Climate change
August 28, 2019

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has anchored near Coney Island, she tweeted Wednesday morning. The 16-year-old set sail from the U.K. on Aug. 14, and has since been documenting her transatlantic journey on Twitter and with a live tracker.

Thunberg is visiting the U.S. for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, which is to take place in September. To avoid the emissions that come with air travel, she sailed on the Malizia II, a 60-foot, emissions-free yacht powered by solar panels. Thunberg equated life on the boat to "camping on a roller coaster."

The trip took longer than expected after they encountered rough seas near Nova Scotia.

The Swedish teen gained global attention last year after skipping school in protest to call on adults to do more about climate change — a move that is now emulated by students around the world each Friday, reports NPR.

In addition to the UN summit, Thunberg plans to attend a climate conference in Chile this December. Read more at NPR. Taylor Watson

August 19, 2019

Iceland held a funeral Sunday for its first glacier lost to climate change. About 100 people hiked two hours to the top of a volcano for the ceremony, marked with poetry, moments of silence, and a plaque bearing a note for future humans. Icelandic geologist Oddur Sigurðsson, who actually pronounced the Okjokull glacier dead about a decade ago, formalized the extinction on Sunday, warning that Iceland won't have any more masses of ice in 200 years. Okjokull — now just Ok, without the Icelandic word for glacier — used to cover six square miles.

"We see the consequences of the climate crisis," Icelandic Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir said. "We have no time to lose." Former Irish president Mary Robinson agreed: "The symbolic death of a glacier is a warning to us, and we need action." The plaque the mourners installed reads: "This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it."

Not all glaciers die so peacefully, though, and Iceland isn't the only area affected. Saturday's NBC Nightly News showed some dramatic footage of Alaska's Spencer Glacier in its apparent death throes. Watch that below. Peter Weber

July 29, 2019

Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish student whose school-skipping protests to highlight the existential need for big action on climate change have inspired tens of thousands of European teens to join her "school strikes," is coming to spread her message to the U.S., she said Monday. Thunberg will attend United Nations climate summits in New York in September and Chile in December, but she had struggled for months to come up with an ecologically appropriate form of travel.

Airplanes are big polluters but so are cruise ships, and smaller boats are dangerous to sail through August's active hurricane-prone Atlantic waters. "Taking a boat to North America is basically impossible," she told The Associated Press, except aboard the high-speed racing yacht she will travel on, accompanied by a filmmaker, her father, Svante, and Pierre Casiraghi, the grandson of the late Grace Kelly and Monaco's Prince Rainier III. The 60-foot yacht, Malizia II, runs on solar panels and underwater turbines to generate zero carbon emissions. "I haven't experienced anything like this before," Thunberg told AP, giggling. "I think this will be a trip to remember."

Thunberg said she plans to appear at the U.N. and take part in several climate protest in New York, but she thinks meeting President Trump would be "just a waste of time" because "I have nothing to say to him." Trump "obviously doesn't listen to the science and the scientists," she reasoned. "So why should I, a child with no proper education, be able to convince him?" Peter Weber

July 24, 2019

Almost all scientists agree that climate change is being caused by humanity's affect on our world — but the general public isn't quite so convinced. Skeptics often say that even before humans were the reigning species on Earth, the average temperatures on the planet tended to fluctuate between warmer and colder periods. But a pair of new studies basically takes the wind out of that argument, finding solid proof that the climate change we're experiencing now is a direct result of human activity.

The studies, published on Wednesday in Nature and Nature Geoscience, both investigated our current climate and compared it to previous warm periods in the Earth's history. The first study concluded that while certain regions of the Earth have experienced fluctuations in climate before, modern climate change is the first time that the entire planet has warmed — at least in the last 2,000 years.

The second study, meanwhile, assessed the intensity of modern climate change. It found that, even during warm periods in the last 2,000 years, never before has the temperature risen so swiftly as it is now. Since the beginning of the 20th century, global temperatures have risen about two degrees, NBC News explained — and it could rise over five more degrees by the end of this century. That might not seem like a lot, but it's much faster than any other warming event in the last 2,000 years.

The conclusion? "We cannot discern any event that is remotely equivalent" to modern climate change, said Scott St. George, a geographer at the University of Minnesota, in a letter published alongside the two studies.

If there's any hope of reversing the effects of climate change, "it's time for everybody to wake up and make changes now," said Jennifer Hertzberg, a paleoclimatologist not involved in the research. Read more at NBC News. Shivani Ishwar

June 12, 2019

A new study has found that the Pentagon emits more greenhouse gasses in one year than several industrialized countries, including Sweden and Portugal.

The Defense Department is the world's single largest consumer of oil, and in 2017, the Pentagon released 59 million metric tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, the study states. "If it were a country, it would have been the world's 55th largest greenhouse gas emitter," writes study author Neta Crawford, a political scientist at Boston University.

Most of the Pentagon's energy consumption is related to maintaining 560,000 buildings at 500 military installations and the jet and diesel fuel used to move soldiers and weapons. Crawford said the military has been using more efficient vehicles, and it would make a huge difference if the Pentagon started rethinking certain missions and whether they are necessary. "There is a lot of room here to reduce emissions," Crawford said. Catherine Garcia

June 4, 2019

Most companies are preparing for increased costs as the planet warms, but some are ready to reap the profits that could come along with climate change, The New York Times reports.

In 2018, more than 7,000 companies submitted reports on the risks and opportunities climate change could create for their business to CDP, which used to be known as the Carbon Disclosure Project. Many firms know they could soon take a big financial hit unless they take proactive steps. For example, Hitachi Ltd., a Japanese manufacturer, said that increased rainfall and flooding in Southeast Asia could knock out some of their suppliers. Alphabet, Inc., Google's parent company, understands that rising temperatures could increase cooling costs in their "energy-hungry" data centers.

But Eli Lilly, a drug maker in the United States, pointed to research that shows how rising temperatures across the globe could drive the spread of infectious diseases, the Times reports. That would actually help the company financially.

The sentiment echoes the words of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who recently said that melting ice in the arctic could help open new trade routes. Read more about how companies are preparing for climate change at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

May 22, 2019

A new study warns that if nothing is done to curb carbon emissions, sea levels could rise by more than six feet by the end of the century, flooding major cities — including Shanghai, Miami, and Mumbai – and displacing about 200 million people.

As the Earth gets warmer, ice sheets are melting faster than previously predicted, the study's scientists said. Co-author Robert Kopp, director of the Institute of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Studies at Rutgers University, told NBC News there are many uncertainties when it comes to the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. For the study, 22 climate experts were asked to estimate the ice sheets' effect on sea level rise if temperatures rose by 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit and 9 degrees Fahrenheit, which is "consistent with unchecked emissions growth."

A 9 degree uptick was the worst-case scenario, and scientists predicted it would cause sea levels to rise by more than six feet by 2100, permanently flooding 700,000 square miles of land. If the temperature rose by only 3.6 degrees, melting ice sheets would add about two-and-a-half feet to sea level rise. Kopp said not all hope is lost, and "changing the course of emissions really can significantly affect this issue over the next 80 years." The study was published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Catherine Garcia

May 20, 2019

A group of scientists from Stanford University have proposed a rather unconventional plan to fight climate change.

Their research, published on Monday in Nature Sustainability, concluded that converting methane into carbon dioxide could actually help reduce the warming of the Earth. Methane and carbon dioxide are both so-called "greenhouse gases" — in fact, carbon dioxide is largely responsible for the climate predicament we find ourselves in, the Los Angeles Times explained. But as it turns out, more carbon dioxide might not be as disastrous as we think.

Methane traps much more heat than carbon dioxide, "on a molecule-for-molecule basis." So by converting much of our atmospheric methane into carbon dioxide, we could dramatically reduce the impact of climate change. This process would eliminate about one-sixth of human-caused global warming, while only adding a few months' worth of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, researchers found.

Of course, the best case scenario would be to stop greenhouse gas emissions entirely, as many scientists have been saying for years. But since that hasn't been a very popular plan, this could be the next best thing. Converting methane into carbon dioxide "would not be a deal-breaker," said Rob Jackson, the study's lead author.

Further research will be required in order to determine whether this plan would be realistic to achieve, but the study's authors are "cautiously optimistic." Learn more at the Los Angeles Times. Shivani Ishwar

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