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Climate Crisis Weekly: UN report — oceans are in big trouble, the ‘problem’ with Greta Thunberg, more

  • The UN-supported IPCC releases a somber report about the state of our oceans.
  • Why do so many adults find teenage activist Greta Thunberg a threat?
  • The Covering Climate Now media project wrapped up, with some outstanding work.
  • Philadelphia airport may have a big problem with rising waters in the near future.
  • Florida is holding an energy and climate summit — and not a moment too soon.
  • And more…

Happy weekend — here’s your roundup of this week’s climate crisis events, and it’s been another doozy.

The big climate crisis story this week is the dire state of our oceans. The United Nations-supported Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report on Wednesday called, “Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate.”

And for those of you who think the IPCC hasn’t done their homework, it was prepared by 104 leading scientists from 36 countries with references to 6,981 publications. It received a total of 31,176 comments from expert reviewers and governments in 80 countries.

Todd Woody sums up the report’s findings in Grist:

Ocean warming has doubled since 1993. The frequency of marine heat waves, which are devastating the world’s coral reefs, have doubled since 1982 and are intensifying. Reefs remain at high risk of extinction even if global temperature rise is kept to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, as called for by the Paris climate accord. Extreme flooding of coastal areas will likely occur at least yearly by 2050. Fish populations face collapse thanks to a combination of ocean acidification, loss of oxygen, and warming of the ocean’s surface, which blocks the flow of nutrients to and from the deep sea.

Alas, there’s more: Sea levels will continue to rise as the melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets accelerates throughout this century. If emissions are kept in check, sea levels could rise by an estimated 1 meter (3 feet) by 2300. But if carbon emissions climb unrestrained, sea levels could increase by several meters — without factoring in the potential collapse of Antarctic ice sheets.

Meanwhile, the Southern Ocean is heating up fast and accounted for as much as 62% of global ocean temperature rise between 2005 and 2017. That’s more bad news for small Pacific island nations that already contend with rising oceans, dwindling fishing stocks, and more frequent and intense tropical cyclones. Add to all this: Widespread thawing of permafrost could release tens to hundreds of billions of tons of carbon and methane into the atmosphere.

So are we a lost cause? The IPCC says there is hope:

The report finds that strongly reducing greenhouse gas emissions, protecting and restoring ecosystems, and carefully managing the use of natural resources would make it possible to preserve the ocean and cryosphere as a source of opportunities that support adaptation to future changes, limit risks to livelihoods and offer multiple additional societal benefits.

Kids: That’s a pretty darned good reason to skip school and protest across the world for not one, but two days, if not more. Keep the pressure on, and hold the adults accountable.

Greta Thunberg’s mere existence really stir things up. She’s inspired a global movement to save the planet, but not everyone is happy with her beliefs or her strikes.

DeSmog UK dives deep into the story behind the vitriol aimed at the teenage Swedish climate crisis activist. Their conclusion:

A large subsection of the commentariat driving the abuse of Greta is part of an established network of radical free-marketeer lobby groups — a network that has firm ties to the fossil fuel industry and funders of climate science denial.

DeSmog includes insurance tycoon Arron Banks in their analysis. He was responsible for one of the most hate-filled comments on Twitter about Thunberg. (Banks has 62,300 followers on Twitter.) He was responding to a tweet from UK Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, who believes the UK should stay in the EU. Banks is an active Brexit campaigner, having founded the Leave.EU campaign.

Australian TV personality Mark Humphries posted a satirical video about the “Greta” problem:

And the Guardian posted a funny “First Dog on the Moon” cartoon yesterday called, “The Problem with Greta.” The cartoon mused “true things we have now learned about Greta” and declared, “She is actually 100,000 socialist bees in a teen suit.” It ends with: “If the world wasn’t ending it would be very funny. It is still very entertaining.”

The Covering Climate Now project ran for a week until September 23. (The DeSmog article mentioned above was part of this project.) It was launched by the Columbia Journalism Review and the Nation, and more than 250 news outlets participated.

The purpose was to get news organizations to increase the quality and quantity of green energy and climate change coverage.

Al Jazeera’s the Stream did a nice roundup of their week’s coverage in the initiative and posted it on Twitter — you can watch below.

For more great coverage that was posted throughout the week by hundreds of media outlets, search on Twitter using the hashtag #coveringclimatenow.

Philadelphia International Airport is built on what used to be a group of islands on the Delaware River, on silt and sludge. The river is part of a tidal estuary that flows to the Atlantic, so as the ocean rises, so will the river. A lot of the airport sits on a floodplain.

Frank Kummer, an environment reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, reports for GreenBiz that “in the 20th century, sea level rose by 12 inches in Philadelphia, according to research by Rutgers University’s Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences.” And the sea-level rise is expected to only get worse.

Estimates of sea-level rise over the next 40 years range from 1.2 feet to more than 4.5 feet by 2060, depending on how much carbon dioxide continues to be pumped into the environment by power plants and motor vehicles, according to the Delaware River Basin Commission.

So what is the airport going to do? Build up — they have to “make sure ground elevation is minimum of two feet above the current flood standards.” The airport has purchased 152 acres of land on which to expand air cargo. The existing airport has been dredged, and it installed metal barriers to cover doors to the substation, but only time will tell if that works.

Florida’s Energy and Climate Summit will be held from October 1 to 3 in Tampa. Rather ironically, it was delayed by Hurricane Dorian. The agenda acknowledges that “doing nothing… is not an option.”

But you’d think Florida would already be leading the charge against the climate crisis in light of these dire statistics cited by Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Nikki Fried:

[Florida] faces the nation’s largest coastal flooding threat with 3.5 million people at risk today, has the nation’s highest population at risk of inland flooding, and faces the largest increase in extreme heat threat of any state by 2050.

And yet the state’s record on green energy and fighting climate change is diabolically bad:

  • Florida has the third-highest electric consumption in the nation.
  • About 92% of that electricity comes from burning fossil fuels.
  • Florida consumes over 800,000 barrels of oil per day, and 26 million short tons of coal and 1.2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas per year.
  • Renewable energy usage in Florida is just over 2%, with solar energy at just 1%.

They have their work cut out for them at the summit. If Florida doesn’t get on the green energy bandwagon, repercussions are going to be catastrophic.

Electrek covered the United Nations Climate Summit earlier this week in our daily “Green Energy Brief” column.

You can read our summary of the day itself here, and some of the major outcomes here.

And if you’d like to watch UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ opening address, see below. He doesn’t mince his words — but he says he is “hopeful.”

British author and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough had scathing words for Australia in an interview this week on the ABC’s Hack. The world’s much-loved naturalist telling you your country is ruining the planet? Ouch.


Check out our past editions of Climate Crisis Weekly.

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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.