts say it’s likely that the storm will slam into the Gulf Coast late this weekend or early next week.
Cristobal developed winds greater than 39miles per hour, the minimum for a named storm, on Tuesday — one day after the official start of the hurricane season. If that feels a bit early for the third named storm of the season to rear its head, that’s because it is. For the past six years straight, a named tropical storm has appeared in May, days or weeks ahead of the official start date. But the Atlantic doesn’t usually spawn so many powerful storms so fast: This is the first time the third named storm of the Atlantic season has arrived so early.
In 2019, the third named storm of the season arrived on August 20. That’s due in part to the fact that last year had an El Niño, a wind pattern that blows warm air into the Pacific Ocean and sucks cold water into the Atlantic, helping to suppress storms there. This year looks like it could develop into a La Niña year, when the opposite weather pattern occurs, creating conditions for more hurricanes to develop in the Atlantic Ocean. Ocean water warmed by rising global temperatures (read: climate change) in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea also contributes to the likelihood of an unusually active hurricane season. The National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration’s annual hurricane forecast predicts between 13 and 19 named storms including six to 10 hurricanes (compared to the average six).
“In modern history, this is unusual from the standpoint that you typically see the third storm in August,” Dan Kottlowski, AccuWeather’s lead hurricane expert, told Grist. Warm water, he said, is the main culprit. “You only have to take the temperature up maybe a half a degree Celsius for it to be more optimal for storm development.” Kottlowski said ocean surface temperatures in the Atlantic have risen since 1995, something he attributes in part to the way the ocean naturally cycles water but is also tied to rising global temperatures in recent years.
Right now, Kottlowski expects Cristobal to move through the western portion of the Yucatán over the next day or so, move off the west coast of the Yucatán, and then track toward the center of the Gulf, making landfall somewhere along the Louisiana coast late Sunday. While it’s more likely that Cristobal will make landfall as a strong tropical storm than a hurricane, Kottlowski says flooding will be widespread. “It’s very possible storm surge values could be well above three feet, perhaps as high as six feet, from this storm,” he said. “That will be enough to inundate a good part of the coastal area of Louisiana.” Flooding could penetrate deep into the state, he said, hitting areas that were flooded last year during Hurricane Barry.
When hurricanes hit coastal states frequently affected by extreme weather, communities of color and low-income neighborhoods — often situated in low-lying areas with aging infrastructure — suffer most. Louisiana is no exception. After Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast in 2005, black residents of New Orleans and the surrounding areas were far more likely than whites to say they experienced 7 out of 10 hurricane-related hardships.
John Morales, a weather reporter and meteorologist for NBC6 in Miami who frequently highlights the connection between hurricanes and climate change for his viewers, says he is troubled by recent research that shows a statistically significant increase in the proportion of tropical storms that become major hurricanes globally. “We do know that out of the hurricanes that are forming, a greater percentage of these are becoming category 3, 4, and 5,” Morales said. He recalls the 28-storm 2005 hurricane season, when forecasters ran out of names for storms and had to start pulling letters from the Greek alphabet. “By the end of that hurricane season I was exhausted,” he said. “To think that, right now, we might be dealing with 20 storms, that is a significantly active hurricane season — it’s going to be really exhausting.”
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Genre: Science & Nature
Publish Date: June 2, 2020
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Seller: Bookwire GmbH
A prize-winning journalist upends our centuries-long assumptions about migration through science, history, and reporting–predicting its lifesaving power in the face of climate change. The news today is full of stories of dislocated people on the move. Wild species, too, are escaping warming seas and desiccated lands, creeping, swimming, and flying in a mass exodus from their past habitats. News media presents this scrambling of the planet's migration patterns as unprecedented, provoking fears of the spread of disease and conflict and waves of anxiety across the Western world. On both sides of the Atlantic, experts issue alarmed predictions of millions of invading aliens, unstoppable as an advancing tsunami, and countries respond by electing anti-immigration leaders who slam closed borders that were historically porous. But the science and history of migration in animals, plants, and humans tell a different story. Far from being a disruptive behavior to be quelled at any cost, migration is an ancient and lifesaving response to environmental change, a biological imperative as necessary as breathing. Climate changes triggered the first human migrations out of Africa. Falling sea levels allowed our passage across the Bering Sea. Unhampered by barbed wire, migration allowed our ancestors to people the planet, catapulting us into the highest reaches of the Himalayan mountains and the most remote islands of the Pacific, creating and disseminating the biological, cultural, and social diversity that ecosystems and societies depend upon. In other words, migration is not the crisis–it is the solution. Conclusively tracking the history of misinformation from the 18th century through today's anti-immigration policies, The Next Great Migration makes the case for a future in which migration is not a source of fear, but of hope.
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In mid-March, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its spring flooding outlook. According to its forecast, about a third of the U.S., 128 million people in 23 states, will be affected by flooding in the next few months, with the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest most at risk.
That prediction comes on the heels of a devastating year of flooding in America’s heartland. Between February 2019 and January of this year, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin experienced their wettest 12-month period on record, and Montana, Nebraska, Wyoming and the Dakotas experienced their second-wettest. Flooding is caused by a combination of factors, but climate change, which spurs warmer air and therefore more moisture, is one of them.
Meanwhile, most of the nation is under lockdown. COVID-19 testing capacity is still limited enough that state and federal officials don’t have a full understanding of how many Americans have been infected so far, but the number of confirmed cases is growing exponentially. Experts say the novel coronavirus could kill between 100,000 and 2.2 million Americans in the coming months, depending on which preventive actions are taken.
The nation has never had to deal with an epidemic and climate change at the same time. The way the federal government has handled both of those threats so far shows that it’s ill equipped to respond to scenarios that deviate from business as usual. Researchers have already determined that climate change acts as a threat multiplier: something that exacerbates existing risks. As we head into the spring and summer months and weather becomes more volatile, coronavirus could become a threat multiplier, too.
“A lot of folks that are focusing on the disaster space are starting to think about what we’re going to do with compounding events,” says Lauren Clay, assistant professor of public health at D’Youville College in Buffalo, New York. “We haven’t experienced a global pandemic in the U.S. on this scale in our lifetimes.”
The Federal Management Emergency Administration (FEMA), the agency that serves Americans affected by extreme weather, has been activated at the highest level to contain the coronavirus and placed in charge of the federal response to the epidemic. But FEMA is still reeling from three consecutive years of particularly catastrophic natural disasters, and it has its own coronavirus outbreak to contend with — seven employees recently tested positive for the virus.
“They were stressed even before the pandemic,” James Kendra, co-director of the Disaster Research Center at the University of Delaware, told Grist. FEMA was still working to resolve a number of disaster declarations from previous years — formal requests from cities, counties, or states for aid — before it was asked to join the effort to combat the coronavirus. To boot, the agency is chronically understaffed, even before President Trump reallocated some of its funding to immigration detention centers last summer.
When it comes to responding to the coronavirus, FEMA is in uncharted territory. If the agency had a plan for this scenario, Kendra isn’t aware of it. FEMA is using traditional tactics to confront this new challenge, announcing plans to distribute large quantities of medical equipment and supplies. But the agency has been light on specifics about what it has actually accomplished so far.
Once flooding and other natural disasters hit, Kendra says coronavirus is likely to hinder FEMA’s work because the social distancing required to keep FEMA staff and the people they interact with safe will affect the agency’s ability to do in-person field work. The agency has already suspended interpersonal fieldwork in Tennessee, where tornadoes killed 25 people in early March, because of the virus. FEMA agents will have to practice social distancing, disinfect facilities, and be far more mindful of disease transmission than normal, which in turn will be a “slowing factor on operations generally,” Kendra says.
At the same time, “the need for FEMA to be on the ground will probably be the same as usual,” Kendra says. The agency will have to adjust to figure out how to serve affected people without exposing them or its workers to coronavirus.
FEMA’s limited capacity to respond to natural disasters isn’t the only reason for Americans to fear flooding during the pandemic. A lot of the crops that go into our food, including as feed for livestock, come from the Midwest. For example, Iowa and Illinois alone supply one-third of the U.S.’s entire corn crop. Grocery stores have already seeing food shortages because of coronavirus. Will flooded farms make food more scarce?
At the moment, “We don’t actually have a disruption in the food supply chain,” Clay said. “There’s nothing stopping farmers from planting food, growing food, and putting food into the supply system.”
The bare shelves you might be seeing are a result of an abrupt spike in demand — people buying up a month’s worth of food instead of a week’s, and eating more meals at home instead of in restaurants. While kinks in the supply system are being worked out, there may be temporary shortages, but Clay says supplies will bounce back over time. The ripples will probably continue for as long as the pandemic does.
As spring unfolds, some specialty crops — aka fruits and vegetables — could be affected by social distancing policies implemented by fieldworkers and other issues brought on by the coronavirus. Strawberries grown in California will be picked more slowly by workers who are forced to spread out instead of crowding together. Apple orchards, which require large crews of workers to plant and prune trees, could see a shortage of labor due to limited availability of work visas (the federal offices that award visas have been closed for weeks). But overall, food will remain plentiful as long as the system adapts.
The addition of spring flooding and summer storms to the mix will require some adaptation, Clay said, but natural disasters have regional, rather than national, effects. “We might have some disruptions to some farms or some supply chains in different areas,” she said. But grocers will still be able to find suppliers in unaffected parts of the country. “The likelihood of us having flooding cause widespread disruptions would be minimal because we grow and produce foods in lots of different ways across the country.”
In the past few years, it has sometimes felt like Americans couldn’t catch a break from natural disasters. Floods in the Midwest in spring and summer were followed by West Coast wildfires and the Atlantic hurricane season in the late summer and fall. (The 2020 hurricane season, by the way, is expected to be “above normal.”) Now, the staggered nature of those events and their regionality is part of what’s preventing entire supply systems from collapsing during the coronavirus pandemic. In coming years, climate change could make those events far less staggered, extending the range of devastating floods across most of the country, spurring year-round fire seasons, and exacerbating the frequency of major hurricanes. If coronavirus has taught us anything, it’s that we need to start dividing some of our threat multipliers or risk confronting a challenge we can’t adapt our way out of.
Even as someone who spends most of her time thinking about climate change, it’s easy for me to forget about the looming danger of changes happening at the bottom of the earth. But Lewis Pugh, a British endurance swimmer and ocean advocate, doesn’t want anyone to forget about the melting glaciers of Antarctica, and to get our attention, he decided to go for a swim.
On January 23, Pugh, who’s 50, became the first person to swim in one of the supraglacial lakes of East Antarctica. These are lakes and rivers that form on the surface of thick glacial ice as it melts from above. A study of supraglacial lakes in Antarctica published last fall found more than 65,000 of them at the peak of the summer melt season in January 2017. Most of the lakes were spotted on the ice shelf, the part of the glacier that hangs over the ocean and is not grounded on the seafloor, making it more vulnerable to calving (i.e., falling off).
In nothing but a swim cap and a Speedo, Pugh dove into water that was just above 32 degrees F and swam for 10 minutes. As he navigated the channel, a chunk of ice cracked and sent an ominous “boom” through the water.
“I swam here today as we are in a climate emergency. We need immediate action from all nations to protect our planet,” Pugh told the BBC. The stunt was part of a larger campaign to create a marine protected area in East Antarctica.
Pugh’s icy swim wasn’t the only first near the South Pole this month. Across the continent, in West Antarctica, scientists deployed at the Thwaites Glacier made the first observations of a pool of warm water melting the ice from below. Scientists drilled through the ice right near the “grounding zone,” the boundary between the part of the glacier that’s resting on the seafloor and the part of it that extends over the open ocean, forming a shelf. They measured temperatures below the ice of more than 2 degrees F above the freezing point of the seawater.
“The fact that such warm water was just now recorded by our team along a section of Thwaites grounding zone where we have known the glacier is melting suggests that it may be undergoing an unstoppable retreat that has huge implications for global sea-level rise,” said David Holland, director of New York University’s Environmental Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, in a press release.
The Thwaites Glacier, which is about the size of Florida, holds the rest of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet together. The collapse of Thwaites alone could lead to about 3 feet of sea-level rise. If you, like me, don’t think about melting glaciers nearly enough, here’s a helpful tool from NOAA that will help you visualize what your neighborhood will look like if that happens.
In addition to the temperature measurement, scientists also sent a camera down to the grounding zone for the first time and captured footage of the ice melting from beneath. “There are a few places where you can see streams of particles coming off the glaciers, textures and particles that tell us it’s melting pretty quickly and irregularly,” Britney Schmidt, a glaciologist at the Georgia Institute of Technology, told the Atlantic.
Antarctica’s glaciers are melting from above and below, like a Popsicle that you just can’t lick fast enough to keep under control.
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Publish Date: March 23, 2010
Publisher: HarperCollins e-books
Seller: HARPERCOLLINS PUBLISHERS
“Unpredictable and amusing and informative and original, cavorting between biology, history, travel writing, and memoir.” —Mark Kurlansky The Whale by Philip Hoare is a enthralling and eye-opening literary leviathan swimming in similar bestselling waters as Cod and The Secret Life of Lobsters . Winner of the BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for Nonfiction, The Whale is a lively travelogue through the history, literature, and lore of the king of the sea—the remarkable mammals that we human beings have long been fascinated with, from Moby Dick to Free Willy . Bestselling author and naturalist Bernd Heinrich calls it, “a moving and extraordinary book,” and Hoare’s sparkling account of swimming with these incredible behemoths will delight whale and wildlife aficionados, lovers of the sea and sea stories, as well as the socially and environmentally conscious reader.
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Genre: Life Sciences
Expected Publish Date: July 23, 2019
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Seller: Penguin Random House LLC
The 2013–2014 Ebola epidemic was the deadliest ever—but the outbreaks continue. Now comes a gripping account of the doctors and scientists fighting to protect us, an urgent wake-up call about the future of emerging viruses—from the #1 bestselling author of The Hot Zone, now a National Geographic original miniseries. This time, Ebola started with a two-year-old child who likely had contact with a wild creature and whose entire family quickly fell ill and died. The ensuing global drama activated health professionals in North America, Europe, and Africa in a desperate race against time to contain the viral wildfire. By the end—as the virus mutated into its deadliest form, and spread farther and faster than ever before—30,000 people would be infected, and the dead would be spread across eight countries on three continents. In this taut and suspenseful medical drama, Richard Preston deeply chronicles the outbreak, in which we saw for the first time the specter of Ebola jumping continents, crossing the Atlantic, and infecting people in America. Rich in characters and conflict—physical, emotional, and ethical— Crisis in the Red Zone is an immersion in one of the great public health calamities of our time. Preston writes of doctors and nurses in the field putting their own lives on the line, of government bureaucrats and NGO administrators moving, often fitfully, to try to contain the outbreak, and of pharmaceutical companies racing to develop drugs to combat the virus. He also explores the charged ethical dilemma over who should and did receive the rare doses of an experimental treatment when they became available at the peak of the disaster. Crisis in the Red Zone makes clear that the outbreak of 2013–2014 is a harbinger of further, more severe outbreaks, and of emerging viruses heretofore unimagined—in any country, on any continent. In our ever more interconnected world, with roads and towns cut deep into the jungles of equatorial Africa, viruses both familiar and undiscovered are being unleashed into more densely populated areas than ever before.   The more we discover about the virosphere, the more we realize its deadly potential. Crisis in the Red Zone is an exquisitely timely book, a stark warning of viral outbreaks to come.