01:16 - Source: CNN
2 degrees Celsius: A critical number for climate change
Editor’s Note: CNN columnist John D. Sutter is spending the rest of the year reporting on a tiny number – 2 degrees – that may have a huge effect on the future of the planet. He’d like your help. Subscribe to the “2 degrees” newsletter or follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can shape his coverage.
“Climate change is the canvas on which the history of the 21st century will be painted.”
That’s Mark Lynas, writing in “Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet.”
It’s a true if disturbing prediction.
By some accounts, we’ve already entered the Anthropocene, an epoch defined by human degradation of the natural world. We’re causing extinctions, changing the climate. Mother Nature is still powerful, sure. But, as Lynas explains, we humans are so fundamental a force that we are changing the way she works.
I recently asked readers of my “2 degrees” newsletter (sign up here) to suggest “must-read” books on climate change – and Lynas’ important work of nonfiction was among your top recommendations. I’ve been reading it, and I recently interviewed the author. The book takes a degree-by-degree look at the future of our planet as it continues to warm. Two degrees of warming, which the international community is trying to avoid, and which is the focus of my climate change initiative at CNN, sounds bad. But, as Lynas told me, a world that’s 6 degrees warmer than before the industrial revolution, which is possible if we keep burning alarming amounts of fossil fuels and chopping down forests, sounds downright hellish.
You’ll find Lynas’ “Six Degrees” on a list of 12 climate change must-reads below. It includes a Pulitzer Prize winner, Elizabeth Kolbert’s “The Sixth Extinction,” as well as an illustrated account of an artist’s dive into climate science, titled “Climate Changed.”
You readers suggested all these, and I’ve included some of your comments about them.
Sign up for the “2 degrees” newsletter if you want to join our freewheeling book club.
We’ll tackle “Six Degrees” first, since it’s a great primer. I’ll post an interview with Lynas on Thursday, and then we’ll read his book together over the course of the month.
He’s graciously agreed to take your questions in a few weeks.
Think we missed something? Feel free to leave suggestions in the comments section below.
1. “Six Degrees,” by Mark Lynas
Chapter by chapter, Lynas explores what the world would look like if it warms 1 degree, 2 degrees, 3, degrees Celsius, etc. He’s great at distilling the science and maintaining a sense of optimism amid some very gloomy predictions about the future. Suggested by Lance Olsen.
2. “This Changes Everything,” by Naomi Klein
“Well researched, compelling arguments, hits home for multiple audiences, and is a realistic call to action.” – Laura S. Lynes, from Canmore, Alberta
3. “The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight,” by Thom Hartmann
“It’s all-encompassing – it delves into the various feedback systems in a climate change context, and also the underlying cultural philosophy or stories we tell ourselves that continue to create the situation we’re in. Fascinating stuff!” – Trevor, from Los Angeles
4. “The Age of Sustainable Development,” by Jeffrey D. Sachs
“Comprehensive and positive summary of the steps required for sustainable development with good overviews of the problems causing climate change.” – Dan Fowler, from Austin, Texas
5. “Comfortably Unaware,” by Richard A. Oppenlander
“People don’t realize the devastating impact that our food choices have on the planet. This book explains how animal agriculture is the single biggest cause of global warming.” – Wendy Horowitz, from New Haven, Connecticut
6. “The Sixth Extinction,” by Elizabeth Kolbert
“An amazingly well written narrative on the effect our species has had on the planet. As our population continues to grow and our demand on our very limited resources escalates, the negative impact we have had and continue to have is well explained.” – Sharon Lynch, from Benicia, California
7. “The End of the Long Summer,” by Dianne Dumanoski
“A really thoughtful, wise and balanced appraisal of fact that, going on past changes to the climate, we are likely to reach a sudden tipping point and experience huge climate changes over just a few years, BUT that humans are incredibly resilient and adaptable and rather than go extinct, will likely rise to the challenge.
“This book gave me hope while presenting the facts.” – Persephone Maywald, from Australia
8. “Climate Wars,” by Gwynne Dyer
“Waves of climate refugees. Dozens of failed states. All-out war. From one of the world’s great geopolitical analysts comes a terrifying glimpse of the strategic realities of the near future, when climate change drives the world’s powers towards the cut-throat politics of survival,” the publisher’s description says.
9. “Merchants of Doubt,” by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway
Here’s an endorsement from John Horgan, of Scientific American: “The book, which packages rigorous research in fiery rhetoric, inspired a documentary, ‘Merchants of Doubt’ … I highly recommend the book and documentary, which reveal how disturbingly easy it can be for unscrupulous spin-meisters to dupe journalists and the public.” The book was suggested by Aaron Thierry, a reader from Edinburgh, Scotland
10. “Don’t Even Think About It,” by George Marshall
A Twitter user – @timreckmeyer – suggested this one as part of a discussion on whether we at CNN should be leading climate change stories with images of sad polar bears on ice sheets. (He thinks we shouldn’t. You can see from the gallery below that we still are, from time to time.) George Marshall, the book’s author, explores how our brains shape (and warp) perceptions about climate change. I’m hoping this book will help me understand how to better explain this subject – and will settle the polar bear debate.
11. “Climate Changed,” by Philippe Squarzoni
“It’s an amazing book. It’s an illustrated nonfiction book (graphic novel format) that is built on Squarzoni’s interviews with IPCC scientists. The science is well explained, but the power comes from watching Squarzoni absorb the information and struggle to fit it into his life, just like a reader, over the six years it took him to put the book together. So the intangible social aspect of climate, which is probably more important to solutions than climate science itself, is explored with candor.” – Richard Reiss, from New York
12. “The Great Transition,” by Lester Brown
“Right away, book club or no, this book must be read: ‘The Great Transition,’ by Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute,” a reader, Elizabeth McCommon, wrote in an e-mail. A friend “put it in my hands this last weekend, saying it would help me regain optimism about the future,” she said.
Sounds like it worked.
Email questions to: climate [at] cnn.com.
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Melting polar ice caps —
The consequences of climate change go far beyond warming temperatures, which scientists say are melting the polar ice caps and raising sea levels. Click through the gallery for a look at 10 other key effects of climate change, some of which may surprise you.
In the coming decades climate change will unleash megadroughts lasting 10 years or more, according to a new report by scholars at Cornell University, the University of Arizona and the U.S. Geological Survey. We're seeing hints of this already in many arid parts of the world and even in California, which has been rationing water amid record drought. In this 2012 photo, a man places his hand on parched soil in the Greater Upper Nile region of northeastern South Sudan.
There's not a direct link between climate change and wildfires, exactly. But many scientists believe the increase in wildfires in the Western United States is partly the result of tinder-dry forests parched by warming temperatures. This photo shows a wildfire as it approaches the shore of Bass Lake, California, in mid-September.
Coral reefs —
Scientists say the oceans' temperatures have risen by more than 1 degree Fahrenheit over the last century. It doesn't sound like much, but it's been enough to affect the fragile ecosystems of coral reefs, which have been bleaching and dying off in recent decades. This photo shows dead coral off the coast of St. Martin's Island in Bangladesh.
Food prices —
A U.N. panel found in March that climate change -- mostly drought -- is already affecting the global agricultural supply and will likely drive up food prices. Here, in 2010, workers on combines harvest soybeans in northern Brazil. Global food experts have warned that climate change could double grain prices by 2050.
Pollen allergies —
Are you sneezing more often these days? Climate change may be to blame for that, too. Recent studies show that rising temperatures and carbon dioxide levels promote the growth of weedy plant species that produce allergenic pollen. The worst place in the United States for spring allergies in 2014, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America? Louisville, Kentucky.
Climate change has not been kind to the world's forests. Invasive species such as the bark beetle, which thrive in warmer temperatures, have attacked trees across the North American west, from Mexico to the Yukon. University of Colorado researchers have found that some populations of mountain pine beetles now produce two generations per year, dramatically boosting the bugs' threat to lodgepole and ponderosa pines. In this 2009 photo, dead spruces of the Yukon's Alsek River valley attest to the devastation wrought by the beetles.
Mountain glaciers —
The snows capping majestic Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest peak, once inspired Ernest Hemingway. Now they're in danger of melting away altogether. Studies suggest that if the mountain's snowcap continues to evaporate at its current rate, it could be gone in 15 years. Here, a Kilimanjaro glacier is viewed from Uhuru Peak in December 2010.
Endangered species —
Polar bears may be the poster child for climate change's effect on animals. But scientists say climate change is wreaking havoc on many other species -- including birds and reptiles -- that are sensitive to fluctuations in temperatures. One, this golden toad of Costa Rica and other Central American countries, has already gone extinct.
Animal migration —
It's not your imagination: Some animals -- mostly birds -- are migrating earlier and earlier every year because of warming global temperatures. Scholars from the University of East Anglia found that Icelandic black-tailed godwits have advanced their migration by two weeks over the past two decades. Researchers also have found that many species are migrating to higher elevations as temperatures climb.
Extreme weather —
The planet could see as many as 20 more hurricanes and tropical storms each year by the end of the century because of climate change, according to a 2013 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This image shows Superstorm Sandy bearing down on the New Jersey coast in 2012.
What is the best book to read on climate change? ›
- Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming. ...
- This Changes Everything: Capitalism Vs The Climate. ...
- The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming. ...
- The Sixth Extinction: ...
- The Story of More: ...
- Losing Earth: ...
- On Fire: ...
- All We Can Save:
- Global temperature rise.
- Warming ocean.
- Shrinking ice sheets.
- Retreating glaciers.
- Decreased snow cover.
- Sea level rise.
- Declining arctic sea ice.
- Extreme weather events.
Author Gail Herman presents both sides of the debate in this fact-based, fair-minded, and well-researched book that looks at the subject from many perspectives, including scientific, social, and political.What is the most effective solution to climate change? ›
Changing our main energy sources to clean and renewable energy is the best way to stop using fossil fuels. These include technologies like solar, wind, wave, tidal and geothermal power. Switch to sustainable transport. Petrol and diesel vehicles, planes and ships use fossil fuels.What organization published the most reliable report on climate change? ›
IPCC | Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis
That is the key finding of the latest scientific report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It finds changes in the Earth's climate in every region and across the whole climate system.
The Short Answer: Climate change describes a change in the average conditions — such as temperature and rainfall — in a region over a long period of time. NASA scientists have observed Earth's surface is warming, and many of the warmest years on record have happened in the past 20 years.What are 3 things we can do to help reduce climate change impacts? ›
- Make your voice heard by those in power. ...
- Eat less meat and dairy. ...
- Cut back on flying. ...
- Leave the car at home. ...
- Reduce your energy use, and bills. ...
- Respect and protect green spaces. ...
- Invest your money responsibly. ...
- Cut consumption – and waste.
More frequent and intense drought, storms, heat waves, rising sea levels, melting glaciers and warming oceans can directly harm animals, destroy the places they live, and wreak havoc on people's livelihoods and communities.What are 5 things you do to contribute to climate change? ›
- 1) Bring your own bottle or mug. ...
- 2) Replace inefficient bulbs. ...
- 3) Turn off some lights. ...
- 4) Have a “2 degrees” goal at home. ...
- 5) Walk or bike somewhere you'd normally drive today. ...
- 6) Vote! ...
- 7) Plant something. ...
- 8) Take a hike.
Svante Arrhenius the father of climate change (1896)
Who was the first to talk about climate change? ›
Scientists first began to worry about climate change toward the end of the 1950s, Spencer Weart, a historian and retired director of the Center for History of Physics at the American Institute of Physics in College Park, Maryland, told Live Science in an email.Who is the most to blame for climate change? ›
Rich countries, including the United States, Canada, Japan and much of western Europe, account for just 12 percent of the global population today but are responsible for 50 percent of all the planet-warming greenhouse gases released from fossil fuels and industry over the past 170 years.How can we help save the environment from climate change essay? ›
- Make policies and agreements on climate change.
- Implement projects on clean energy.
- Create social awareness on climate change.
- Prohibit deforestation and cutting down trees.
- Conduct capacity building programs on climate change.
- Keep the surroundings clean.
- Spread the word. Encourage your friends, family and co-workers to reduce their carbon pollution. ...
- Keep up the political pressure. ...
- Transform your transport. ...
- Rein in your power use. ...
- Tweak your diet. ...
- Shop local and buy sustainable. ...
- Don't waste food. ...
- Dress (climate) smart.
- Associated Press: Climate. Climate hub for the independent global news service. ...
- Bloomberg Green. ...
- CNN: Climate. ...
- The Guardian: Climate News. ...
- L.A. Times: Climate & Environment. ...
- National Public Radio: Environment. ...
- New York Times: Climate News. ...
Carbon dioxide (CO2)—a greenhouse gas—has become a major concern as climate change becomes a bigger issue. The top five CO2-producing nations in 2020 were China, the United States, India, Russia, and Japan.What is the current state of climate change 2022? ›
The global mean temperature in 2022 is currently estimated to be about 1.15 [1.02 to 1.28] °C above the 1850-1900 pre-industrial average. A rare triple-dip cooling La Niña means that 2022 is likely to “only” be fifth or sixth warmest.What are 3 important causes of climate change? ›
Burning fossil fuels, cutting down forests and farming livestock are increasingly influencing the climate and the earth's temperature. This adds enormous amounts of greenhouse gases to those naturally occurring in the atmosphere, increasing the greenhouse effect and global warming.What is climate change short words? ›
Climate change refers to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns. These shifts may be natural, such as through variations in the solar cycle. But since the 1800s, human activities have been the main driver of climate change, primarily due to burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas.What is the main message about climate change? ›
Climate change won't just disappear
We release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels for energy, farming, and destroying forests. These carbon emissions are causing the greenhouse effect, trapping heat and making the Earth warmer, faster than could happen naturally.
What are 10 ways to stop climate change? ›
- Change a light. Replacing one regular light bulb with a compact fluorescent light bulb will save 150 pounds of carbon dioxide a year.
- Drive less. ...
- Recycle more. ...
- Check your tires. ...
- Use less hot water. ...
- Avoid products with a lot of packaging. ...
- Adjust your thermostat. ...
- Plant a tree.
Climate change has caused increased heat, drought, and insect outbreaks. In turn, these changes have made wildfires more numerous and severe. The warming climate has also caused a decline in water supplies, reduced agricultural yields, and triggered heat-related health impacts in cities.Why is climate change a problem? ›
The impacts of climate change on different sectors of society are interrelated. Drought can harm food production and human health. Flooding can lead to disease spread and damages to ecosystems and infrastructure. Human health issues can increase mortality, impact food availability, and limit worker productivity.How does climate change affect everyday life? ›
We are losing natural spaces. High temperatures, lack of precipitation and desertification are depriving areas of rain. This means river levels in these areas are falling, causing lakes, ponds and wells to dry up, and even disappear in some places.How can you contribute to our society when it comes to climate change and in what ways are you going to implement it? ›
- Urge government to take bold, ambitious climate action now.
- Help raise climate ambition by painting your town with climate art.
- Use energy wisely — and save money too!
- Mobilize for local climate action.
- Green your commute.
- Start a climate conversation.
- Consume less, waste less, enjoy life more.
1) Greta Thunberg is an environmental activist. She was born in Stockholm, Sweden, in 2003. When she was eight, she started learning about climate change. The more she learned, the more baffled she became as to why so little was being done about it.When did the Earth start warming up? ›
The instrumental temperature record shows the signal of rising temperatures emerged in the tropical ocean in about the 1950s. Today's study uses the extra information captured in the proxy record to trace the start of the warming back a full 120 years, to the 1830s.How did global warming start? ›
Scientists attribute the global warming trend observed since the mid-20th century to the human expansion of the "greenhouse effect" — warming that results when the atmosphere traps heat radiating from Earth toward space. Life on Earth depends on energy coming from the Sun.Which part of the world is most affected by climate change? ›
1. Afghanistan. Between 1950 and 2010, the temperatures in Afghanistan increased by 1.8ºC, and an optimistic view of the climate crisis in the country still shows a minimum increase of 1.4°C by 2050 (the worst case scenario would see a 6ºC increase by the end of this century).Why do we need to stop climate change? ›
The main threats of climate change, stemming from the rising temperature of Earth's atmosphere include rising sea levels, ecosystem collapse and more frequent and severe weather. Rising temperatures from human-caused greenhouse gas emissions affects planet-wide systems in various ways.
Who is trying to stop climate change? ›
EPA is responsible for measuring greenhouse gas emissions using two programs designed to help the public and policymakers understand the nation's total emissions as well as the sources and types of these emissions at individual facilities.What is a good conclusion for a climate change essay? ›
In conclusion, climate change is the most significant problem facing the world. Global warming is increasing day by day. If we cannot prevent it as soon as possible, our world will face undesirable consequences.How can we prevent and reduce climate change slogan? ›
- We can plant trees to make our environment less polluted.
- Start living and stop polluting.
- Save the environment, reduce pollution.
- Protect what our children deserve.
- Let's take care of the trees with love and love.
- Think green. ...
- Save the Earth, Save Yourself.
- We protect nature.
Consume Less—The easiest way to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions is simply to buy less stuff. Whether by forgoing an automobile or employing a reusable grocery sack, cutting back on consumption results in fewer fossil fuels being burned to extract, produce and ship products around the globe.How long do humans have left? ›
Humanity has a 95% probability of being extinct in 7,800,000 years, according to J. Richard Gott's formulation of the controversial Doomsday argument, which argues that we have probably already lived through half the duration of human history.Does Warren Buffett believe in climate change? ›
Buffett is opposed to the climate change proposal because they have long felt that Berkshire doesn't disclose enough details about its corporate empire.What did David Attenborough say about climate change? ›
"We caused it - our kind of industrialisation is one of the major factors in producing this change in climate. So we have a moral responsibility. "Even if we didn't cause it, we would have a moral responsibility to do something about thousands of men, women and children who've lost everything, everything.Which books would you recommend to someone who is interested in the environment? ›
- Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer.
- Choked: the Age of Air Pollution and the Fight for a Cleaner Future by Beth Gardiner.
- Downriver: Into the Future of Water in the West by Heather Hansman.
But Chief Executive Warren Buffett is adamantly opposed. Berkshire shareholders voted handily against climate change proposals last year. “Overwhelmingly, the people that bought Berkshire with their own money voted against those policies,” Buffett said at last year's annual shareholders meeting.What does Bill Gates think of climate change? ›
“I don't think it's realistic to say that people are utterly going to change their lifestyle because of concerns about climate,” Gates said to Akshat Rathi in an episode of the Bloomberg podcast, “Zero,” which published on Thursday. The only real solution, Gates said, is to innovate better and cheaper alternatives.
How will Bill Gates survive climate change? ›
Buy climate-friendly products to help drive costs down
“As green products come out like electric cars or synthetic meat or heat pumps for home heating/cooling they will cost a bit extra. By buying these products you drive scaling up which will lead to lower prices so 'green premiums' are reduced,” Gates said on Reddit.
While Musk acknowledged in parentheticals that he believes global warming to be a “major risk,” he emphasized how important he thinks demographics are, “Mark these words.”What does Leonardo DiCaprio say about climate change? ›
"Climate change is real. It is happening right now," Leo said on stage after winning the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in The Revenant. "It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating," he added.What did Karl Marx say about climate change? ›
Agriculture today is a major contributor to climate change. Marx described this breach of natural cycles with linear productive processes as an 'ecological rift' in the 'metabolism' between human society and the natural, non-human, environment. This ecological rift continues today.What is Pope Francis saying about climate change? ›
Science and religion are aligned on this matter: The time to act is now. "We share Pope Francis' view that our response to environmental degradation and climate change cannot only be defined by science, technology or economics, but is also a moral imperative.Which book first urged the society to become more environmentally aware? ›
Published in 1962, Silent Spring was an extraordinary book that opened the public's eyes to the dangers of DDT, the first broadly-used synthesized pesticide, to wildlife and human health.What should I study if I care about the environment? ›
If you'd like to prepare for a climate career, consider a major that immerses you in the study of the environment and ecology. Students who choose a specific focus — such as atmospheric science, marine biology, or horticulture — can contribute their unique expertise toward mitigating climate change.What book helped inspire the modern environmental movement? ›
Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, published in 1962, was a landmark in the development of the modern environmental movement.What has Elon Musk done to stop climate change? ›
Through his companies like Tesla and SolarCity, he has helped developed electric vehicles, solar roof panels, and renewable energy storage devices.What is Jeff Bezos doing for climate change? ›
Bezos unveiled the Climate Pledge, in which he said Amazon would meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement 10 years ahead of schedule and would be carbon-neutral by 2040.
What would Adam Smith say about climate change? ›
I have been a strong advocate for policies that support environmental justice efforts. It is an indisputable fact that the earth's climate is warming and changing, and poses a grave threat to the entire world.