Hey climate heroes! Welcome to The Climate Roundup, where we round up the change, er the news about climate and the environment. As part of the Gen E community, we thank you for making climate action part of everyday life. (Reading this newsletter counts!)
In Pop Culture:
Cellist Yo-Yo Ma collaborated with singer-songwriter Quinn Christopherson and eco-drag queen Pattie Gonia on a song and accompanying music video that serves as both a requiem for a lost glacier and a message of hope about environmental action.
GETTING DOWN TO CLIMATE BUSINESS:
📖 This week, the US government released its National Climate Assessment, which shows “how climate change is affecting us here, in the places where we live, both now and in the future.” This report comes out every 5 years, and the Biden administration is hoping to use its focus on this report as a way to contrast itself with political rival Donald Trump, under whom the last report was released with the hope “that it would not receive much attention.” Upon the release of the report, President Biden said, “We’re sharing this report in detail with the American people so they know exactly what you’re facing.” The report was also accompanied by an online tool that allows users to see how climate change will impact their city and state. Along with the report, the administration also announced $6 billion to invest in climate and energy infrastructure, with the President adding, “We need to do more and move faster.” Careful with those fast movements, Mr. President. You’re 80 years old.
🌬️ In anticipation of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s upcoming visit to San Francisco to meet with Joe Biden, the US and China have pledged to “ramp up renewables.” Following extensive talks between climate envoys John Kerry and Xie Zhenhua, both nations have agreed to “sufficiently accelerate renewable energy deployment” and “triple renewable energy capacity globally by 2030″ in addition to “meaningfully” reducing emissions overall. As important as these concrete goals is the fact that open talks are happening at all. Until recently, Chinese-American relations were strained due to a variety of foreign policy disagreements, and conversations about climate had been effectively shut down since 2021. Now, the door has been re-opened. But don’t leave it like that, you’re gonna let out all the air conditioning.
🌳 A new study confirms that forest restoration can be an effective method of carbon capture. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. Our economy relies on things like timber, rubber, palm oil, and other tree-derived products, which would make an immediate halt to logging impractical. Furthermore, the threats of climate change imperil forests themselves: increased temperature changes growing patterns, wildfire can raze old growth areas, and new pests can migrate to forests that have no immunity to them. That’s why the scientists say the main takeaway from this study shouldn’t be that trees will fix everything, but that trees can be a huge tool as long as we sharply reduce our emissions and limit future warming. According to one researcher, “it will be devastating if major organizations use nature as an excuse to do more harm to our planet.” Trees are kind of like taking up running to lose weight. It can help, but not if you keep eating all that coal.
🧴 This week, leaders from over 100 countries are gathering in Kenya to try to work out an international treaty to limit plastic consumption, which is made almost entirely of oil products. And surprise surprise, fossil fuel companies are sticking their greasy noses into it. Instead of using less plastic, oil producers like Exxon Mobil, Chevron, and nations like Russia, China and the United States (uh oh!) are trying to push the long-debunked system of recycling to deal with our plastic crisis. This should come as no surprise, considering plastics are a huge part of their business model. This treaty needs to include a cap on plastics production, in no uncertain terms. According to one expert, “If you don’t have the right accountability mechanism and oversight mechanism in place, they could be designed to not work at all.” Gosh, that doesn’t sound like something the oil companies would do!
🏅 Time magazine announced its inaugural list of the 100 Most Influential Climate Leaders in Business. The list includes some job titles you might expect, like Sustainability Officer and CEO, but there are also some unexpected names on there, like filmmaker James Cameron, whose Avatar series focuses heavily on climate change, Guster lead singer Adam Gardner, who created an organization to make the music business more sustainable, and frequent newsletter guest Billie Eilish. Before you get too excited, I think it’s fair to say that this list is doing more than a little greenwashing. Among its honorees are execs from companies like Exxon Mobil and Nestle, and while I’d like to believe they’re changing their companies from within, they’re still doing a lot of damage on the “without.” Still, it’s nice to see climate efforts appear in such a high-profile place, and it’s even nicer to see a list of people who aren’t younger than me.
🐻️ Polar bears used to be the face of the climate movement, until researchers realized that could have some unintended consequences. More specifically, images of the bears on arctic ice floes garner sympathy, but also unintentionally imply that climate change is happening far away, in a place that’s not connected to our daily urban lives. Researchers have found that recent images of extreme weather, particularly as it affected humans in urban areas, can more effectively communicate the threat of climate change. It’s an important reminder that effective climate communication helps readers and listeners understand the immediate impact of climate on their lives. That’s why I always tell people that climate change is what’s delaying that last Game of Thrones book. It’s not true, but it really makes people feel impacted.
85%: HEAT RELATED DEATHS IN THE ELDERLY HAVE INCREASED BY THIS PERCENTAGE SINCE THE 1990S (NYT)
3: THE WORLD EXPERIENCES A MAJOR CLIMATE DISASTER ONCE EVERY THREE WEEKS (NATURE)
Another W For New Jersey
We can learn some big lessons about adaptations from an unexpected place: Hoboken. When a big rainstorm caused huge flooding problems in New York this year, Hoboken was able to carry on, business as usual, thanks to its climate change preparations.