Were the lies the oil industry perpetuated about climate change criminal? What would happen if a hurricane hit the Houston ship channel? What is a “bird wreck” and what does it have to do with global warming? What risk does the climate crisis pose to national security? How does fusion fit into the decarbonization landscape this century? How does it feel to have wildfires burning out of control in your backyard?
These are just a few of the questions Bulletin staffers and contributors sought to answer this year in stories that were in turn instructive, enraging, and moving. They might present a clarion call to action or offer a way to proceed; they may even offer a glimmer of optimism. Regardless of their tone and content, they are all worth revisiting.
By Tristan Baurick
This Bulletin/MIT analysis revealed that almost 4,900 sites that handle toxic chemicals sit in flood-prone areas of Texas and Louisiana. A major hurricane in the wrong place would create an environmental catastrophe. The government’s current plan to protect Gulf Coast infrastructure—the $29 billion Ike Dike—will not stand up to major storms, experts say, and industry isn’t taking enough steps to guard against accidents either.
By Adam Sobel
The fossil fuel industry lied about carbon dioxide and its effects on climate change. But is “crime” the right adjective to use to describe the activities of Big Oil? In this essay, climate scientist Adam Sobel argues the moral case to do so is clear.
By Dan Drollette
In the world of advertising, a new campaign takes place—against advertising. “Clean Creatives” seeks to get individuals in the ad industry to stop abetting misinformation campaigns, and even stop taking business from the fossil fuel companies entirely.
By Dawn Stover
With fires raging across the West, the United Nations has issued a “code red” for the climate. There is still much that can be done to protect ecosystems and human communities from a hellish future.
By Peter Gleick
As a climate scientist and a hydrologist, Peter Gleick perhaps should have known better than to do physical labor in extreme heat. But heat is the deadliest of natural disasters for a reason—it can sneak up on you.
By John Morales
Severe weather exacerbated by climate change is taking a toll on bird species during their epic annual migrations over the Gulf of Mexico or up the East Coast. Storms either kill them outright or send them way off course, such as when dead White-tailed Tropicbirds, native to Bermuda, were found in New Hampshire after Hurricane Irene. Researchers term such mass deaths “bird wrecks.”
By Jessica McKenzie
A first-of-its-kind report by 18 US intelligence agencies explains how the climate crisis could increase geopolitical tensions around the globe. But will government heed the warning? (A similar report from over a decade ago was kept classified because the United States didn’t want representatives from countries identified as especially vulnerable to climate change to start calling and asking for resources to help with mitigation and adaptation earlier than they would otherwise.)
By Robert J. Goldston and Jacob A. Schwartz
While it may be unlikely that fusion will contribute in a major way to President Biden’s goal of decarbonizing US electrical energy production by 2035, between 2035 and 2100, the worldwide demand for energy is expected to climb fourfold. Low-carbon energy sources such as fusion will need to be used on a growing scale to meet this demand without causing more global warming.
By John Carey
Despite what Bill Gates has to say—let alone climate czar John Kerry, who should have known better—we don’t have to rely on a miracle coming out of nowhere to deal with climate change. We already have all the technologies we need, here and now—and these tools will only get a lot better and cheaper, if recent history is any guide.
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