Bulletin’s best climate change coverage of 2020

By Dan Drollette Jr | December 30, 2020

bright red-and-white plane on Antarctic ice A US Antarctic Program plane drops off researchers at close to the last leg of the journey to the field work site at Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier. Note the plane is equipped with skis instead of wheels. Image courtesy of Peter Davis.

Comic books. Fight or flight. Antarctic explorers. Glow-in-the-dark dolphins. The New Hampshire presidential primaries.

What’s the common thread between them, you ask?

Each was a story in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists this year, and each made the short-list of the Bulletin’s best climate coverage of 2020—whether “best” is defined as most popular, most in-depth, most off-the-beaten trail, most unexpected, or just the most weird climate change-related article published in our pages these last 12 months.

Of course, some readers may have different Bulletin climate stories that they think are deserving of the word “best.” If you have a favorite Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ climate story that you think should be put on the list, then send your nominee for best Bulletin climate story of 2020 to [email protected], and put the words “Best Climate” in the subject line, along with any comments you care to make about why you think it’s deserving. We’ll publish the results later—and you may get the glory of seeing your comments in ink. (Well, the 21st-century, gluten-free, electronic version of ink, anyway.)

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How to explain climate change? With comic books

—Matteo Farinella

Climate change seems to be a problem almost designed to defy our understanding. We are not good at dealing with intangible entities, and in climate change both causes and effects remain mostly invisible in our daily lives. But comics can make the invisible visible, and tell human stories.

artist's rendition of Antarctic expedition
In the webcomic Antarctic Log, the reader sees visual “postcards” from an Antarctic expedition. Image courtesy of Karen Romano Young antarcticlog.com

 

Dealing with climate change requires more fight and less flight

—Dawn Stover

As the climate worsens, affluent Americans are thinking about where to move. That’s a privilege many people don’t have.

Plane releases fire retardant
A plane releases fire retardant during the Carr Fire in Shasta County, California, in early August 2018. Credit: California National Guard

 

Peter Davis of the British Antarctic Survey on changes in the Thwaites Glacier

—Interview with Peter Davis

On the Thwaites Glacier on Antarctica’s western shelf, researchers are going all-out to learn what is happening deep under the surface of the ice, out of sight: How much is melting from below, where the ice comes into contact with warm ocean waters? Is the ice relatively solid throughout and resting solidly on the seabed, or is it about to slip off and dramatically raise the world’s sea levels?

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Known as pyramid tents or Scott tents, they’re essentially the same tent design used by the original polar explorers a hundred years ago, capable of withstanding winds of up to 70 miles per hour. “They’re just so good, they got the design perfect,” says the author. Image courtesy of Peter Davis.
Known as pyramid tents or Scott tents, they’re essentially the same tent design used by the original polar explorers a hundred years ago, capable of withstanding winds of up to 70 miles per hour. “They’re just so good, they got the design perfect,” says the author. Image courtesy of Peter Davis.

 

The latest challenge to enforcing coronavirus rules at the beach: bioluminescent dolphins

—Mario Koran

A rare natural phenomenon is attracting so many people to Southern California’s beaches as to make coronavirus restrictions nearly impossible to enforce. One local person compared the size of the crowds to “the Fourth of July on steroids.”

dolphins swim at night, bioluminesce
Dolphins swim amid neon-blue bioluminescent phytoplankton at night in Newport Beach, California, during one of the most impressive of these natural displays in decades. (Courtesy of Newport Coastal Adventure facebook)

 

On the New Hampshire campaign trail: What some candidates are saying about climate change. (Spoiler alert: It’s smart.)

—Dan Drollette Jr.

Press gaggles, a guy who calls himself Vermin Supreme, bird-dogging, and hats with the slogan “Make Earth Cool Again”—all part of a day on the hustings. But beyond the surface hoopla of New Hampshire’s presidential primary campaign, some candidates have actually put some thought into what to do about climate change.

politician facing cameras and microphones
Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer faces the media in a “press gaggle” in Concord, New Hampshire, less than a week before ballots are cast in the primary.


As the coronavirus crisis shows, we need science now more than ever.

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