Blog: How Climate Change is Impacting Life Globally and in the Bay Area

For many, climate change may sound like a concept that's far in the future. But as wildfires scorch the west, hurricanes devastate the south and record-breaking heatwaves suffocate many parts of the nation, it's clear: climate change is here. This blog is your one-stop rundown on what's current in climate news, with an emphasis on the Bay Area.

  • Evidence shows that tipping points leading to irreversible change have already passed, according to this United Nations report.
  • It is no longer possible to prevent global warming from reaching 1.5°C.
  • It is still possible to prevent warming from reaching 2°C if humans take swift action. This matters because, while many adverse effects will happen at 1.5°C, consequences will be more devastating at 2°C.

Here's what's happening now:

Saturday, December 5

Late-season fire danger (yes, in December) prompted PG&E to announce yesterday that power shutoffs in 15 California counties, including parts of the North Bay, could happen Monday. Typically, there is little to no wildfire activity in Northern California from late Fall through early Spring, but this year conditions are unusually dry, and high winds are expected. Here's more on that.

Friday, December 4

It's late in the year for fire season, and yet here we are: with a lack of rain increasing drought conditions and high winds picking up in Orange County, the Bond Fire has exploded to 7,200 acres as of 3 p.m. yesterday. The blaze started at a home and spread to nearby brush. It was just one of several fires that burned near homes in the Southern California Canyons and forced residents to flee among elevated fire risk that included gusts over 70 mph. Here's more.

Now that it's clear Joe Biden will be president, the fight over automobile pollution and fuel efficiency standards is likely to peter out. U.S. consumers should see a broader selection of electric and efficient vehicles with General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler planning to offer all-electric pickup trucks within the next few years. Check it out here.

Yesterday, Biden appointed Brian Deese, currently the head of sustainable investing at BlackRock, to be be the director of the National Economic Council, underscoring Biden's focus on restoring the economy and his push to get the U.S. on track in the fight against climate change. More details available here.

Bird populations have declined by about 30% over the last few decades, and according to new research from a team at California Polytechnic State University, human-produced noise and light pollution may affect how birds respond to the effects of climate change, NASA reported. Here's more on that.

Thursday, December 3

Have you ever wondered what qualifies as an extreme weather event or how such events are impacted by climate change? If so, check out this breakdown from the NOAA.

German automaker Porsche is stepping it up in the fight against climate change. The company is investing $24 million into the development of e-fuels, which it says are a climate-neutral fuel to replace gasoline in vehicles with traditional engines. This way, owners of current and classic vehicles will have a more environmentally friendly way to drive. Details here.

Did you think 2020 was bad? If we don't make changes, things could get a lot worse, according to a new report by leading peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet.

"This past year, we have seen the harms of our converging crises — COVID-19, climate disasters, and systemic racism; it's been a preview of what lies ahead if we fail to urgently make the necessary investments to protect health," Renee Salas, lead author of the U.S. Lancet Countdown Policy Brief, said in a statement published alongside the report. Click here to read the full story.

Saturday, November 28

Even during a global pandemic and the state's worst wildfire year yet, the fight is on to protect California's salmon. This week, $10.7 million was awarded in grants to 27 different projects that will protect the species in various ways. These include removing barriers, monitoring populations and creating water resources that can better withstand drought. Here are more details on that.

Leonardo DiCaprio is sharing some good news! He tweeted last week that the Voeltzkow’s Chameleon, which was believed to be extinct for over 100 years, have been rediscovered in Madagascar.

Have fears about climate change factored into your decision-making process on whether or not to have kids? If so, you aren't alone. According to The Guardian, one survey showed that 96% of 600 respondents ages 27 to 45 were worried about the "wellbeing of their potential future children in a climate-changed world." The study also found that some people regretted having children for the same reason. Click here for that story.

Thursday, November 26

While Amazon spends billions on its "Earth Fund," with CEO Jeff Bezos pledging $10 billion to groups focused on climate change, documents leaked to Vice show that it's keeping an eye on its perceived threats in Europe -- including Extinction Rebellion, Greenpeace, and Greta Thunberg's organization Fridays for Future, Business Insider reported. Read the full story here.

World Children's Day was last week, and to celebrate, the UN Environment Programme showed viewers the journey of one young girl "learning the value of the natural world," as it pointed out that children will be most impacted by the destruction of the ecosystem. See the video below.

Monday, November 23

Black Friday’s discounts are deep, and so is its impact on the environment. Expedited shipping combined with packaging that’s not as recyclable as you may think and hasty purchasing decisions result in tons of waste and greenhouse gases. Here’s what you can do to help.

President-elect Biden is filling out his cabinet, and today he named former Secretary of State John Kerry as his special envoy for climate. This marks the first time that a president has appointed an official whose job is dedicated to climate change. Check it out.

So, what is General Motors doing to fight climate change? For one thing, the company is switching sides in California's fight to set its own clean air standards. The CEO said in a letter that the company will no longer support the Trump administration in its efforts against the state, and it's urging other automakers to do the same. Toyota said that it may join GM in switching to California's team. To learn more, click here.

Sunday, November 22

Trump railed against the Paris climate accord today, telling world leaders at a virtual summit that the agreement was designed to cripple the U.S. economy, not save the planet. Meanwhile, Biden has said he will rejoin the global pact that the U.S. helped forge five years ago. Here's what went down.

Around 10 years ago, the American Farm Bureau pushed to kill legislation that would have been the boldest plan yet to cut greenhouse gas emissions. According to NPR, the Farm Bureau argued at the time that the plan would hurt farmers financially -- but now, the conversation is changing. Only this time, rather than making emission cuts mandatory, enrollment would be voluntary and often incentivized. Click here to learn more.

If you've ever wondered about organizations working to fight climate change, the American Association of Geographers has a list of national and international groups doing just that. That's available here.

Friday, November 20

It's become a political issue, but it's really about fire safety: should California be preemptively be thinning out forests? Forest experts say yes. This year, California has seen 8,800 wildfires that ripped through a record 4.5 million acres and experts are frustrated at the slow pace of efforts they believe could make a difference. NBC Bay Area's Investigative Unit talked to some of these experts. Here's what they had to say.

The Investigative Unit also spoke to Elizabeth Azzuz, a member of the Yurok Tribe in Humboldt County. The tribe used fire to preserve the land for more than 13,000 years, before European settlers banned burning in 1850. Now, the state is acknowledging that a lot can be learned from the Yurok and other tribes as it tries to combat devastating megafires and offset the impacts of climate change. Here's that story.

Thursday, November 19

As Trump's time in office comes to an end, his administration is working to push through dozens of environmental rollbacks that could weaken century-old protections. The pending changes, which benefit oil and gas and other industries, deepen the challenges for Biden, who made restoring and advancing protections for the environment, climate and public health a core piece of his campaign. Here's the story.

NASA is preparing to launch the latest in a series of spacecraft designed to monitor global sea level. On Saturday, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich is scheduled to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, and in 2025 it will be followed by its twin. Together, the pair will extend NASA's sea level records and provide improved weather data. Here's more.

Saturday, November 14

King tides are expected in coastal regions of the Bay Area on Sunday and Monday, with about seven feet of rise expected in some areas, according to the National Weather Service. People who live in low-lying areas should watch out for flooding and beach visitors should be careful not to get stranded in coves and narrow areas. Details here.

Among many things, 2020 has been a record-setting hurricane year, and it doesn't appear to be slowing down. Just about a day after former Tropical Storm Eta killed at least six people in North Carolina and Florida, another tropical storm, Iota, has formed and is expected to become a major threat in Central America. Here's that story.

https://twitter.com/USGS/status/1327355634870792198

Environmental issues can be overwhelming, but don't forget -- there are always ways to help. The Surfrider Foundation is committed to protecting and cleaning up beaches across the nation, and it has chapters in the Bay Area. Here's how to get involved.

Friday, November 13

Biden has made tackling climate change one of his priorities — but his goals would be harder to achieve without China's involvement, according to energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie. U.S.-China tensions, which escalated after Trump took office, are not likely to go away under Biden. But some experts have pointed out that climate change could be one area the U.S. and China might see eye-to-eye. Here's the story.

Thursday, November 12

According to a study released today, we're further past a point of no return than previously thought -- so far in fact, that we will need to suck carbon back out of the atmosphere in order to keep Earth habitable. Even if we cut carbon emissions to zero right this minute, the Earth would continue to warm for centuries to come, Business Insider reported today. The good news? Experts are working on ways to fix this. Check it out here.

After the study came out, it was met with criticism from some scientists. One expert from Penn State told USA Today that he was skeptical of the computer model used in the study, and that the findings should be taken with "a whole salt-shaker full of salt." Here's that story.

Finally! The National Weather Service said a light rain is expected in the Bay Area on Friday. It might not be much, but we'll take it. Here's more.

Wednesday, November 11

It's not a secret that climate change will impact the places that people will live in years to come. But did you know that some of the most geographically desirable locations right now are the ones that will be most heavily impacted by warming temperatures and rising sea levels? According to a ProPublica article by two authors with Bay Area ties (Lucas Waldron went to UC Berkeley and Abrahm Lustgarten lives in Marin), "millions of people will be displaced by flooding, fires and scorching heat, a resorting of the map not seen since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s." Here's that story.

There are a lot of things that could be (and have been) said about 2020, not the least of which is the record number of hurricanes this season. But it's not just the number of hurricanes, it's their strength. A new study shows that warming ocean temperatures are likely making hurricanes lose power more slowly after landfall because they act as a reserve fuel tank for moisture. The study found that on average it takes storms 33 hours to weaken two-thirds, compared to the 1960s when the average amount of time that took was 17 hours. That's an increase of 16 hours in which a hurricane remains strong enough to wreck havoc on land. More details here.

Sunday, November 8

So, now that we know that Biden and Harris are the projected winners of the 2020 presidential election, what happens next in terms of climate change? Unlike President Trump, President-elect Biden has called climate change an "existential threat" to humanity. But with a senate majority still undecided, it remains unclear how much the new administration will be able to accomplish. However, the LA Times put out a list of five things he can do without congress. These include reinstating tougher auto emissions standards that the Trump administration weakened, ending new oil drilling on federal land and promoting climate policy through foreign policy.

The president-elect launched his transition website today, and on it are four major issues with details on what his administration plans to do to in each area. In the climate change section, Biden's team covers nine areas where he plans to make changes. These include creating infrastructure-based jobs, increasing zero-emissions public transit options and "spurring the construction" of 1.5 million sustainable homes. For the full list, click here.

Friday, November 6

The National Weather Service released the October 2020 U.S. Climate Report today. The report discussed record-setting temperatures that were above average in many areas and below average in others. Also mentioned was the fact that this year was tied for the most active hurricane season on record, and 8.5 million acres burned in western wildfires. Here's the report.

On Wednesday, Chile, France, Italy, the UK and the UN issued a joint statement on the withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement. In it, the countries noted the immediacy of the need to come together and fight the impacts of global warming, making a concerted effort to limit warming to 1.5°C.

"We note with regret that the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement has formally come into effect today," the statement read, in part. To read the whole statement, click here.

How did the issue of climate change shape the recent election? According to a Pew Research poll, 68% of voters who responded said that climate was either very important or somewhat important in determining how they voted. And when it comes to younger voters, even more considered the climate a major issue. Among Millennials and Gen Z voters, 92% of Biden supporters and 49% of Trump supporters said the climate was a factor. Here's more.

Thursday, November 5

Who doesn't love skiing? If you've ever wondered how climate change will change the sport in the U.S., you aren't alone. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration put out an article in 2018 that details how changing weather patterns create dangerous conditions for skiers, including hardened ice and increased chances of avalanche. With ski season fast approaching, the info is now more relevant than ever. That's available here.

It happened last year, and it's happening again. California's Dungeness crab season has been delayed to protect whales and sea turtles from becoming entangled in fishing gear. This is because whales are staying off the coast of California longer -- scientists say they may be hanging around to feed on anchovies that have been pushed into shallower waters because of warming ocean temperatures. To find out when and where the crab season is delayed, click here.

Wednesday, November 4

Just one day after the 2020 election, with presidential results looming, the U.S. has formally left the Paris Agreement, a global pact forged five years ago to avert the threat of catastrophic climate change. Some 189 countries remain committed to the 2015 Paris accord. What impact will the election have? While Trump made the move to withdraw from the agreement, Biden has pledged to rejoin if he wins. Details here.

Tropical Storm Eta drenched northern Nicaragua and Honduras today after devastating communities along the country’s Caribbean coast and setting off deadly landslides that killed at least three people in Central America. Now, South Florida remains in the cone of concern as Eta approaches this weekend. Details here.

The death toll in last week’s Aegean Sea earthquake rose to 116 today as rescuers in the Turkish city of Izmir finished searching buildings that collapsed in the quake. Here's the story.

Monday, November 2

Eta, whose formation tied a record for the most named storms in an Atlantic hurricane season, was expected to be a hurricane before dawn today -- threatening to bring heavy rain, storm surge, landslides and more to parts of Central America and the Caribbean. Eta is the 28th named Atlantic storm this season, tying the 2005 record for named storms. Here's more.

How does the naming of hurricanes work, anyway? The World Meteorological Organization, responsible for naming hurricanes, has six lists of 21 male and female names. WMO uses the names in a six-year rotation, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. If more than 21 named storms happen in a year, as is the case for 2020, letters from the Greek alphabet are used. For more details on that and on why storms are named, click here.

Sunday, November 1

It's not a secret that the upcoming election -- now just two days away -- is a big one, but how big of an impact will the outcome have on climate change? Experts say that to some degree, how much more hot and nasty the world’s climate will get may be determined by what happens Tuesday. This is because the U.S. is set to formally withdraw on Wednesday from the 2015 Paris agreement. But Biden said that if he wins the presidency, he will put the country immediately back in the Paris agreement. Here's that story.

So, what are some things that individuals and organizations can do about climate change? The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has complied info on people who are taking action -- the list of case studies covers everything from solar-powered ice cellars to wind-resistant construction. Check out the NOAA's interactive map to learn more.

Saturday, October 31

The debate about forest management vs climate change when it comes to massive wildfires was exemplified when President Trump blamed the Camp Fire in Paradise, the deadliest fire in California's history, on poor forest management. But while Trump has famously accused Gov. Newsom of doing a “terrible job” of forest protection, his own agencies fell short of his goals for federal lands in 2019. Here's the story.

Friday, October 30

How are the U.S. national parks being impacted by climate change? LX News host Tabitha Lipkin traveled to Guadalupe Mountains National Park in West Texas to see firsthand how its fragile ecosystem is at risk, and how politics will also play a part. Here's why your vote matters.

To see the impact of climate change, the first place to look is the U.S. national parks. LX News host Tabitha Lipkin traveled to Guadalupe Mountains National Park in West Texas to see firsthand how its fragile ecosystem is at risk — and how presidential politics will determine the future of some of our country’s most precious resources.

Good news! According to the BBC, China's "aggressive policy" of planting trees may be helping the country reduce it's carbon footprint even more than previously thought. A "carbon sink" is any area that absorbs more carbon than it releases, and two such areas in China are now identified as accounting for over 35% of the country's entire "carbon sink." This is what it means for the planet.

ISeeChange needs your help. The online community, which tracks climate change through member submissions of notable differences in everyday neighborhoods, is hosting a Halloween event. They're asking you to reflect on how the weather has changed over the years, and report back on what you notice.

Thursday, October 29

When thinking about environmental impacts of the pandemic, it's easy to point out that that for months, there was less smog from traffic congestion, as well as a lower demand for oil. But a recent NBC Bay Area investigation shows that COVID-19 has stopped or stalled at least a dozen Bay Area projects designed to prevent damage from rising sea levels. Here's that investigation. Back in June, National Geographic published a story that explained how the pandemic will eventually hurt the environment.

Hurricane Zeta made landfall in Louisiana yesterday, killing at least six people as it pounded New Orleans with winds and water that splintered homes. Today it made its way across the Southeast, leaving a trail of damage and more than 2.6 million homes and businesses without power in Atlanta and beyond -- impacting some voting places. Here's more.

Even when it feels like things couldn't be bleaker when it comes to climate change, a group of award-winning projects show us that limiting warming can be done. The projects "range from the Caribbean's only carbon-neutral hotel, to the world's first platform fully dedicated to green bonds, to the first all-women solar team in Lebanon." Check them out here.

Wednesday, October 28

As the lights come back on in the Bay Area after PG&E's power shutoffs due to high winds, the Gulf Coast is preparing -- again -- for a life-threatening storm. Hurricane Zeta is the 27th named storm this hurricane season and is expected to make landfall south of New Orleans this evening. Here's more.

Tuesday, October 27

Just a week before the election, the Trump administration is making moves that could undermine the fight against climate change. The New York Times reported today that the Trump administration recently removed the chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the new staff is imposing stricter rules on communication -- meaning that it could be more difficult to get info. The new staff has also questioned accepted facts on climate science.

Did you know that even when it's not fire season, the air could be hazardous? According to NASA, humans breathe particles caused by traffic, power generation, agriculture and fires, and those particles can cause a slew of health problems. To help doctors better understand what those health issues are, NASA is planning a first-of-its kind, years-long investigation using space-based data to study human health. Check out NASA's climate blog to learn more.

Sunday, October 25

PG&E power shutoffs due to the most dangerous fire weather this season are underway in California, with the Bay Area beginning to lose lights in the North Bay late this afternoon. More outages are expected throughout the night into Monday. Meanwhile, the National Weather Service has extended a Red Flag Warning in effect in the North Bay mountains and East Bay hills. A warning for other parts of the Bay Area goes into effect at 8 p.m. In response, public officials in some places are preemptively closing parks. Here's a list of which parks are closed, as well as resources available to people without power.

Now, for some good news! The Pope Fire in Napa County is 100% contained at 61 acres. Cal Fire said the acreage has been reduced due to better mapping.

What's happening with the East Troublesome Fire in Colorado? As mentioned yesterday, the region was preparing for a "race between fire and ice" as the blaze tore through Rocky Mountain National Park, killed two people and threatened the town of Estes Park. According to the Coloradoan, that storm hit today and helped firefighters, who were also battling the Cameron Peaks Fire. Here's more. Another bit of good news, all people who were missing in the area have been accounted for. Here's that story.

Saturday, October 24

As extreme fire danger across the Bay Area approaches, with the strongest winds of the season expected to whip up beginning tomorrow, PG&E is taking precautions. The utility said it plans to potentially cut power to nearly 400,000 customers to prevent massive wildfires from sparking. Meanwhile, East Bay officials are warning residents in the Berkeley Hills to pre-evacuate in areas where it might be difficult to leave quickly. For the latest details, check out the video below.

As high fire danger in the Bay Area approaches, PG&E has reduced the number of customers potentially impacted by power shutoffs, and officials in the East Bay warn residents in the Berkeley hills to pre-evacuate in areas where it might be difficult to leave quickly.

As California preps for tomorrow's weather event, Colorado is dealing with the second-largest fire in state history. The East Troublesome Fire ripped through Rocky Mountain National Park today, and killed a couple near Grand Lake, the Washington Post reported. The blaze is now threatening the tourist town of Estes Park, which the paper said is in a "race between fire and ice" with a snowstorm expected to hit later tonight.

Friday, October 23

It's a story the Bay Area has become increasingly familiar with, and it's happening again. With winds forecasted to be the "strongest of the 2020 fire season" a Red Flag Warning has been issued for the entire Bay Area beginning Sunday. On the same day, PG&E said it may cut power to over 1 million people. And today, a fire in Napa County, the Pope Fire, burned at least 67 acres. It's now 50% contained.

The Surfrider Foundation is on a mission to clean up and protect beaches in the U.S. The organization recently released a report that grades 31 states on their policies to protect beaches from sea level rise, coastal erosion and poorly planned development. The report found that 74% of coastal states are doing a poor job. Here's more. Here's how you can help.

Let's take a look at what Biden and Trump had to say about climate change in last night's debate.

Trump asked Biden if he would "close down the oil industry." Biden responded that he “would transition from the oil industry, yes,” and that he would replace it by renewable energy “over time.” He stated that he would not ban fossil fuels. More details here.

Thursday, October 22

California isn't the only state dealing with explosive wildfires this season. Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park closed today after a blaze tore through the area, burning 100,000 acres on Wednesday alone. Forecasters predict more dangerous fires across this region. For more details, click here.

Are you interested in innovative tech-based solutions to climate change? Don't miss out! At 10 a.m. today the Bay Area Air Quality Management District is hosting a free virtual event aimed at connecting climate technologies with potential customers. Here's more.

Have you noticed impacts of climate change in your neighborhood? Well, there's an app for that. ISeeChange is an organization aimed at creating community records of climate change, and it needs your help. Check out the website to get started.

Wednesday, October 21

With climate change already causing devastating consequences across the globe, many people and companies are searching for innovative ways to reduce the impact. According to the BBC, a new type of paint has been developed that may be able to keep buildings cool, lowering dependence on air conditioning and therefore cutting down on CO2 emissions. Here's more about that.

If you're interested in exploring this year's explosive wildfire season and getting a closer look at how the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts wildfire smoke and drought, there's an app for that. This new tool lets users explore everything from earthquakes to hurricanes and is available for iPhone and Android users. Here's more info.

Tuesday, October 20

Leonardo DiCaprio is helping spread the word about a program that can use your spare change to plant trees. Aspiration has launched the Plant Your Change service that lets Americans automatically plant a tree by rounding up their change to the nearest dollar.

If you've ever wondered how the effects of our changing climate will change things like housing markets and what that will look like, you're not alone. In this NY Times report, author and Marin County resident Abrahm Lustgarten takes a look at how people will migrate when their homes become unlivable. It's also available as a podcast here.

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