A record-smashing 22 weather disasters inflicted at least $1billion of damage on the U.S. in 2020, according to NOAA, as the toll of human-caused climate change mounts in real time.
The 22 disasters blew away the previous record of 16, killed 262 people, and inflicted $95 billion in damages in 2020, which European scientists say is tied for the hottest year on record.
Climate change, caused by burning fossil fuels, makes wildfires more extreme, hurricanes more intense and intensify more quickly, and extreme rainfall more severe as warmer air holds more moisture that can then be dumped in overwhelming volumes.
The fact that more people are living in areas vulnerable to climate disasters also contributed to the record number of billion-dollar events.
Weather disasters ravaged areas across the Lower 48 states, as wildfires incinerated more than 10 million acres across the West, thunderstorms deluged the Midwest, and hurricanes repeatedly pummeled the Gulf Coast.
For a deeper dive:
Disasters: CNN, Politico Pro, The Guardian, E&E, The Hill, Bloomberg; Hottest year: Axios, Thomson Reuters Foundation, Earther; Both: CNN, Washington Post, Buzzfeed; Climate Signals background: 2020 Western wildfire season, 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, Extreme precipitation
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Youth Climate Movement Demands Immediate Action After 'Empty Promises,' Announces Next Global Strike
By Jon Queally
Fridays for Future, the youth-led global group inspired by Swedish campaigner Greta Thunberg, announced Wednesday that its next international day of climate strikes will occur on March 19 of this year with a demand for "immediate, concrete, and ambitious action" directed at world leaders who have in recent years talked seriously about the urgent need to address the planetary emergency but stalled dangerously by failing to make those words a reality.
"No more empty promises," said the group in its announcement for global strikes that will take place on every continent, led by students and their allies who believe that the rapidly heating world is an existential threat to life as humanity has come to know it and the insufficient and voluntary emission reduction targets like the ones at the center of the Paris agreement — which nations are not even on track to meet — are worthless unless here-and-now policies are put into action immediately to bring carbon and other greenhouse gas pollution under control.
"If we don't act now, we won't even have the chance to deliver on those 2030, 2050 targets that world leaders keep on talking about," said Mitzi Jonelle Tan from the Philippines, one of the group's organizers. "What we need now are not empty promises, but annual binding carbon targets and immediate cuts in emissions in all sectors of our economy."
In 2010 our leaders signed "ambitious goals to protect wildlife and ecosystems”. By 2021 they'd failed on every sin… https://t.co/yaxJYELfib— Greta Thunberg (@Greta Thunberg)1610442805.0
📣📣New year starts with a new strike! Join us in the fight for climate justice this March 19. Coming back more uni… https://t.co/kCrOjWEAd8— Fridays For Future (@Fridays For Future)1610535578.0
João Duccini, an organizer from Brazil, said that the climate crisis — with 2020 tying the record for the hottest year on record — "is not a far-off catastrophe" but something people in his country and around the world are already experiencing. "Heat waves, droughts, floods, hurricanes, landslides, deforestation, fires, loss of housing and spread of diseases," he said, "this is what the most affected people and areas are dealing with more and more frequency today. Our lives depend on immediate action."
According to the group's announcement for the strike:
Those in power continue to only deliver vague and empty promises for far off dates that are much too late. What we need are not meaningless goals for 2050 or net-zero targets full of loopholes, but concrete and immediate action in-line with science. Our carbon budget is running out. The climate crisis is already here and will only get worse, so if we are to avoid the worst case scenarios, annual, short-term climate binding targets that factor in justice and equity have to be prioritized by the people in charge.
"When your house is on fire," said Thunberg on Wednesday, "you don't wait for 10, 20 years before you call the fire department; you act as soon and as much as you possibly can."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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While rooftop solar systems have become increasingly popular among U.S. homeowners, commercial solar panel installations can be even more effective at generating low-cost renewable energy. Solar energy has a great deal to offer businesses due to the scale at which they can invest, the simplicity of most installations and the high energy costs associated with running a growing organization.
Most business' buildings have wide, flat roofs that can fit a large number of solar panels. Commercial solar panel installations are eligible for two of the largest solar incentives: the federal solar tax credit and net metering programs. Plus, the more solar panels you install, the lower your cost per watt will be. Altogether, this means commercial solar owners get a great bang for their buck.
What Does a Commercial Solar Panel Installation Look Like?
Commercial solar energy systems vary much more in size and scope than their residential counterparts. Most commercial solar arrays are significantly larger, and they aren't always confined to roofs. Some organizations opt for solar carports, while others install ground-mounted solar panels. Larger commercial operations may even feature a "power tower," an array of mirrors that focus the sun's rays onto the photovoltaic panels below them.
Commercial systems are usually installed on a flat surface and must be built on racks tilted toward the sun at the best angle for the solar panels to capture the most energy during the day. Some systems even include features that synchronize the panels' angles (or azimuth) with the changing height of the sun.
Keeping the cost per panel as low as possible is key to securing the quickest return on investment (ROI) for larger commercial installations. For this reason, we recommend selecting the most efficient solar panels available. The less space, products and planning needed, the lower the aggregate costs of the installation will be. More efficient solar panels also tend to last longer, ensuring a reliable investment.
Solar offers commercial property owners a growing number of solutions to offset a large chunk, or even all, of a business's electricity bills. A commercial solar system is a sizable investment, but solar incentives, tax breaks and new technologies make it a very attractive one. The ideal way to get a good understanding of the best solar installation for your business is to consult with a local installer near you and get a quote, which you can do for free below.
Commercial Solar Costs
Given the size of commercial solar projects, customers can usually expect a larger figure than the cost of most residential systems. No two businesses are the same, and though some small organizations may find great value in a commercial system costing around $50,000, large industrial facilities or solar farms can cost over $1 million to install. The good news is that as the scale of the system increases, so does the speed at which you can recoup your investment.
Several tax credits, rebates and incentives still exist for commercial solar panel systems as they do for residential systems.
|Incentive||Benefit for Commercial Solar Panel Installations|
Federal solar tax credit
The federal solar investment tax credit (ITC) allows a deduction of 26% of the cost of the system for any commercial solar installation.
Bonus depreciation through MACRS
The Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS) allows a tax deduction for the depreciation of qualifying solar equipment. This solar tax incentive for commercial installations allows companies to recover their investments over an accelerated amount of time. For solar, this is five years. Bonus depreciation was introduced into MACRS after 2008 and allows you to allocate 100% of the depreciable value in just one year.
In other words, MACRS allows businesses to effectively accelerate their ROI through tax deductions.
Commercial properties generating energy via solar panels are eligible for net energy metering (NEM). In the same way that a residential customer would feed excess solar energy back to the grid, commercial installations can exchange their surplus energy for credits from their utility company. These credits can be used to pull energy from the grid overnight or during rainy weather at no cost.
Statewide and local incentives
We encourage our readers to research statewide incentives or local incentives that may be available in their area. Depending on the area, a commercial solar installation could be eligible for solar rebates, renewable energy credits or zero-interest solar loans.
Benefits of Commercial Solar Installations
Commercial solar installations provide all the same benefits that residential solar installations do, only at a much larger scale. As most commercial solar installations can be well over 50 kW (the average residential is between 5 to 10 kW), some commercial solar installations can have over 10 times the environmental and economic impact of your average residential installation.
Environmental Benefits of Commercial Solar Panels
Commercial solar installations have the potential to offset hundreds, if not thousands, of the metric tons of carbon dioxide emitted by conventional energy generation. For example, a 50-kW commercial system will produce an estimated 65,000 kWh of clean energy per year. This would lower a business's carbon footprint by 1,000 metric tons over the course of a commercial solar power system's lifetime (the equivalent of not burning just over 1 million pounds of coal).
As a growing number of consumers are choosing to support businesses with responsible environmental practices, solar presents businesses with a golden opportunity to reflect their commitment to sustainability while still turning a profit.
Financial Benefits of Commercial Solar Panels
Energy costs are routinely one of the highest costs to businesses. Energy Star reports that the nation's small businesses spend over $60 billion on energy per year, and utility rates are only projected to increase over time.
Utility rates also fluctuate with frequent supply disruptions, so investing in solar allows businesses to offset their energy costs in a predictable, fixed manner. The average lifetime of a solar panel is around 25 years, so with the right warranty, a business can reliably budget its energy costs decades in advance. By offsetting the majority (or sometimes all) of their energy costs, businesses can reinvest huge sums of money back into their organizations, raising their bottom line.
FAQ: Commercial Solar Panel Installations
Are commercial solar panel installations worth it?
Installing solar panels is one of the best financial investments a business can make. Assuming they have the proper space and climate for solar panels, businesses can offset huge chunks of their energy costs while fostering an ethical image. With a good number of soon-to-expire commercial incentives on the market today, there has never been a better time for businesses to invest in solar.
How long does it take to install commercial solar panels?
Commercial solar installations are typically much larger than residential installations, so they can have a more intensive install process. Depending on the size of the system, commercial solar panel installations can take anywhere from weeks to months to complete. The best way to learn how long an installation would take for your business is to connect with a local solar installer near you.
How many solar panels do I need for a commercial installation?
The number of solar panels necessary for an installation will depend mainly on the goals of the installation and how much space is available for panels. Though some commercial solar operations like solar farms exist to generate and sell energy for profit, most businesses only aim to offset their own energy costs. That means they won't need to buy as many panels as they can fit, but only the amount necessary to meet their energy needs. The best method to determine exactly how many panels you'd need to meet your energy needs is to contact a local solar installer for a free proposal.
Can solar panels be used for commercial and industrial purposes?
Absolutely. Commercial and industrial solar installations can sometimes offer even more value than residential solar panels. Due to the scale of most commercial installations, price-per-watt is cheaper, giving customers much more bang for their buck. Commercial installations still maintain eligibility for the solar tax credit, net metering and certain tax deductions, making it a savvy investment for business owners.
When countries began going into lockdown last winter and spring, clearer skies from reduced traffic and industry were hailed as a rare bright spot during a difficult time.
But a study published in Geophysical Research Letters in December 2020 shows that those blue skies had an unexpected side effect: They made the Earth slightly warmer.
"There was a big decline in emissions from the most polluting industries, and that had immediate, short-term effects on temperatures," said Andrew Gettelman, lead author and National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) scientist. "Pollution cools the planet, so it makes sense that pollution reductions would warm the planet."
Soot and sulfate air pollution had the biggest impact, the study authors explained. Known as aerosols, these types of pollutants release particles into the atmosphere that either scatter sunlight on clear days or brighten clouds, reflecting sunlight. Both of these impacts mean less sunlight reaches Earth and temperatures cool.
In 2020, a reduction of these pollutants warmed global temperatures by about 0.1 to 0.3 degrees Celsius, the press release explained. The effect increased in places with higher aerosol emissions. Temperatures over China, Russia and the U.S. were as much as 0.37 degrees Celsius warmer, The Associated Press reported. All told, aerosol reduction may have contributed to 2020 experiencing one of the warmest years on record, NASA Climate Scientist Gavin Schmidt, who was not involved in the research, told The Associated Press.
To reach their conclusions, the researchers compared the actual weather with climate models reproducing the same conditions without the lockdowns and subsequent emission reductions. This allowed them to calculate the impact of reduced aerosols on temperature changes that were too small to identify based solely on observations, the press release explained.
The study found that aerosol reduction had a bigger impact on 2020 temperatures than the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide. However, that may change in the future. Because carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere longer, the lockdown dip in greenhouse gases may still slow down the climate crisis in the long term.
Gettelman emphasized that the study's message is not that we should pollute more.
"Clean air warms the planet a tiny bit, but it kills a lot fewer people with air pollution," Gettelman told The Associated Press.
Instead, the value of the study involves understanding aerosols' impact on the climate, according to the press release. This can then help scientists more effectively combat climate change.
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By Anke Rasper
"Today's interim report from the UNFCCC is a red alert for our planet," said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
The report, released Friday, looks at the national climate efforts of 75 states that have already submitted their updated "nationally determined contributions," or NDCs. The countries included in the report are responsible for about 30% of the world's global greenhouse gas emissions.
While most have increased their individual climate efforts, only two of the worst emitters, including the UK and the EU, have stepped up their goals considerably. And the member states' plans to tackle the climate crisis "are very far from putting us on a pathway that will meet our Paris Agreement goals," said Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of UN Climate Change.
The individual contributions submitted to date would only cut about 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions — a far cry from the 45% cut needed by 2030 to meet the 1.5 degree goal, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
In 2015, 195 countries and the European Union had agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global heating way below an increase of 2 degrees Celsius.
UN Chief Guterres urged major emitters to "step up with much more ambitious emissions reductions targets for 2030" well before the next UN Climate Conference, slated for Glasgow in November.
The interim report also stressed that poor countries were banking on the funds pledged under the Paris agreement to protect forests and other ecosystems, to carry out climate measures.
Nations Need to Improve Their Targets
The UN's interim report, which looked at the NDCs available as of December, provides a snapshot ahead of the COP 26 climate conference in November. The remaining 122 signatory countries have yet to define their updated contributions, including the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases: China and the U.S.
The Paris agreement is a voluntary process and leaves it up to national governments to decide how they want to achieve their self-imposed targets. There is no provision for sanctions or punitive mechanisms against countries that fail to meet their climate targets.
Will the U.S. Take the Lead on Climate Change?
Many hope that the U.S. rejoining the Paris agreement will provide a much-needed boost to international climate ambitions. U.S. special envoy for climate John Kerry has already announced that the U.S. will present "very aggressive, strong NDCs" ahead of the special climate summit in Washington on April 22.
The U.S. under the Biden administration also wants to expand its climate diplomacy to include China in particular, currently the largest emitter. China has already announced plans to increase its national targets this year.
Other major emitters, such as Russia and Brazil, have so far shown little ambition to commit to more. Former head of the UN Climate Secretariat, Christiana Figueres, was optimistic nonetheless that "many large emitters such as the U.S., China, Japan and others" would submit ambitious plans, because it was "in their own competitive interests to reach 50% emissions reductions by 2030."
Together with Canada, the U.S. is also considering slapping higher import duties on countries that are not doing enough to save the climate. However, it is unclear whether such sanctions are compatible with the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Climate Change Existential Threat to Humanity
UN Climate Change Chief Patricia Espinosa pointed out that the last 10 years had been the hottest decade in human history. The record rise in temperatures, for example in the Arctic winter and northern Siberia, and dramatic winter weather slamming the traditionally mild southern U.S., were being amplified by the now measurably slowing Gulf Stream in the Atlantic — something that could be irreversible.
"It's time for all remaining Parties to step up, fulfill what they promised to do under the Paris Agreement and submit their NDCs as soon as possible," Espinosa said, adding "if this task was urgent before, it's crucial now."
And with the world focused largely on the coronavirus crisis, Espinosa stressed that any economic measures to offset the pandemic needed to take the climate crisis into account.
According to Espinosa, this is precisely why it is so important to tackle the global crises — such as COVID-19, the climate crisis, and the dramatic loss of biodiversity — as a whole.
"As we rebuild, we cannot revert to the old normal. The NDCs must reflect this reality and major emitters, especially G20 nations, must lead the way," she said.
The expanded final report, which will include all national climate contributions, will be released shortly before the UN climate conference in November. COP 26 President Alok Sharma urged all member states to "recognize that the window for action to safeguard our planet is closing fast."
Reposted with permission from DW.
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By John R. Platt
The period of the 45th presidency will go down as dark days for the United States — not just for the violent insurgency and impeachment that capped off Donald Trump's four years in office, but for every regressive action that came before.
It's been said that Trump was the worst environmental president in history, and that's easy to see from his administration's record. They rolled back decades of environmental progress by slashing protective regulations, strangled the agencies tasked with enforcing the regulations that remained, pushed corporate agendas damaging to wildlife, human health and the climate, and stoked the flames of right-wing extremists — including people whose radical agendas often attack public-land protections or climate science.
That barely covers it all, of course. It would take an entire book — a whole library — to fully convey the environmental damage done under Trump.
And now it's up to a new administration — and the work of a lot of people on top of it — to undo the damage and hopefully make up for four lost years of potential progress.
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, together with the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, have a tough task ahead of them.
Make that many tough tasks. They'll need to rebuild the ranks of government workforces while reinforcing the trust in government and the trust in America on the world stage. They'll need to pass and restore regulations that don't just return us to the status quo but radically improve on it — taking the world forward at a time when the effects of climate change and the extinction crisis continue to worsen. 2020 tied for the hottest year on record, and Trump added fewer species to the Endangered Species Act than any other president while slashing protections for those already on the list. They'll need to address environmental justice at a time when white supremacy is at its most vocal point in decades and firmly entrenched in some areas of government. They'll need to resist the usual corporate influence that could slow things down along the way.
And they'll need to do it all while helping the country stabilize and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and Trump's botched response to the crisis, not to mention the continued threat from seditious domestic terrorists.
That's a lot on one plate, but they're already off to a good start. Biden and Harris ran on a strong climate platform and have assembled an experienced climate team. Neither the platform nor the team is perfect — progressives think they can do much better — but they're light years ahead of anything we saw under the previous administration.
And of course, now that the Democrats have won the Senate, Biden's cabinet picks are more likely to be confirmed and the country will no longer face the obstruction ever-present under the majority leadership of Mitch McConnell.
But at the same time, Republicans have risen to power in cities and state legislatures around the country, and many of them are still fueled by MAGA Trumpism and unhinged conspiracy theories. The right-wing media, meanwhile, continue to shape and mold millions with their unique brand of misinformation and discord. Both trends will present a barrier to progress at every level.
So what's the agenda for moving forward under the Biden-Harris administration? Below, you'll find a series of articles and expert commentaries from The Revelator's archives addressing key steps the incoming team can take to restore the EPA, protect key species, address the COVID-19 pandemic in a just and climate-focused manner, and more.
We'll continue to add to these roadmaps as the administration gets its footing, and we invite any insiders and experts to contribute their own voices.
And here's a report from our parent organization, the Center for Biological Diversity:
Reposted with permission from The Revelator.
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By Jessica Corbett
One year after over 11,000 scientists from 153 countries came together to declare a climate emergency and urge ambitious action, the Oregon State University researchers who launched that effort said on Wednesday that an urgent massive-scale mobilization is necessary to address the human-caused global crisis.
Scientists' renewed call for bold climate policies came just days after a new study in the journal Nature Climate Change warned existing carbon pollution will cause global temperatures to rise about 2.3 degrees Celsius or 4.1 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels—with devastating consequences worldwide.
As Common Dreams reported last year, William Ripple, distinguished professor of ecology in OSU's College of Forestry, and postdoctoral scholar Christopher Wolf co-authored a paper in BioScience. Backed by thousands of scientists, they wrote that greenhouse gas missions "are still rapidly rising, with increasingly damaging effects on the Earth's climate" and "an immense increase of scale in endeavors to conserve our biosphere is needed to avoid untold suffering due to the climate crisis."
Ripple and Wolf—along with William R. Moomaw of Tufts University, Thomas M. Newsome of the University of Sydney, and Phoebe Barnard of the University of Cape Town—reiterated those messages in The Climate Emergency: 2020 in Review, published Wednesday in Scientific American. As they put it:
The climate emergency has arrived and is accelerating more rapidly than most scientists anticipated, and many of them are deeply concerned. The adverse effects of climate change are much more severe than expected, and now threaten both the biosphere and humanity. There is mounting evidence linking increases in extreme weather frequency and intensity to climate change...
Every effort must be made to reduce emissions and increase removals of atmospheric carbon in order to restore the melting Arctic and end the deadly cycle of damage that the current climate is delivering. Scientists now find that catastrophic climate change could render a significant portion of the Earth uninhabitable consequent to continued high emissions, self-reinforcing climate feedback loops and looming tipping points.
"As we move into 2021 and beyond, we need a massive-scale mobilization to address the climate crisis, including much more progress on the six steps of climate change mitigation," the five experts argued, detailing various priorities for energy, short-lived pollutants, nature, food, economy, and population.
Echoing messages from the new review, Ripple said in a statement Wednesday that "young people in more than 3,500 locations around the world have organized to push for urgent action... And the Black Lives Matter movement has elevated social injustice and equality to the top of our consciousness."
"Rapid progress in each of the climate action steps we outline is possible if framed from the outset in the context of climate justice—climate change is a deeply moral issue," added Ripple, director of the Alliance of World Scientists. "We desperately need those who face the most severe climate risks to help shape the response."
Alongside the written review, the scientists put out a video about their "six steps":
Ripple noted that "the year 2020, one of the hottest years on record, also saw extraordinary fire activity in the western United States and Australia, a Siberian heatwave with record high temperatures exceeding 100 degrees within the Arctic circle, an Atlantic hurricane season resulting in more than $46 billion in damages, and deadly floods and landslides in South Asia that displaced more than 12 million people."
Last year also featured the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which as of Thursday morning has killed nearly 1.9 million people worldwide. As the pandemic has raged on, experts around the globe have warned that humanity must heal its broken relationship with nature to prevent similar public health crises in the future.
"Lockdowns associated with the pandemic resulted in a decrease in CO2 emissions of 7% in 2020 but this reduction is probably not going to be long-lived because there has been no major concurrent shift in the way we produce energy," Ripple pointed out. "This drop in emissions is a tiny blip compared to the overall buildup of greenhouse gases, which has resulted in all five of the hottest years on record occurring since 2015."
Group of scientists in 2020: "We are in a climate emergency." Same scientists in 2021: "We are concerned that no ma… https://t.co/LN63a2wH92— Andrew Freedman (@Andrew Freedman)1609952922.0
Faced with concurrent crises, communities and governments of various sizes around the world have made climate emergency declarations—often as a first step to start taking whatever action they can to limit future emissions and deal with the pollution that's already driving up temperatures.
"People are frightened—an illustration of that is the more than 1,800 climate emergency declarations issued around the world, by jurisdictions encompassing more than 820 million people," said Wolf. "We're at the point of needing a massive-scale mobilization to address the climate crisis."
"A year ago, we were worried about poor progress on mitigating climate change. Now we are alarmed by the failure of sufficient progress in 2020," he added. "But aggressive, transformative change, framed against the backdrop of social justice, can ignite an enormous deployment that will let us avert the worst of the climate emergency."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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2021 is forecasted to be slightly colder worldwide than years previous, according to meteorologists at the United Kingdom Meteorological Office, but will still be one the hottest on record due to greenhouse gas effects.
A La Niña weather pattern in the Pacific Ocean will cause strong winds to blow warm surface water around the equator westward, making the ocean temperature a few degrees colder. The variance in ocean temperature during a La Niña winter can cause temperature changes worldwide. It will likely increase rainfall in Australia, Indonesia, and eastern Asia, while drier conditions will likely occur in the southwestern U.S.
Forecasters calculate the hottest years by comparing temperatures before and after the industrial era of 1850-1900, when greenhouse gases became mostly human-made from automobiles, factories, and large-scale agriculture.
"The global temperature for 2021 is unlikely to be a record year due to the influence of the current La Niña, but it will be far warmer than other past La Niña years such as 2011 and 2000 due to global warming," Adam Scaife, head of long-range prediction at the Met Office, told the BBC.
But next year is predicted to be still above 1 degree Celsius preindustrial levels — empirical proof greenhouse gases cause hotter temperatures and climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has estimated a 0.2°C increase in global temperature every decade since the industrial era, due to human activities.
Around the U.S., the Old Farmer's Almanac is predicting a milder winter, with average to "warmer-than-normal" temperatures for most of the country, while New England, the desert Southwest, and the Pacific Southwest will be a bit chillier than normal in the winter.
According to the BBC, 2016 remains the warmest year on record. 2020 and 2019 are both contenders for second place.
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By Iman Ghosh
- From 1880, the Earth's average surface temperature has risen by 0.07°C every decade.
- Evidence shows that key historical developments such as industrial revolutions contributed significantly to global warming.
- These events are linked to the mass burning of fossil fuels to meet an increase in human demand.
For several years now, average surface temperatures have consistently surpassed 1.5°C above their pre-industrial values. Visual Capitalist
Since 1880, the Earth's average surface temperature has risen by 0.07°C (0.13°F) every decade. That number alone may seem negligible, but over time, it adds up.
In addition, the rate of temperature change has grown significantly more dramatic over time—more than doubling to 0.18°C (0.32°F) since 1981. As a result of this global warming process, environmental crises have become the most prominent risks of our time.
In this global temperature graph, climate data scientist Neil R. Kaye breaks down how monthly average temperatures have changed over nearly 170 years. Temperature values have been benchmarked against pre-industrial averages (1850–1900).
What is Causing Global Warming?
The data visualization can be thought of in two halves, each reflecting significant trigger points in global warming trends:
Overlaps with the Second Industrial Revolution
Low-High range in global temperature increase: -0.4°C to +0.6°C
Overlaps with the Third Industrial Revolution
Low-High range in global temperature increase: +0.6°C to +1.5°C and up
The global temperature graph makes it clear that for several years now, average surface temperatures have consistently surpassed 1.5°C above their pre-industrial values. Let's dig into these time periods a bit more closely to uncover more context around this phenomenon.
Industrial Revolutions and Advances, 1851–1935
An obvious, early anomaly on the visual worth exploring occurs between 1877–1878. During this time, the world experienced numerous unprecedented climate events, from a strong El Niño to widespread droughts. The resulting Great Famine caused the deaths of between 19–50 million people, even surpassing some of the deadliest pandemics in history.
In the first five rows of the global temperature graph, several economies progressed into the Second Industrial Revolution (~1870–1914), followed by World War I (1914-1918). Overall, there was a focus on steel production and mass-produced consumer goods over these 80+ years.
Although these technological advances brought immense improvements, they came at the cost of burning fossil fuels — releasing significant amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. It would take several more decades before scientists realized the full extent of their accumulation in the atmosphere, and their resulting relation to global warming.
The Modern World in the Red Zone, 1936–2020
The second half of the global temperature graph is marked by World War II (1939-1945) and its aftermath. As the dust settled, nations began to build themselves back up, and things really kicked into hyperdrive with the Third Industrial Revolution.
As globalization and trade progressed following the 1950s, people and goods began moving around more than ever before. In addition, population growth peaked at 2.1% per year between 1965 and 1970. Industrialization patterns began to intensify further to meet the demands of a rising global population and our modern world.
The Importance of Historical Temperature Trends
The history of human development is intricately linked with global warming. While part of the rise in Earth's surface temperature can be attributed to natural patterns of climate change, these historical trends shed some light on how much human activities are behind the rapid increase in global average temperatures in the last 85 years.
The following graph from Reddit user bgregory98, which leverages an extensive data set published in Nature Geoscience provides a more dramatic demonstration. It looks at the escalation of global temperatures over two thousand years. In this expansive time frame, eight of the top 10 hottest years on record have occurred in the last decade alone.
This graph looks at the dramatic escalation of global temperatures over 2000 years. Visual Capitalist
Click here to view the full graph animation.
Global warming and climate change are some of the most pressing megatrends shaping our future. However, with the U.S. rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement and the reduction of global carbon emissions highlighted as a key item at the World Economic Forum's Davos Summit 2021, promising steps are being taken.
Reposted with permission from the World Economic Forum.
By Brett Wilkins
Climate campaigners on Thursday pointed to a study showing that Earth is hotter than it's ever been during the entire epoch of human civilization as the latest proof of the need to treat human-caused global heating like the dire emergency that it is.
On Wednesday, the peer-reviewed scientific journal Nature published a report revealing that an analysis of ocean surface temperatures found that the planet is hotter now than at any other time in the past 12,000 years, and that it may actually be warmer than at any point during the last 125,000 years.
Researchers Samantha Bova, Yair Rosenthal, Zhengyu Liu, Shital P. Godad, and Mi Yan detemined this by solving what scientists call the "Holocene temperature conundrum." This was the mystery of why the global heating that began at the end of the last ice age 12,000 years ago peaked around 6,000 years later — before giving way to the onset of a cooling period that lasted until the Industrial Revolution, when the current anthropogenic warming period began.
It turns out that the collected data, obtained from fossilized seashells, was inaccurate, showing only hot summers while missing the colder winters.
"We demonstrate that global average annual temperature has been rising over the last 12,000 years, contrary to previous results," research leader Bova, from Rutgers University in New Jersey, told The Guardian. "This means that the modern, human-caused global warming period is accelerating a long-term increase in global temperatures, making today completely uncharted territory. It changes the baseline and emphasizes just how critical it is to take our situation seriously."
The study was published on the same day that President Joe Biden announced a series of executive actions on the climate crisis that were hailed by the youth-led Sunrise Movement as "historic."
The orders will — among other things — freeze new oil and natural gas leases on public lands and offshore waters, establish an Office of Domestic Climate Policy and National Climate Task Force, and mandate that federal agencies eliminate fossil fuel subsidies and "identify new opportunities to spur innovation, commercialization, and deployment of clean energy technologies."
The White House said that the orders "follow through on President Biden's promise to take aggressive action to tackle climate change and build on the executive actions that the president took on his first day in office, including rejoining the Paris agreement and immediate review of harmful rollbacks of standards that protect our air, water, and communities."
While Biden's directives were welcomed as a necessary reversal from the policies and actions of the Donald Trump administration, climate advocates said that much more must be done — and in the case of fossil fuel expansion, not done.
"The Biden administration has issued at least 31 new drilling permits authorizing operations on federal land and coastal waters."— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) January 28, 2021
Well well well... while we do appreciate beautiful speeches and promises - we prefer action.https://t.co/kKfBFSXjxt
The drilling authorizations are being issued despite the administration's planned moratorium.
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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By Timothy Jones
C3S' analysis of surface and air temperatures found that the month was 0.8 degrees Celsius (1.44 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than the 30-year average of 1981-2010. This November also broke the previous record by more than 0.1 C, set in 2016.
The data showed temperatures in the boreal fall (September-November) in Europe were 1.9 C above the 1981-2010 norm, and 0.4 C higher than the average temperature for 2006, the previous warmest fall.
The average temperature in November in Europe was 2.2 C above that in Novembers of the 1981-2010 reference period and the joint second-highest on record. The highest was in November 2015, at 2.4 C.
"These records are consistent with the long-term warming trend of the global climate," said C3S director Carlo Buontempo.
"All policymakers who prioritize mitigating climate risks should see these records as alarm bells," he added.
Earth is seeing an increase in the frequency and strength of extreme weather events as human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels contribute to a rise in average global temperatures. The changing climate has resulted in devastating wildfires and led to ever more violent tropical storms in many regions of the world.
The five hottest years in history have all come since 2015. A landmark deal struck in that year, the Paris Agreement, aims to limit temperature rises to "well below" 2 C (3.6 F) above pre-industrial levels. Currently, the Earth is seeing just over 1 C of warming.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
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NOAA found that the average temperature of meteorological summer - June, July, and August - was 2.6°F (1.45°C) above the 20th century average, a troubling sign as global temperatures continue to increase faster than previously thought.
All seven of the warmest years on record have been the last seven years, and 19 of the 20 warmest years have occurred since 2000. More than 18% of the contiguous U.S. experienced record heat this summer, and several states, including California, Nevada, Utah and Oregon had their hottest temperatures on record.
No state reported temperatures that fell below average. The record heat coincided with extreme weather across the country, including extreme heat, wildfires, drought and flooding.
As reported by The Washington Post:
Over 2 million acres have burned so far this year in California, and about 15,000 firefighters are currently battling active blazes. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, the country remains at "Preparedness Level 5" — the highest level of wildfire activity. Such activity includes "large, complex wildland fire incidents, which have the potential to exhaust national wildland firefighting resources."
Research has established a clear link between climate change and a sharp rise in the areas burned in California in the past several decades, as increasing temperatures dry out vegetation.
The high temperatures have also intensified severe drought conditions. Drought currently covers 94 percent of the West, according to the Federal Drought Monitor. Nearly 60 percent of the region is in extreme to exceptional drought.
For a deeper dive:
CNN, Gizmodo, Los Angeles Times, The Hill, The New York Times, The Washington Post; Climate Signals background: Extreme heat and heatwaves, 2021 Western wildfire season, Drought, Extreme precipitation increase, 2021 Atlantic hurricane season
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By Ajit Niranjan
World leaders and businesses are not putting enough money into adapting to dangerous changes in the climate and must "urgently step up action," according to a report published Thursday by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).
Last year was the joint-hottest year on record and disasters struck every continent. Smoke-belching wildfires burned through communities from Australia to the Arctic. Extreme storms battered coastal cities from the Philippines to Nicaragua, while floods put a third of Bangladesh underwater and covered entire villages in Nigeria.
Extreme weather and climate-related disasters have killed more than 410,000 people in the past 10 years, almost all of them in poorer countries, according to the International Federation of the Red Cross and Crescent.
"The hard truth is that climate change is upon us," said UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen, in the foreword to the report. "Its impacts will intensify, even if we limit global warming. We cannot afford to lose the race to adaptation."
Adaptation Has a Long Way to Go
The Adaptation Gap Report, now in its 5th year, finds "huge gaps" between what world leaders agreed to do under the 2015 Paris Agreement and what they need to do to keep their citizens safe from climate change.
A review by the Global Adaptation Mapping Initiative of almost 1,700 examples of climate adaptation found that a third were in the early stages of implementation — and only 3% had reached the point of reducing risks.
Disasters like storms and droughts have grown stronger than they should be because people have warmed the planet by burning fossil fuels and chopping down rainforests. The world has heated by more than 1.1 degrees Celsius since the Industrial Revolution and is on track to warm by about 3°C by the end of the century.
If world leaders deliver on recent pledges to bring emissions to net-zero by the middle of the century, they could almost limit warming to 2°C. The target of the Paris Agreement, however, is to reach a target well below that — ideally 1.5°C.
There are two ways, scientists say, to lessen the pain that warming will bring: mitigating climate change by cutting carbon pollution and adapting to the hotter, less stable world it brings.
The Cost of Climate Adaptation
About three-quarters of the world's countries have national plans to adapt to climate change, according to the report, but most lack the regulations, incentives and funding to make them work.
More than a decade ago, rich countries most responsible for climate change pledged to mobilize $100 billion a year by 2020 in climate finance for poorer countries. UNEP says it is "impossible to answer" whether that goal has been met, while an OECD study published in November found that between 2013 and 2018, the target sum had not once been achieved. Even in 2018, which recorded the highest level of contributions, rich countries were still $20 billion short.
The yearly adaptation costs for developing countries alone are estimated at $70 billion. This figure is expected to at least double by the end of the decade as temperatures rise, and will hit $280-500 billion by 2050, according to the report.
But failing to adapt is even more expensive.
When powerful storms like cyclones Fani and Bulbul struck South Asia, early-warning systems allowed governments to move millions of people out of danger at short notice. Storms of similar strength that have hit East Africa, like cyclones Idai and Kenneth, have proved more deadly because fewer people were evacuated before disaster struck.
The Global Commission on Adaptation estimated in 2019 that a $1.8 trillion investment in early warning systems, buildings, agriculture, mangroves and water resources could reap $7.1 trillion in benefits from economic activity and avoided costs when disasters strike.
Exploring Nature-Based Solutions
The report also highlights how restoring nature can protect people from climate change while benefiting local communities and ecology.
Wildfires, for instance, could be made less punishing by restoring grasslands and regularly burning the land in controlled settings. Indigenous communities from Australia to Canada have done this for millennia in a way that encourages plant growth while reducing the risk of uncontrolled wildfires. Reforestation, meanwhile, can stop soil erosion and flooding during heavy rainfall while trapping carbon and protecting wildlife.
In countries like Brazil and Malaysia, governments could better protect coastal homes from floods and storms by restoring mangroves — tangled trees that grow in tropical swamps. As well as anchoring sediments and absorbing the crash of waves, mangroves can store carbon, help fish populations grow and boost local economies through tourism.
While nature-based solutions are often cheaper than building hard infrastructure, their funding makes up a "tiny fraction" of adaptation finance, the report authors wrote. An analysis of four global climate funds that spent $94 billion on adaptation projects found that just $12 billion went to nature-based solutions and little of this was spent implementing projects on the ground.
But little is known about their long-term effectiveness. At higher temperatures, the effects of climate change may be so great that they overwhelm natural defenses like mangroves.
By 2050, coastal floods that used to hit once a century will strike many cities every year, according to a 2019 report on oceans by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the gold standard on climate science. This could force dense cities on low-lying coasts to build higher sea walls, like in Indonesia and South Korea, or evacuate entire communities from sinking islands, like in Fiji.
It's not a case of replacing infrastructure, said Matthias Garschagen, a geographer at Ludwig Maximilian University in Germany and IPCC author, who was not involved in the UNEP report. "The case for nature-based solutions is often misinterpreted as a battle... but they're part of a toolkit that we've ignored for too long."
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
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