The number of extreme weather, climate and hydrological events continues to increase. As a result of climate change, they will become more frequent and more violent in many parts of the world.
Six of the biggest commercial TV networks in the US – ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, NBC, and MSNBC – ran 774 stories about Ida from 27 to 30 August, an analysis by the watchdog group Media Matters found. Only 34 of those stories, barely 4%, mentioned climate change.
The climate crisis has not only been leaving deadly heatwaves and more destructive hurricanes in its wake, but also probably creating extreme winter weather events, according to a new report released on Thursday by the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s journal Science.
Climate change has long been associated with such extreme weather events as the hurricane that just struck the Gulf coast over the weekend, knocking out power for over a million people and leaving several people dead, and the deadly heatwaves across the Pacific north-west earlier this summer.
But scientists have long wrestled with the connection between the uptick in such severe winter weather events as powerful snowfalls and atypical cold snaps across the northern hemisphere, and accelerated Arctic warming, or Arctic amplification, one of the hallmarks of global warming.
The new report, titled Linking Arctic variability and change with extreme winter weather in the United States, has helped to clarify that connection.
Cold weather disruptions
Despite the rapid warming that is the cardinal signature of global climate change, especially in the Arctic, where temperatures are rising much more than elsewhere in the world, the United States and other regions of the Northern Hemisphere have experienced a conspicuous and increasingly frequent number of episodes of extremely cold winter weather over the past four decades. Cohen et al. combined observations and models to demonstrate that Arctic change is likely an important cause of a chain of processes involving what they call a stratospheric polar vortex disruption, which ultimately results in periods of extreme cold in northern midlatitudes (see the Perspective by Coumou). —HJS
The Arctic is warming at a rate twice the global average and severe winter weather is reported to be increasing across many heavily populated mid-latitude regions, but there is no agreement on whether a physical link exists between the two phenomena. We use observational analysis to show that a lesser-known stratospheric polar vortex (SPV) disruption that involves wave reflection and stretching of the SPV is linked with extreme cold across parts of Asia and North America, including the recent February 2021 Texas cold wave, and has been increasing over the satellite era. We then use numerical modeling experiments forced with trends in autumn snow cover and Arctic sea ice to establish a physical link between Arctic change and SPV stretching and related surface impacts.
The vast majority of fossil fuel reserves owned today by countries and companies must remain in the ground if the climate crisis is to be ended, an analysis has found.
The research found 90% of coal and 60% of oil and gas reserves could not be extracted if there was to be even a 50% chance of keeping global heating below 1.5C, the temperature beyond which the worst climate impacts hit.
The Scandinavian country faces a crisis of conscience on the eve of elections
Norway goes to the polls on Monday in parliamentary elections that are forcing western Europe’s largest oil and gas producer to confront its environmental contradictions.
Climate issues have dominated the campaigning since August, when the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published its starkest warning yet that global heating is dangerously close to spiralling out of control.
The report gave an instant boost to parties calling for curbs on drilling: the country’s Green party – which wants an immediate halt to oil and gas exploration, and no further production at all after 2035 – saw membership surge by nearly a third.
“The International Energy Agency’s Net Zero report in May had already made it plain that there was no room for oil and gas, and so the IPCC report really hit home,” said Arild Hermstad, the Greens’ deputy leader. “This really is the climate election.”
But while polls predict the centre-left opposition will oust the Conservative-led coalition that has ruled Norway for eight years, the fate of the industry that has made Norway one of Europe’s most prosperous nations is far from sealed.
The country may be a leading proponent of green energy, but fossil fuels still account for 40% of its exports. The oil and gas industry employs more than 200,000 people – about 7% of the total workforce – and through it the country has built up the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, worth £1tn.
Pressure is mounting on Norway to change by emulating neighbouring Denmark, which is ending fossil fuel exploration and aims to halt all production by 2050.
A UN human rights council report on Norway last year was explicit, calling on the country to “prohibit further exploration for fossil fuels, reject further expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure, and develop a just transition strategy for workers and communities”.
But the message is a hard one to sell. “It will be a massive job to move Norway out of the oil industry,” Hermstad said. “People worry for their work, for their standard of living. As long as the Conservatives are guaranteeing that oil jobs will continue, those calling for an end to drilling look like the threat.”
Norway’s main centre-right and centre-left parties, the Conservatives and opposition Labour, are in broad agreement that production should continue past 2050, arguing that the green transition will take time, and oil revenues can help fund it.
Wrecking Norway’s economy will not help, they argue, and if Norway stops producing, other countries will step into the gap. “They actually argue that because we produce cleanly, it will be better for the environment for Norway to continue,” Hermstad said. “It’s not true. But people like to hear it.”
Nonetheless, the Greens could find themselves in government: the rightwing coalition of prime minister Erna Solberg is forecast to lose, but the margin of the left’s predicted victory is unsure, and a Labour-led coalition could need the support of one or more smaller parties to reach a majority of 85 seats.
Labour, led by former foreign minister Jonas Gahr Støre, is tipped to be the largest party with a projected 46 MPs, but it too is set to lose seats – leaving its preferred coalition, with the middle-of-the-road Centre party and the social democrat Socialist Left party with only the slimmest possible majority.
That could see the Greens, on target for eight seats, or the far-left Red party enter government, potentially giving the environmentalists crucial leverage in a left-leaning coalition that would be deeply divided over fossil fuel policy.
Labour has said it would not form a coalition with any party demanding a halt to all exploration or production. But its key allies disagree on the issue, with the Centre party backing continued exploration and the Socialist Left opposing it. Some kind of deal, the Greens hope, will have to be brokered.
Much will depend on whether the smaller parties pass Norway’s so-called vote-levelling threshold, which rewards parties that win more than 4% of the vote nationwide but not many seats outright.
But it will be hard for Norway to give up its oil and gas addiction. Hermstad said: “In a debate last week, I asked the Conservative candidate when would be their preferred date to end production. He said: ‘In about 300 years’ time’.”
Nearly 60% of young people approached said they felt very worried or extremely worried.
More than 45% of those questioned said feelings about the climate affected their daily lives.
Three-quarters of them said they thought the future was frightening. Over half (56%) say they think humanity is doomed.
Two-thirds reported feeling sad, afraid and anxious. Many felt fear, anger, despair, grief and shame - as well as hope.
One 16-year-old said: "It's different for young people - for us, the destruction of the planet is personal."
The survey across 10 countries was led by Bath University in collaboration with five universities. It's funded by the campaign and research group Avaaz. It claims to be the biggest of its kind, with responses from 10,000 people aged between 16 and 25.
Many of those questioned perceive that they have no future, that humanity is doomed, and that governments are failing to respond adequately.
Many feel betrayed, ignored and abandoned by politicians and adults.
The authors say the young are confused by governments' failure to act. They say environmental fears are "profoundly affecting huge numbers of young people".
Chronic stress over climate change, they maintain, is increasing the risk of mental and physical problems. And if severe weather events worsen, mental health impacts will follow.
The report says young people are especially affected by climate fears because they are developing psychologically, socially and physically.
The lead author, Caroline Hickman from Bath University, told BBC News: "This shows eco-anxiety is not just for environmental destruction alone, but inextricably linked to government inaction on climate change. The young feel abandoned and betrayed by governments.
"We're not just measuring how they feel, but what they think. Four out of 10 are hesitant to have children.
"Governments need to listen to the science and not pathologise young people who feel anxious."
The authors of the report, to be published in the journal Lancet Planetary Health, say levels of anxiety appear to be greatest in nations where government climate policies are considered weakest.
There was most concern in the global south. The most worried rich nation was Portugal, which has seen repeated wildfires.
Tom Burke from the think tank e3g told BBC News: "It's rational for young people to be anxious. They're not just reading about climate change in the media - they're watching it unfold in front of their own eyes."
The authors believe the failure of governments on climate change may be defined as cruelty under human rights legislation. Six young people are already taking the Portuguese government to court to argue this case.
The survey was carried out by the data analytics firm Kantar in the UK, Finland, France, the US, Australia, Portugal, Brazil, India, the Philippines and Nigeria. It's under peer review on open access.
Young people were asked their views on the following statements:
People have failed to care for the planet: 83% agreed globally, UK 80%
The future is frightening: 75%, UK 72%
Governments are failing young people: 65%, UK 65%
Governments can be trusted: 31%, UK 28%
The researchers said they were moved by the scale of distress. One young person said: "I don't want to die, but I don't want to live in a world that doesn't care for children and animals."
A fake generational war over the climate crisis has distorted public thinking and political strategy, when in fact older generations are just as worried about the issue as younger people, according to new research.
The idea that young people are ecowarriors, battling against selfish older generations is a common trope in representations of the environment movement. It has been stoked by instances including Time magazine naming Greta Thunberg their person of the year in 2019, for being a “standard bearer in a generational battle”.
The stereotypes were further strengthened when generation Z, US singer Billie Eilish said: “Hopefully the adults and the old people start listening to us [about the climate crisis]. Old people are gonna die and don’t really care if we die, but we don’t wanna die yet.”
But a new UK study, Who Cares About Climate Change: Attitudes Across The Generations, has found that the generational divide over climate action is a myth, with almost no difference in views between generations on the importance of climate action, and all saying they are willing to make big sacrifices to achieve this.
In fact, the research found that older people are actually more likely than the young to feel that acting in environmentally conscious ways will make a difference, with twice as many baby boomers having boycotted a company in the last 12 months for environmental reasons than gen Z.
Prof Bobby Duffy, author of Generations: Does When You’re Born Shape Who You Are? said the fake conflict between generations over the climate crisis is “dangerous and destructive”. It had, he said, “crept into so many discussions about climate concern that it’s become an accepted truth that the young are at war with older generations who are not only utterly unfussed about the future of the planet, but are culpable for the current crisis.
“Parents and grandparents care deeply about the legacy they’re leaving for their children and grandchildren – not just their house or jewellery, but the state of the planet. If we want a greener future, we need to act together, uniting the generations, rather than trying to drive an imagined wedge between them,” he added.
The weighted study of 2,050 UK adults by the Policy Institute at King’s College London and New Scientist magazine, found that about seven in 10 people from all generations surveyed said the climate crisis, biodiversity loss and other environmental issues were big enough problems that they justified significant changes to people’s lifestyles.
But it was younger generations, rather than older ones, who were most fatalistic about the impact that they could personally have in tackling the climate crisis.
About one-third of gen Z (those aged under 24) and millennials (those aged 25 to 40) said there was no point changing their behaviour because “it won’t make a difference anyway”. This compared with 22% of gen X (those aged 41 to 56) and 19% of baby boomers (those aged 57 to 75)
There was an even bigger gap between generations when it came to the rejection of this idea: 61% of baby boomers disagreed with the statement that there was no point altering their behaviour, compared with 41% of millennials.
Richard Webb, executive editor of New Scientist, said: “There’s been a lot of talk about the attitude of different generations towards the pressing issues of the day but the findings of this survey provide food for thought for policymakers ahead of the crucial Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow in November.
“Far from being an obsession of a young, activist few, support for measures that put our lives on a more sustainable footing as we look to building back from the Covid-19 pandemic command broad support across generations,” he added. “They could be a route to increased engagement among groups increasingly disillusioned with politics.”