Jessica Hullinger is a freelance writer and editor who likes to think deeply about climate science and sustainability. She previously served as Global Deputy Editor for The Week, and her writing has been featured in publications including Fast Company, Popular Science, and Fortune. Jessica is originally from Indiana but lives in London. Read MoreRead More
The California Storm’s Massive Bill
On 1.5 degrees Celsius, Chilean fires, and nine straight warmest months
Current conditions: More than a foot of snow fell in the Sierra mountains • It’s 47 degrees Fahrenheit on Italy’s Mount Terminillo, where a popular ski resort is closed due to lack of snow • January was the 9th straight warmest month on record.
THE TOP FIVE
1. California storm causes $11 billion in damage
The storm that dropped huge amounts of rain on Southern California Sunday and Monday caused at least $11 billion in damages and economic losses, according to Accuweather. Dangerous winds, flooding, and landslides pummeled the region, hitting Los Angeles and its surrounding neighborhoods particularly hard. The University of California at Los Angeles recorded an incredible 12 inches of rain over 24 hours. Landslides swept through high-income communities including Beverly Hills, burying cars and forcing residents to evacuate. Bloombergnoted that insurance policies rarely cover damages from floods or mudslides. President Biden has promised to provide federal aid.
2. Researchers say world already surpassed 1.5 degrees in warming
A new study suggests the planet has already warmed by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. In fact, the researchers say humans have raised the global temperature by 1.7 degrees Celsius, or about 3.1 degrees Fahrenheit. Much of the scientific community puts current warming at about 1.2 degrees Celsius, so this new calculation has climate experts in a tizzy.
The research hinges on observations from six sea sponges in the Caribbean Sea. These sponges are very old, and their skeletons contain what The New York Timescalls “chemical fingerprints” of the ocean temperatures going back to 1700, long before we started measuring in the 1850s. The findings suggest global warming began about 40 years earlier than previously thought, which means the preindustrial base line level to which we compare temperatures today is flawed. The authors say current warming is half a degree Celsius higher than the most common estimates.
Not everyone agrees. Some critics say data from a single location should not upend global temperature assessments. Others slam the authors for confusing the public. “It is the date of the reference period that matters rather than whether it is labelled pre-industrial or not,” said Yadvinder Malhi FRS, professor of ecosystem science at the University of Oxford. “The period 1850-1900 is a period of relatively reliable global data when industrial era human-caused climate change was likely negligible.” Climate scientist Michael Mann said the research doesn’t “pass the smell test.”
3. EU reportedly backs down on farming emissions cuts
Farmers across the European Union have been protesting for weeks against a plan to curb greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector, and it looks like their efforts paid off: A new plan for cutting the bloc’s emissions by 90% by 2040, set to be unveiled today, nixes the call for a 30% reduction in gases like methane and nitrogen, which are linked to farming, the Financial Times reported. The conflict stems from farmers’ concerns that policymakers are ignoring them, and with European Parliament elections just a few months away, center-right politicians are trying to win over every vote they can. But there will be consequences: The agricultural sector is projected to be “the biggest emitter by 2040 unless the EU takes action,” Bloombergreported. The uproar demonstrates the challenges politicians face in rolling out new green policies without losing support from key demographics.
4. Hundreds missing after Chile fires
Destroyed houses after the forest fires on February 4, 2024 in Vina del Mar, ChileClaudio Santana/Getty Images
At least 123 people are dead and hundreds more missing in Chile after massive fires left several cities in the Valparaiso region charred. Thousands of homes are destroyed. South America has faced immense heat and enduring drought in recent months, and the vegetation is dangerously dry. “Climate change has made droughts more common,” said Edward Mitchard, a forests expert at the University of Edinburgh School of Geosciences in Scotland. “And that’s especially happened in South America this year.”
5. Waffle House is getting EV chargers
A Waffle House restaurant in Lakeland, Tennessee, will become the first restaurant to get EnviroSpark DC fast EV chargers as part of the federal government’s National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program. NEVI provides funding for states to “strategically deploy electric vehicle (EV) charging stations and to establish an interconnected network.” Ideally drivers won’t have to go more than 50 miles without access to a charging point, and while most chargers are located at gas stations or convenience stores, Waffle House restaurants could be a good option in the southeast considering their prevalence:
They also tick some of the other boxes: They’re open 24/7, have bathrooms, shelter, and food and beverages. Electrekreported that EnviroSpark plans to work with Waffle House again in the future.
“Grandmothers are now at the vanguard of today’s climate movement.” — Nathaniel Stinnett, founder of the Environmental Voter Project, on the rise of the “climate grannies”