By Jeff Masters, Ph.D.
Earth had its second-warmest year on record in 2020, just 0.02 degrees Celsius (0.04°F) behind the record set in 2016, and 0.98 degrees Celsius (1.76°F) above the 20th-century average, NOAA reported January 14.
Figure 1. Departure of temperature from average for 2020, the second-warmest year the globe has seen since record-keeping began in 1880, according to NOAA. Record-high annual temperatures over land and ocean surfaces were measured across parts of Europe, Asia, southern North America, South America, and across parts of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans. No land or ocean areas were record cold for the year. NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information
Figure 2. Total ocean heat content (OHC) in the top 2000 meters from 1958-2020. Cheng et al., Upper Ocean Temperatures Hit Record High in 2020, Advances in Atmospheric Sciences
Figure 3. Departure of sea surface temperature from average in the benchmark Niño 3.4 region of the eastern tropical Pacific (5°N-5°S, 170°W-120°W). Sea surface temperature were approximately one degree Celsius below average over the past month, characteristic of moderate La Niña conditions. Tropical Tidbits
- NASA and NOAA: Last Decade Was the Hottest on Record - EcoWatch ›
- Earth Just Had Its Hottest September Ever Recorded, NOAA Says ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Martin Kuebler
More than 700 climate lawsuits have been filed around the world since 2015, according to the Climate Change Litigation Databases. That's a huge increase, considering there have only been about 1,700 of these types of cases since the late 1980s, most of them in the U.S.
- Stories From the Youth Climate Movement in the Global South ... ›
- 10 Best Books On Climate Change, According to Activists - EcoWatch ›
If you're like many busy Americans, you may feel the need for an extra boost of energy to stay focused and perform at your best throughout the day. Whether you experience the age-old 3 p.m. slump at your desk or you need an extra jolt to power through a morning workout, you may be looking for healthy energy drinks.
- What Nutritionists Think About Starbucks' Three New Plant-Based ... ›
- 8 Healthy Drinks Rich in Electrolytes - EcoWatch ›
- 8 Healthy Swaps for Everyday Food and Drinks - EcoWatch ›
- 5 Reasons to Stop Drinking Energy Drinks - EcoWatch ›
By Breanna Draxler
Climate change is the undercurrent that drives and shapes our lives in countless ways. Journalist Judith D. Schwartz sees the term as shorthand. "It's almost as if people think climate is this phenomenon, determined solely by CO2, as if we could turn a dial up or down," she tells me over the phone. "We are missing so much."
Overcoming Cultural Myths<p>Schwartz comes to the topic of climate solutions with curiosity and a deep appreciation for science. You can hear it in the way she writes about processes like transpiration and decomposition: "The logic of nature is no secret; it is laid bare in every streambed, every handful of living soil, every spiderweb, if we bother to take a look. Its tale is told through accrual or retrenchment of biomass, biodiversity, and soil organic matter: the stuff of life."</p><p>She has a particular soft spot for soil health, sustainable grazing, and water retention—subjects on which she has written entire books. These pop up throughout The Reindeer Chronicles as she attends Ecosystem Restoration Camp in Spain and Cowgirl Camp in Eastern Washington. (Yes, it's a thing).</p><p>While I find the name off-putting, Schwartz uses her Cowgirl Camp experience as a springboard to discuss the critical role of women in agriculture. The word "farmer" often conjures an image of a man on a tractor, but she writes that a third of American farmers are women, and in the Midwest, it's closer to half. </p><p>"It's our cultural myths. It's our myth of the cowboy. It's our myth of what a farm is," Schwartz says. "There might be women involved, but you think about them as the supporting cast. We tend to look for heroes before we look for heroines."</p><p>By perpetuating the myth of the male farmer, Schwartz says, "We miss half of the imagination, insight, problem solving, intuition that's out there." And when it comes to climate change, we're going to need all we can get.</p>
Naturalizing the Economy<p>Schwartz's writing is lyrical in its descriptions of systems normally not given such linguistic fanfare. When talking about the economy, she writes, "Its theme music—the vicissitudes of the market, job numbers, profits and losses—sets both melody and tone for newscasts and public debate, the inadvertent soundscape of contemporary life." She calls the disconnect between limitless growth and a finite planet "a society-wide exercise in fooling ourselves."</p><p>But rather than try to force the complexity of nature into existing financial structures—by giving value to resources and ecosystem services, for example—she writes of naturalizing the economy instead. This requires rethinking basic concepts we take for granted, like productivity, jobs, and meaningful work.</p><p>"There is no natural law that says profit must supersede other types of reward," she writes. "The truth is, we are what we measure—or at least our actions are largely determined by how we gauge success. What if environmental healing, social engagement, and a commitment to the future governed our companies and institutions, and therefore our work lives?"</p><p>A lot of the solutions in the book talk about connecting with the land. In some communities that access is collective, but I press her on the fact that access to land is incredibly inequitable. In the U.S., a lot of that has to do with historic and systemic racism. What role does justice have to play here, and how can that be factored into the conversation about ecological restoration?</p><p>"It plays a huge role," Schwartz says. "The people who are most at risk of losing work in this time are people of color and young people." Rather than try to shoehorn everybody back into a service economy that refuses to provide a living wage and requires working two or three jobs, she tells me, we can start investing in restoration.</p><p>She describes the magnitude of the potential benefits with enthusiasm: not just a wage, but tools that are going to be needed throughout the world—the capacity to grow food, manage landscapes, design dwellings. Not to mention the impacts on mental and physical health of being in natural spaces and eating healthy food.</p><p>Schwartz describes these as short-term signposts that give positive feedback on the long road to restoring ecosystems. Biodiversity inevitably bounces back, she says, and soil health, too. While she doesn't tackle the issue of racism head-on, she makes clear that healthy communities include people and the land.</p><p>"What can be more healing than to heal land?" she asks me.</p>
A Local Land Ethic<p>The book is somewhat meandering in its quest for resilience. Schwartz's willingness to entertain a wide range of ideas and approaches is central to her message: "Once ideas on how to achieve what's assumed to be impossible are articulated, that goal is no longer impossible."</p><p>She describes different communal land management traditions—the Himma that long sustained shared grazing lands for Bedouin shepherds in Saudi Arabia, and ahupua'a, whereby each self-sustaining unit of shared land in Hawai'i included functional ecosystems that stretched from the mountains to the sea.</p><p>"I was very humbled by Indigenous knowledge, understanding myself as a newcomer on that land," she says. She admits she has a lot to learn but is excited about the prospect. I ask her how she views the relationship between Western science and traditional ecological knowledge.</p><p>"They can serve as reality checks for each other," she says. She goes on to explain how in Western culture, scientific inquiry is about breaking things apart to look at them in greater detail. But this reductive approach misses the way things fit into systems. In this way, she says science can disconnect people from the very nature they are trying to understand.</p><p>"Originally science was based on keen observation," she says. "That is part of getting us to knowledge." Ancient knowledge systems emphasize the connections between humans and nature—and see humans as part of larger whole. She says science today seems to be bearing that out more and more.</p><p>Still, that doesn't preclude the need for ancient knowledge as the climate rapidly changes. "Who better to be able to keenly observe those changes than people who have known what it has been?" she asks me. "To have a baseline and to know the various factors that will be changing?"</p>
Centering Community<p>Alongside the understanding of place, Schwartz emphasizes the equally important respect for community. Her writing recognizes that climate change is not so much an environmental problem as a human problem.</p><p>"Running in the back of my mind, like the hum of those hovering bees, was the dawning realization that all the knowledge and technology needed to shift to a regenerative future—one marked by agriculture that builds soil carbon, retains water, produces nutrient-dense food, and revives land and communities—is already available," she writes. "It's only people that get in the way."</p><p>To come at it from another angle, as one of her sources puts it, "There is nothing wrong with the Earth."</p><p>In reporting the book, Schwartz reckons with the notion of imperialism and comes to realize the limits of information. Knowing more doesn't necessarily change minds, but feeling heard can. Building trust can. Overcoming fear can. She witnesses the power of consensus when decades-old feuds among ranchers in New Mexico dissipate with the formation of a collective vision for their future.</p><p>"Worst-case-scenario perseverating keeps everyone pumping stress hormones. This leaves us at once frozen and overwhelmed, unable to act or seek alternatives," she writes. "In short, we stuff our heads with worst possible outcomes and wonder why we get them."</p><p>In my favorite example from the book, from which the title is derived, Schwartz explores what some local Indigenous leaders have called "green colonialism" in northern Norway. She follows the efforts of an Indigenous reindeer herder to prevent the government from culling his animals. While Norway's government is considered among the most progressive in the world, it doesn't recognize the value of the grazing animals in climate change mitigation, instead investing in wind turbines on those very same lands. The herder's family considers reindeer herding a cultural bank for traditional language, handicraft, knowledge of the environment, and ecology. So the loss is far greater than the animals themselves. (<a href="https://www.yesmagazine.org/environment/2020/09/02/norway-reindeer-herding-sami-culture/" target="_blank">Read an excerpt here.</a>)</p>
Homebound<p>"This was not an easy book to write," Schwartz admits, and the world looks very different today than when she was writing it. Schwartz says the pandemic has given her permission to fall in love with the place where she is. She describes her home in southern Vermont as beautiful, though somewhat dismissively, saying that she always viewed the action as taking place somewhere else. Home was just the place she returned to after each of her reporting trips to write without distractions.</p><p>Now, though, she says she's experiencing a newfound presence and grounding right where she is, and realizing there's far more to discover than she previously acknowledged. "What was in the background has become foreground." I would venture a guess that her shifted perspective is not unique in these uncertain times, and that's just what she thinks we need.</p><p>Even in the small town of Bennington, Vermont, where she lives, she's seeing the effects. A "grow your own food" webinar was offered in June. While a successful local event might usually attract five people, 100 people signed up. She says this is evidence that people are aware of the need for local resilience.</p><p>"We've all got places," she says. "Places have their own ecological logic. Let's do what we can where we are and learn from each other." That idea of connecting with place and community is central to her worldview. "The 'we' who can address climate change is everybody," she says.</p><p>"There is no one size fits all for climate action." Schwartz says we need to protest oil companies and make art and grow healthy food and feed one another and, in her case, write—all using our respective skills to imagine a more resilient world.</p><p>Her argument, reinforced by 2020's stay-at-home orders, is to focus on restoring the functions of whatever ecosystem you call home. Rhetorically, she writes, "How many microclimates does it take to make a new climate?"</p>
Tipping Points<p>In her concluding chapter, Schwartz asks what people would do if restoring ecosystems was achievable. She then lists possible answers, among them: keeping water in the ground, jettisoning the cynicism, and dancing.</p><p>I can't help but push back on this. After all, if our planet is at a tipping point, don't we need to do more and at larger scales to actually achieve meaningful ecological restoration?</p><p>Her answer is perfect in its simplicity: "Tipping points go both ways." We may be on the brink of disaster, if we choose to dwell on the worst-case scenarios. But maybe, just maybe, if we focus on the best possible outcomes, we can tip the scales to bring best-case scenarios into being.</p>
- Planting Billions of Trees Is the 'Best Climate Change Solution ... ›
- Why Women Are Central to Climate Justice and Solutions - EcoWatch ›
- 5 Ways to Fight the Climate Crisis in 2020 - EcoWatch ›
By Gero Rueter
The world is, on average, 1.1 degrees Celsius warmer today than it was in 1850. If this trend continues, our planet will be 2 – 3 degrees hotter by the end of this century, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Atmospheric CO2 Should Remain at a Minimum<p>In 2015, the world came together to <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/negotiators-from-nearly-200-countries-strike-deal-over-how-to-implement-landmark-paris-climate-treaty/a-46759829" target="_blank">sign the Paris Climate Agreement</a> which set the goal of limiting global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees — 1.5 degrees, if possible.</p><p>The agreement limits the amount of CO2 that can be released into the atmosphere. According to the IPCC, if a maximum of around 300 billion tons were emitted, there would be a 50% chance of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees. If <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/climate-emissions-paris-agreement/a-55044341" target="_blank">CO2 emissions remain the same</a>, however, the CO2 "budget" would be used up in just seven years.</p><p>According to the IPCC's report on the 1.5 degree target, negative emissions are also necessary to achieve the climate targets.</p>
Storing CO2 in the Ground<p>Storing CO2 deep in the Earth is already well-known and practiced on Norway's oil fields, for example. However, the process is still controversial, as storing CO2 underground can lead to earthquakes and leakage in the long-term. A different method is currently being practiced in Iceland, in which CO2 is sequestered into porous basalt rock to be mineralized into stone. Both methods still require more research, however.<br></p><p>Capturing CO2 to be held underground is done by using chemical processes which effectively extract the gas from the ambient air. This method is known as direct air capture (DAC) and is already practiced in other parts of Europe. As there is no limit to the amount of CO2 that can be captured, it is considered to have great potential. However, the main disadvantage is the cost — currently around $650 per ton. Some scientists believe that mass production of DAC systems could bring prices down to $59 per ton by 2050. It is already considered a key technology for future climate protection.</p><p>Another way of extracting CO2 from the air is via biomass. Plants grow and are burned in a power plant to produce electricity. CO2 is then extracted from the exhaust gas of the power plant and stored deep in the Earth.</p><p>The big problem with this <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/carbon-capture-expensive-risky-and-indispensable/a-43172422" target="_blank">technology</a>, known as bio-energy carbon capture and storage (BECCS) is the huge amount of space required. According to Felix Creutzig from the Mercator Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) in Berlin, it will therefore only play "a minor role" in CO2 removal technologies.</p>
The full extent of the damage wrought by the storm formerly known as Hurricane Laura will only continue to grow as the weakened storm continues inland and pollution from petrochemical plants and other industrial sites is discovered.
- Pence Offers 'Prayers' as Hurricane Laura Hits Gulf Coast While ... ›
- Pence Dismisses Climate Action at RNC as Hurricane Hits Gulf Coast ›
- 'Unsurvivable Storm Surge' Expected as Hurricane Laura Hits Gulf ... ›
By Maria Trimarchi and Sarah Gleim
If all the glaciers and ice caps on the planet melted, global sea level would rise by about 230 feet. That amount of water would flood nearly every coastal city around the world [source: U.S. Geological Survey]. Rising temperatures, melting arctic ice, drought, desertification and other catastrophic effects of climate change are not examples of future troubles — they are reality today. Climate change isn't just about the environment; its effects touch every part of our lives, from the stability of our governments and economies to our health and where we live.
<p>Why environmental refugees flee their homes is a complicated mixture of environmental degradation and desperate socioeconomic conditions. People leave their homes when their livelihoods and safety are jeopardized. What effects of climate change put them in jeopardy? Climate change triggers, among other problems, desertification and drought, <a href="https://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/deforestation.htm" target="_blank">deforestation</a>, land degradation, rising sea levels, <a href="https://science.howstuffworks.com/nature/natural-disasters/flood.htm" target="_blank">floods</a>, more frequent and more extreme storms, <a href="https://science.howstuffworks.com/nature/natural-disasters/earthquake.htm" target="_blank">earthquakes</a>, <a href="https://science.howstuffworks.com/nature/natural-disasters/volcano.htm" target="_blank">volcanoes</a>, food insecurity and famine.</p><p>The September <a href="http://visionofhumanity.org/app/uploads/2020/09/ETR_2020_web-1.pdf" target="_blank">2020 Ecological Threat Register Report</a>, by the Institute for Economics & Peace, predicts the hardest hit populations will be:</p><ul><li>Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa</li><li>Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Chad, India and Pakistan (which are among the world's least peaceful countries)</li><li>Pakistan, Ethiopia and Iran are most at risk for mass displacements</li><li>Haiti faces the highest risk of all countries in Central America and the Caribbean</li><li>India and China will be among countries experiencing high or extreme water stress</li></ul>
- Think Today's Refugee Crisis is Bad? Climate Change Will Make it a ... ›
- Climate Change Forces 20 Million People to Flee Each Year, Oxfam ... ›
- Meet the World's First Climate Refugees - EcoWatch ›
- World's Latest Climate Refugees Lived in Guatemalan Village Destroyed by Hurricane Eta - EcoWatch ›
- Why California Droughts Could Increase Due to Arctic Sea Ice Loss ... ›
- Arctic Sea Ice Melting by 2035 Is Possible, Study Finds - EcoWatch ›
- Strongest, Oldest Arctic Sea Ice Breaks Up for First Time on Record ... ›
Current efforts to curb an infectious disease show the potential we have for collective action. That action and more will be needed if we want to stem the coming wave of heat-related deaths that will surpass the number of people who die from all infectious diseases, according to a new study, as The Guardian reported.
- Potentially Deadly Heat and Humidity Levels Are Already Here and ... ›
- 'Black Moms Matter': Increased Heat and Pollution Raise Pregnancy ... ›
- Trump Administration Buries Government-Funded Studies Showing ... ›
- Ocean Warming Dooms Most Fish, Study Says - EcoWatch ›
- Rising Temperatures May Cause 2,100 Annual U.S. Deaths ... ›
By Stuart Braun
Back in 1970, the earth's biocapacity was more than enough to meet annual human demand for resources. But in the half century since, we have steadily outgrown our single planet. Humanity now consumes around 60% more than Earth can yield in a year, meaning we need 1.6 planets to sustain us.
One Planet Misery or Prosperity?<p>According to Mathis Wackernagel, founder and president of the Global Footprint Network, this year's contraction is welcomed. But he says the fact that it is accidental means it is not sustainable.</p><p>"The tragedy of this year is that the reduction of carbon emissions is not based on a better infrastructure such as better electricity grids or more compact cities," he told DW. "We need to move the date by design, not by disaster."</p><p>To meet the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/what-is-the-ipcc-and-what-does-it-do/a-50552119" target="_blank">Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change</a> (IPCC) targets to limit warming to 1.5-2 degrees Celcius, the current decline in the emissions curve would have to continue at the same rate for the next decade, Wackernagel points out. At present, however, this is being achieved through economic and social suffering.</p><p>"Not doing anything, being stuck at home. That's not the kind of transformation we need. It's not lasting," Wackernagel said.</p>
Lowering Emissions for the Benefit of All<p>A key side effect of disaster-driven emission reductions is the fact that "the pain is going to be unevenly distributed," according Wackernagel. Marginalised groups, especially people of color, have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic's "huge economic impacts," said Sarah George, a senior reporter with Edie, a UK media company that promotes sustainable business practices.</p><p>Edie conducted its first Earth Overshoot webinar in 2019, with the aim of educating organizations to reduce their resource footprint through business models that are sustainable for everyone in the long-term.</p><p>George says this year's webinar on August 22 will also address the misnomer spread by some climate skeptics that a green, low-consumption future is only possible under the deprivations of a lockdown. </p><p>"They have used the situation to say that lockdown is 'what green campaigners want,' and that we cannot enjoy things like international travel, economic growth, etc. in a green future," George told DW. </p><p>But <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/life-after-coronavirus-we-can-shape-a-totally-different-world/a-53496208" target="_blank">post-lockdown</a>, George says the goal is to create a one planet model through which businesses can couple "better economic and social outcomes" with "lower emissions and air pollution."</p>
Ecological Debt Balloons in Developing Nations<p>Earth Overshoot Day is calculated both globally and among individual countries, and reveals how developed nations are eating up the earth's biocapacity at a much faster rate.</p>
'This Is History in the Making': Cherokee Nation Is First U.S.-Based Tribe to Preserve Seeds in 'Doomsday Vault'
The Cherokee Nation will save seeds from the "three-sisters" crops in the Arctic "doomsday vault," making it the first Native American tribe to ensure culturally emblematic crops will be preserved for the future, as The Guardian reported.
- Record Warm Water Measured Beneath Antarctica's 'Doomsday ... ›
- Doomsday Clock Moves to 100 Seconds Before Midnight Due to ... ›
By Gianna-Carina Grün
While the first countries are easing their lockdowns, others are reporting more and more new cases every day. Data for the global picture shows the pandemic is far from over. DW has the latest statistics.
What's the Current Global Trend?<p>The goal for all countries is to make it to the blue part of the chart and stay there. Countries and territories in this section reported zero new cases both this week (past seven days) and the week before.</p><p>Currently, that is the case for 14 out of 209 countries and territories. </p>
How Has the Covid-19 Trend Evolved Over the Past Weeks?<p>The situation has improved slightly: 87 countries report more cases this week than last week. </p>
- Coronavirus Has Infected More Than 60,000 Worldwide, New ... ›
- Apple Fire Forces 7,800 to Seek Shelter in Coronavirus-Ravaged ... ›
- CDC Expands List of Those With Higher COVID-19 Risks - EcoWatch ›
- France and UK Set Record for Daily Coronavirus Cases - EcoWatch ›
Britain announced that it will ban sales of new diesel and gasoline powered cars in 15 years last week. That was five years earlier than expected, but necessary for the UK to reach its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, according to a statement from the prime minister's office, as CNN reported.
- Bristol Diesel Ban Approved in Effort to Clean Air - EcoWatch ›
- UK Bans All New Petrol and Diesel Cars by 2040 - EcoWatch ›
- Scotland to Ban Sale of New Gas and Diesel Cars by 2032 - EcoWatch ›
- California Governor Signs Order to Ban Sale of New Gas-Powered Cars by 2035 - EcoWatch ›