Sign In or Create an Account.

By continuing, you agree to the Terms of Service and acknowledge our Privacy Policy

Sparks

We Breached 1.5 Degrees Celsius of Warming — Sort Of

What today’s news from Copernicus does and doesn’t mean.

Mexico.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Somewhat fittingly, Heatmap’s first year in existence coincided with the planet’s first 12-month period with an average temperature more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, according to a new report from the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service. This might not come as a surprise if you’ve been reading us for any amount of time. But still, the number is striking — it’s the target we’ve long heard about, the threshold that the Paris Agreement is trying to keep us under.

It might be easy, then, to look at this report with a bit of despair. I am here to tell you otherwise. Some things to keep in mind:

  • For starters, this report does not mean we’ve missed the Paris Agreement’s target; Copernicus’ report covers average temperatures over one year, while the Paris Agreement’s targets operate on 20- or 30-year timescales.

  • El Niño was also a factor. The warm ocean phenomenon tends to bring higher global temperatures, so it’s possible the average could dip back down in a La Niña year (which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says is probably on its way soon).

  • This threshold is not a point of no return. As I wrote in my very first piece for Heatmap, humanity operates on stunningly compressed time scales compared to the rest of our planet. It didn’t take us very long to reach this point; similarly, the speed of our efforts to decarbonize will affect the speed at which we will return to more livable temperatures.

If anything, think of today’s number news as a call to action. The last year was a preview of what life could be like above 1.5 degrees C; the next few years will likely also be incredibly hot compared to pre-industrial levels, and we must do our best to mitigate the pain and loss to come.

We’ll be covering those efforts at Heatmap, as we always do, but if you’d like an idea of the various paths available to us for decarbonization, this Carbon Brief interactive is a good place to start.

Neel Dhanesha profile image

Neel Dhanesha

Neel is a founding staff writer at Heatmap. Prior to Heatmap, he was a science and climate reporter at Vox, an editorial fellow at Audubon magazine, and an assistant producer at Radiolab, where he helped produce The Other Latif, a series about one detainee's journey to Guantanamo Bay. He is a graduate of the Literary Reportage program at NYU, which helped him turn incoherent scribbles into readable stories, and he grew up (mostly) in Bangalore. He tweets sporadically at @neel_dhan.

Sparks

Tornado Alley Is Moving East

New research finally sheds some light on what the heck is happening.

A tornado.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

If hurricanes, wildfires, heat, and floods are the Big Four of extreme weather in America, then tornadoes are perhaps the equivalent of the National Bowling League.

That’s not for lack of fatalities — tornadoes kill more people annually than hurricanes, per the 30-year average — nor for their lack of star power (see: The Wizard of Oz, Sharknado, Twister, and my most highly anticipated movie of the year, Twisters). But when it comes to the study of extreme weather, robust, detailed data on tornadic supercells has been described as “largely absent,” at least compared to the scholarship on their more popular meteorological counterparts.

Keep reading...Show less
Blue
Sparks

A Swiss Army Knife for Clean Energy

These can really do it all — almost.

A dam.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Before and for the first year or so after the Inflation Reduction Act, clean energy in the United States was largely developed under the aegis of two tax credits: the Production Tax Credit, which primarily useful for wind power, and the Investment Tax Credit, which is primarily used for solar power. (The actual eligibility for each tax credit for each technology has changed various times over the years, but that’s the gist.)

Starting in 2025, however, and lasting (absent any change in the law) through at least 2032, that tax credit regime will be made “technology neutral.” Goodbye, existing credits with their limited applicability. Hello, new tax credits that apply to “any clean energy facility that achieves net-zero greenhouse gas emissions,” according to a release issued Wednesday by the Treasury Department.

“For too long, the U.S. solar and wind markets have been hampered by uncertainty due to the on-again-off-again nature of key tax credits,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on a call with reporters. “Periods of indecision and the credits being repeatedly allowed to elect to lapse made it too difficult for companies to plan and invest in clean energy projects.”

Keep reading...Show less
Green
Sparks

We’re Worrying About Hurricanes Wrong

Don’t look at the number of forecasted storms and panic. But don’t get complacent, either.

Hurricane aftermath.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

When is an announcement less an announcement than a confirmation?

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s 2024 hurricane season outlook, issued Thursday morning, might be one such case. For the past several weeks, hurricane agencies around the country have been warning of an extremely active, potentially historic season due to a confluence of factors including the record-warm water in the Atlantic Main Development Region and the likely start of a La Niña, which will make the wind conditions more favorable to Atlantic storm formation. With the Atlantic Hurricane Season set to start a week from Saturday, on June 1, NOAA has at last issued its own warning: There is an 85% chance of an above-average season, with eight to 13 hurricanes and four to seven of those expected to be “major” Category 3 or greater storms.

Keep reading...Show less
Blue