February Climate Roundup: In defense of hope

I listened in on a panel on climate writing, and an audience member asked the writers to weigh in on what author Jenny Offill calls the obligatory note of hope. The writers on the panel agreed: they see neither hope nor the obligation to offer it.

I disagree. As I’ve often said, learning more about climate change has made me more optimistic rather than less. Not because things aren’t as bad as I thought–they really, really are–but because it’s a complex problem, or rather an intersection of problems, and if you’re able to name and characterize a problem you’re able to see its solutions. And there are solutions! We are by no means at a point of no return, and it’s vital to understand that so that we don’t get to a point of no return.

But don’t take my word for it.

Inevitable Planetary Doom Has Been Exaggerated (The Atlantic, February 1, 2021)

What would have happened if we never fixed the ozone hole? (The Science of Fiction, February 20, 2021)

Disasters and omens

It’s been a few months since I last collected a link roundup, and climate disasters are happening all the time. But the deep freeze in Texas merits multiple sources not only because of its scale, but because it was so confusing for people. How can Texas be freezing if the planet is warming? But what Texas experienced this February is similar to (albeit more devastating than) what the east coast experienced last May, when it snowed on Mother’s Day: the jet stream across North America weakened and meandered, allowing frigid polar winds to plunge south. The connection between these events and climate change aren’t completely understood; variations in the jet stream and in the atmospheric pressure gradient happen from year to year, but these extreme variations seem to be happening more frequently.

Deadly cold snap shuts down central U.S. Texas is ground zero (Washington Post, February 15, 2021)

3 Things People Get Wrong About The Polar Vortex And Climate Change (Forbes, February 19, 2021)

On the other hand, scientists know for certain that warming water can affect the oceanic conveyor belt, or the system of oceanic circulation that moves water from high latitudes to low and surface waters to deep, and vice versa. The circulation is vital to the health of marine life.

Climate Change is Weakening the Ocean Currents That Shape Weather on Both Sides of the Atlantic (InsideClimate News, February 25, 2021)

The latest consequence of climate change: The Arctic is now open for business year-round (Vox, February 22, 2021)

We love an infographic, no matter how devastating:

People and policy

Exxon’s climate plan doesn’t actually commit to reducing emissions (HEATED, December 15, 2020)

What the Biden Administration can do about Greenhouse Gas Policy (GreenPhilly/The Green Cities, January 11, 2021)

How Environmentalism Can Center Racial Justice in 2021 (Outside, January 29, 2021)

The Worst Answer to Climate Anxiety: Wellness (The New Republic, July 29, 2020)

Bring in the climate clowns (HEATED, February 4, 2021; includes repost of the Senate’s climate change hearing by Climate Nexus)

14 Black-Led & Black-Focused Nonprofits Working For A Clean Environment (GreenPhilly, June 11, 2020)

I cook, but I’m not enough of a kitchen connoisseur to care whether my rented apartments have a gas or electric stove. Nonetheless, I was so shocked to learn recently that gas ovens contribute to air pollution that I felt a strong resistance to the idea. I still want to stick some caveats on–nitrogen dioxide is more dangerous outside of the home (where it reacts with sunlight and precipitation) than inside; also, while one may be so lucky as to choose one’s own oven, our individual choices and household appliances make a pretty modest impact compared to commercial emissions. But I also want to interrogate my own recalcitrance, and remind myself to do some more reading on this topic.

How the Fossil Fuel Industry Convinced Americans to Love Gas Stoves (Mother Jones, February 11, 2021)

Kill Your Gas Stove (The Atlantic, October 15, 2020)

Talking about climate

Desert Stories, Clean Energy Transition, and Other Climate Readings for November (LitHub, November 2, 2020)

The Wheel of First-time Climate Dudes (HEATED, April 20, 2020)

The wheel starts to spin when a dude who spent his entire career doing everything except climate journalism decides he’s going to be the one to do a Big Climate Journalism Moment.

Why Write? Toward a Style for Climate Change (Public Books, February 15, 2021)

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