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kottke.org posts about Global Warming

The Gulf Stream, the Cold Blob, and a Potentially Frozen Europe

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 03, 2021

Cold Blob

The NY Times has a fantastic interactive piece about a particularly disturbing aspect of the climate crisis: the evidence that a huge Atlantic circulation pattern is weakening and could collapse, leading to “a monstrous change” in temperature, precipitation, and other chaotic effects across the globe.

Now, a spate of studies, including one published last week, suggests this northern portion of the Gulf Stream and the deep ocean currents it’s connected to may be slowing. Pushing the bounds of oceanography, scientists have slung necklace-like sensor arrays across the Atlantic to better understand the complex network of currents that the Gulf Stream belongs to, not only at the surface, but hundreds of feet deep.

“We’re all wishing it’s not true,” Peter de Menocal, a paleoceanographer and president and director of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, said of the changing ocean currents. “Because if that happens, it’s just a monstrous change.”

The consequences could include faster sea level rise along parts of the Eastern United States and parts of Europe, stronger hurricanes barreling into the Southeastern United States, and perhaps most ominously, reduced rainfall across the Sahel, a semi-arid swath of land running the width of Africa that is already a geopolitical tinderbox.

One of the potential reasons for this weakening is that the quickly melting Greenland ice sheet is dumping massive amounts of cold fresh water into the North Atlantic, disrupting the Gulf Stream. This is “the cold blob”.

The northern arm of the Gulf Stream is but one tentacle of a larger, ocean-spanning tangle of currents called the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, or AMOC. Scientists have strong evidence from ice and sediment cores that the AMOC has weakened and shut down before in the past 13,000 years. As a result, mean temperatures in parts of Europe may have rapidly dropped to about 15 degrees Celsius below today’s averages, ushering in arctic like conditions. Parts of northern Africa and northern South America became much drier. Rainfall may even have declined as far away as what is now China. And some of these changes may have occurred in a matter of decades, maybe less.

The AMOC is thus a poster child for the idea of climatic “tipping points” — of hard-to-predict thresholds in Earth’s climate system that, once crossed, have rapid, cascading effects far beyond the corner of the globe where they occur. “It’s a switch,” said Dr. de Menocal, and one that can be thrown quickly.

Which brings us to the cold blob. Almost everywhere around the world, average temperatures are rising — except southeast of Greenland where a large patch of the North Atlantic has become colder in recent years.

The title of this post references a “frozen Europe” but because the Earth is a nonlinear system, a weakened AMOC could actually have the opposite effect:

Scientists at the U.K.’s National Oceanography Centre have somewhat counterintuitively linked the cold blob in the North Atlantic with summer heat waves in Europe. In 2015 and 2018, the jet stream, a river of wind that moves from west to east over temperate latitudes in the northern hemisphere, made an unusual detour to the south around the cold blob. The wrinkle in atmospheric flow brought hotter-than-usual air into Europe, they contend, breaking temperature records.

“That was not predicted,” said Joel Hirschi, principal scientist at the centre and senior author of the research. It highlights how current seasonal forecasting models are unable to predict these warm summers. And it underscores the paradox that, far from ushering in a frigid future for, say, Paris, a cooler North Atlantic might actually make France’s summers more like Morocco’s.

(thx, meg)

Clever “Climate Crisis” Typeface Has Several Weights Based on Arctic Sea Ice Extent

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 24, 2021

Climate Crisis typeface

Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat has released a free typeface called Climate Crisis that can help designers and the media visualize the urgency of the climate crisis.

The font is intended to be used by anyone who wishes to visualize the urgency of climate change. Especially the media can use it to enhance its climate-related storytelling through illustrations and dramatizations. Newspaper Helsingin Sanomat is at the moment using the font to draw attention to its climate-related stories.

The typeface has seven weights corresponding to data & projections of the minimum extent of the Arctic sea ice from 1979 to 2050. As you can see in the graphic above, the type gets thinner and thinner as the years pass. (via print)

Earthrise: A Poem About Climate Change by Amanda Gorman

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 22, 2021

At the Biden/Harris inauguration on Wednesday, poet Amanda Gorman, dressed in the yellow of the Sun, realigned the planets with her recitation of a poem called The Hill We Climb. In 2018 for The Climate Reality Project, riffing off of the iconic photo of the Earth rising over the surface of the Moon taken by Apollo 8 astronauts, Gorman wrote a poem called Earthrise about the climate emergency and the action we must take to end it. From the text of the poem:

Where despite disparities
We all care to protect this world,
This riddled blue marble, this little true marvel
To muster the verve and the nerve
To see how we can serve
Our planet. You don’t need to be a politician
To make it your mission to conserve, to protect,
To preserve that one and only home
That is ours,
To use your unique power
To give next generations the planet they deserve.

We are demonstrating, creating, advocating
We heed this inconvenient truth, because we need to be anything but lenient
With the future of our youth.

And while this is a training,
in sustaining the future of our planet,
There is no rehearsal. The time is
Now
Now
Now,
Because the reversal of harm,
And protection of a future so universal
Should be anything but controversial.

So, earth, pale blue dot
We will fail you not.

Watch Gorman’s recitation of it above — you might get some goosebumps. (via eric holthaus)

“The Climate Crisis Will Be Steroids for Fascism”

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 08, 2021

For Gizmodo, Brian Kahn writes about what the 1/6 terrorist action at the Capitol Building means for the climate crisis.

Climate change is chaos by nature. It means more powerful storms, more intense wildfires, more extreme floods and droughts. It is an assault on the weakest among us, and decades of the right-wing mindset of small government have left the country with fewer resources to deal with the fallout. As the summer’s wildfires show, the far-right will be there to try to fill the power void. Those fires occurred in a predominantly white region.

There’s a strong strain of white nationalism and neo-Nazism that ran through Wednesday’s insurrection, and it’s easy to imagine what will happen when flames or storms hit places that are predominantly Black, brown, or Indigenous. In fact, we don’t need to imagine it at all. We’ve seen it in the gunman who showed up at a Walmart to kill immigrants whom he falsely blamed for putting strain on the environment. And we saw it in the white vigilante violence in the vacuum after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. We’ve seen it so frequently, it even has a name: ecofascism.

After Wednesday, the boundaries of permissible violence have now expanded to a distorting degree, at a time of increasing climate instability. White supremacists, neo-Nazis, and other extremists literally took over the halls of power and got away with it. When climate change upends communities with far fewer defenses — communities that hate groups already scapegoat — the results will be catastrophic.

As we’ve seen with the pandemic, fascists will use climate chaos to assert dominance and snatch for power. Others will make vast sums of money — and inequality will continue to grow. Creating confusion with misinformation makes all of that easier to manage for these opportunists.

Tips for a Better Life

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 05, 2021

On his blog, Conor Barnes shared an eclectic list of 100 Tips For A Better Life. I’m less keen on these sorts of lists than I used to be because they’re often written for people who already have pretty good lives and it’s too easy to imagine that a list advocating the opposite of each tip would also lead to a better life. To be fair, Barnes’ list acknowledges the difficulty with generalized advice:

31. The best advice is personal and comes from somebody who knows you well. Take broad-spectrum advice like this as needed, but the best way to get help is to ask honest friends who love you.

That said, here are some of the list items that resonated with me in some way.

3. Things you use for a significant fraction of your life (bed: 1/3rd, office-chair: 1/4th) are worth investing in.

I recently upgraded my mattress from a cheap memory foam one I’d been using for almost 7 years to a hybrid mattress that was probably 3X the cost but is so comfortable and better for my back.

13. When googling a recipe, precede it with ‘best’. You’ll find better recipes.

I’ve been doing this over the past year with mixed results. Google has become a terrible way to find good recipes, even with this trick. My version of this is googling “kenji {name of dish}” — works great.

27. Discipline is superior to motivation. The former can be trained, the latter is fleeting. You won’t be able to accomplish great things if you’re only relying on motivation.

My motivation is sometimes very low when it comes to working on this here website. But my discipline is off the charts, so it gets done 99 days out of 100, even in a pandemic. (I am still unclear whether this is healthy for me or not…)

46. Things that aren’t your fault can still be your responsibility.

48. Keep your identity small. “I’m not the kind of person who does things like that” is not an explanation, it’s a trap. It prevents nerds from working out and men from dancing.

Oh, this used to be me: “I’m this sort of person.” Turns out, not so much.

56. Sometimes unsolvable questions like “what is my purpose?” and “why should I exist?” lose their force upon lifestyle fixes. In other words, seeing friends regularly and getting enough sleep can go a long way to solving existentialism.

75. Don’t complain about your partner to coworkers or online. The benefits are negligible and the cost is destroying a bit of your soul.

Interpreting “partner” broadly here, I completely agree with this one. If they are truly a partner (romantic, business, parenting), complaining is counterproductive. Instead, talk to others about how those relationships can be repaired, strengthened, or, if necessary, brought to an appropriate end.

88. Remember that many people suffer invisibly, and some of the worst suffering is shame. Not everybody can make their pain legible.

91. Human mood and well-being are heavily influenced by simple things: Exercise, good sleep, light, being in nature. It’s cheap to experiment with these.

This is good advice, but some of these things actually aren’t “cheap” for some people.

100. Bad things happen dramatically (a pandemic). Good things happen gradually (malaria deaths dropping annually) and don’t feel like ‘news’. Endeavour to keep track of the good things to avoid an inaccurate and dismal view of the world.

Oof, this ended on a flat note. Many bad things seem to happen dramatically because we don’t notice the results of small bad decisions accumulating over time that lead to sudden outcomes. Like Hemingway said about how bankruptcy happens: gradually, then suddenly. Lung cancer doesn’t happen suddenly; it’s the 40 years of cigarettes. California’s wildfires are the inevitable result of 250 years of climate change & poor forestry management techniques. Miami and other coastal cities are being slowly claimed by the ocean — they will reach breaking points in the near future. Even the results of something like earthquakes or hurricanes can be traced to insufficient investment in safety measures, policy, etc.

The pandemic seemed to come out of nowhere, but experts in epidemiology & infectious diseases had been warning about a pandemic just like this one for years and even decades. The erosion of public trust in government, the politicization of healthcare, the deemphasis of public health, and the Republican death cult (which is its own slow-developing disaster now reaching a crisis) controlling key aspects of federal, state, and local government made the pandemic impossible to contain in America. (This is true of most acute crises in the United States. Where you find people suffering, there are probably decades or even centuries of public policy to blame.)

Bad news happens slowly and unnoticed all the time. You don’t have to look any further for evidence of this than how numb we are to the fact that thousands of Americans are dying every single day from a disease that we know how to control. So, endeavour to keep track of the bad things to avoid an inaccurate and unrealistically optimistic view of the world — it helps in making a list of injustices to pay attention to and work against.

The Rapidly Falling Cost of Solar Energy Visualized

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 02, 2020

Check out this graph from Our World in Data of the price of electricity from new power plants. In 2009, solar was the most expensive energy source and in 2019 it’s the cheapest.

graph showing the plunging cost of solar energy

Electricity from utility-scale solar photovoltaics cost $359 per MWh in 2009. Within just one decade the price declined by 89% and the relative price flipped: the electricity price that you need to charge to break even with the new average coal plant is now much higher than what you can offer your customers when you build a wind or solar plant.

It’s hard to overstate what a rare achievement these rapid price changes represent. Imagine if some other good had fallen in price as rapidly as renewable electricity: Imagine you’d found a great place to live back in 2009 and at the time you thought it’d be worth paying $3590 in rent for it. If housing had then seen the price decline that we’ve seen for solar it would have meant that by 2019 you’d pay just $400 for the same place.

The rest of the page is worth a read as well. One reason why the cost of solar is falling so quickly is that the technology is following a similar exponential curve to computer chips, which provide more speed and power every year for less money, an observation called Wright’s Law:

If you want to know what the future looks like one of the most useful questions to ask is which technologies follow Wright’s Law and which do not.

Most technologies obviously do not follow Wright’s Law — the prices of bicycles, fridges, or coal power plants do not decline exponentially as we produce more of them. But those which do follow Wright’s Law — like computers, solar PV, and batteries — are the ones to look out for. They might initially only be found in very niche applications, but a few decades later they are everywhere.

If you are unaware that technology follows Wright’s Law you can get your predictions very wrong. At the dawn of the computer age in 1943 IBM president Thomas Watson famously said “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” At the price point of computers at the time that was perhaps perfectly true, but what he didn’t foresee was how rapidly the price of computers would fall. From its initial niche when there was perhaps truly only demand for five computers they expanded to more and more applications and the virtuous cycle meant that the price of computers declined further and further. The exponential progress of computers expanded their use from a tiny niche to the defining technology of our time.

Solar modules are on the same trajectory, as we’ve seen before. At the price of solar modules in the 1950s it would have sounded quite reasonable to say, “I think there is a world market for maybe five solar modules.” But as a prediction for the future this statement too would have been ridiculously wrong.

The Earthshot Prize

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 28, 2020

Earlier this month, Prince William (British royal) & David Attenborough (British royalty) announced The Earthshot Prize. Inspired by the moonshot effort of the 1960s, the initiative will award five £1 million (~$1.3 million) prizes each year over the next 10 years for projects that provide global solutions to pressing environmental problems in five different categories: fixing the climate, cleaning the air, protecting & restoring nature, reviving the oceans, and building a waste-free world.

The Earthshot Prize is centred around five ‘Earthshots’ — simple but ambitious goals for our planet which if achieved by 2030 will improve life for us all, for generations to come. Each Earthshot is underpinned by scientifically agreed targets including the UN Sustainable Development Goals and other internationally recognised measures to help repair our planet.

Together, they form a unique set of challenges rooted in science, which aim to generate new ways of thinking, as well as new technologies, systems, policies and solutions. By bringing these five critical issues together, The Earthshot Prize recognises the interconnectivity between environmental challenges and the urgent need to tackle them together.

(via moss & fog)

“Your Civilisation Is Killing Life on Earth”

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 13, 2020

Nemonte Nenquimo, leader of the Waorani people in Ecuador: This is my message to the western world — your civilisation is killing life on Earth.

My name is Nemonte Nenquimo. I am a Waorani woman, a mother, and a leader of my people. The Amazon rainforest is my home. I am writing you this letter because the fires are raging still. Because the corporations are spilling oil in our rivers. Because the miners are stealing gold (as they have been for 500 years), and leaving behind open pits and toxins. Because the land grabbers are cutting down primary forest so that the cattle can graze, plantations can be grown and the white man can eat. Because our elders are dying from coronavirus, while you are planning your next moves to cut up our lands to stimulate an economy that has never benefited us. Because, as Indigenous peoples, we are fighting to protect what we love — our way of life, our rivers, the animals, our forests, life on Earth — and it’s time that you listened to us.

This is a great letter because it contains the force of truth. Nenquimo is a cofounder of the Ceibo Alliance, an indigenous-led organization working to defend indigenous territory and develop “viable solutions-based alternatives to rainforest destruction”, and was honored as one of Time’s 100 most influential people of 2020 (Leonardo DiCaprio penned her bio).

Clever Postage Stamp Design: Heat Reveals Hidden Images About Climate Change

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 30, 2020

Finnish Climate Change Stamps

Finnish Climate Change Stamps

The Finnish Post Office tapped design firm Berry Creative to create this series of heat-reactive postage stamps that reveal messages about the effects of climate change when you activate them with heat (like a finger pressing on them). Each stamp tells a little two-act story about a different aspect of climate change: global temperature increase, climate refugees migrating, and endangered wildlife. Very clever design and I love the aesthetics too. (via moss & fog)

Is It Too Late To Stop Climate Change?

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 29, 2020

For Kurzgesagt’s latest video, they explore the challenges the world faces in attempting to get the rate of climate change under control before it’s too late and how to get there.

Climate change is just too much. There is never any good news. Only graphs that get more and more red and angry. Almost every year breaks some horrible record, from the harshest heat waves to the most rapid glacier melt. It’s endless and relentless.

We have known for decades that rapid climate change is being caused by the release of greenhouse gases. But instead of reducing them, in 2019 the world was emitting 50% more CO2 than in the year 2000. And emissions are still rising. Why is that? Why is it so hard to just stop emitting these gases?

According to the video, global population growth and economic growth will be working against us over the next few decades and that increasing our energy efficiency and lowering emissions from energy sources are the main ways in which we will be able to slow things down. It’s worth noting that on the wizard vs. prophet continuum, this video is firmly in the wizard camp. That’s not wrong or bad; it’s just that other people have different ideas about how to combat climate change.

The Apocalyptic Red Western Skies Caused by Climate Change-Fueled Wildfires

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 10, 2020

Wildfire Skies 2020

Wildfire Skies 2020

Wildfire Skies 2020

Wildfire Skies 2020

Wildfire Skies 2020

All day yesterday, my social media feeds were full of photos taken of the skies on the west coast, bloodied red and orange from the wildfires raging in California, Oregon, and other western states. Each fresh photo I saw shocked me anew. Friends told me: as weird as the photos look, they don’t do justice to what this actually looks like and feels like in real life. Automatic cameras (as on smartphones) had a tough time capturing the skies because the onboard software kept correcting the red and orange colors out — the phones know, even if climate change denying politicians and voters don’t, that our skies aren’t supposed to be that color.

I’ve compiled a few photos and photo collections taken of the western skies over the past few days:

Keep in mind that these photos were taking during the day — it only looks like night because the smoke so completely blocked out the sun.

And let me be clear (because others have not been): the frequency and intensity of the western wildfires over the past years are driven in part by climate change. These fires, along with the death, property damage, and poor health they’ve caused and will continue to cause, are just some of the debts coming due for decades of bad public policy, political inaction, and deliberate negligence by fossil fuel companies. The climate has changed and these are the consequences — the message in the sky is simply unmistakeable.

Baseline, a Decades-Long Film Series About Climate Change

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 15, 2020

Taking a page from The Up Series, director John Sutter is making a series of films that revisit four geographic locations every 5 years until 2050 in order to document the effects in those areas due to climate change. The name of the series is Baseline and it’s a reference to the concept of shifting baselines, which the trailer above defines as “a phenomenon of lowered expectations in which each generation regards a progressively poorer natural world as normal”. The four areas the films will focus on are Alaska, Utah, Puerto Rico, and the Marshall Islands.

Sutter did a TEDx Talk about shifting baselines and climate change — the clip he shows right at the beginning featuring the shifting sizes of fish caught in Key West, Florida is astonishing.

He also wrote a piece about the series and the Alaskan village featured in it.

Three Climate Change Pioneers

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 15, 2020

From BBC Ideas, the story of three people who pioneered the science of climate change — Eunice Foote, Guy Stewart Callendar, and Charles Keeling — each of whom was under-recognized for their achievements at the time.

In particular, Eunice Foote demonstrated the greenhouse effect all the way back in 1856, but her contribution was lost to time and science until very recently.

Looking back on Earth’s history, Foote explains that “an atmosphere of that gas would give to our earth a high temperature … at one period of its history the air had mixed with it a larger proportion than at present, an increased temperature from its own action as well as from increased weight must have necessarily resulted.” Of the gases tested, she concluded that carbonic acid trapped the most heat, having a final temperature of 125 °F. Foote was years ahead of her time. What she described and theorized was the gradual warming of the Earth’s atmosphere — what today we call the greenhouse effect.

(via the morning news)

The New Normal

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 09, 2020

This Is Fine

For Vox, David Roberts writes about how “shifting baselines” affect our thinking and how easily overwhelmingly large issues like climate change or a pandemic can become normalized.

Maybe climate chaos, a rising chorus of alarm signals from around the world, will simply become our new normal. Hell, maybe income inequality, political dysfunction, and successive waves of a deadly virus will become our new normal. Maybe we’ll just get used to [waves hands] all this.

Humans often don’t remember what we’ve lost or demand that it be restored. Rather, we adjust to what we’ve got.

The concept of shifting baselines was introduced in a 1995 paper by Daniel Pauly. Roberts explains:

So what are shifting baselines? Consider a species of fish that is fished to extinction in a region over, say, 100 years. A given generation of fishers becomes conscious of the fish at a particular level of abundance. When those fishers retire, the level is lower. To the generation that enters after them, that diminished level is the new normal, the new baseline. They rarely know the baseline used by the previous generation; it holds little emotional salience relative to their personal experience.

And so it goes, each new generation shifting the baseline downward. By the end, the fishers are operating in a radically degraded ecosystem, but it does not seem that way to them, because their baselines were set at an already low level.

Over time, the fish goes extinct — an enormous, tragic loss — but no fisher experiences the full transition from abundance to desolation. No generation experiences the totality of the loss. It is doled out in portions, over time, no portion quite large enough to spur preventative action. By the time the fish go extinct, the fishers barely notice, because they no longer valued the fish anyway.

And it’s not just groups of people that do this over generations:

It turns out that, over the course of their lives, individuals do just what generations do — periodically reset and readjust to new baselines.

“There is a tremendous amount of research showing that we tend to adapt to circumstances if they are constant over time, even if they are gradually worsening,” says George Loewenstein, a professor of economics and psychology at Carnegie Mellon. He cites the London Blitz (during World War II, when bombs were falling on London for months on end) and the intifada (the Palestinian terror campaign in Israel), during which people slowly adjusted to unthinkable circumstances.

“Fear tends to diminish over time when a risk remains constant,” he says, “You can only respond for so long. After a while, it recedes to the background, seemingly no matter how bad it is.”

Ok, I’ll let you just read the rest of it, but it’s not difficult to see how shifting baselines apply to all sorts of challenges facing the world today. I mean the lines “You can only respond for so long. After a while, it recedes to the background, seemingly no matter how bad it is.” seem like they were written specifically about the pandemic.

Overview Timelapse

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 01, 2020

Overview Timelapse

From the creators the Daily Overview website that showcases beautiful & educational satellite imagery of Earth, comes a new book about the Earth’s changing landscape. Overview Timelapse: How We Change the Earth is a book of satellite imagery that shows how landscapes change over time due to things like volcanic eruptions, climate change, population growth, and massive construction projects.

With human activity driving this transformation faster than ever, visible signs can now be seen across the planet. With more than 250 new, mesmerizing images such as sprawling cities and the patterns created by decades of deforestation, this book offers a fresh perspective of change on Earth from a larger-than-life scale.

Here’s a layout from the book that shows the construction of the Beijing Daxing International Airport over the course of several years:

Overview Timelapse

You can preorder Overview Timelapse from Bookshop.org and pick up their previous books as well: Overview and Overview, Young Explorer’s Edition.

Who Is Responsible For Climate Change?

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 23, 2020

In their newest video, Kurzgesagt explores the question of responsibility around climate change: which countries are most responsible for carbon emissions and for fixing the damage they’ve caused. As always, their source material is worth a look.

Five Ways to Ditch Your Climate Stress and Be Part of the Solution

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 15, 2020

Emma Marris has a five-point plan for dealing with the psychological toll of climate change — the constant news of fire! famine! war! floods! Republicans! — and working towards solutions to our collective global problem. Step 1, she writes, is to let go of the shame:

The first step is the key to all the rest. Yes, our daily lives are undoubtedly contributing to climate change. But that’s because the rich and powerful have constructed systems that make it nearly impossible to live lightly on the earth. Our economic systems require most adults to work, and many of us must commute to work in or to cities intentionally designed to favor the automobile. Unsustainable food, clothes and other goods remain cheaper than sustainable alternatives.

And yet we blame ourselves for not being green enough. As the climate essayist Mary Annaïse Heglar writes, “The belief that this enormous, existential problem could have been fixed if all of us had just tweaked our consumptive habits is not only preposterous; it’s dangerous.” It turns eco-saints against eco-sinners, who are really just fellow victims. It misleads us into thinking that we have agency only by dint of our consumption habits — that buying correctly is the only way we can fight climate change.

Marris’ focus on systems (political, capital, etc.) mirrors that of other climate thinkers (like David Wallace-Wells) and is exactly right IMO:

My point is that the climate crisis is not going to be solved by personal sacrifice. It will be solved by electing the right people, passing the right laws, drafting the right regulations, signing the right treaties — and respecting those treaties already signed, particularly with indigenous nations. It will be solved by holding the companies and people who have made billions off our shared atmosphere to account.

World Underwater

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 10, 2020

World Underwater

Inspired by a trip to Venice, the world’s most prominent example of what life could be like in many of our coastal cities in the years to come, Hayden Williams made a series of 3D rendered images showing what our world might look like underwater. (via the morning news)

Air Travel in the Age of Climate Crisis: Is It Wrong to Fly?

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 08, 2020

Because of the climate crisis, Greta Thunberg doesn’t fly anymore. Neither does climate journalist Eric Holthaus (aside from this recent trip). The flight shame movement and personal reflection on the climate has caused others to limit their air travel.

In this video, Joss Fong and her team at Vox look at the cost of air travel to our environment, investigate electric airplanes, and consider whether it’s wrong to fly in the age of climate crisis.

Climate change implicates us all in a planet-sized injustice. If I fly, if I drive, if I heat or cool my home, if I buy stuff, if I eat stuff, all of this now has a cost that I’m not paying.

Artworks from the Prado Museum Altered to Show Effects of Climate Change

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 17, 2019

Prado Climate Change

In collaboration with the Prado Museum in Madrid, the World Wildlife Fund altered a few paintings from the museum’s collection to highlight the future effects of climate change: extinction of species, sea level rise, desertification, and climate refugees.

Prado Climate Change

(via open culture)

How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 25, 2019

The Grist has compiled a list of articles written by Coby Beck “containing responses to the most common skeptical arguments on global warming”. Here are some snippets from a few of the articles.

The temperature record is unreliable:

There is actually some truth to the part about the difficulties; scientists have overcome many of them in turning the hundreds of thousands of measurements taken in many different ways and over a span of more than a dozen decades into a single globally averaged trend.

But this is the nature of science — no one said it was easy. It’s taken the scientific community a long time to finally come out and say that what we have been observing for 100 years is in fact exactly what it looks like. All other possible explanations (for example, the Urban Heat Island effect) have been investigated, the data has been examined and re-examined, reviewed and re-reviewed, and the conclusion has become unassailable.

Global warming has been going on for the last 20,000 years:

If you have look at this graph of temperature, starting at a point when we were finishing the climb out of deep glaciation, you can clearly see that rapid warming ceased around 10,000 years ago (rapid relative to natural fluctuations, but not compared to the warming today, which is an order of magnitude faster). After a final little lift 8,000 years ago, temperature trended downward for the entire period of the Holocene. So the post-industrial revolution warming is the reversal of a many-thousand-year trend.

It’s the sun, stupid:

There has been work done reconstructing the solar irradiance record over the last century, before satellites were available. According to the Max Planck Institute, where this work is being done, there has been no increase in solar irradiance since around 1940.

It’s cold today in Wagga Wagga:

The chaotic nature of weather means that no conclusion about climate can ever be drawn from a single data point, hot or cold. The temperature of one place at one time is just weather, and says nothing about climate, much less climate change, much less global climate change.

Go forth and spread the truth as you travel to dine at various holidays tables around the country. (P.S. I first posted a link to this series in 2006. That it’s almost more necessary now than it was then is beyond depressing.)

How To Talk To Kids About Climate Change

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 28, 2019

NPR’s Anya Kamenetz shares six tips on how to talk to your kids about the climate crisis. Step 1 is to break the silence:

He says, despite the fact that the climate crisis literally affects everyone on earth, too many of us are sitting alone with our worries, our faces lit by our phone screens in the middle of the night. “We seem to be more scared of upsetting the conversation than we are scared about climate change.”

Mary DeMocker, an activist and artist in Eugene, Ore., is the author of The Parents’ Guide To Climate Revolution, a book focusing on simple actions families can take both personally and collectively. “The emotional aspect is actually, I think, one of the biggest aspects of climate work right now,” she says.

Asked what feelings parents tell her they are grappling with, she ticks off guilt, distraction, confusion. And the big one: fear.

See also 8 Ways To Teach Climate Change In Almost Any Classroom.

Nobody Dies in Longyearbyen

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 21, 2019

From filmmaker David Freid, Nobody Dies in Longyearbyen is a short film about Longyearbyen, Norway, the one of the northernmost towns in the world. The town of about 2100 residents is situated on the Svalbard archipelago and is the home of the Global Seed Vault. Freid went to investigate the rumor that no one is allowed to die in Longyearbyen and discovered that if climate change results in the permafrost melting in places like this, diseases from long ago may be released back into the world.

But for more than 70 years, not a single person has been buried in Longyearbyen. That’s due to the region’s year-round sub-zero temperatures: Bodies don’t decompose, but are preserved, as if mummified, in the permafrost. Should anyone die there, the government of Svalbard requires that the body is flown or shipped to mainland Norway to be interred.

See also A Trip to the Northernmost Town on Earth.

A Free Font Inspired by Greta Thunberg’s Handwriting

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 16, 2019

Greta Grotesk

Inspired by the handwritten sign that climate activist Greta Thunberg has been using since beginning her climate strike in August 2018, a startup called Uno has produced a font of her handwriting available for free download.

Greta Grotesk

America’s Great Climate Exodus Has Already Begun

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 25, 2019

Like many Americans, I have been hearing about climate change since the late 80s (or perhaps even longer). Back then, the story was mainly that we needed to act soon to avoid potential effects like sea level rise, dangerous heatwaves, disrupting animal habitats, etc. in some distant future. One of the things I currently struggle with when thinking about climate change is recalibrating that “some distant future” part. Because that future is now and shit is happening in these here United States as we speak. From Bloomberg, America’s Great Climate Exodus Is Starting in the Florida Keys:

The Great Climate Retreat is beginning with tiny steps, like taxpayer buyouts for homeowners in flood-prone areas from Staten Island, New York, to Houston and New Orleans — and now Rittel’s Marathon Key. Florida, the state with the most people and real estate at risk, is just starting to buy homes, wrecked or not, and bulldoze them to clear a path for swelling seas before whole neighborhoods get wiped off the map.

By the end of the century, 13 million Americans will need to move just because of rising sea levels, at a cost of $1 million each, according to Florida State University demographer Mathew Haeur, who studies climate migration. Even in a “managed retreat,” coordinated and funded at the federal level, the economic disruption could resemble the housing crash of 2008.

By not wanting to pay now to mitigate the effects of climate change, we’ll end up paying a whole lot more later. Those late fees are gonna be something else.

Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring Is As Relevant As Ever

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 24, 2019

In light of the recent news of almost 30% of America’s birds disappearing in the past 50 years and the ongoing news of the climate crisis, it’s worth reading Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, a serialized version of which was published by the New Yorker in 1962 in three parts (one, two, three). From the opening of the first NYer piece:

Then, one spring, a strange blight crept over the area, and everything began to change. Some evil spell had settled on the community; mysterious maladies swept the flocks of chickens, and the cattle and sheep sickened and died. Everywhere was the shadow of death. The farmers told of much illness among their families. In the town, the doctors were becoming more and more puzzled by new kinds of sickness that had appeared among their patients. There had been several sudden and unexplained deaths, not only among the adults but also among the children, who would be stricken while they were at play, and would die within a few hours.

And there was a strange stillness. The birds, for example — where had they gone? Many people, baffled and disturbed, spoke of them. The feeding stations in the back yards were deserted. The few birds to be seen anywhere were moribund; they trembled violently and could not fly. It was a spring without voices. In the mornings, which had once throbbed with the dawn chorus of robins, catbirds, doves, jays, and wrens, and scores of other bird voices, there was now no sound; only silence lay over the fields and woods and marshes.

On the farms, the hens brooded but no chicks hatched. The farmers complained that they were unable to raise any pigs; the litters were small, and the young survived only a few days. The apple trees were coming into bloom, but no bees droned among the blossoms, so there was no pollination and there would be no fruit.

The roadsides were lined with brown and withered vegetation, and were silent, too, deserted by all living things. Even the streams were lifeless. Anglers no longer visited them, for all the fish had died.

In the gutters under the eaves, and between the shingles of the roofs, a few patches of white granular powder could be seen; some weeks earlier this powder had been dropped, like snow, upon the roofs and the lawns, the fields and the streams.

No witchcraft, no enemy action had snuffed out life in this stricken world. The people had done it themselves.

To call Carson’s words prescient would be a huge understatement. “The people had done it themselves” indeed.

The Tree and Other Natural Climate Solutions

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 23, 2019

A short and compelling video from Greta Thunberg and George Monbiot about how we can harness nature to help repair our broken climate.

There is a magic machine that sucks carbon out of the air, costs very little, and builds itself. It’s called a tree.

Their approach to how we can do that is “protect, restore, and fund”.

That means protecting tropical forests that are being cut down at the rate of 30 football pitches a minute, she said, restoring the large areas of the planet that have been damaged and stopping the funding of things that destroy nature and instead paying for activities that help it.

You can find out more about natural climate solutions here. From an open letter signed by Thunberg, Monbiot, Margaret Atwood, Michael Mann, Bill McKibben, Brian Eno, and others:

By defending, restoring and re-establishing forests, peatlands, mangroves, salt marshes, natural seabeds and other crucial ecosystems, very large amounts of carbon can be removed from the air and stored. At the same time, the protection and restoration of these ecosystems can help to minimise a sixth great extinction, while enhancing local people’s resilience against climate disaster. Defending the living world and defending the climate are, in many cases, one and the same.

(via the kid should see this)

Get Ready for the Global Climate Strike on September 20

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 17, 2019

Global Climate Strike

Just a reminder that the Global Climate Strike begins this Friday, September 20. A coalition of young activists led by Greta Thunberg is calling on all of us to walk out of our schools and jobs to demand political and corporate action on the Earth’s climate crisis.

Once again our voices are being heard on the streets, but it is not just up to us.

We feel a lot of adults haven’t quite understood that we young people won’t hold off the climate crisis ourselves. Sorry, if this is inconvenient for you. But this is not a single-generation job. It’s humanity’s job. We young people can contribute to a larger fight and that can make a huge difference.

So this is our invitation to you. Starting on Friday 20 September we will kick start a week of climate action with worldwide strikes for the climate. We’re asking you to step up alongside us. There are many different plans underway in different parts of the world for adults to join together and step up and out of your comfort zone for our climate. Let’s all join together; with our neighbours, co-workers, friends, family and go out on to the streets to make our voices heard and make this a turning point in our history.

kottke.org will be joining the Digital Climate Strike on Friday; the site won’t be available that day. If you’d like to participate in the strike, there are plenty of resources available here.

Air Conditioning is Warming the Earth

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 04, 2019

Modern society has an air conditioning problem. One of the most popular responses by the world’s population to global warming is to use air conditioning. Air conditioning is very greenhouse gas-intensive, which contributes to the warming of the planet. Which causes more people use air conditioning. And so on. In a long Guardian piece, Stephen Buranyi lays out how air conditioning came to be so ubiquitous and how we might escape this air conditioning trap we find ourselves in.

There are just over 1bn single-room air conditioning units in the world right now - about one for every seven people on earth. Numerous reports have projected that by 2050 there are likely to be more than 4.5bn, making them as ubiquitous as the mobile phone is today. The US already uses as much electricity for air conditioning each year as the UK uses in total. The IEA projects that as the rest of the world reaches similar levels, air conditioning will use about 13% of all electricity worldwide, and produce 2bn tonnes of CO2 a year - about the same amount as India, the world’s third-largest emitter, produces today.

All of these reports note the awful irony of this feedback loop: warmer temperatures lead to more air conditioning; more air conditioning leads to warmer temperatures. The problem posed by air conditioning resembles, in miniature, the problem we face in tackling the climate crisis. The solutions that we reach for most easily only bind us closer to the original problem.

Weirdly, the article doesn’t mention that most air conditioning units contain chemical refrigerants (CFCs and HCFCs) that, if released, “have 1,000 to 9,000 times greater capacity to warm the atmosphere than carbon dioxide”. Phasing out the use of CFCs & HCFCs in new units and capturing the refrigerants in discarded units can prevent global warming to such a degree that it’s the #1 way to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Errol Morris & Bob Odenkirk Team Up for Climate Change Spots

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 03, 2019

In partnership with the Institute for the Future, Errol Morris has produced a series of 30-second spots about climate change that star Bob Odenkirk as Admiral Horatio Horntower.

Here’s what Morris had to say about the ads:

I have never had any trouble believing in climate change, global warming, or whatever you want to call it. The scientific evidence is overwhelming. Galileo famously replied to Archbishop Piccolomini (or some other Vatican prelate), “And yet it moves.” Today we could just as well say, “And yet it changes.” But what to do about it? Logic rarely convinces anybody of anything. Climate change has become yet another vehicle for political polarization. If Al Gore said the Earth was round there would be political opposition insisting that the Earth was flat. It’s all so preposterous, so contemptible.

I’ve created nineteen thirty-second spots that profile a character I created: Admiral Horatio Horntower. He’s an admiral of a fleet of one and perhaps the last man on Earth. Hopefully it captures the absurdity and the desperation of our current situation. No pie graphs, no PowerPoint — just a blithering idiot played by one of my favorite actors, Bob Odenkirk.

You can watch all nine of the current spots here.