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.”

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?” “

Robinson Mayer | A Huge, Uncharted Experiment on the U.S. Economy Is About to Begin – The New York Times

”  . . . . .  But I worry that the federal government has started its experiments too haphazardly. The Inflation Reduction Act did not emerge from careful study and bipartisan consensus building, but from intraparty haggling and a harried legislative process. Even the bipartisan CHIPS Act was more of a crisis measure than a strategic intervention. These shortcomings are forgivable; in the Inflation Reduction Act’s case, it’s not like Republicans were ever going to help pass a climate bill. But these constraints have deprived the government of the strong institutions, internal expertise and administrative capacity that have made similar experiments successful in other countries.

For practical purposes, that means, first, that the government won’t be able to spend all this money in the right place. The U.S. financial system persistently struggles to fund projects that take a long time to turn a profit and that can expect to have only modest returns. Unfortunately, the biggest and most important physical infrastructure — factories, transmission lines — often fall under that category. In other countries, industrial policy has entailed creating an agile, entrepreneurial agency that can get money to the right companies in the right ways — as a loan, as equity, as a purchase guarantee.

Congress took some steps in that direction last year. The Inflation Reduction Act beefed up the Loan Programs Office, the Department of Energy’s in-house bank, and it established a new green lending office within the Environmental Protection Agency. But Congress has put these institutions on a short leash with a limited mandate. This means that the government can’t support as many risky investments as it should.

Second, the government may lack the ability to coordinate its own actions. Late last year, the Biden administration declined to help reopen a “green” aluminum factory in Ferndale, Wash., that was exactly the kind of low-carbon industry it wants to champion. The local union, electric vehicle makers and the state’s Democratic leadership all wanted to revive the factory. The project even has national-security relevance, since the United States currently imports aluminum from Russia. But Mr. Biden chose not to intercede with the local electricity provider, the Bonneville Power Administration, to supply the plant with enough cheap power to operate even though it is a federal agency ostensibly under the president’s control. Never mind the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing: The right hand couldn’t get the left hand to plug the cord in.

Finally, the government may not understand enough about the companies it’s trying to help. In Taiwan and South Korea, industrial-policy agencies don’t only hand out money; they constantly gather information from the private sector and use it to adjust goals and policies over time. The Inflation Reduction Act contains very few mechanisms for this kind of in-flight course adjustment. Its main incentives are tax credits, which are hard to repeal once they’re in place and hard to fix if they’re not working. They are an unusually mindless way to incentivize companies to change their behavior.” . . . .

David Wallace-Wells | Greta Thunberg: ‘The World Is Getting More Grim by the Day’ – The New York Times

Opinion Writer

You’re reading the David Wallace-Wells newsletter, for Times subscribers only.  The best-selling science writer and essayist explores climate change, technology, the future of the planet and how we live on it.

There is genuinely no precedent in the modern history of geopolitics for the climate activist Greta Thunberg.

Four and a half years ago, she began “striking” outside of Swedish parliament — a single teenager with a single sign. She was 15. In just a few months, she had made her mark at the United Nations climate conference in Poland: “You are not mature enough to tell it like it is,” she told the assembled diplomats and negotiators, “even that burden you leave to us children.”

By the time she spoke at Davos that January, excoriating the world — “I want you to act as if the house is on fire, because it is” — she had become the face of the global climate movement, giving it an entirely new generational life and scale. She led weekly marches across the globe that drew millions of people through 2019 and helped force the world’s most powerful people to at least pay lip service to what they now called a climate crisis.

Richard Powers | Five Years Ago, I Wrote a Fictional Disaster That Is Now Playing Out in Real Time – The New York Times

Mr. Powers is the author, most recently, of the novel “Bewilderment.” Mr. Greer is an artist and educator based in Atlanta.


“What could make a person die for trees?

About five years ago, I published a novel called “The Overstory,” the tale of several characters who come together to protect an old-growth forest. The book follows these characters as they put their lives on the line in increasingly aggressive confrontations against powerful interests in the hope of saving trees. In the story, decent and principled people cross over the edge into retaliatory violence while trying to defend the living world.

Now a similar story is playing out just a four-hour drive from where I live. Atlanta has been shaken by an apparent shootout that occurred two weeks ago when law enforcement officers tried to clear protesters from South River Forest, a wooded area just outside of the city that has been designated as the site for a controversial new police and firefighter training center. A Georgia state trooper has been hospitalized with a bullet in the belly. A 26-year-old protester, Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, is dead, gunned down by law enforcement in what they are calling an act of self-defense.”

Bill McKibben and Akaya Windwood | Older Voters Know Exactly What’s at Stake, and They’ll Be Here for Quite a While – The New York Times

Bill McKibben and 

Mr. McKibben is the founder of Third Act, a group that organizes older Americans for progressive action. Ms. Windwood is the lead adviser for Third Act.

“Is it time to call the next election “the most important in American history”? Probably. It seems like it may involve a judgment on democracy itself. Americans with a lot of history will play a key role in determining its outcome.

And judging in part by November’s midterms, they may not play the role that older voters are usually assigned. We at Third Act, the group we helped form in 2021, think older Americans are beginning a turn in the progressive direction, a turn that will accelerate as time goes on.

A lot has been written about the impact of young voters in November’s contests, and rightly so. The enormous margins that Democrats ran up among voters under 30 let them squeak through in race after race. Progressives should be incredibly grateful that the next generation can see straight through Trumpism in a way too many of their elders can’t.

But there were also intriguing hints of what looked like a gray countercurrent that helped damp the expected red wave. Yes, older people by and large voted Republican, in keeping with what political scientists have long insisted: that we become more conservative as we age. But in the 63 most competitive congressional districts, the places where big money was spent on ads and where the margin in the House was decided, polling by AARP, an advocacy group for people over 50, found some fascinating numbers.

In early summer, Republicans had a sturdy lead among older voters in 50 of those districts, up 50 percent to 40 percent. Those had Republicans salivating. But on Election Day, voters over 65 actually broke for Democrats in those districts, 49 to 46.”

David Wallace-Wells | Is Peak Climate Alarmism Behind Us? – The New York Times

Opinion Writer

“It wasn’t so long ago that the world was truly on fire with climate alarm. In September 2019, millions of people around the world participated in a global climate strike, the largest ever, calling for immediate World War II-scale mobilization against the climate crisis in more than 150 countries. A week later, several million marched again. The marches had been organized by Fridays for Future, the youth movement founded by Greta Thunberg, which had been striking every week all year and drawing tens or even hundreds of thousands of protests in a given city.

If Thunberg was the patron saint of this new global climate protest army, Extinction Rebellion was its radical flank. The group announced itself in the fall of 2018, as Thunberg was first gaining attention in Stockholm, with a series of protests in London designed to shut down the city center and force a frank conversation about the state of the climate crisis. “Tell the truth” was the group’s chief demand.

XR was a self-consciously radical outfit, decentralized in structure, and blockaded highways and stock exchanges and disrupted subway service, among other protests. The approach incurred a cost, and much of the British public turned against the group. But it also helped move the needle of public opinion on climate somewhat dramatically in Britain and generated a series of commitments from even the conservative governments under Prime Ministers Theresa May and Boris Johnson. More recently, its tactics have been embraced and replicated by a new suite of disruptive climate groups: Insulate Britain, Scientist Rebellion and Just Stop Oil, which has tossed soup onto museum canvases.

Then, on New Year’s Eve, XR U.K. made a surprise announcement: “We quit.”

“Despite the blaring alarm on the climate and ecological emergency ringing loud and clear, very little has changed,” the group declared in a statement. “As we ring in the New Year, we make a controversial resolution to temporarily shift away from public disruption as a primary tactic.” Instead, the group declared it was going to focus on mass mobilization to pressure those in power rather than shaming or inconveniencing everyday citizens.

In certain ways, the turn reflected debates that have preoccupied the group’s leadership for years. The former XR spokesperson Rupert Read has spent much of the last few years advocating for a “moderate flank” — a more broad-based climate movement less defined by its most radical members. But the XR co-founder Roger Hallam, who left the group to found Just Stop Oil, has been subtweeting the announcement from prison. (“Disruption is not a tactic,” he wrote recently, but “a way of being in the face of the infinity of evil.”) Elsewhere, other groups have staged disruptive protests, as in Germany, where police and protesters have clashed near an open-pit coal mine and Greta Thunberg has been arrested twice.

This month, I spoke to Clare Farrell, a co-founder of XR, and Alanna Byrne, who coordinates its press team, about the strategic turn and why the group believes the time for it is now. This conversation below has been edited and condensed.

Let’s just start narrowly with the statement itself. The headline is a little bit of a red herring. What are you quitting and where did that decision come from?

Alanna Byrne: The media have framed it as us saying we’re stopping disruption altogether, which isn’t exactly right. What we’re saying is that we’re going to take a step back from disrupting the public in the way that we have been — disrupting roads and bridges and getting in the way of people going about their day-to-day business — and instead going straight to government. Disrupting the perpetrators more. We’re working toward a big date in April where we’re aiming to get 100,000 people to come to Parliament.

What is prompting that change of focus?

Clare Farrell: I think people all over the world have been looking at Britain and going: What are you doing?

Opening a new coal mine in Cumbria, for instance, the first new mine in 30 years.

Farrell: It’s very, very frightening. And at the same time, obviously, we’ve got a cost of living crisis. We’ve got people threatening to strike on their energy bills. We’ve got workers on strike in all sectors, it feels like. And we’ve also got a kind of nature and conservation space that is messaging to the public that the government has declared war on nature itself, which is quite a revolutionary language for the conservation N.G.O. sector. There’s an awful lot of people in the U.K. who all have a lot in common, in that the political system isn’t meeting any of their demands.

But there is a massive democratic deficit. And we think that there’s a big opportunity now to talk about the fact that we are a pro-democracy movement — that we have a democratic solution that we propose for citizens to be involved in the decision making about what should be done to face up to these crises. I think people are ready to look at politics and say, surely we could do this differently. And the system we have is completely out of touch and out of date.

Byrne: And it also feels vital and necessary to be able to look at your own strategy and be honest, to say what’s working and what isn’t, and sometimes to say, let’s just try something else. I think that’s where we’re at.

Farrell: We used to talk about shifting the Overton window. I think we have successfully shifted that.

That gets to something else I wanted to ask you about. In the statement, you quite prominently say nothing’s changed. And I know what you mean, in the sense that emissions are still going up and mostly what we have is new rhetorical commitments, both in the public and the private sector. But I also agree with what you just said: that the Overton window has shifted, as has climate policy, if not as much as you or I would hope for. In part because of the radical commitments of activists in particular, we also now have a much more open space for people to express concern or engage on climate issues without having to lie down in front of S.U.V.s, glue themselves to banks or throw paint in museums. That all seems to me to be quite a big deal — not “nothing has changed” so much as “not enough has changed.”

Byrne: The reality is, in the past four years, tons has changed in terms of public awareness and engagement. Shifting from climate change to climate emergency was a radical shift when we first came onto the scene. But even as people become more and more aware, the reality is, as you’ve just said, emissions are still rising. And here in the U.K., certainly, the government is backpedaling on climate progress. I think we have a responsibility as sort of climate communicators in this space to be radically honest and true to that first principle, which is to tell the truth. And the truth is, four years later, nothing much has changed, even though people are more aware than ever.

We know from polling that people across the U.K. are terrified of the climate crisis, but the reality is that those people aren’t showing up — they’re not coming out on the street. So I think we have to say to ourselves, if people aren’t going to come and put their arm in a lock or glue themselves to something, how do we create a space where people can show up?

There’s also a big question about demands, isn’t there? What I mean is it’s not just a matter of whether there are more people who are willing to go to a protest outside of Parliament than there are who are willing to lie down in a busy intersection; undoubtedly there are. It’s also a matter of how many people want a 1.5-degree Celsius pathway and how many people would be satisfied with a two-degree pathway, and how many people would be satisfied just knowing that policy is moving in the right direction even if it points somewhere north of two degrees.

Farrell: The “tell the truth” demand was never about having a declaration of emergency with nothing to follow it up. It was about working really hard to get the public to actually understand the position that they find themselves in — and playing enormous amounts of catch-up, because of the obfuscation that the fossil fuel industry’s perpetuated, because of the failure of the media, because of a media that actually helped the most deadly campaign of disinformation, in my opinion, in all human history. Because of all that, what was required was a major effort on public information. If people don’t understand why they need to make these drastic policy changes, obviously they’re not going to advocate for them. But if they have the full facts about where they find themselves sitting in the context of human history, where we’re going, how soon we’re headed there, then they will back those policies.

And to me that has a lot to do with advocating for a democracy that isn’t just more inclusive and more representative and more just but also wanting to have a democratic society where more people have better access to the truth and to information and to really understand what needs to happen and why.

How much progress has been made in informing the public, in your view?

Farrell: To me, the general public has a very basic understanding of the causes and the likely impacts of climate change, but I really don’t think that people have got their head around how fast it’s happening.

I think statistical scientific analysis has been part of the problem, frankly, because people have been able to use uncertainty to say, well, you’re not sure. They’ve used that weak point as an intellectual leverage point to screw us all.

But it’s not a statistical analysis problem, it’s a risk problem. And I don’t think we’ve had a decent public discourse on risk. Even if there’s a 0.05 percent chance that you kill everyone, you don’t do that thing — you don’t do that project, you don’t build that bridge, you don’t get on that plane. But talk to people from the insurance sector and they will tell you that the whole of humanity is acting like a crazy person. It’s a total madness that we’ve allowed the thinking to be so poor.

But if there’s still so much misunderstanding, why is that then a moment to take a moderate turn, rather than calling out the hypocrisy and malfeasance a little bit more aggressively?

Farrell: I fully intend to carry on speaking about the crisis in that way.

Byrne: In all honesty, as much as people are becoming more aware here, there does feel like there’s a complacency where people still feel like someone else is going to do it for them. People are waiting for the next election as though that’s going to be the thing that’s going to fix everything. And I think part of our role right now is to say that’s not necessarily going to fix everything. We need you to fully engage with this and come out onto the street.

For me, the statement is quite clear that it’s a short time that we are saying that we’ll do this in order to build up to something in April and then reassess.

So your message to Parliament is, basically: There are many more people who have much greater demands on climate than you might think. Is that right?

Farrell: Completely. But in addition to pushing that Overton window about what’s a reasonable ask of a political system, there’s also pushing the conversation about the fact that the systematic problems of our politics as it is set up today. Our politics is completely incapable of doing anything about these problems in a short space of time, which is when it needs to happen.”  -30-

The New Soldiers in Propane’s Fight Against Climate Action: Television Stars – The New York Times


“For D.I.Y. enthusiasts, Matt Blashaw is a familiar face, judging bathroom remodels or planning surprise home makeovers on popular cable television shows.

Mr. Blashaw also has an unusually strong opinion about how Americans should heat their homes: by burning propane, or liquid petroleum gas.

“When I think of winter, I think of being inside. I think of cooking with the family, of being by a roaring fire — and with propane, that is all possible,” he said on a segment of the CBS affiliate WCIA, calling in from his bright kitchen. “That’s why we call it an energy source for everyone.”

Less well known is the fact that Mr. Blashaw is paid by a fossil fuel industry group that has been running a furtive campaign against government efforts to move heating away from oil and gas toward electricity made from wind, solar and other cleaner sources.”