Not Doomed Yet: The Election Is Today
It’s time to vote.
This is ‘Not Doomed Yet,’ The Atlantic’s newsletter about global warming. It lives here in the Science section; you can also get it in your inbox:
Tuesday, November 8, is Election Day in the United States.
If you’re an American, you can use the League of Women Voters’ site to find your polling place. Please make a plan to vote today: Figure out when you’re going to fit it into your day and what local questions are on the ballot.
Then actually go and do it.
If you’re an American reading this newsletter, please consider how you could use the next 18 hours to bring about the outcome you want. Know that there are many subscribers to this newsletter living outside the U.S.—many who are maybe even reading these words right now!—who envy that you get to participate in this thing. This newsletter is all about putting anxiety to good use, so, please: Go do that.
If there was any doubt, know that the Department of Defense and the American Medical Association both believe that global warming could devastate human health, even in the rich world, and upheave the peaceful global order. Only Hillary Clinton’s policies actually address the threat of climate change.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump rejects the existence of climate change, saying it is a fraud or a hoax invented by the Chinese. Because so much global warming is already “baked-in”—and because we face such a delicate moment in global diplomacy, with the Paris Agreement only recently ratified—it’s possible that a Trump presidency could ensure we simply never hit the two-degree Celsius global target and careen toward dangerous, irreversible climate change.
Bill McKibben, one of the leaders of modern American environmentalism, endorses Clinton specifically because she can be pressured on ecological and climate issues.
But if you know all this already, and just want to get onto links, here’s what I wrote this week:
First, while the race for the White House (and Congress) will shape the planet more than other elections, individual states are facing some of the most fascinating fights as they vote on climate-focused ballot questions. I wrote about it!
To wit: Floridians are voting on a deceptively-worded referendum that would make it more expensive to add solar panels to your house, and Washington is deciding whether it should adopt a carbon tax that a left-liberal coalition opposes. If adopted, the revenue-neutral carbon tax would become the most stringent in North America, pricing one ton of carbon at $25 by 2018.
Second—and this is one of the coolest climate studies I’ve ever seen—two researchers have discovered a linear relationship between atmospheric carbon and summer Arctic sea ice. This discovery allows them to definitively say: For every ton of CO₂ emitted, three square meters of summer Arctic sea ice disappears. Which, in turn, means:
The average American is personally responsible for 645 square feet of melted summer Arctic sea ice every year.
For the week beginning on October 30, 2016, the Mauna Loa observatory measured atmospheric carbon levels of 402.81 parts per million. One year ago, atmospheric CO₂ stood at 398.94 ppm. Ten years ago, when the 12th UN climate-change conference was opening in Nairobi, the observatory recorded carbon dioxide levels of 379.61 ppm.
This week, the 22nd UN conference on climate change begins in Marrakech, Morocco. The nations of the world will celebrate the ratification of the Paris Agreement and discuss how to measure the individual national commitments that signatories to the treaty have made.
Oh, and, hey: The Paris Agreement became international law on Friday.
In U.S. politics,
- If you want the backstory on the Washington carbon-tax referendum, let me recommend Kate Aronoff’s feature at In These Times.
- Does our political party shape how we understand the weather? New Hampshire has set a slew of new flooding records since 2005, as swollen rivers and unusually large downpours have repeatedly troubled the state. Or, at least, that’s what the meteorological data says. But a new study conducted by the University of New Hampshire found that while 48 percent of liberals in the state believe that flooding has gotten worse in the past decade, only 22 percent of conservatives agreed with them.
- On a similar note, a recent study found that Pope Francis’s encyclical on climate change polarized attitudes on the issue between U.S. Catholic liberals and conservatives: “Cross-pressured by the inconsistency between the pontiff’s views and those of their political allies, conservative Catholics devalued the Pope’s credibility on climate change.”
- The Dakota Access pipeline could be put on hold for 30 days. The pipeline, and the Standing Rock tribe’s protest against it, attracted new attention in the past week. More on that as soon as the election ends.
In global energy news,
- Electric car sales in the U.S. just hit a new record. “Over 45,000 [electric cars] were sold in the third quarter of 2016, up more than 60 percent from the same time a year ago.” That’s despite historically low oil prices.
- Oddly, the rise of the German far-right could make the country’s transition to a decarbonized energy sector—the famed Energiewende—happen faster. That’s because the Christian Democrats might form a coalition with the Greens. I enjoyed this brief overview of what a moderate-green coalition might bring about.
This week in the Earth system:
- Autumn is in full swing in the Northern Hemisphere. Look how much the hills of New Hampshire changed color in only 10 days.
- Preliminary reports suggest that many more corals died in the northern section of the Great Barrier Reef than biologists had hoped. The bleaching event of early 2016 now appears much worse than those of 1998 or 2002. Before this El Niño-associated bleaching, the reef’s north had been its most pristine and unpolluted section.
- The post-monsoon smogs of New Delhi have returned. The Indian capital is experiencing its worst air quality in two decades.
- Here’s a cool story about how young North Carolinians are directly connected to East Asia through the ginseng trade. Wild ginseng is well-suited to growing in the Appalachian hills, so locals harvest it and send it to Hong Kong and other markets. There’s something very 2016 feeling about a young man with a Appalachian twang telling the camera about how “the Asian market” favors stretched rings in its ginseng as he pulls a specimen from the soil.
- Two-headed sharks are either occurring more often or being documented more often.
- New research estimates that Wurdi Youang, a stone map of the stars outside of contemporary Melbourne, is perhaps 11,000 years old. This makes it the oldest observatory ever found.
How do young climate scientists understand their field? I love this series—and specifically this response from Sarah Myrhe, an oceanographer:
Kind of hard. Weird. Complex. Lots of cognitive dissonance. Some existential crisis. I’m not going to lie, it’s a gritty place when you are staring down at data and probabilities for how your favorite places in the world will change during your kid’s life span. Honestly, being a parent has also really changed my approach to my career. Having a kid and seeing how much my parents love my kid has made me feel so connected to people in the future. It’s a hard question because I love my career. I am supremely privileged to get to do the work that I do. But there is a big part of shouldering the knowledge of this global crisis that has been challenging for me. It’s caused me some grief and it’s really forced me to grow up.
This is the headline of the week.
And if you have time, please read my friend Charlie Loyd’s reflection on his grandmother’s life.
Thanks, as always, for reading.