Skip to content Skip to site navigation

Climate Change


America supports helping farmers adapt to climate change because obviously

Most Americans are smart enough to think we should give this guy some tips.

For some completely inexplicable reason, the public is quite supportive of government programs that would help farmers adapt to climate change. It is almost like people enjoying eating food/not starving to death/having agriculture! From

Regardless of what those surveyed believe causes climate change, more than 65 percent of them support government assistance for farmers, said Scott Loveridge, MSU professor of agricultural, food and resource economics. ...

Aid for farmers can come in a number of forms. Some examples include addressing potential threats and opportunities related to climate change, securing more support for science-based crop projections, and finding and testing varieties and techniques that will perform well in the future, Loveridge added.

Why does this support exist? Here is a Google search for "grist news drought" that might answer your question.

Actually, if you think about it, what's remarkable about this study is that one-third of people don't support helping farmers adapt. There are undoubtedly a few folks in the mix who would gladly remove the majority of the skin on their fingers and then hand-squeeze lemons for 40 straight hours rather than pay an additional penny in taxes. So let's assume that's like half of the objectors. Is it really the case then that 15 percent of Americans just flat out don't want to do anything about climate change?

Read more: Climate Change, Politics



Stephen Colbert is worried about how climate change will affect his cheese

Stephen Colbert has learned a few things about the current drought.


How’s the weather, Grist readers? Oh. Right.

All Americans (and Canadians!) can talk about these days is the weather, which has been, across the board, off-the-charts weird. Last week, we asked you, Grist readers, to share photos and stories of what you're experiencing, and your responses confirmed what we've been seeing in the news: Practically every region has dealt with some kind of extreme weather, be it heat waves, drought, wildfires, floods, or powerful thunderstorms. Here's a selection of what you shared with us:

Read more: Climate Change


U.S. drought could cause global unrest

Twice in the last five years, rising food prices triggered global waves of social unrest. With drought baking U.S. crops, another round of soaring, society-straining price spikes may happen in coming months.

According to researchers from the New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI), commodity speculation -- investors betting on food prices -- will amplify the drought’s market signals, creating a new food bubble and the crises that follow.

“The drought is clearly going to kick prices up. It already has. What happens when you have speculators is that it goes through the roof,” said NECSI President Yaneer Bar-Yam. “We’ve created an unstable system. Globally, we are very vulnerable.”

The ongoing drought, the United States’ worst since the Dust Bowl, is expected to last until October and will decimate U.S. harvests. America is the world’s largest exporter of corn, wheat, and soy beans; global prices for those commodities have already surged to record levels.


Lake Superior is so hot right now!

Lake Superior is the largest and northernmost Great Lake, containing almost three times as much water as Lake Michigan, the second largest in volume. In fact, it contains more water than the other Great Lakes combined. Which should mean that it's cold.

Click to embiggen.

Calling it hot is a stretch -- but all of that water is heating up far more than expected. From Climate Central (which is also the source of the graph):

As the above chart shows, based on the 30-year average, the lake’s average water temperature should be in the mid-50s. But thanks to scant lake ice cover this past winter, along with a rare March heat wave and warmer-than-average weather since then, the lake began warming earlier than normal, and that warming has kept right on going. Wintertime ice cover on the Great Lakes was the lowest observed since such records began in 1980.

The chart itself is pretty amazing. At no point in 2012 has the surface temperature been below average, and it's now spiking well above. Temperatures today range from 70 degrees at the southern shore to 60 at the northern-most points.

Click to embiggen.
Read more: Climate Change


The environment is trying to ruin the Olympics again

The carbon footprint of the Olympic torch is unknown. (Photo by Nicholas Heasman-Walsh.)

Before the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, there was broad concern about the impact that air pollution would have on the athletes. The city's well-documented problems with ozone and fine particles were not the sort of thing conducive to fast sprint times and/or not having a stroke. So authorities cracked down, greatly reducing vehicle traffic, closing factories, and inducing rain. It worked. They curbed ground-level pollutants and improved cardio-vascular health for residents and athletes alike (and brought down CO2 emissions along the way). A team at the University of Rochester noted a "direct correlation" between reduced pollution and an immediate health impact.

Unfortunately for England, the environment has taken up a new strategy for ruining the Olympics: rain.

"My biggest worry is actually the weather," said [London 2012 Chief Executive] Paul Deighton, adding that much of the construction was carried out in torrential rain in recent months.

"We've got a lot of events that are outside. I think the impact the weather has on people's mood, how they enjoy the games, is very big.

"So for me, if I have a prayer I could make, it's every extra day of sunshine just makes for a better experience for everybody here in town."

Deighton has cause for concern. An unusually static southward shift in the jet stream combined with increased atmospheric moisture has meant one of the rainiest summers in recent memory.


NASA: ‘Unprecedented,’ ‘extraordinary’ ice melt in Greenland

This was so extraordinary that at first I questioned the result: was this real or was it due to a data error?

This is not what you want to hear from scientists studying melting ice.

This is an unrelated-but-evocative iceberg breaking off a glacier in Greenland.

This morning, NASA revealed that Greenland's surface ice is melting over a larger area than they have ever before seen.

For several days this month, Greenland's surface ice cover melted over a larger area than at any time in more than 30 years of satellite observations. Nearly the entire ice cover of Greenland, from its thin, low-lying coastal edges to its 2-mile-thick center, experienced some degree of melting at its surface, according to measurements from three independent satellites analyzed by NASA and university scientists.

On average in the summer, about half of the surface of Greenland's ice sheet naturally melts. At high elevations, most of that melt water quickly refreezes in place. Near the coast, some of the melt water is retained by the ice sheet and the rest is lost to the ocean. But this year the extent of ice melting at or near the surface jumped dramatically. According to satellite data, an estimated 97 percent of the ice sheet surface thawed at some point in mid-July.

97 percent. Usually about half of the surface melts; this year, almost all. Hence: "extraordinary."

Read more: Climate Change


Nature, revised: In a brave new world, we write the rules

“Eat this brand of yogurt and you’ll help save the planet,” the label on the carton intones. Um, really?

Maybe not, but the stories we tell ourselves about our choice of yogurt, or soap, or hybrid car nonetheless say a lot about how we, as a society, view ourselves and our relationship to the world around us.

Professor Ursula Heise, eco-critic in Stanford University's English department, spends her days untangling these narratives. She looks at everything from that yogurt carton to the Book of Revelation, dissecting how words, language, symbols, and discourse influence how environmental science is communicated, how the science itself is done, and how societies seek solutions to problems such as mass extinction and climate change.

Along the way, she says she’s found that some of our stories have become tired (i.e. the “end of the world” narrative first told in Revelation) and others at times delusional (see your grocery list). She also has a few new storylines to suggest for environmentalists and others who are serious about salvaging some scraps of the natural world.


Drought in U.S. is terrible news for the whole wide world

Time for another episode of The drought is destroying America and now is the time to panic, our non-award-winning series about how the drought is destroying America and how now is the time to panic.

Today's horrible forecast. (Image courtesy of NOAA.)

We are not alone in our assessments of the drought, though we are almost certainly the only ones to have wisely named our coverage DroughtDrought (trademark pending). Let us cite the reporting of others in our incitement to panic.

The New York Times, in its article "Widespread Drought Is Likely to Worsen":

What is particularly striking about this dry spell is its breadth. Fifty-five percent of the continental United States -- from California to Arkansas, Texas to North Dakota -- is under moderate to extreme drought, according to the government, the largest such area since December 1956. An analysis released on Thursday by the United States Drought Monitor showed that 88 percent of corn and 87 percent of soybean crops in the country were in drought-stricken regions, a 10 percent jump from a week before. Corn and soybean prices reached record highs on Thursday, with corn closing just over $8.07 a bushel and soybeans trading as high as $17.49.

The paper also created a year-by-year look at drought in America stretching back to 1896 (see also, the making-of). This year's is almost comparable to 1934 and 1936, aka the Dust Bowl.

Read more: Climate Change


Rising waters: Close encounters with climate change on the Hudson

The summer, Erik Fyfe and Albert Thrower are traveling across the Northeast by motorcycle, talking with a wide range of people whose livelihoods have been influenced by climate change. Their aim is to spark conversations about climate change and collect stories about its impacts on small-town America.

In this episode of Slow Ride Stories, Erik and Albert talk to the crew of the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater -- a historic, educational ship -- who teach school kids about climate change -- or try to, anyway. Turns out it’s something of a (ahem) hot topic.

Read more: Climate Change