Earth to Hit Critical Warming Threshold by Early 2030s, Climate Panel ReportSays – by Brad Plumer – The New York Times


“Earth is likely to cross a critical threshold for global warming within the next decade, and nations will need to make an immediate and drastic shift away from fossil fuels to prevent the planet from overheating dangerously beyond that level, according to a major new report released on Monday.

The report, by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a body of experts convened by the United Nations, offers the most comprehensive understanding to date of ways in which the planet is changing. It says that global average temperatures are estimated to rise 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels sometime around “the first half of the 2030s,” as humans continue to burn coal, oil and natural gas.

That number holds a special significance in global climate politics: Under the 2015 Paris climate agreement, virtually every nation agreed to “pursue efforts” to hold global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Beyond that point, scientists say, the impacts of catastrophic heat waves, flooding, drought, crop failures and species extinction become significantly harder for humanity to handle.

But Earth has already warmed an average of 1.1 degrees Celsius since the industrial age, and, with global fossil-fuel emissions setting records last year, that goal is quickly slipping out of reach.” . . . . .

David Lindsay: Excellent, but tragic report, thank you Brad Plumer. Here is a great comment, from one of my favorite commentors:

Erik Frederiksen
Asheville, NC  5h ago

Many people are simply unaware of the scale of the threat which climate change poses to humanity. The carbon cycle for the last 2 million years was doing 180-280ppm atmospheric CO2 over 10,000 years and we’ve done more change than that in 100 years. The last time CO2 went from 180-280ppm global temperature increased by around 4 degrees C and sea level rose 130 meters. (graph of the last 400,000 years of global temperature, CO2 and sea level ) One amplifying feedback alone out of dozens, loss of albedo or heat reflectivity from Arctic summer sea ice melt, over the last several decades has been equivalent to 25 percent of the climate forcing of anthropogenic CO2. And that will continue to increase as that ice largely disappears by mid century. The Titanic sank because by the time the lookout called the warning the ship had too much momentum to turn. The Earth has a lot more momentum, e.g. we’ve already likely locked in at least 6 meters of sea level rise from the marine sectors of Greenland and West Antarctica’s ice sheets, and decade to decade warming in the near term is also virtually locked in. That momentum is building and the higher we let global temperatures rise the greater the risk of them going really high as amplifying feedbacks strengthen.

3 Replies259 Recommended

David Wallace-Wells | How Big of a Climate Betrayal Is the Willow Oil Project? – The New York Times

Opinion Writer

“On Monday, when President Biden approved ConocoPhillips’s $8 billion plan to extract 600 million barrels of oil from federal lands in Alaska, the announcement landed simultaneously with the thud of betrayal and the air of inevitability. On the campaign trail, Biden had promised “no more drilling on federal lands, period. Period, period, period.” But for all the talk about the renewables boom and the green transition, and all the money pouring into them as well, there has been little concerted effort, in the United States at least, to really draw down our profligate use of the stuff that is actually poisoning the climate: fossil fuels.

The green transition is indeed rapidly underway — more rapidly than many advocates believed possible just a few years ago. But on its own, even infinite clean energy doesn’t change anything about emissions trajectories or global warming. For that, it has to replace the dirty kind. And as Mark Paul and Lina Moe write in a new report for the Climate and Community Project, renewable subsidies can get you only so far, no matter how generous they are; at some point, if you are serious about any of our stated climate goals, you have to move on to a program of drawdown. In their report, Paul and Moe call this a “supply side” approach to decarbonization. You may recognize the principle from the old activist slogan “Keep it in the ground.”

American emissions have been declining steadily since 2005, primarily because of natural gas replacing coal for electricity generation. But the decline has been relatively slow and pockmarked by concessions to the fossil fuel industry and climate hypocrisy. Last year, as the U.S. climate envoy John Kerry lectured the nations of sub-Saharan Africa about the risks of fossil fuel development, the United States approved more oil and gas expansion than any other nation in the world, according to Oil Change International. It is already the world’s largest producer of oil and gas and the third-largest consumer of coal. This year, it will also become the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas.”

Extreme Rain and Drought Is Happening More Often, New Research Shows – The New York Times

“The study provides an emerging picture of distortions in the total amount of water both above ground and also in aquifers deep beneath the Earth’s surface, where most of the freshwater that humans depend upon comes from.

It relies on data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment mission, known as Grace, which uses satellites that can detect changes in gravity to measure fluctuations in water where other satellites can’t see. That way, it can provide information about locations where there are otherwise no gauges or wells.

“For most of the world, we just don’t have data on how groundwater storage is changing,” Matthew Rodell, the deputy director of earth sciences at NASA Goddard, said. “Grace sort of breaks those boundaries and provides information everywhere.”

In a paper published Monday in the journal Nature Water, Dr. Rodell and Bailing Li, an assistant research scientist at the University of Maryland, analyzed the satellite data to measure water-cycle extremes. They uncovered 505 wet and 551 dry episodes between 2002 and 2021, then assigned each one an “intensity,” in order to rank them. The intensity rankings took into account the severity of an episode as well as its duration and the amount of land area affected.”

David Lindsay:  Bravo. Oh shit. Here are the two top comments:

Erik Frederiksen
Asheville, NC  2h ago

We were warned long ago. The following is from a 1981 paper by James Hansen that at the time hit the front page of the NY Times, all the predictions in it have either come to pass or are well underway. “Potential effects on climate in the 21st century include the creation of drought-prone regions in North America and central Asia as part of a shifting of climatic zones, erosion of the West Antarctic ice sheet with a consequent worldwide rise in sea level, and opening of the fabled Northwest Passage.” From a 2012 paper, see the graph of western North America precipitation from 1900-2100 on p 555 of the paper, it makes the recent western drought look like a rainforest by comparison with what is projected to come.

Reply20 Recommended

Switzerland  57m ago

Valuable study. To those complaining about the short term nature of the data (18 years), the following might be considered: a. This data is what we have, and it is empirical and sound. b. Throughout the article, caveats from the writer and the scientists who are quoted make it plain that this data is preliminary and that more data is needed before firm conclusions can be drawn. Sometimes it seems that the words ‘maybe’ and ‘could’ are invisible to some readers. c. We have to look at preliminary data — we are in rapidly evolving, dangerous situation and we need all the information we can get. If you start getting sharp pains in your chest you don’t wait to gather more data — you act on what you know and get to a hospital. One thing that is striking to me is the rapid rise in variability after 2018 — perhaps reflecting the increasing amounts of water vapor being carried from place to place in a warming atmosphere.

1 Reply19 Recommended
DL: Commenter Girl of NJ opined that she wanted a brief but spectacular explanation of how Grace could do this science, which promted this next comment:
Alfonso Bedoya
Meso-Connecticut2h ago

@Commenter Girl This link might begin to explain As I understand it, the distance measured between the two satellites correlates with the strength of the earth’s gravitational field directly below. More or less ground water in a given area will be reflected in those measurements, which can be matched with past measurements of that area.

In Reply to Alfonso Bedoya8 Recommended
And one more:
Tucson1h ago

With airplanes, not only do we weigh airplanes before they are allowed to fly, but we also perform “weight and balance” calculations to see if any section of the plane exceeds its posted limits. Climate Change is changing the weight and balance of Planet Earth by redistributing water and ice. In an airplane, we try to compensate for freight that shifted in flight with rudder and aileron. How will we compensate for shifting weight on Planet Earth? When Planet Earth’s trajectory changes and no longer remains in the orbit human survival depends upon, who will press the rudder to return us to the designated route? Yes, you guessed it. Donald is the answer. By all means, vote republican, ignore Climate Change and let the genius fix it.

Reply11 Recommended

Biden Expected to Move Ahead on a Major Oil Project in Alaska – Lisa Friedman – The New York Times


“WASHINGTON — In one of the most consequential climate decisions of his administration, President Biden is planning to greenlight an enormous $8 billion oil drilling project in the North Slope of Alaska, according to a person familiar with the decision.

Alaska lawmakers and oil executives have put intense pressure on the White House to approve the project, citing President Biden’s own calls for the industry to increase production amid volatile gas prices stemming from Russia’s war against Ukraine.

But the proposal to drill for oil has also galvanized young voters and climate activists, many of whom helped elect Mr. Biden and who would view the decision as a betrayal of the president’s promise that he would pivot the nation away from fossil fuels.

The approval of the largest proposed oil project in the country would mark a turning point in the administration’s approach to fossil fuel development. The courts and Congress have forced Mr. Biden to back away from his campaign pledge of “no more drilling on federal lands, period” and sign off on some limited oil and gas leases. The Willow project would be one of the few oil developments that Mr. Biden has approved freely, without a court or a congressional mandate.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT     NYT comment:

This is a complex story, well presented. Thank you Lisa Friedman et al. It sounds like there might be a slow, compromise solution. I just read the extraordinary piece in the NYT in Saturday’s paper, “In Tower’s Basement, an Idea that Lock Pollution Away Forever,” by Frad Plumer, which talks about sequestering CO2 from gas boilers in NYC and turning it into liquid CO2 and then putting it into cement blocks as calcium carbonate. So the Biden administration should create a new hurdle for this oil project, it has to be able to captured the C02 from the oil well project, and from the customers who might burn the oil. I’m not saying full no to it, but it can’t just add to our C02 problem, which is causing global warming, ocean acidification, and other serious life-threatening problems. I’m afraid it makes sense to leave this oil in the ground for now, since these carbon capture issues are not up to speed yet, and increases worldwide in the cost of oil only makes sustainable energy projects mored attractive to invest in. I would like to see a report on all the reasons the Biden Administration is not outright killing this project, what are their identified benefits. It will probably help Biden’s reelection, but does he need it.

David blogs at, and is about to publish a book on climate change and the sixth extinction.

James Pogue | To Small but Growing Group, This Congressional Backbencher Is a Cult Hero – The New York Times

Mr. Pogue is a reporter who covers politics and land issues.


“The self-proclaimed “greenest member” of Congress is a Republican from rural Kentucky. He lives in an off-the-grid home he built himself, using timbers cut and rock quarried from his family cattle farm. He pipes in water from a nearby pond, and powers the home with solar panels and a battery from a wrecked Tesla that he salvaged and retrofitted.

But while he lives on, and even makes part of his living from, the land, very few people would call him an environmentalist. The car he drives back and forth from Washington has a license plate advertising his support for coal. He likes to lean on his experience as a robotics engineer to argue against precipitously switching over to renewable energy, claiming that rapid changes could crash America’s power grids. And he once mocked John Kerry, who has a degree in political science, in a congressional hearing on climate threats: “I think it’s somewhat appropriate that someone with a pseudoscience degree,” he said, “is here pushing pseudoscience.”

Mr. Kerry stumbled, visibly surprised and angry. “Are you serious? I mean, this is really seriously happening here?” “

Margaret Renkl | The Beautiful and Terrifying Arrival of an Early Spring – The New York Times

Ms. Renkl is a contributing Opinion writer who covers flora, fauna, politics and culture in the American South.

NASHVILLE — At first I thought this winter’s strange weather was merely part of the boomerang pattern we contend with more and more frequently in these climate-troubled days — warm spells that might rightly be called hot spells, hard freezes that descend so quickly the plants don’t have time to adjust. On one January day, the temperature fell so far so fast here that many nonnative evergreen trees and shrubs froze to death. On one February day the high hit 85 degrees, destroying records and causing my woolly-haired dog to stretch out on the hardwood floor, panting. I hadn’t thought to schedule the groomer so early in the year.

But the uncommonly warm days of winter turned out not to be a warm spell, or even a hot spell. The uncommonly warm days of winter turned out to be spring.

Great Barrier Reef – National

The Great Barrier Reef, which extends for over 2,300 kilometers (1,429 miles) along the northeastern coast of Australia, is home to over 9,000 known species. There are likely many more—new discoveries are frequently being made, including a new species of branching coral discovered in 2017. This richness and uniqueness make the reef crucial for tourism and the Australian economy—it attracts at least 1.6 million visitors every year. Yet the reef’s true value, its biodiversity, extends far beyond dollars and cents.

The Great Barrier Reef consists of about 3,000 individual reefs of coral, and the biodiversity they contain is remarkable. There are animals you would probably recognize, such as dolphins, turtles, crocodiles, and sharks. There are also venomous sea snakes, brightly colored worms, and large algae. These species interact to form a complex and delicate ecosystem dependent on the coral reef for survival. Yet today the coral—and therefore all the organisms that depend on it—is gravely at risk.

Source: Great Barrier Reef

Spencer Bokat-Lindell | Do We Need to Shrink the Economy to Stop Climate Change? – The New York Times

Mr. Bokat-Lindell is a staff editor.

This article is part of the Debatable newsletter. You can sign up here to receive it on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

“If there is a dominant paradigm for how politicians and economists today think about solving climate change, it is called green growth. According to green growth orthodoxy — whose adherents populate European governments, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Developmentthe World Bank and the White House — the global economy can both continue growing and defuse the threat of a warming planet through rapid, market-led environmental action and technological innovation.

But in recent years, a rival paradigm has been gaining ground: degrowth. In the view of degrowthers, humanity simply does not have the capacity to phase out fossil fuels and meet the ever-growing demand of rich economies. At this late hour, consumption itself has to be curtailed.

Degrowth is still a relatively marginal tendency in climate politics, but it’s been attracting converts. In 2019, more than 11,000 scientists signed an open letter calling for a “shift from G.D.P. growth” toward “sustaining ecosystems and improving human well-being.” And in May, a paper published in the journal Nature argued that degrowth “should be as widely and thoroughly considered and debated as are comparably risky technology-driven pathways.” “

Spencer Bokat-Lindell | A Farewell to Readers – The New York Times

“In the many instances when I mentioned to friends or other journalists that I was writing an edition of this newsletter on climate change, I often got a quizzical response: In view of the overwhelming scientific consensus on the issue, what more was there really left to debate?

Quite a lot, as it turned out. For starters: Is it even politically and technologically possible for the United States to meet the Paris Agreement’s goal of zeroing out greenhouse gas emissions by 2050? And given that the United States has done more than any other country to contribute to climate change, what does it owe the rest of the world?

The challenge of decarbonization also raises profound questions about how our economic system may need to change in the coming years, in ways both large and small. Is Americans’ love of cars — even if they are replaced with electric ones — and gas stoves sustainable? To expedite the renewable energy transition, would a carbon tax suffice, or do we need a more sweeping industrial policy like the Green New Deal? On a planet with finite resources, might rich countries even need to shrink their economies?

As the costs of climate change mount — and they will, for the next few decades at least, no matter what we do now — attention is turning toward the urgency and limits of adapting to a hotter planet. Should humanity start to approach those limits, it will go looking with increasing desperation for technological solutions to the crisis, each of which courts factions of boosters and detractors: lab-grown meatold-fashioned nuclear fissionnascent nuclear fusion — even turning the sky white.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT  NYT comment:

Bravo. Spencer Bokat-Lindell. Keep it up. You wrote: “The challenge of decarbonization also raises profound questions about how our economic system may need to change in the coming years, in ways both large and small. Is Americans’ love of cars — even if they are replaced with electric ones — and gas stoves sustainable? To expedite the renewable energy transition, would a carbon tax suffice, or do we need a more sweeping industrial policy like the Green New Deal? On a planet with finite resources, might rich countries even need to shrink their economies?” That last sentence might be key the the survival of homo sapiens and millions of other innocent species we are destroying with our now 8 billion humans. So there is plenty to work on. It is amazing how few economists grasp that GNP is no longer the right metric. Quality of life is closer to the right issue to measure. I recommend to you, “The Hidden Connections, A Sciencer for Sustainable Living” by Fritjof Capra, and the work of the sustainable economist, Herman Daly, the author of “No Growth Economics” David blogs at

As Heat Pumps Go Mainstream, a Big Question: Can They Handle Real Cold? – The New York Times

“Over the past decade, heat pumps have been steadily making their way into more American homes. There was a major milestone last year when they surpassed gas furnaces in annual sales by a wide margin.

But the blistering cold weather descending on the Midwest this week has many homeowners wondering: Do heat pumps still work in freezing temperatures?

Experts and electrification advocates say that they do — and that even in cold weather, they can still be more efficient, and better for the climate, than furnaces and boilers that run on fossil fuels.

An electric heat pump is an all-in-one heating and cooling unit, essentially an air-conditioner that runs in two directions. In the summer, it functions like a traditional A.C. unit, pumping heat out of the home and pulling cooler air back in. In the winter, it draws heat into the home. That might seem surprising, but it’s true. Even when it’s bitterly cold outside, there is still heat available. As it gets colder, heat pumps have to work harder, using more energy, to extract that heat.”

David Lindsay Jr.
NYT Comment:

I love my 8 ductless split heat pumps by LG. I have a 450 sq ft house in Connecticut, and these splits completely heat and cool the house all year round. We also have a heat pump hot water heater, an electric car, and hybrid prius prime that has a 25 mile electric battery, that covers most of my local driving. All of this is powered by 54 solar panels on the east, west and south roofs, so we don’t have to worry about buying dirty energy which is a plus. I am pleased to report, that after three solar installations, the home is now a private power generation station with an annual output capacity of 14.83 kW. Yes, we still have our gas furnace as a backup, and we run it monthly to make sure it is working, but we haven’t actually needed it since the third group of solar panels were installed. When the temperature approached zero, the splits worked fine. We made one mistake with the installation of the the two condensers which we put on the outside wall of the family room, on brackets, attached to the house. We have dance band and singing parties and rehearsals in the family room, which are hampered by the loud low rumblings of the condensers against the wall. I should have spent a little more, to have these two condensers mounted on cement footings on the ground a few feet from the house, to maintain the sanctity or functionality of our music making room.

David is a dance caller and musician, song leader and folk singer, who blogs about the enviroment at