Climate Roundup: The firehose

First, some time-sensitive events that might interest the environmentally anxious among us. If you are interested in ecofiction and particularly in hopepunk or solarpunk, you might like this panel talk with the judges of Grist’s Imagine 2200 short story contest (I link to the winners below.) 2 p.m. EST Monday September 20, free and online.

Also starting Monday September 20 and going all week: Climate Week at Penn. This week features webinars and panel discussions hosted by various schools and centers across Penn, focusing on aspects from environmental justice to sustainability to climate storytelling. Most of the events are free and online, and many are accessible even if you’re not Penn staff or student.

I haven’t been in the habit of posting climate links monthly. But I’ve been vetting and curating my preferred climate news sources for more than a year now, so I’ve got a pretty steady stream of trusted climate perspectives coming in–and, as discussed in previous summer posts, summer tends to trigger a firehose of climate news and half the North American continent gets dry and on fire and the other half gets wet and flooded. I know it’s overwhelming. I recommend cultivating your own preferred list of sources so that you can curate the amount of climate news that is manageable for you, focused on the angles (disasters? solutions? policy changes? discourse?) you’re particularly interested in. I hope these link roundups give you some places to get started.

More on the IPCC report

Hot Take is a newsletter published by climate essayist Mary Annaïse Heglar and climate reporter Amy Westervelt, which I value for both its own content and for its link roundups. they interviewed climate scientist Kate Marvel for her take on the IPCC report. It’s a bit like what we talked about here: the bad news is not news, but now we can say with more certainty that anthropogenic emissions are causing climate change and reducing those emissions is the key to mitigating it.
More Fixable Than We Thought (Hot Take, August 22, 2021)

Q: So, the morning the report came out, you texted me and told me you actually saw hope in this report. This is probably one of the only instances in which you will allow me to ask you what gives you hope…so…what gives you hope?

A: I will use that word “hope” as a shorthand for optimism. So the report was very, very clear about what would happen theoretically if we stopped emitting greenhouse gases tomorrow… we could stop warming. If we began to draw them down, to take them out of the atmosphere, we could restore a lot of what was lost—not everything, I want to be really clear about that. But for a long time, we thought that carbon dioxide was forever. And it’s true that carbon dioxide is very long lived in the atmosphere. That’s why we care about cumulative emissions. But if we stop, we can really control this thing. So that was a theoretical thing that gave me hope. But I also think it’s really important. And I think you and I have talked about this before, that it’s important to hold two things in your head at the same time. One is obviously how far we have to go, but another is how far we’ve come.

I don’t care for headlines that use good news/bad news framing, but this is a good breakdown of the different SSPs or climate scenarios that the IPCC released in the report–and how they stack up to current policies.
The new IPCC Report includes – get this, good news (Yale Climate Connections, August 12, 2021)

Here’s the good news, such as it is:

Scenario SSP2-4.5 is more consistent with government climate policies that are currently in place. It envisions global carbon emissions increasing another 10% over the next decade before reaching a plateau that’s maintained until carbon pollution slowly begins to decline starting in the 2050s. Global carbon emissions approach but do not reach zero by the end of the century. Even in this unambitious scenario, the very worst climate change impacts might be averted, although the resulting climate impacts would be severe.

So that’s all true, but two things can be true at once, and Grist is looking at the flip side of that statement: the current warming trend already sucks.
The best-case climate scenario is going to be extremely hard (Grist, August 12, 2021)

That’s the refrain I keep finding myself repeating as I chat with friends who are experiencing a surge of anxiety after the recent report and its headlines: the situation is already bad, but we can absolutely keep it from getting worse–and mitigation is not the most implausible scenario! So, hang in there. Don’t look away.

Climate disasters

I hate this headline, but the article has a good point. Methane has a much shorter atmospheric residence than carbon, so it sometimes gets overlooked in emissions reduction strategies. But within its shorter life in the atmosphere, methane has a much larger impact than carbon–and the next two decades are going to be really critical in the timeline for mitigating harm, so it is indeed a good time to think about reducing methane emissions.
It’s time to freak out about methane emissions (Vox, August 12, 2021)

Summer 2021 Breaks Heat Record Set During the 1936 Dust Bowl (Earther, September 9, 2021)

Rapid Arctic warming likely drives extreme winter weather events in the US (National Snow and Ice Institute, September 13, 2021)

Climate Change Is Forcing Animals to Quickly ‘Shape-Shift,’ Study Suggests (September 7, 2021)

I like this coverage of Hurricane Ida because it identifies what made Ida unusual, and links each of those characteristics to specific changes in coastal climate and geography. Hurricane Ida Is a Manmade Disaster (The New Republic, August 30, 2021)

Some good news, sort of: New Orleans levees pass Ida’s test while some suburbs flood (AP News, August 30, 2021)

Every week should be infrastructure week

The NYC Subway Is Going to Flood A Lot and There’s Nothing We Will Do About It (Vice, September 2, 2021)

It’s time to rethink air conditioning (Vox, August 26, 2021)

3 ways to prevent the next mass power outage (Grist, September 3, 2021)

Climate storytelling

Why won’t US TV news say ‘climate change’? (The Guardian, September 2, 2021)

Broadcast television’s failure is especially egregious in that it’s still the leading news source for most people. (About 45% of Americans get most of their news from television, while 18% rely primarily on social media, according to the Pew Research Center.) And it repeats the mistake TV news made while covering the extreme weather events of 2020. In the face of unprecedented fires in Australia and California (remember the orange skies over San Francisco?) and kindred calamities, only 0.4% of commercial TV stories mentioned the climate crisis, Media Matters found.

An interview with a fire reporter: How Do You Tell the Story of a Fire? (The Nation, September 1, 2021)

Taking the Fiction Out of Science Fiction: A Conversation about Indigenous Futurisms (e-flux Journal, September 2021)

A little climate humor: Studio Notes on the UN Climate Report (McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, August 10, 2021)

Okay, first off, we LOVE the new report. It’s big, it’s bold, it’s scary. Really going to freak people out. Bravo. It’s practically perfect—we just have a few, tiny notes. Nothing crazy.

Our main piece of feedback is that there’s a lot going on: rising seas, fire tornadoes, social unrest, refugees, food shortages, economic collapse, heat death, extinction—think we need to align on one or two horrors, max. We don’t need another Midsommar situation. Remember the ozone layer? That was super focused; giant hole in the sky, no more hairspray. Let’s get closer to that.

More hopepunk: Twelve short stories that won Grist’s Imagine 2200 contest, and soon you can get in on the Kickstarter for the upcoming Solarpunk Magazine.

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