Climate Crisis Weekly: 2019’s extreme weather breaks records, UN says climate change threatens human rights, more

  • 2019 could feature some of the most extreme weather in 20 years. And yes, climate change is a major catalyst.
  • The UN says that the climate crisis is the greatest threat ever to human rights.
  • Why are hurricanes getting stronger? Three reasons.
  • British farmers say we don’t need to stop consuming beef to address the climate crisis.
  • And more…

2019 has not been a good weather year — and that’s an understatement. It could be one of the most disastrous in 20 years before we move into 2020. According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center in Geneva, extreme weather events displaced a record 7 million people globally during the first six months of this year.

There was Cyclone Fani in May in Bangladesh and India (3.4 million evacuated), and Cyclone Idai in southern Africa in March, which killed more than 1,000. There was flooding in Iran in March and April that affected 90% of the country, and massive flooding throughout the US Midwest and South in the first half of the year.

And that was before Hurricane Dorian battered the Bahamas, parts of the US Eastern Seaboard, and Nova Scotia last week. Typhoon Faxai (pictured above) hit Japan on Monday. Faxai was one of the strongest storms to hit Tokyo in a decade, with record-breaking winds. (FYI, the only difference between a hurricane and a typhoon is the location where the storm occurs.)

Alexandra Bilak, director of the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, told the New York Times:

With the impact of climate change, in the future these types of hazards are expected to become more intense. Countries that are affected repeatedly like the Bahamas need to prepare for similar, if not worsening, trends.

And we’re not done yet, as we’re still in storm season. “The monitoring center estimates that the number of disaster-related displacements may grow to 22 million by the end of the year.”

Michelle Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights, addressed climate change in her opening statement on September 9 during the global update at the 42nd session of the Human Rights Council.

She made five major points that she thinks should guide the world in climate action:

  1. Climate change undermines rights, development, and peace.
  2. Effective climate action requires broad and meaningful participation.
  3. We must better protect those who defend the environment.
  4. Those most affected are leading the way.
  5. Business will be crucial to climate action.

Bachelet said, “the world has never seen a threat to human rights of this scope.” Her entire speech can be read here.

As we’re at the height of storm season, the Environmental Defense Fund spells out very clearly and simply how climate change makes hurricanes more destructive on their website. In a nutshell:

  • More evaporation fuels storms. Evaporation intensifies as temperatures rise, thus increasing the water vapor pulled into the storms.
  • Sea level rise makes storm surges worse. As ice melts due to warmer ocean water, higher seas result in higher surges.
  • Storm-related flooding is on the rise. Intense single-day rain events are increasing.

And for those of you who prefer visual learning, Vox made this video in 2017 that explains how climate change makes hurricanes worse:

The British National Farmers’ Union says that farming can become climate neutral by 2040 without cutting out beef consumption. Agriculture causes about 10% of carbon emissions in the UK. (Farmers say they want to combat climate change; they work outside, and it affects their crops.) Their plan? Here’s a paraphrase from the Guardian:

  • Offsetting half of farming emissions “by growing willow, miscanthus grass, and other energy crops to use in bioenergy with carbon capture and storage power plants.”
  • Doubling of wind, solar, and biomethane energy on farms.
  • Storing more carbon in soils, peatlands, woodlands, and hedgerows offsets another fifth of agricultural emissions.
  • Cut one-quarter of farming emissions by raising animals and growing crops more efficiently. This includes feed additives to cut methane in animals, gene editing to improve crops and livestock, and controlled-release fertilizers.

Germany is planning to spend up to €75 billion ($83 billion) by 2030 to combat climate change, according to a proposal from the Transport Ministry.

Says Deutsche Welle:

Germany’s governing coalition parties will meet Friday to discuss measures targeting the transportation sector to ensure the country meets its 2030 goals to combat climate change.

Proposals call for tax breaks and subsidies to bolster electric car purchases, the construction of new cycle paths, improving public transportation, promoting alternative fuels, and overhauling the railway network, among other measures, to tackle the destabilization of Earth’s climate system.

The German government is expected to present a program by September 20.

Eight US states have banned single-use plastic bags. (That’s California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon, and Vermont.) Cities who have bans as well are Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle. And on Sunday, September 15, Anchorage, Alaska, will be joining them.

Anchorage retailers will no longer be allowed to hand out plastic bags to customers. This also includes biodegradable bags, because the Alaskan city-states that they don’t biodegrade well in their climate.

“Sellers may provide non-plastic bags, such as paper, at a minimum cost of $0.10 per bag up to a maximum of $0.50 per trans action,” according to the Municipality of Anchorage’s website. Produce and meat bags have unfortunately escaped the ban. Weirdly, so has plastic bags for newspapers or an unfinished bottle of wine. (People, finish your wine and skip the bag.)

The Alaskan city is rightly pushing reusable bags. But while the single-use ban is welcome, perhaps it could have been a bit more stringent.

The Global Commission on Adaptation released a report on September 10 that details the ways in which the world needs to adapt to climate change in order to become resilient.

Commissioners are made up of world leaders in such sectors as government, business and NGOs, from Bill Gates to Ban-ki Moon to Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo and Kristalina Georgieva, CEO of the World Bank.

The 5 areas the commission recommends we invest in are:

  • Strengthening early warning systems
  • Making new infrastructure resilient
  • Improving dryland agriculture crop production
  • Protecting mangroves
  • Making water resources management more resilient

The commission states that if these five areas were implemented, total net benefits would be worth $7.1 trillion. The commission recommends paying for it with public sector, private sector, and international financial support in developing countries.

You can read the entire report here.

For those of you who are educators and want and/or need to teach their students about climate change, Yale Climate Connections provides a handy list of nine climate-change books to use. (Or hey, maybe you just want to learn more about it yourself.) You can peruse the list of nine by reading their article, but here are three books to start with:

Climate Change Education: Goals, Audiences, and Strategies: A Workshop Summary, by National Research Council. Sherrie Forest and Michael A. Feder, editors (National Academies Press, 2012) — Bonus! A free download of this book is available here.

Teaching Climate Change in the Humanities, edited by Stephen Siperstein, Shane Hall, and Stephanie Lemenager (Routledge, 2017)

The Teacher-Friendly Guide to Climate Change, edited by Ingrid H. H. Zabel, Don Duggan-Haas, Robert M. Ross, Benjamin Brown-Steiner, and Alexandra F. Moore (Paleontological Research Institution 2017) — Bonus! A free download of this book is available here.

Check out our past editions of Climate Crisis Weekly.

Photo credit: NOAA

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in St. Petersburg, Florida. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.