Churchill in northern Manitoba bills itself as the the polar bear capital of the world and its tourism-based economy depends on it. But as climate change forces the polar bears inland in search of food, attacks on humans are increasing. Can this small community continue to co-exist with the world's largest land predator? Suzanne Goldenberg reports from Churchill where its bear alert program uses guns, helicopters, and a polar bear jail to manage the the creatures.
The climate crisis of the 21st century has been caused largely by just 90 companies, which between them produced nearly two-thirds of the greenhouse gas emissions generated since the dawning of the industrial age, new research suggests.
The companies range from investor-owned firms -- household names such as Chevron, Exxon, and BP -- to state-owned and government-run firms.
The analysis, which was welcomed by the former Vice President Al Gore as a "crucial step forward," found that the vast majority of the firms were in the business of producing oil, gas, or coal. The findings have been accepted for publication in the journal Climatic Change.
"There are thousands of oil, gas, and coal producers in the world," said climate researcher and author Richard Heede at the Climate Accountability Institute in Colorado. "But the decisionmakers, the CEOs, or the ministers of coal and oil if you narrow it down to just one person, they could all fit on a Greyhound bus or two."
The Canadian government in recent years has banned government scientists from talking about a growing list of research topics including snowflakes, the ozone layer, salmon, and previously published work about a 13,000-year-old flood.
Now it seems the scientists are talking back.
Researchers in 16 Canadian cities have called protests on Monday against science policies introduced under the government of Stephen Harper, which include rules barring government researchers from talking about their own work with journalists and, in some cases, even fellow researchers.
Half of last year's extreme weather -- including the triple-digit temperatures of America's July heatwave -- were due in part to climate change, new research said on Thursday.
The study [PDF], edited by scientists from NOAA and the U.K. Met Office, detected the fingerprints of climate change on about half of the 12 most extreme weather events of 2012.
The researchers said climate change helped raise the temperatures during the run of 100-degree-F days in last year's American heatwave; drove the record loss of Arctic sea ice; and fueled the devastating storm surge of Hurricane Sandy. "The analyses reveals compelling evidence that human-caused climate change was a factor contributing to the extreme events," Thomas Karl, director of the National Climatic Data Center, told reporters in a conference call on Thursday.
But the researchers said they found no evidence of climate change on other extreme weather events -- especially those involving rainfall, or its absence.
Instead, climate change will make it even less likely future storms will follow Sandy's devastating track. The killer storm made a sharp left turn to slam straight into the Atlantic coast. The odds of a storm like Sandy were already extremely remote -- a once in 700 year event -- when it hit in October 2012. But it was that trajectory that made Sandy so devastating.
"What made Sandy so different was that it was steered into the coast rather than away from it," said Elizabeth Barnes, a climate scientist at Colorado State University and an author of the study.
Beverly McGuire saw the warning signs before the town well went dry: sand in the toilet bowl, the sputter of air in the tap, a pump working overtime to no effect. But it still did not prepare her for the night in June when she turned on the tap and discovered the tiny town where she had made her home for 35 years was out of water.
"The day that we ran out of water I turned on my faucet and nothing was there and at that moment I knew the whole of Barnhart was down the tubes," she said, blinking back tears. "I went: 'dear God help us.' That was the first thought that came to mind."
Across the Southwest, residents of small communities like Barnhart are confronting the reality that something as basic as running water, as unthinking as turning on a tap, can no longer be taken for granted.
Google, which prides itself on building a "better web that is better for the environment," is hosting a fundraiser for the most notorious climate change denier in Congress, it has emerged.
The lunch, at the company's Washington, D.C., office, will benefit the Oklahoma Republican Jim Inhofe, who has made a career of dismissing climate change as a "hoax" on the Senate floor.
Proceeds of the July 11 lunch, priced at $250 to $2,500, will also go to the national Republican Senatorial Committee.
It's the second show of support from Google for the anti-climate cause in recent weeks.
Last month, the Washington Post reported that the internet company had donated $50,000 for a fundraising dinner for the ultra-conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute -- topping the contributions even of the Koch oil billionaires.
Gasland Part II, scheduled to air on HBO on July 8, aims to expose the money and political power driving the rush to gas — although it does also feature pictures of a homeowner in Texas lighting his garden hose on fire.
"This isn't just about fracking at all anymore. This is about our system of government, and this is about climate change," Fox said in a telephone interview.
"If what we are seeing all across America is people able to light their water on fire, why hasn't our government done anything about it, why have our regulatory agencies failed to protect us?"
The answer, in brief, is the millions energy companies spent on political candidates and on lobbying Congress, Fox said. The oil and gas industry has spent $780 million on lobbying since 2008, according to Open Secrets.
The slow-moving disaster being visited on the village of Newtok is a familiar one in Alaska. People are losing the ground beneath their feet, because of erosion.
Climate change has accelerated the normal process of erosion along Alaska's rivers and coasts -- especially near the shores of the Bering and Arctic seas.
Warmer temperatures melt the permafrost, or frozen sub-surface layers which helped bind together the soil. Heavier rains produce more floods, and swollen rivers which wash away the soil. Waves break higher, because of sea-level rise, clawing at beaches.
Meanwhile, the sea ice that provided a barrier against intense storms has thinned and retreated, exposing coastal areas to tsunami-sized waves and 100 mph winds that are not uncommon in storms coming off the Bering Sea.
Alaskans have already begun exploring how to find the way back to solid ground. Some small communities may be able to reinforce coastlines by building broad, sloping rock walls known as revetments. But bringing heavy equipment, building materials and skilled labour to remote locations is prohibitively expensive -- three or four times more than a comparable project anywhere else. The construction season is also short, further adding to the cost.
One afternoon in the waning days of winter, the most powerful man in Newtok, Alaska, hopped on a plane and flew 1,000 miles to plead for the survival of his village. Stanley Tom, Newtok's administrator, had a clear purpose for his trip: find the money to move the village on the shores of the Bering Sea out of the way of an approaching disaster caused by climate change.
Newtok was rapidly losing ground to erosion. The land beneath the village was falling into the river. Tom needed money for bulldozers to begin preparing a new site for the village on higher ground. He needed funds for an airstrip. He came back from his meetings in Juneau, the Alaskan state capital, with expressions of sympathy -- but nothing in the way of the cash he desperately needed. "It's really complicated," he said. "There are a lot of obstacles."
Those obstacles -- financial, legal, and a supremely frustrating bureaucratic process -- had slowed down the move for so long that some in Newtok, which is about 400 miles south of the Bering Strait that separates the U.S. from Russia, feared they would be stuck as the village went down around them, houses swallowed up by the river.
"It's really alarming," said Tom, slumped in an armchair a few hours after his return to the village. "I have a hard time sleeping, and I'm getting up early in the morning. I am worried about it every day."
The uncertainty was tearing the village apart. It also began to turn the village against Tom.
Over the winter, a large group of villagers decided that their administrator was not up to the job. By the time he returned from this particular trip, the dissidents had voted to replace the village council and to sack Tom -- a vote that he ignored.
"The way I see it, we need someone who knows how to do the work," said Katherine Charles, one of Tom's most vocal critics. "I feel like we are being neglected. We are still standing here and we don't know when we are going to move. For years now we have been frustrated. I have to ask myself: Why are we even still here?"