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Culture

March Was Way Too Warm

On record-breaking heat, a landmark climate case, and meteorites

March Was Way Too Warm
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: Hundreds of flood warnings are in effect for the U.K. • Schools in Cape Town will reopen after the passage of a severe storm • The weather will be “relatively quiet” across most of the U.S. for the next couple of days.

THE TOP FIVE

1. March sets another alarming temperature record

March was the 10th consecutive month of record-high temperatures on Earth, Europe’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) reported today. The global average temperature for the month was 57.9 degrees Fahrenheit, which is about 3 degrees warmer than the pre-industrial March average. Over the last 12 months, global temperatures have been 1.58 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial averages, above the 1.5 Celsius warming threshold scientists worry could trigger dramatic and irreversible climate damage. Sea surface temperatures also remained alarmingly high, averaging 69.93 degrees Fahrenheit, “the highest monthly value on record.”

C3S

C3S deputy director Samantha Burgess didn’t mince words: “Stopping further warming requires rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions,” she said. Woodwell Climate Research Center scientist Jennifer Francis echoed that sentiment: “The trajectory will not change until concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop rising, which means we must stop burning fossil fuels, stop deforestation, and grow our food more sustainably as quickly as possible.”

2. European court says government inaction on climate change threatens human rights

The European Court of Human Rights handed down a landmark decision this morning that could ramp up legal pressure on governments to do more to limit global warming. The lawsuit was brought by a group of more than 2,000 older Swiss women who argued Switzerland had violated their human rights by failing to do its part to stop climate change. Older women are more likely to die from extreme heat, and the group said they suffer severely during Swiss heatwaves. The court agreed with them, saying Switzerland hadn’t done enough to meet its emissions reduction targets. The verdict “opens up all 46 members of the Council of Europe to similar cases in national courts that they are likely to lose,” explainedThe Guardian. “We expect this ruling to influence climate action and climate litigation across Europe and far beyond,” said Joie Chowdhury, an attorney at the Centre for International Environmental Law campaign group. The case was one of three climate suits the court was considering – it threw out the other two.

3. Zurich to stop underwriting new fossil fuel projects

Zurich Insurance Group will stop underwriting new oil and gas projects in pursuit of reaching net zero by 2050, Bloombergreported. The insurer will also pressure its existing corporate clients to curb emissions. “Further exploration and development of fossil fuels isn’t required for the transition,” Sierra Signorelli, chief executive of commercial insurance at Zurich, told Bloomberg. “We think it’s the right time to evolve our position.” The insurer says the policy shift only applies to new oil and gas projects and not existing ones. It will urge all oil and gas customers to set interim emissions targets and put together 2050 net zero plans that are credible, “not just a PowerPoint presentation.”

4. Tesla settles wrongful death suit before trial

Tesla reached a settlement with the family of a man who was killed in a 2018 car crash involving the company’s Autopilot feature. The wrongful death lawsuit was set to go to trial this week. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed. This isn’t the only lawsuit Tesla faces over its Autopilot driver assistance technology. “Every plaintiff’s lawyer that has one of these cases will be watching,” Matthew Wansley, associate professor at Yeshiva University’s Cardozo School of Law, said before the settlement was announced. “I think Tesla didn’t want all the bad publicity and all the information that would have come out of the trial,” wrote Fred Lambert at Electrek.

5. Study: Climate change threatens Antarctica’s meteorites

Antarctica is pockmarked with meteorites: More than 60% of all these small space rocks ever discovered on Earth have been found on the ice sheet, with about 1,000 collected each year for the last decade. Meteorites are valuable scientific resources, offering researchers a wealth of information about our solar system. But a new paper published in the journal Nature Climate Change explains that warmer temperatures brought on by climate change are causing the meteorites to sink into the ice sheet, where they are lost to science.

Scientists carve out a meteorite submerged in the ice.Steven Goderis, Vrije Universiteit Brussel

José Jorquera (Antarctica.cl), University of Santiago, Chile.

The study estimates the ice surface contains between 300,000 and 850,000 meteorites waiting to be collected, but says 24% of them will be lost by 2050 under current warming conditions, and for every tenth of a degree of increase in global air temperature, an average of nearly 9,000 meteorites will disappear. “The loss of Antarctic meteorites is much like the loss of data that scientists glean from ice cores collected from vanishing glaciers,” said Harry Zekollari, a co-author on the study. “Once they disappear, so do some of the secrets of the universe.”

THE KICKER

Keegan Barber/NASA via Getty Images

“The eclipse is a really cool celestial event that hopefully can inspire people to see that there’s a lot of beauty in this universe. I hope it can inspire people to protect what we have.”Michael Greenberg, co-founder of Climate Defiance


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Jessica  Hullinger profile image

Jessica Hullinger

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.

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