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The U.S. Supreme Court has heard oral arguments in the most important environmental case in more than a decade.
The oil industry is using the crisis in Ukraine to push for more drilling.
There’s the world as it is. And then there’s the world as it could be.
This newsletter will be about both.
My name is Somini. I’m the global climate correspondent for The New York Times. Starting today, I’ll drop into your inbox every Tuesday and Friday, with one overarching goal: To help figure out how this giant, often overwhelming global problem of climate change matters to our everyday lives — and what can be done about it.
This week, there’s a BIG thing that matters. It’s the long-awaited report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It shows us the world as it is: already hotter than a century ago. It implores us to adapt, and adapt quickly, so that the future is livable, maybe even a little better.
The panel’s report was prepared by 270 scientists from 67 countries. It draws on thousands of scientific studies. It’s exhaustive. My colleagues, Brad Plumer, Raymond Zhong and Lisa Friedman wrote about the assessment.
How does it matter to our lives right now?
It reminds us that no matter how quickly we reduce the emissions of planet-warming gases, the planet is already hotter and is certain to get even hotter in the coming years. That means more heat waves, more sea level rise, more extreme weather of all kinds.
We should have started adapting to this reality yesterday, the report says. It urges us to undo habits that no longer serve us. We need to rethink where and how we build homes, grow food, store water, and protect our health, both mental and physical. It reminds us that climate effects are unfair. Mortality rates from floods, droughts, and storms are far higher for people who live in the world’s most vulnerable countries, compared to those in less vulnerable countries. And those most vulnerable countries are also least financially able to prepare.
Some places are already adapting in surprising, though still relatively small, ways. In California, courts are putting the kibosh on building new homes in wildfire-prone areas. Athens has a heat officer assigned to figure out how to cool the city. Britain has been told by its climate experts to urgently shore up flood defenses. And recently, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration told Americans to expect many more “sunny day” floods in coastal communities because of sea level rise. Its projections should be seen as practical information to help local officials adapt.
Your adaptation strategies depend on who you are and where you live. If you’re a homeowner, you could start with checking if your home is sufficiently insulated for more extreme temperatures. (Or, considering Russia’s grip on European energy supplies, if your nation is sufficiently insulated from fossil fuels supplied by a tyrant.) If you live in a flood-prone city, you could check if your local officials are allowing for new construction on flood plains (unwise) or cleaning storm drains (wise). No matter where you live, you could ask politicians running for office, local and national, how they plan to protect your community in the face of climate risks.
But wait: Does the panel’s call to urgently adapt mean there’s less need to fight climate change?
Actually, the opposite. Every degree of warming matters. To avert the worst consequences of warming requires reducing the emissions of planet-warming gases by nearly half by 2030. That means rapidly shifting away from the combustion of oil, gas and coal.
We know how to do a lot of that. But there are obstacles, including powerful industries and lawmakers who stand in the way. Expect to read more about that in this newsletter in the coming months.
I understand that the climate crisis can sometimes seem so enormous, so far away that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or to even ignore it. I hear you. My goal is not to drown you with bad news. In the coming weeks, I hope to introduce you to people who are trying to slow down warming and help us imagine new, better ways to live.
This is a subject that matters to me a lot, not just as a journalist, but also as a parent and a sister, as a taxpayer and a citizen of a democratic country. I’ve been a journalist for more than two decades. I’ve reported from nearly 50 countries, covered many wars, terror attacks, elections, storms. I’ve seen human beings at their most depraved and at their most courageous. It shapes how I write about the climate crisis.
Twice a week, in this newsletter, I intend to share with you the stories that matter most. Sometimes, I’ll ask my colleagues to take us behind the pieces they’ve reported. Sometimes, I’ll explore ideas worth arguing about.
Expect to read about the science and politics of climate change, but also the business and culture of life on a hotter planet. Expect to find out what the powerful may not want you to find out. Expect to read about how climate matters to everything else, from how you feed your family to wars halfway around the world.
Every now and then, expect to read something joyful.
Most of all, I hope this newsletter will help you make sense of your place in a climate-changed world.
Antarctic sea ice hits a record low: The drop, which surprised scientists, may help them understand more about how climate change is affecting Antarctica.
Some scientists are fed up: A small group of researchers is calling on climate specialists to stage a mass walkout until political leaders take action on global warming.
Plans for wind power advance: The U.S. government has netted a record $4.37 billion from the sale of six offshore wind leases off the coasts of New York and New Jersey. The sites could eventually power 2 million homes.
A Bitcoin ban backfires: A crackdown in China has shifted the process of creating new coins, which uses more electricity than many countries, to places with far less renewable energy.
Yellowstone National Park turned 150 years old this week. National Geographic marked the occasion with a great photo retrospective.
The Weather Channel sent a Twitter message to Breitbart News: Stop using a video to mislead people.
Politico looked at how Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Biden’s choice to be the next Supreme Court justice, has handled past environmental cases.
UPI reported on a new study about extreme heat raises and mental health in the United States. The finding: Heat increases the risk of crises.
The Guardian wrote about the world’s fastest parrot. Not fast enough to outrun loggers, though.
Diana Beresford-Kroeger, a biochemist and botanist, lives in a forest in Canada that she created herself using tree species handpicked for their ability to survive on a warming planet. She’s also an author steeped in the knowledge and traditions of Ireland, and her goal for the past several decades has been to telegraph to the world, in prose that is scientifically exacting yet startlingly affecting, the wondrous capabilities of trees. You can read her story in this lovely profile by my Times colleague Cara Buckley.
Thanks for reading. We’ll be back on Friday.
Claire O’Neill and Douglas Alteen contributed to Climate Forward. You can reach us at email@example.com. We read every message, and reply to many!