In 2001, the IPCC's Third Assessment warned the greatest increases in heat stress were expected in "mid- to high-latitude (temperate) cities, especially in populations with non-adapted architecture and limited air conditioning." The scientists wrote at the time, "A number of U.S. cities would experience, on average, several hundred extra deaths each summer."
This year's June heat wave killed nearly 800 people in the usually-temperate region where few live in homes with air conditioning. That heat wave would have been "virtually impossible" without human-caused climate change.
For a deeper dive:
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- 17 States Under Heat Alerts as Fifth Summer Heat Wave in the U.S. Begins ›
The new report, released Monday, found that the climate is already changing in ways that are unprecedented in thousands to hundreds of thousands of years and that some effects, such as a certain amount of sea level rise, are already irreversible. It also warned that temperatures will likely spike beyond 1.5 to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels this century unless greenhouse gas emissions are widely and rapidly reduced.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres called the report a "code red for humanity," in a UN press release.
"The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk," Guterres said.
The report is officially titled IPCC Working Group I report, Climate Change 2021: the Physical Science Basis. It is the first part of the IPCC's Sixth Assessment Report, which is due in full in 2022. This initial publication comes less than three months before the next UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, as NBC News pointed out. The report will likely inform debate as world leaders are expected to arrive with ambitious pledges to reduce emissions by 2030.
The IPCC was first formed in the late 1980s and gathers thousands of scientists from 195 countries who review the latest scientific findings on climate change. Their reports are generally considered a scientific consensus on the issue. This latest report is the work of 230 authors and confirms that the climate crisis is largely human caused, is getting worse and will only be stopped with dramatic action.
The report concluded that the burning of fossil fuels was responsible for 1.1 degrees Celsius of warming since 1850-1900. Further, since 1970, global temperatures have risen faster than in any other 50-year period over the last 2,000 years, according to BBC News.
"It is a statement of fact, we cannot be any more certain; it is unequivocal and indisputable that humans are warming the planet," report author professor Ed Hawkins, from the University of Reading, told BBC News.
This warming is already causing impacts such as more frequent and intense heat waves and more rainfall and flooding across the world, as evidenced by extreme weather events this summer such as heat-fueled wildfires in the U.S. West and deadly floods in Belgium and Germany.
"Climate change is already affecting every region on Earth, in multiple ways. The changes we experience will increase with additional warming," IPCC Working Group I Co-Chair Panmao Zhai said in the press release.
All of this is set to accelerate in the future. The report authors found that the world would hit 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming by 2040 in all emissions scenarios run by the authors, and this could happen even earlier if emissions are not reduced, according to BBC News.
However, the report authors said that they thought the temperature rise could be paused and reversed if emissions are halved by 2030 and reach net-zero by 2050. They also said that it was still possible to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, but this is likely the last report that will be released while this is still the case."This report shows the closer we can keep to 1.5C, the more desirable the climate we will be living in, and it shows we can stay within 1.5C but only just – only if we cut emissions in the next decade," director of research at the Grantham Institute, Imperial College London and IPCC lead author Joeri Rogelj told The Guardian. "If we don't, by the time of the next IPCC report at the end of this decade, 1.5C will be out the window."
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See how you can save money on solar panels in Florida.
Florida is well-known as the Sunshine State because of its year-round sunny weather that draws millions of tourists each year, but historically, Florida hasn't actually been a national leader when it comes to solar energy generation. That said, financial incentives like Florida solar tax credit and rebate opportunities have played a huge part in its rise to become one of the top states for solar energy.
To the glee of clean energy advocates across the state, various Florida solar incentives have succeeded in bringing solar power throughout the state. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, in 2020, Florida ranked third in the nation for solar energy capacity, and it had the second-most installations during the second quarter of 2021.
This progress in the solar field comes from many different sources, not the least of which is Florida solar incentives. For any homes or businesses feeling left behind while the rest of the state goes solar, these types of solar tax credits are still widely available across Florida, which will be discussed in this article.
For most homeowners, the decision to go solar comes down to cost. To see how much you'd pay for a home solar system (and how much you can shave off that price with Florida solar tax credit and incentive opportunities), you can get a free quote from a top solar company near you by using this tool or filling out the form below.
Florida Solar Tax Credits and Solar Rebates
As much as transitioning to clean energy is the best thing for the environment and the fight against climate change, the reality has always been that such changes would be slow to happen (if they happened at all) unless they made sense financially. When solar energy systems are proven to save money for those who pay the high upfront costs to install them, those purchases are better considered a worthy investment.
As such, some of the most effective policies encouraging solar installations have been those making the decision a no-brainer from the budgetary perspective. Let's take a look at some of the top Florida solar incentives.
|Florida Solar Incentive||Program Overview|
|Florida Net Metering Programs||Credits homeowners when their solar panels produce extra electricity and it is exported to the local power grid|
|Florida Tax Exemptions||Property tax exemptions and sales tax exemptions for solar and other renewable energy equipment|
|Local Incentives||Incentives, rebates and low-interest financing programs at the town, city, and county level that encourage local solar installations|
Florida Net Metering Programs
Regardless of the state, one of the most critical types of energy policy for solar panels is known as net metering. Through net metering, homeowners can feed excess electricity produced by their solar panels into the power grid in exchange for utility credits. These credits can be used to pay for the energy a home uses when panels aren't producing (such as at night).
Net metering tends to be a state-by-state policy, as there is no federal policy regarding net metering. Florida is one of the states where there is, in fact, a statewide net metering program, applicable for homeowners regardless of which utility serves their area.
The specific net metering provision covers up to 2 megawatts (MW) of capacity for any customers who generate electricity with a renewable energy source. Florida Power & Light and Duke Energy have the largest net metering programs in the state.
The availability of such net metering serves as an incentive for Floridians to install solar panels on their property. Not only do they benefit by reducing their power bills from pulling energy from the grid less often, but they can even profit when the utility pays them for generating more power than they consume, bringing their solar payback period down.
Florida Solar Tax Exemptions
Another financial mechanism that the Florida state government offers to solar system owners is solar tax exemptions. To start, Florida doesn't want to make the upfront cost to purchase and install solar equipment to be any higher than the open market says it should be, so since 1997, all solar energy systems have been completely exempt from Florida's sales and use tax.
Once a solar photovoltaic system is purchased and installed, there is a statewide property tax abatement that further helps homeowners avoid paying taxes on it. Most home additions, such as a new shed or outdoor patio built in a home's backyard, would be appraised to determine the value it added to the property and thus increase the overall property tax. However, the added home value of solar panels is excluded from the property's taxable value.
Florida is also a large, diverse state, so in addition to the state solar incentives, many local jurisdictions enact their own policies to encourage and support installation of solar energy systems. At the town, city or county level, Floridians will commonly find low-interesting solar financing options, specific solar incentives or rebates, and more.
You can determine whether your locality offers such incentives by investigating your local government websites or talking to utility company representatives. When you do, you may come across such successful programs as Jacksonville's $2,000 rebate for solar battery installations, Boynton Beach's Energy Edge Rebate Program, or the Solar Energy Rebate Grant Program offered by Dunedin.
Federal Solar Tax Credit
Floridians, of course, can also benefit from all the tax incentives, rebates and credits that are offered at the federal level. Over the past two decades, the federal solar investment tax credit (ITC) has attributed largely to the rapid growth in solar energy across business sectors, geographies and customer types.
For systems installed and operational before the end of 2022, the federal solar tax credit is equal to 26% of the value of the installation, dropping to 22% for systems installed in 2023. It is currently set to expire afterward, though the idea of extending the ITC beyond its current expiration date, as has been done in the past, has been a part of active clean energy policy debates.
FAQ: Florida Solar Incentives
Does Florida have a solar tax credit?
State-wide, there is no specific Florida solar tax credit. However, all utilities in the state of Florida do offer customers the ability to utilize net metering, Florida solar homeowners are eligible for the federal solar tax credit, and some local jurisdictions in Florida may offer their own tax credits.
Is solar tax exempt in Florida?
In Florida, the purchase and installation of a home solar system is exempt from all sales tax, and the value of renewable systems are excluded from 100% of residential property taxes.
How much is the solar tax credit for 2022?
For any solar panel system installed before the end of 2022, the federal solar investment tax credit is equal to 26% of the value of the system.
Is Florida a good state for solar?
Florida is a great state for solar from the perspective of having year-round sunny weather, higher-than-average solar irradiance and a policy landscape conducive to solar installations. Because of these factors, Florida ranked third among all states in terms of solar capacity installed in 2020 (rising to second when looking at the third quarter of 2021), per the SEIA.
How much do solar panels cost in Florida?
Based on market research and data from top solar companies, we've found the average cost of solar panels in Florida is $2.53 per watt. However, this is only an average, and prices can vary widely depending on where you live, the number of solar panels you need and more.
To get a free estimate for your own home solar system, you can get connected with a pre-screened local installer by using this tool or entering your home's information below.
Seattle and Portland set record temperatures on Saturday as a dome of extremely hot air settled over the US Pacific Northwest.
All of Washington and Oregon, and parts of Idaho, Wyoming and California, are under an excessive heat warning.
Temperatures are set to soar 20 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit above average throughout the region during the weekend and into next week, the US National Weather Service (NWS) said.
"This event will likely be one of the most extreme and prolonged heat waves in the recorded history of the Inland Northwest," the NWS added.
The Inland Northwest is a sparsely populated region comprising eastern Washington, and parts of Idaho and northeast Oregon.
Record Temperatures in Seattle and Portland
Portland, Oregon recorded its hottest day ever on Saturday, topping 108 Fahrenheit (39.4 degrees Celsius) by the afternoon.
The previous record for Oregon's largest city was 107 F (41.7 degrees Celsius), a mark hit in 1965 and 1981.
Seattle reached 101 degrees Fahrenheit (42.2 degrees Celsius) by mid-afternoon on Saturday, making it the hottest June day ever recorded in the city. It was only the fourth time in recorded history that Seattle has topped 100 degrees, according to the NWS.
Authorities Tell Residents to Stay Cool
Residents in the temperate Pacific Northwest are not generally equipped to deal with the heat, and many homes do not have air conditioning. There were reports of stores across the region running out of fans and air conditioners.
In Seattle, officials told the city's 725,000 residents to hydrate, keep blinds closed, use fans and to go to a city "cooling center" if needed.
Officials in Multnomah County, Oregon, which encompasses Portland, warned that there could be public transportation delays, strains on emergency medical services and power outages as a result of the extreme heat.
County officials also said they would be providing cooling centers for people to escape the heat.
In a short video posted online, the county's health officer, Jennifer Vines, urged residents to go to a cooling center if they do not have air conditioning, warning that the area is in for "life-threatening" heat.
Agriculture and wildlife conservation across the Pacific Northwest has also been impacted.
Berry farmers scrambled to pick crops before they rotted on the vine. Fisheries managers working to keep endangered sockeye salmon safe from warming river water,
State, tribal and federal officials began releasing the water from Idaho's Dworshak Reservoir earlier this week into the lower Snake River in a bid to lower the water temperature.
Officials fear a repeat of 2015, when water temperatures in Columbia and Snake river reservoirs reached lethal levels for the salmon.
How Long Will It Last?
The unusually hot weather is expected to extend into next week for much of the region, as a "heat dome" persists caused by an area of stalled high pressure.
The NWS was also expected to issue new red flag warnings in California and elsewhere, advising that the hot, dry and breezy conditions raise the risk of wildfires.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
By Andrea Germanos
It's "a frightening warning sign," said one observer.
"Heartbreaking," another commented.
"Can we now mobilize en masse to save all Earthly beings?" asked another.
Those were some of the responses to new reporting by the CBC on how last week's extreme heatwave that gripped British Columbia may have led to the deaths of more than one billion intertidal animals like mussels and starfish that inhabit the Salish Sea coastline.
Christopher Harley, a marine ecologist at the University of British Columbia, told the outlet about how he had noticed a foul odor from dead intertidal animals on rocks at Vancouver's popular Kitsilano Beach as the city experienced record heat. Harley then set off with a team of researchers to gather data on nearby coastlines.
A billion seashore animals estimated killed last week in #PNWheatwave.💔 The devastation is unfathomable—yet prevent… https://t.co/zIEMrpGk6k— Philip Bell😷 explores ecosocial responsibilities… (@Philip Bell😷 explores ecosocial responsibilities…) 1625548121.0
What the researchers noticed, CBC reported, were "endless rows of mussels with dead meat attached inside the shell, along with other dead creatures like sea stars and barnacles."
They tracked temperatures too, recording 50°C (122°F) on rocky shoreline habitats, well above the high 30s (around 100°F) mussels can endure for short spurts. Harley likened a mussel on the rock enduring the scorching temperatures to "a toddler left in a car on a hot day"—stuck "at the mercy of the environment" until the tide returns. "And on Saturday, Sunday, Monday, during the heat wave, it just got so hot that the mussels, there was nothing they could do."
The heat wave was deadly for humans too.
Lisa Lapointe, British Columbia's chief coroner, announced Friday that from June 25 to July 1, the province's death toll was 719—three times higher than normal—and said heat was likely "a significant contributing factor to the increased number of deaths." The heat wave was also blamed for dozens of deaths in the U.S. states of Oregon and Washington.
The recent heat wave's deadly impact on shellfish was noted in the U.S. Pacific Northwest as well.
The Daily Mail reported last week on comments from the family-run Hama Hama Oyster company in Washington. "The epic heatwave is something no one has seen and then we had a low tide that was as far as it has been in 15 years and it happened mid-day," the company said.
The clams "look like they had just been cooked, like they were ready to eat," the company told the outlet.
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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Picnics, barbecues, swimming pools and ice cream. Summer is here, and bringing the heat, but this year, a combination of changing weather patterns and a record-breaking drought is raising temperatures to dangerous levels.
Hundreds of people have died in the last week, as a result of more than a hundred-degree temperatures in areas not equipped for the extreme weather.
While the daily heat can be excruciating, and you may not be enjoying your summer break, there are ways to help you and your pets stay safe, even if you don't have air conditioning.
1. Stay Hydrated
On a normal day, men need almost 16 glasses of water and women nearly 12. This increases during heat waves because our bodies are expending water in the form of sweat. This is meant to keep you cool, but in extreme heat, it doesn't work, and our bodies just keep creating more.
A good way to check for dehydration is by noticing the color of your urine. Anything darker than lemonade in color means you need more liquids. Keep in mind that if you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Make sure you have plenty of clean, fresh water on hand, in case of a power outage or water shortage.
Keep your pets stocked with water, also. While some of them may not sweat, if they are panting without exercise, they may be dehydrated, and that will lead to them overheating.
2. Stay Out of the Sun
It seems simple but staying out of the sun will help prevent heat-related illness and injury. If you must be outside, wear loose-fitting clothing, a hat with a large brim and bring an umbrella for shade. Keep to areas shaded by trees or other tall structures and try to find breezeways and other places where even a slight wind can run through.
The sun is strongest between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. so if you must be outside, try to schedule it around those hours. Exposure to the sun during times of immense heat can exacerbate heat exhaustion and heat stroke, and lead to sunburn and sun poisoning.
3. Use Hacks to Keep Your Home Cool
Many people do not have central air or even window-unit air conditioners, and windows have enough space around them to equal a 3-foot hole in your wall, if added all together. Check for gaps. Close your blinds and drapes, and consider heavier insulation around the window areas to prevent heat from coming in. This could be old comforters, blankets, anything you have that will absorb the heat.
Fans only work if there is some form of cooler air in the house, so after days of 100 plus temps, your trusty plug-in may not work like you want. You can try putting a tray of ice cubes in front of it, to have it blow the cooler evaporation toward your living space.
Wet washcloths on your neck and wrists can alleviate discomfort, and if you have the option, taking cool or cold showers will help keep your body temperature lower.
Hot air rises, so stay on the lower floors, and if you have a basement or a garage, even better.
Try not to use your oven or stove. These appliances increase the temperature since they are sources of heat themselves.
4. Know the Symptoms of Heat-Induced Distress and Seek Help When Necessary
There are temperatures and humidity levels where human beings can spontaneously die, and those conditions are becoming ever more common.
If someone you know is experiencing heat exhaustion, they may start by heavily sweating, then you'll notice their skin will turn pale, cold and clammy. They may experience muscle cramps, nausea or vomiting, dizziness or even pass out. If this happens, call for medical attention, and while you wait, put loose clothing on them and place cool, wet cloths on their exposed skin.
Heatstroke is an even more serious condition. If someone you know has a body temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, call for help. They will also experience dizziness, vomiting and may pass out. If you suspect heatstroke, put the person in a cold bath, and do not give them anything to drink at all while you wait for the medics to come.
5. Check in on Your Neighbors and Furry Friends
Often, older people have more trouble self-regulating their body temperatures, so heat affects them at an increased level. Also, more vulnerable populations with underlying conditions will succumb to heat-induced injury first. Check on your friends and neighbors regularly, especially if they live alone, to make sure they are keeping as cool as they can.
Keep your pets in dark rooms with exposed flooring — like tile, linoleum, or hardwood — they can lay down on these surfaces and help cool their bodies.
Make sure they have plenty of cold water to drink. And never leave them in a parked car, even for a minute, even with the window down, in high temperatures. Cars can heat to well over 120 degrees Fahrenheit in just minutes.
Darlena Cunha is a freelance writer and a professor at the University of Florida, with degrees in communications and ecology.
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By Tara Lohan
It's hard not to think about how hot it's been — even if you live somewhere that has escaped the heat in the past few weeks. When British Columbia clocks temperatures of 121° F, it gets the world's attention. As it should.
Here are six reasons why we need to be paying more attention to heat waves.
1. Deadly Numbers
Heatwaves may seem to lack the drama of other weather events with named storms and categorized wind speeds, but they're actually the most deadly severe weather event.
Last week's heat dome that locked the Pacific Northwest in a sweltering vice is an apt reminder. The prolonged stretch of record-high temperatures in British Columbia is estimated to have claimed around 300 lives. Another 76 deaths were reported in Washington and Oregon.
Across the world, things have been heating up — with deadly results. Between 1998 and 2017, heatwaves killed 166,000 people, the World Health Organization reports. That includes 70,000 who perished in Europe's 2003 heatwave.
2. Yep, Climate Change
Not surprisingly, climate change is making things worse. An increase in global temperatures has resulted in a rise in the frequency of heatwaves. In the years to come, climate change is expected to also make heatwaves more severe and longer lasting.
As people pump up the air conditioning and stay indoors, that also puts increased pressure on the electrical grid. New research found that these extreme weather events are triggering more failures of critical infrastructure.
Power failures, for example, have jumped 60% since 2015. The combination of excessive heat and blackouts in major U.S. cities would have calamitous results. In Detroit, the researchers found in their modeling, that could mean 450,000 exposed to dangerous temperatures and a whopping 1.7 million in air conditioning-reliant Phoenix.
3. The Dangers of Humidity
The most recent deadly heatwave hit the arid West, increasing concerns about wildfires.
An aerial image of the McKay Creek fire in British Columbia acquired by the Operational Land Imager on Landsat 8 on June 30, 2021 during the region's record-breaking heatwave. NASA
Our bodies sweat to help keep us cool. But when the relative humidity is too high that moisture from our skin can't evaporate as well and we don't cool down. Scientists have identified the related wet bulb temperature of 95° F as the upper limit of what we can tolerate when conditions are both hot and extremely humid.
By midcentury, models predict, climate change will make wet bulb temperatures near 95° F a reality. But new research shows that areas in South Asia, the coastal Middle East and the coastal southwest of North America are already hitting that critical point.
4. Inequity Makes It Hotter
Not all people will face the same risks — even if they live in the same cities. Neighborhoods that lack tree canopy and green space, and have more road surfaces and large buildings, could be as much as 20° F hotter.
A 2020 study of 108 cities published in the journal Climate found that areas with higher temperatures are almost always the same neighborhoods that have experienced historic racist housing policies such as "redlining."
"This study reveals that historical housing policies may, in fact, be directly responsible for disproportionate exposure to current heat events," the researchers wrote. Another recent study in Nature Communications found that people of color have a higher risk than whites of high heat exposure in all but six of the largest 175 cities in the United States.
5. Wildlife at Risk
People aren't the only ones feeling the heat. The Pacific Northwest's recent heatwave also threatens cold-water-loving salmon. The Columbia and Snake rivers this year are seeing temperatures within two degrees of the "slaughter zone" that killed 250,000 sockeye in 2015, The Seattle Times reported.
When water temps rise above 62, #salmon are "more vulnerable to disease, and as temperatures climb higher, they wil… https://t.co/idBET1J1Vy— NWF - Idaho (@NWF - Idaho) 1624993175.0
The heatwave hit at the peak of the sockeye run, and also when spring and summer chinook and steelhead are migrating. Some fish are being pulled out of the river and trucked to hatcheries for spawning.
"We are crossing the line to temperatures that can be disastrous for fish," Michele DeHart, manager of the Fish Passage Center, told The Seattle Times. "I would say the outlook is pretty grim."
6. Vicious Circle
The hotter it gets, the more fortunate people who have air conditioning crank up the dial and the longer they'll need to leave it running. In a fossil-fuel driven world, that means even more emissions that will continue heating the planet.
Already 10% of global electrical use is from people trying to stay cool with air conditioning and electric fans, according to the International Energy Agency. Expect that number to climb as temperatures get hotter and more people become able to afford A/C.
The International Energy Agency reports that over the next 30 years, air conditioning may be one of the top drivers of electricity demand. "Without action to address energy efficiency, energy demand for space cooling will more than triple by 2050 — consuming as much electricity as all of China and India today," the agency reports.
That makes the need for high-efficiency cooling extremely vital. Not to mention more widespread use of renewable energy and, of course, drastically curbing climate emissions.
Reposted with permission from The Revelator.
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The massive heat wave forecast to oppress the Pacific Northwest this weekend will be extreme and historic, among other superlatives, a growing consensus among meteorologists warns.
Climate change, caused by the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels, makes heatwaves worse and more frequent, and the heatwave expected to roast the Northwest will be extreme in both intensity and duration. Temperatures of 15-30°F above average could stifle the region for as much as a week, held in place by a high pressure "heat dome." Extreme heat and heatwaves kill as many as 5,600 people living in the U.S. every year, and are often worst in historically redlined neighborhoods.
As reported by The Washington Post:
Seattle, Portland, Spokane and Medford, along with other population centers in the Pacific Northwest, plan to open extra cooling centers as significant numbers of people lack air conditioning and may need to find relief from the sweltering temperatures.
Washington, Oregon and Idaho could all experience their hottest June weather on record, according to the National Weather Service, seeing temperatures of at least 113 or 114 degrees. As heat surges north of the border, British Columbia and Alberta are also predicted to experience record-setting heat and Canada's highest temperature observed of 113 degrees may fall.
"Even though we've had heat waves in June, they haven't been nearly as strong as this one is forecast to be," said Larry O'Neill, Oregon's State Climatologist and a professor at Oregon State University. "Other past exceptional heat waves that we've had in the Pacific Northwest — they've all occurred after mid-July."
For a deeper dive:
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Some birds have mastered living in the scorching, dry environment of a desert. But even desert-adapted birds can't handle extreme temperatures like those seen during heat waves.
A heat wave is said to occur when unusually high temperatures prevail for several days in a region. During one heat wave that lasted eight days, all of the eggs that zebra finches had laid or incubated failed.
Native to Australia, zebra finches are flexible with their breeding. They can nest pretty much any time in a year. In February 2017, the birds were nesting during peak Australian summer when the heat wave hit. Maximum air temperatures were above 40°C (104°F) on all eight days.
Ideal incubation temperatures for the zebra finch are 36–38°C. "The temperatures that killed these embryos, they are obviously just too much for the embryos to take," Simon Griffith of Macquarie University in Australia told EcoWatch.
That summer, as part of a larger study, Griffith and his co-worker visited hundreds of nestboxes to check on their status. A handful of these had been occupied. Using a digital egg monitor, the scientists tested from time to time if the embryos in the active nests had a heartbeat. "Before the heat wave we could still see the heartbeat and then after these two or three days of heat when we checked the eggs, the heartbeat had stopped," Griffith said.
Out of 25 egg clutches, 23 had failed to hatch. Just two eggs out of the 100 hatched. Both the chicks died later. "The fact that they lost these eggs wasn't a big problem for the zebra finch but we think it's a bit of a warning," said Griffith. The zebra finch is well-adapted to heat and if it is losing its eggs, Griffith said, "it probably means there are lots of other birds that we weren't studying that also may have lost their eggs."
Being a common bird that can breed every few weeks, the setback did not hugely impact the zebra finch. But other, rare birds may not be so lucky, especially as heat waves become more frequent, extreme and prolonged.
"Widespread heat-related mortality of eggs, similar to that documented here, should be of particular concern for threatened species," said Andrew McKechnie of the South African National Biodiversity Institute. Threatened species with low breeding rates are even more concerning, according to McKechnie who was not involved with the work.
In South Africa, McKechnie documented the death of more than a hundred birds and bats in a single, extremely hot day in late 2020. Most of the birds that died were songbirds. This was despite the fact that adult songbirds have the means to beat the heat.
The zebra finch, a songbird, pants with its beak open to cool down and stays in the shade by restricting feeding to early morning. If there is a source of water nearby, the bird will drink and splash in it. The problem is the eggs can't go anywhere, said Griffith whose work was published in the journal Ibis.
While parent birds may shade their nests from the sun, they may not be able to stop the eggs from overheating. Evidence for this comes from another study published this year. The study reports nest failures in the jacky winter, also a songbird, from a semi-arid part of South Australia. In December 2018, when a heat wave struck, seven egg clutches were in the incubation stage. All of them failed. A year later, another heat wave resulted not only in jacky winters abandoning their nests but in the death of some of the adults.
Climate science is suggesting that things will get worse and certain areas of Australia will become hotter and drier, said Griffith. A lot of birds, including the zebra finch, are right up at the limit of what they can cope with and probably can't adapt anymore, he warns.
Yet, Griffith believes that birds might be able to tolerate higher temperatures if water is available. "Where there will be problems is where there is no water," he said.
Richa is an independent science writer. She writes Birds & Words, a newsletter on all things birds at TinyLetter.com/RichaMalhotra.
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By Sushma Subramanian
Baltimore is suing major oil and gas companies for spurring the climate crisis and the rising temperatures that have an outsized impact on low-income, urban areas
For years, an elderly man stood as a regular fixture around his East Baltimore neighborhood for the way he would wander the streets in the summer, trying to stay outside his sweltering home until nightfall.
This man, who suffers from dementia, lived in a row house that shared side walls with its neighboring homes. With windows only in the front and back, there was little air flow, which trapped the heat inside. It's not unusual for the upper floors in such homes to be several degrees hotter than the temperature outdoors.
During a nearly two-week heat wave that swept through the city in July 2019, Cynthia Brooks, executive director of the Bea Gaddy Family Center, a local non-profit that provides food and other services for the poor and homeless, noticed she hadn't seen the man for a while. Finally, on one of the "code red" days – when the forecasted heat index is expected to be at 105F (40.56C) or higher – he stumbled out of his house, looking disoriented. No one knows how long he had been sitting inside, alone, without a fan or air conditioning.
This man had no one to call – no family was around, and alerting emergency responders could have led to a hefty medical bill. Brooks dropped everything and took him to nearby Johns Hopkins hospital, where he was diagnosed with heatstroke and given treatment. After that incident, Brooks became his legal custodian. He currently lives in a senior home nearby, and she makes his treatment decisions.
Blocks of row houses and young trees contribute to the heat issues in Baltimore. Greg Kahn / The Guardian
This man represents the population in Baltimore most likely to face the personal impacts of the climate crisis. Around the country, global heating is increasing the frequency, intensity and duration of summer heat waves. The recent triple-digit temperatures across the Pacific north-west, where air conditioning in homes isn't common, highlight the real-world hardships caused by extreme heat exposure and how the elderly and homeless suffer disproportionately from physical discomfort and worse health outcomes.
Mitigating such public health issues, along with damage to infrastructure and losses in tourism revenue and agriculture, are among the major costs of climate change in Baltimore. Now, the city is looking for retribution.
In a recent lawsuit, the city argues that fossil fuel companies should be held responsible for such costs because they knowingly contributed to the climate crisis. Baltimore's case is one of more than 20 suits brought by a range of other cities, states and counties that are suing the major oil conglomerates for driving the climate crisis and offloading the financial burden onto the American public.
The legal strategy is a novel approach toward addressing the climate crisis, and some legal experts believe Baltimore's suit may be the bellwether for similar efforts across the country. The case has caught the attention of the US supreme court, which in May ruled in favor of the oil companies over a legal technicality. While the ruling gives the fossil fuel industry the green light to pursue arguing their case in federal court, where they believe they will face better odds than in state court, the legal process is expected to reveal new information on what the industry knew of the environmental destruction brought by climate change.
The Baltimore case, in particular, highlights the ways that densely-populated urban areas bear the burdens of extreme weather patterns. Marginalized communities are the most likely to face the effects.
Stretches of hot weather in the city have become more frequent over the past 40 years. According to the National Weather Service, 10 of the 12 periods in Baltimore's history that saw 20 or more days of 90-degree temperatures or higher have occurred since 1980. Last summer, 16 people died for heat-related reasons, three of whom were suspected or presumed homeless, according to statistics from the Baltimore city health department. On one day in 2020, there were more than 90 emergency department complaints due to heat-related illness, including hyperthermia, dehydration and sunburn.
"Go to Johns Hopkins at any given time in the summer and people are complaining about heat exhaustion. People are getting picked up on the side of the street because they pass out," Brooks says. "If you are homeless, you are subjected to all layers of heat."
Though we typically think of rising tides affecting coastal communities, extreme weather patterns and wildfires out west as pressure points brought by climate change, heat islands in urban areas represent the very real, but often invisible, climate change threats that harm low-income communities in particular. Dark-colored roads and rooftops absorb heat from the sun and release it back into the air, increasing temperatures in their vicinity, an effect that's more pronounced in the evenings. Even within a city, neighborhoods with less vegetation feel hotter.
East Baltimore, particularly the area north of Patterson Park, is considered the city's most extreme urban heat island, according to a 2018 study by researchers at Portland State University in Oregon and the Science Museum of Virginia. Scientists say temperatures in such pockets can be as much as 10 to 20 degrees hotter than other parts of the city due to a high concentration of pavement and a lack of shade from trees.
Central air conditioning is rare in the neighborhood, and often the wiring in the buildings is so old that a window unit could short circuit. For those able to install an AC unit, the energy required to run it is often too expensive for someone on a fixed income. Fans help somewhat, but often they end up just circulating the hot air.
Combined with heat-trapping row houses, illness caused by extreme heat is a major risk. Climate change has also been shown to lengthen allergy season and worsen air quality, and heat can worsen chronic health conditions, such as various respiratory, cerebral and cardiovascular diseases.
The city in recent years has worked to increase its number of cooling centers – air-conditioned public spaces that are a common strategy in many cities. Last year, because the Covid-19 pandemic prevented people from gathering in closed spaces, the city increased its efforts to keep people cooler while at home. The department of health purchased about 20,000 box fans to distribute to senior citizens. In addition, the Maryland Food Bank provided water to be distributed at community resiliency hubs throughout the city.
Tehma Smith Wilson, chief operating officer of The Door, a community resiliency hub that helped distribute the fans and water to residents living in the hottest part of the city, said it was an enormously popular program. The long walks to such facilities, however, can deter people from taking advantage of them. Many seniors who stand to benefit from the city's services often struggle with mobility. And because people remained socially distanced during the pandemic, they had to line up outside, in areas without much green space. The water provided much-needed relief and the fans disappeared quickly, but there were still logistical challenges getting them to those who needed them most.
"You might be able to walk there, but then are you capable of carrying it two or three blocks away?" said Wilson.
Tehma Smith Wilson of The Door, a resiliancy hub in Baltimore distributes food and water to residents on June 24, 2021. Greg Kahn / The Guardian
Other longer-term efforts to help people deal with the heat include weatherizing housing by plugging leaks, adding insulation and installing air conditioning. Several community organizations have received energy efficiency upgrades to accommodate solar power and battery storage so they can continue to serve their communities if there is a power outage. Backup power services are unequally distributed in cities.
The city has also amped up efforts in recent years to plant trees and add more city-maintained green spaces, with a particular focus on neighborhoods that lack shade, such as East and West Baltimore. As of 2015, the city had 28% tree canopy coverage. In East Baltimore, many neighborhoods by comparison had tree canopy of about 10%, according to a University of Maryland Howard Center for Investigative Journalism analysis of data gathered by researchers at the US Forest Service and the University of Vermont Spatial Analysis Lab. City officials hope that by 2030, Baltimore will reach 40% tree coverage.
Roxane Prettyman, community outreach director for First Mount Calvary Baptist church in Sandtown-Winchester, another community resiliency hub in West Baltimore, says that people in the area often have to walk long distances to a grocery or a convenience store, meaning they have to stay outside longer in extreme weather without shade.
In addition to adding more green spaces, she believes more retail options are also necessary. Schools also need air conditioning. On code red days, students from schools without cooling systems are sent back to homes that are also too hot. A recent study showed that in years when there are more hot days, students do worse on standardized tests – a longer-term impact of extreme weather.
In the meantime, residents of the hottest areas have to think creatively about how to deal with the heat. Irwin Wilson, 64, a volunteer at The Door, says he tries to stay outside. While 137-acre Patterson Park is a few blocks away from his home, the location is inconvenient. Instead he relies on small spots of shade wherever he can find them, but the options are limited. Though the city has made efforts to plant trees, many of them are still young and don't provide significant cover. He chases every couple feet of shade he can find, even if it's from a single branch.
Karen Lewis now covers the bathroom skylight to keep the sun rays from roasting the upper floors of her Baltimore home. Greg Kahn / The Guardian
"You find some shade, and if you stay still long enough you find a breeze," said Wilson, 64.
In Karen Lewis' rowhouse in East Baltimore, she has to be innovative to stay cool in the summers. She covers up the skylight in her upstairs bathroom so sunlight gets blocked. She has an air conditioner, but she uses it sparingly due to the cost to move some cool air in. Mostly, she uses a series of strategically-placed fans.
But in spite of these adaptations, Lewis, 61, who does odd jobs, including making jewelry and sometimes providing cleaning and assisted living services, says the heat often feels so thick that it gives her trouble breathing.
"It's very hot," said Lewis. "If I put on a fan, it's still very, very humid in there."
In addition to the heat, Baltimore is also experiencing the lasting effects of climate change through extreme storms. The city has seen an increase in nuisance flooding, or flooding that is caused by tidal fluctuations rather than rainstorms, according to Aubrey Germ, the climate and resilience planner for Baltimore's office of sustainability.
Extreme weather events in the Atlantic Ocean sometimes cause rising shorelines in Baltimore. The waterfront, which the city recently revitalized and attracts millions of visitors each year, is particularly vulnerable to flooding, and is a major factor in the city's lawsuit.
Baltimore consists of five watersheds, which also makes it prone to flash flooding. There has also been an increase in microbursts, rainstorms that linger over certain areas of the city for longer periods rather than moving through, which overwhelms the storm water system. Several intersections, particularly in south-east and north-east Baltimore, have had repeated flooding that has damaged cars, businesses and homes.
In the short term, the city has become more vigilant about regularly cleaning storm drains. But in the long term, infrastructure improvements are needed. City workers cannot comment on the costs of projects associated with the climate crisis as the city's lawsuit is ongoing.
Residents say that such extreme weather events take a long financial and psychological toll. In 2018, Baltimore received a so-called 1,000-year rainstorm, meaning there is 1/10 of 1% of a chance in any year for a storm like that to hit. This was just two years after a similar deluge. Almost 150 homes near a portion of Frederick Avenue, in south-west Baltimore, were flooded. Most of the damage was to basements, but some people's first floors were also affected. They had to fix structural damage and buy new hot water heaters. In the months following the 2018 event, two other flash floods sloshed through, destroying their progress. Only some were able to cover these costs through insurance.
"That numerical anomaly is what really traumatizes a lot of the residents, many of whom are senior citizens," says Michael S Martin, lead pastor at Stillmeadow Community Fellowship, another resiliency hub. "Even today, if it gets cloudy, we will get a few calls from individuals worried about what they should do."
Martin says that while much of the media's focus in the 2018 storm was on damage to commercial buildings in nearby Ellicott City, a suburb outside of the city and former mill town that is known for its historic charm, more homes were damaged in the mostly Black area near Frederick Avenue. Similarly, the efforts to solve infrastructure problems appear, to him, to be moving faster there than in his neighborhood. In the summers, residents are doubly affected by extreme heat.
"The city offering water and fans to residents is conscientious and thoughtful," he says. "We're doing what we can at a small level, but what's our overall national response to our cities getting hotter?"
Sushma Subramanian is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Mary Washington and author of "How to Feel: The Science and Meaning of Touch."
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Dangerously high temperatures are gripping the West with more to life- and grid-threatening heat expected in the coming days.
Phoenix hit at least 113°F over the weekend and temperatures from the Southwest to Northern Rockies are forecast to be 15-25°F above average. Texas officials are already asking customers to conserve electricity as the extreme heat, combined with multiple gas and coal plants broken down and offline for repairs, have created an unusual early electricity shortfall just months after widespread blackouts lead to hundreds of deaths across the state.
Climate change makes extreme heat and heat waves longer, more frequent, and more intense. Combined with the current climate-fueled megadrought, wildfire danger is also exceptionally high. Nearly 40 million people as far north as the Canadian Border could see triple-digit highs this week, and some parts of Arizona, including Phoenix, could see overnight lows in the 90s, which are often more dangerous because the human body is deprived of its nocturnal cool-down period and and cooling shelters for those without air-conditioners are closed. The heat will also be especially deadly for those who work outside, like farmworkers, and cannot escape the heat without risking loss of income.
As reported by Earther:
Extreme heat is becoming all the more common due to the climate crisis. It isn't just uncomfortable, it can also be deadly. Research shows that high temperatures are the deadliest form of extreme weather on the planet due to increased threat of conditions like heat stress, heatstroke, and cardiovascular and respiratory disease. Older people are especially at risk, and the National Weather Service underscored that in its warnings this week referring to the heat as "DEADLY" in all caps.
⚠️Dangerous Heatwave!⚠️ Extreme heat arrives soon & will last several days. Many places are under an Excessive Hea… https://t.co/fYIdKsl1lx— NWS Las Vegas (@NWS Las Vegas) 1623500080.0
For a deeper dive:
- How Climate Change Is Fueling Extreme Weather - EcoWatch ›
- Doctors Warn of Third-Degree Burns From Touching Pavement as Temperatures Soar and Grids Strain in West ›
- ‘Cool Walks’ App Finds Shady Walking Routes to Avoid Extreme Heat in Barcelona ›
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- Killer Heat in the United States ›
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Doctors Warn of Third-Degree Burns From Touching Pavement as Temperatures Soar and Grids Strain in West
Mutually worsening heat and drought, both fueled by climate change, are stifling the American West, stoking wildfire fears and straining electrical grids — and the worst is far from over.
"We could have two, three, four, five of these heat waves before the end of the summer," Park Williams, a UCLA climate and fire scientist, told the AP. A record-breaking heatwave trapped by an area of high atmospheric pressure, known as a heat dome, is pushing temperatures as much as 30°F above normal and subjecting 40 million people to temperatures over 100°F.
Doctors in Arizona and Nevada warned touching pavement could cause third degree burns. The extreme heat is also straining electrical grids. California grid operators called for voluntary demand reduction and, for the second time in four months, Texas grid operators are asking their customers to reduce their energy usage — including using less air conditioning and putting off cooking and washing their clothes — prompting jokes that Sen. Ted Cruz would soon be flying to Alaska.
The intense heat and drought are fueling wildfires across the region and stoking fears that more will come as the season is just starting. And so is the warming. "We're still a long way out from the peak of the wildfire season and the peak of the dry season," Daniel Swain, a UCLA climate scientist, told The New York Times. "Things are likely to get worse before they get better."
Jonathan Overpeck, a climate scientist at the University of Michigan, agreed. "As bad as it might seem today," he told the Times, "this is about as good as it's going to get if we don't get global warming under control."
As reported by The Associated Press:
In the Southwest, the problem of burns from hot surfaces is growing as temperatures rise due to climate change and increasing urbanization.
And it shows up in emergency rooms like the one at the Arizona Burn Center in Phoenix, where director Dr. Kevin Foster said 104 people were admitted in June, July and August 2020 with serious burn injuries due to contact with scorching surfaces. Seven people died.
Many more received outpatient treatment.
"It doesn't take much time to get a full thickness or third degree burn when exposed to hot pavement," Foster said in a press briefing last week. "Because if you look at hot pavement or asphalt at two o'clock in the afternoon in direct sunlight, the temperature is usually somewhere around 170 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit."
For a deeper dive:
Heatwave: The New York Times, AP, The Washington Post, Reuters, CNN, San Francisco Chronicle, Bloomberg, Axios; Burns: AP; Grid crunch: The Guardian, Bloomberg, Reuters; Ted Cruz memes: Buzzfeed; Fires in: North Dakota: AP; Montana: AP; Idaho: AP; Nevada: AP; Arizona: AP; Climate Signals background: Extreme heat and heatwaves; Drought; Wildfires
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- Records Break and Fires Rage as U.S. West Sees Third Heat Wave This Summer ›
- 17 States Under Heat Alerts as Fifth Summer Heat Wave in the U.S. Begins ›
By Michael Allen
Last year was hot. NASA declared that it tied 2016 for the hottest year on record, and the Met Office of the United Kingdom said it was the final year in the warmest 10-year period ever recorded. Temperatures were particularly high in Siberia, with some areas experiencing monthly averages more than 10°C above the 1981–2010 average. Overall, Siberia had the warmest January to June since records began; on 20 June, the town of Verkhoyansk, Russia, hit 38°C, the highest temperature ever recorded in the Arctic Circle.
In a new article in Climatic Change, Andrew Ciavarella from the Met Office and an international team of climate scientists showed that the prolonged heat in Siberia would have been almost impossible without human-induced climate change. Global warming made the heat wave at least 600 times more likely than in 1900, they found.
Ciavarella said that without climate change, such an event would occur less than once in thousands of years, "whereas it has come all the way up in probability to being a one in a 130-year event in the current climate." Ciavarella and his coauthors are part of the World Weather Attribution initiative, an effort to "analyze and communicate the possible influence of climate change on extreme weather events."
According to the Met Office, events leading to Siberia's prolonged heat began the previous autumn. Late in 2019, the Indian Ocean Dipole—the difference in sea surface temperature between the western and eastern Indian Ocean—hit a record high, supercharging the jet stream and leading to low pressure and extreme late winter warmth over Eurasia. This unseasonably warm weather persisted into spring and reduced ice and snow cover, which exacerbated the warm conditions by increasing the amount of solar energy absorbed by land and sea.
Cataloging the Past, Forecasting the Future
The resulting high temperatures unleashed a range of disasters. Most obvious were wildfires that burned almost 255,000 square kilometers of Siberian forests, leading to the release of 56 megatons of carbon dioxide in June. The heat also drove plagues of tree-eating moths and caused permafrost thaws that were blamed for infrastructure collapses and fuel spills, including one leak of 150,000 barrels of diesel.
The researchers compared the climate with and without global warming using long series of observational data sets and climate simulations. At the beginning of the 20th century, similar extremely warm periods in Siberia would have been at least 2°C cooler, they found. Global warming also made the record-breaking June temperature in Verkhoyansk much more likely, with maximum temperatures at least 1°C warmer than they would have been in 1900.
The team also looked to the future. They found that by 2050 such warm spells could be 2.5°C to 7°C hotter than in 1900 and 0.5°C to 5°C warmer than in 2020. "Events of precisely the magnitude that we saw, they will increase in frequency, and it wouldn't be unexpected that you would then see also events of an even higher magnitude as well," Ciavarella said.
Dim Coumou, a climate scientist at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, agrees that such an event would not have happened in a preindustrial climate. "With global warming summer temperatures are getting warmer, and therefore, the probability of heat waves and prolonged warm periods are really strongly increasing," he explained, adding that this pattern is particularly pronounced in Siberia, as the high latitudes are warming faster. Coumou was not involved in the new research.
In addition to local issues (like the health impact of heat exposure, wildfires, and the collapsing of structures built on thawing permafrost), we should also be concerned about the wider impact of heat events in Siberia, said Martin Stendel, a climate scientist at the Danish Meteorological Institute. Stendel was not involved in the new research but has worked on other studies for World Weather Attribution. Thawing permafrost, for example, releases greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere.
"We should be aware that things may have global effects," he said.
This story originally appeared in Eos and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.
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