In Philadelphia, a tentative spring has begun. Bulbs in my patio garden sprouted and opened into tulips, daffodils, hyacinths. Trees budded in pale pinks and greens. The sun came out more and for longer. It’s hard not to feel good in spring.
In the watershed steward training program, we were asked to take note of signs of spring a few weeks ago. This dovetailed into a discussion of phenology, which is something I had read about in Hurricane Lizards and Plastic Squid. Phenology is the study of cycles and seasonal phenomena–which is becoming increasingly important in climate change studies. Some seasonal phenomena is tied to temperature while some is tied to hours of sunlight, for example; if warm weather pollinators appear before a tree’s flowers open, the tree might miss its window for pollination. So I know that signs of spring aren’t inherently hopeful; they need to be studied, tracked, understood.
That’s the attitude I’m trying to take to climate right now: embracing both hope and concern. In the dregs of winter, I could feel myself resisting news about climate disasters and hear myself being dismissive in conversations about ill omens: Well, actually, it’s more complicated than that. And it is complicated. But two things can be true at once: we are in serious trouble and we are not yet doomed. Both true things require action.
The third IPCC report
Here’s what I gathered for the initial IPCC report release back in summer. I didn’t do much link-gathering when the second report dropped this winter, but the third report has been generating some interesting headlines,–much more specific than the ubiquitous “code red” coverage back in August.
‘It’s Now Or Never’: We Have 3 Years to Reverse Course, Major Climate Report Finds (Gizmodo, April 4, 2022)
In order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, the world needs to make a serious U-turn over the next three years to curb our emissions, a stark new report finds. It’s possible to do so, concludes the report, released Monday from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—but only with serious, immediate, and sustained action across all facets of society.
Carbon Removal Isn’t the Solution to Climate Change (The New Republic, April 4, 2022)
Put simply: It’s not at all clear that planetary-scale carbon dioxide removal will work…. The limits to large-scale carbon dioxide removal have led scientific bodies worldwide, including the IPCC, increasingly to warn policymakers against relying on CDR to help the world meet its temperature targets.
Why Is the U.N.’s Climate Panel Tiptoeing Around Fossil Fuels? (The New Republic, April 5, 2022)
Some context for the IPCC reports as social and political documents. Scientists say IPCC climate report holds back against fossil-fuel interests (The Guardian, April 5, 2022)
The role of the fossil fuel industry is highlighted throughout the report’s nearly 3,000 pages, but researchers note it was mysteriously absent from the “Summary for Policymakers” – traditionally the first part of the report that’s released and often attracts the most media attention…. Unlike the research-heavy chapters, which are controlled entirely by the scientists who research and write them, the Summary for Policymakers must be approved by government representatives from 195 countries around the world; the approval process for this year’s mitigation report was the longest and most contentious in the history of the IPCC.
Yes, Colonialism Caused Climate Change, IPCC Reports (Atmos, April 4, 2022)
The addition of one word may not seem like a big deal—but don’t be fooled. This is major…. That means that officials and scientists from around the globe now recognize the significant role colonialism has played in heating up our planet and destroying its many gifts.
There’s no shortage of this, but here are a couple of issues I personally want to track.
As I train to become a watershed steward, I’ve been learning to identify and count local species of insects to determine the health of a waterway. Some insects are very sensitive to water pollution or temperature change and can’t live in an impaired waterway, for example. Here’s another angle on macroinvertebrates: The loss of insects is an apocalypse worth worrying about (Vox, March 6, 2022)
Oh, word? Private Report Shows How Amazon Drastically Undercounts Its Carbon Footprint (Reveal News, February 25, 2022)
Clear, concise snaphots of 8 locations around the world whose well-being depends on keeping the global temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius. The Razor’s Edge of A Warming World (GQ, March 31, 2022)
Obligatory notes of hope
‘OK Doomer’ and the Climate Advocates Who Say It’s Not Too Late (New York Times, March 22, 2022)
Thank you *checks notes* Rolling Stone for this note of hope. (Spoiler: it is, as has been said, we know exactly how to prevent a worst case scenario. We just have to DO it.) There’s a Silver Lining to the U.N.’s Final Warning on Climate Change (Rolling Stone, April 9, 2022).
One half of the team from Hot Take: Mary Annaïse Heglar Is on a Furious Crusade to Bully Big Oil Out of Existence (Daily Beast, March 31, 2022)
The URL says “Nature writing should strive for clarity not sentimentality.” I do think the essayist goes for a softer thesis than either headline would imply; he seems to like Robin Wall Kimmerer, who is certainly sentimental but no less clear and effective for it. Nature does not care (Aeon, April 12, 2022)
My Climate Future is an incredible interactive tool to explore how your children or grandchildren will experience climate change across their lifetimes.
FREE climate books from Open Humanities Press, and the subjects seem to cover a range of disciplines: art and architecture, philosophy and ethics, social science, rhetoric.
*The title is a reference to William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18.