Video: Meteorologist Resigns Following Right-Wing Threats Over Climate Change Coverage

For a couple years now, I’ve paired fighting climate change, with fighting fascism. There are a number of reasons for this, but the biggest one, from the climate perspective, is that fascists value power far more highly than the environment, and so they’ll happily continue denying climate science, and using fossil fuels. When it comes to crises that can’t be ignored, well, the recent refugee boat disaster, which I’ve seen some right-wingers celebrating, is a good example of the eco-fascist solution. In the meantime, they are actively terrorizing people just for reporting on what’s happening. An Iowa meteorologist named Chris Gloninger has been getting death threats, some bad enough to give him PTSD, and has decided to resign because of it. Mike Figueredo from The Humanist Report has more:

A New Age of Fire and Floods

Many years ago, I suggested to my parents that they might want to have plans in case of future wildfires. Their response was that New Hampshire got enough rain to make that pretty unlikely, at least for a while. They were right, of course, and New Hampshire has not had a serious fire problem in the years since. This is a good thing, of course, but it looks like that good thing might be on its way out, because Nova Scotia is burning.

I’ve been up there once, during a summer vacation in my childhood. We spent a couple weeks there, in public campgrounds, and one of my biggest memories from that trip was that it was gray and rainy the whole time. Nova Scotia is a peninsular province that sticks out into the North Atlantic ocean, to the east of Maine, and I think it typically gets a bit more rain than southern New Hampshire. Everywhere has fires from time to time, but it’s not an area historically known for being on fire, even in the more toasty era of the last decade. Unfortunately, history’s lessons fall short, in the face of a warming event unlike anything our species has ever encountered, and Nova Scotia is burning.

Officials and climate experts in Nova Scotia, Canada on Tuesday pointed to numerous climate-related factors that have contributed to the wildfires that are raging in the province this week, forcing the evacuation of more than 16,000 people and destroying roughly 200 homes and other structures.

The Tantallon fire in the Halifax area and the Barrington Lake fire in the southwestern county of Shelburne have burned through a combined 25,000 acres in the Maritime province, which, as one firefighter told the Canadian newspaper SaltWire, has historically been far less likely to experience such blazes than landlocked western provinces.

“This the worst fire I’ve ever been on,” volunteer firefighter Capt. Brett Tetanish toldSaltWire. “I’ve been on other large fires in Nova Scotia, Porters Lake, we lost structures there, but you don’t see fires like this in Nova Scotia. You see these in Alberta.”

Tetanish described a “surreal” scene as he drove toward the Tantallon fire on Sunday evening.

“We’re driving on Hammonds Plains Road with fire on both sides of the road, structures on fire, cars abandoned and burnt in the middle of the road,” he toldSaltWire.

Other witnesses, including a filmmaker, posted videos on social media of “apocalyptic scenes” showing fires destroying homes and huge plumes of smoke rendering highways nearly invisible to drivers.

“I almost died,” said the filmmaker. “The fire is spreading, it’s very serious. We couldn’t see anything.”

Halfway through 2023, Nova Scotia has already experienced more wildfires than it did in all of 2022, according to the National Observer.

Karen McKendry, a wilderness outreach coordinator at the Ecology Action Center in Nova Scotia’s capital, Halifax, told the Observer the province has experienced hotter dryer weather than normal this spring, making it easier for fires to spread.

“People haven’t always, on a national scale, been thinking about Nova Scotia and wildfires,” McKendry said. “What dominates the consciousness, rightly so in Canada, is what’s happening out West. But with a warming climate and some drier seasons, this is going to become more common in Nova Scotia. So more fires, more widespread fires, more destructive fires from a human perspective as well.”

The province’s Department of Natural Resources and Renewables (DNRR) also warned last Friday that the wildfires were taking hold in the region less than a year after Hurricane Fiona downed what Premier Tim Houston called a “significant” number of trees across Nova Scotia.

“Fires in areas where Hurricane Fiona downed trees have the potential to move faster and burn more intensely, making them potentially more difficult to contain and control,” said the DNRR. “At this time, needles, twigs, leaves, etc., support fire ignition and spread. With high winds, the spread can be rapid and intense.”

Scientists last year linked warming oceans, fueled by the continued extraction of fossil fuels and emissions of planet-heating greenhouse gases, to Fiona’s destruction in Eastern Canada.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned Monday that the situation in Nova Scotia is “incredibly serious,” prompting Saman Tabasinejad, acting executive director of Progress Toronto, to point to Trudeau’s support for fossil fuel projects like the Trans Mountain Pipeline.

“This would be a great time to end fossil fuel subsidies and invest in a Green New Deal!” Tabasinejad said on Twitter.

Yes, yes it would.

This doesn’t mean that the east coast of North America is now as fire-prone as the west coast.  It’s not. What it does mean is that, as scientists have long predicted, the rules are changing. Climate-related disasters that used to be limited to certain parts of the world, are now showing up in new places. This is our world now. We’ve known this was coming for decades, and we know that it’s only going to get worse. That’s why I’m so convinced that we need to move farming indoors – where we grow our food right now depends almost entirely on historical climate conditions. This is happening right now, and the people running the world are all so stuck in the past, and so obsessed with their own power, that they are actively working to stop humanity from saving ourselves.

Mark Fisher describes “capitalist realism” as having an easier time imagining the end of the world, than the end of capitalism. It’s time we faced up to the fact that the capitalists have decided that if dealing with climate change requires an end to capitalism, then they would rather see the entire species killed off, than lose their power.

That should not be up to them

Global warming is driving insurers out of California

For as long as I’ve been paying attention, folks talking about climate change have been pointing to insurance companies as a way to track damage that might not otherwise be easy to see. If the planet’s temperature really was rising, and that was causing an increase in extreme weather, then those companies that insure against climate disasters would have to increase their rates and/or change their policies, to remain profitable. It’s one of those areas where society bumps up against the “natural world” with very little cushion, and sure enough, insurance companies have noticed the change. Take this Smithsonian article from back in 2013:

“Our business depends on us being neutral. We simply try to make the best possible assessment of risk today, with no vested interest,” says Robert Muir-Wood, the chief scientist of Risk Management Solutions (RMS), a company that creates software models to allow insurance companies to calculate risk. “In the past, when making these assessments, we looked to history. But in fact, we’ve now realized that that’s no longer a safe assumption—we can see, with certain phenomena in certain parts of the world, that the activity today is not simply the average of history.”

This pronounced shift can be seen in extreme rainfall events, heat waves and wind storms. The underlying reason, he says, is climate change, driven by rising greenhouse gas emissions. Muir-Wood’s company is responsible for figuring out just how much more risk the world’s insurance companies face as a result of climate change when homeowners buy policies to protect their property.


“Catastrophes are complex, and the kinds of things that happen during them are complex, so we are constantly trying to improve our modeling to capture the full range of extreme events,” Muir-Wood says, noting that RMS employs more than 100 scientists and mathematicians towards this goal. “When Hurricane Sandy happened, for instance, we already had events like Sandy in our models—we had anticipated the complexity of having a really big storm driving an enormous storm surge, even with wind speeds that were relatively modest.”

These models are not unlike those used by scientists to estimate the long-term changes our climate will undergo as it warms over the next century, but there’s one important difference: Insurance companies care mainly about the next year, not the next 100 years, because they mostly sell policies one year at a time.

But even in the short term, Muir-Wood’s team has determined, the risk of a variety of disasters seems to have already shifted. “The first model in which we changed our perspective is on U.S. Atlantic hurricanes. Basically, after the 2004 and 2005 seasons, we determined that it was unsafe to simply assume that historical averages still applied,” he says. “We’ve since seen that today’s activity has changed in other particular areas as well—with extreme rainfall events, such as the recent flooding in Boulder, Colorado, and with heat waves in certain parts of the world.”

Again, that article was published in 2013. Unfortunately, things have progressed since then, and I doubt you need me to tell you that. The most dramatic example, in the United States, is probably the growing California fire season, which has created truly hellish conditions, and given us this surreal and terrifying commute to work:

The image shows a number of cars on a freeway, slightly out of focus. It's dark, and the cars all have their lights on. In the background, the world is on fire. The hillside nearest the camera on the left of the image seems to be smouldering, more smoke and coal than fire. Beyond that, you can see a brighter orange, leading to yellow flames on the righthand side of the picture, illuminating the smoke that fills the sky. The cars are all driving straight towards the inferno. It's as if they're commuting into a fiery underworld.

The image shows a number of cars on a freeway, slightly out of focus. It’s dark, and the cars all have their lights on. In the background, the world is on fire. The hillside nearest the camera on the left of the image seems to be smouldering, more smoke and coal than fire. Beyond that, you can see a brighter orange, leading to yellow flames on the righthand side of the picture, illuminating the smoke that fills the sky. The cars are all driving straight towards the inferno. It’s as if they’re commuting into a fiery underworld

This picture captures something that has been bothering me since the pandemic started – the way we’re all forced to act as though everything’s fine. The pandemic was sort of an appetizer. We had our faces rubbed in the fact that the people running our world would happily see us dead, so long as it didn’t disrupt their lives. After all, they work so hard to ensure that there are always people without jobs, so if some of them, they can be replaced.

The main course, of course, is climate change. The bit of the world you live in can be on fire, but you’re expected to go to keep on working, because profit is what matters. Human extinction is a real possibility here, and every delay in action makes it more likely. We know what’s causing this, and we know that the capitalist obsession with overproduction and endless growth is the primary driver of the problem. And yet, people are expected to continue adding fuel to that fire, because it’s the only way they’re allowed to survive.

This can’t go on forever. Everything is not normal, and a new announcement from State Farm indicates that California, at least, has reached a crisis point:

State Farm has stopped accepting homeowner insurance applications in California, citing the growing risk from catastrophes like wildfires and the rising cost to rebuild.

“State Farm General Insurance Company made this decision due to historic increases in construction costs outpacing inflation, rapidly growing catastrophe exposure, and a challenging reinsurance market,” the insurance giant said in a statement on Friday.

“It’s necessary to take these actions now to improve the company’s financial strength,” the company added.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, State Farm was the leading company offering home insurance in California.

The decision to forgo coverage went into effect on Saturday. It applies to both personal and business properties. The company said it will continue to serve existing customers, as well as offer personal auto insurance.

Make no mistake – this policy, if it’s maintained, is a phase-out. They will lose customers, for one reason or another, and they do not intend to replace them. This doesn’t mean that California is uninhabitable, obviously. It doesn’t even guarantee that home and business insurance is no longer profitable in California, but it does mean that a large and successful insurance corporation thinks that it will be unprofitable, in the not-so-distant future. It looks like this year is expected to be more or less normal, as wildfires go, and apparently El Niño years have fewer fires, so hopefully California will get something resembling a break from the fires, but the warming continues, and the insurance industry knows that.

The measure is the latest development in what has been a years-long issue in California: insurance companies dropping homeowners because of the growing risk of wildfires.

In recent years, the state has witnessed some of the most destructive wildfire seasons in its history. In 2018, the Camp Fire destroyed 11,000 homes and at one point, displaced nearly 50,000 people. In its aftermath, insurance companies saw huge losses, causing premiums to go up and toughening eligibility requirements to get covered.

California officials have attempted to minimize such efforts, by temporarily barring insurers from dropping customers in areas hit by wildfires and directing insurance companies to provide discounts.

But as wildfires rage on in the state, so has the issue of insurance affordability and availability. Last year, American International Group notified the state’s insurance regulator that it will exit the homeowners market.

The efforts they mention, by California officials, seem to be a misguided attempt to cling to normalcy. I have no sympathy for the insurance corporations, but our government should be focused on climate change, not the financial tool we’re currently using as a bandaid for it. That means ending fossil fuel use, yes, but thanks to the negligence, corruption, and greed of our “leaders”, we also have to spend money adapting to a warming world. We had a chance to delay or even avoid this, but that chance was squandered, so here we are. Capitalism has no solution to climate change; all it can do is find ways to keep the rich and powerful, rich and powerful. This insurance exodus will discourage people from moving to California, and encourage people living there to leave, but it will do so slowly and painfully, and it will not address the actual problem, or help those people set up in a less flammable location. It’s not a solution, it’s just corporations putting profit first, as they always do. In that regard, one could argue that this is just business as usual; corporations do what they want, and we just have to go along with it.

Our overlords can force us to go through the motions of normalcy. They have the power to do that, and we lack the power to resist.

For now.

But the world is changing, and it’s getting a lot harder to pretend otherwise. It may be that those changes would spur reactionary politics even without the support of capitalists, but that support does exist, and at least part of it comes from their fear of us. The folks at the top have always practiced class solidarity, and have never stopped waging a class war against workers. They’re scared now, to the point that many are actively supporting fascism, because they are seeing solidarity form among workers, and they fear that organized, collective power that follows. That doesn’t mean we’re guaranteed to win, of course, but it should serve as a reminder that victory is not out of reach. With solidarity and organization, we can build the power to resist, and to bring about the scale of change that’s needed, if we want to survive.

Because I’ve been focused on a novel for the last month, the quality of posts has been lagging, and there will be a few more days of that before I go back to normal. Part of the reason that I feel this is necessary is that this blog is currently my only source of income, and it’s not enough. I’m hoping that (assuming AI doesn’t flood the market completely), I can come closer to making ends meet via book sales, in a year or two. If you want me to invest more time and energy in this blog, the best way for you to tell me that, is by signing up at There aren’t currently a lot of fancy benefits, but you’d be joining a rarefied group of people, and proving that you also have excellent taste!

The Birds are Shrinking!

When I was getting my biology degree, I was very much focused on ecology. Life on this planet is a complex, shimmering web of interaction and interdependency; pluck one strand, and the whole world vibrates. As organisms, we all affect both each other, and also the abiotic world around us. Some species, like humans, have bigger effects than others, but the reality is that you cannot study one organism without, at least in part, accounting for the others that live around it.

Later, when I was working as a curriculum developer, I wrote climate science lessons that viewed the issue through an ecological lens. See, while there was still mainstream “debate” over whether the planet was warming, wildlife around the globe was already actively responding to changes that a lot of people either didn’t notice, or were able to dismiss in their own minds. By focusing on ecosystems, we were able to show, over a decade ago, that the planet was warming, and that the effects of that warming were already measurable in the wildlife around us. I still think it was a good project, but the US public education system has little room to try new things, and is utterly clogged with testing. Add to that the difficulty in getting funds for this sort of work, and it’s hard not to feel like we were doomed from the start. That perspective on climate change, however, is still useful.

At the time, a lot of the research we were looking at related to changes in migration timing, ecological mismatch, and species range shifts. More recently, scientists have been tracking changes in body size and shape, driven by the warming of our planet. The latest example is a study showing that birds, at least in the Americas, are getting smaller, with longer wings:

The study combines data from two previously published papers that measured body-size and wing-length changes in a total of more than 86,000 bird specimens over four decades in North and South America. One study examined migrating birds killed after colliding with buildings in Chicago; the other looked at nonmigrating birds netted in the Amazon.

Though the two datasets are nonoverlapping in both species composition and geography, and the data were collected independently using different methods, the birds in both studies displayed similarly widespread declines in body size with concurrent increases in wing length.

Now, a new analysis of the combined data has revealed an even more striking pattern: In both studies, smaller bird species declined proportionately faster in body size and increased proportionately faster in wing length.

“The relationships between body size and rates of change are remarkably consistent across both datasets. However, the biological mechanism underlying the observed link between body size and rates of morphological change requires further investigation,” said U-M ornithologist Benjamin Winger, one of the study’s two senior authors, an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, and an assistant curator at the Museum of Zoology.

Both the Chicago and Amazonian studies attributed the reductions in species body size to increasing temperatures over the past 40 years, suggesting that body size may be an important determinant of species responses to climate change.

Birds hitting buildings is actually a serious problem, with around one billion killed every year in the US alone. It’s also helpful for science. I worked in a natural history museum in college, and part of my job was turning dead animals into study specimens. This was not taxidermy – that’s a whole art form in itself, and if I attempted it, my work would probably end up on Bad Taxidermy. No, what I did was skin them carefully (mostly birds), treat the skin, and stuff it with cotton wrapped around a wooden dowel, creating a sort of a preserved bird on a stick. These specimens are kept in drawers, so that they can be studied, and most of them came from people bringing in roadkill or window-killed birds. Natural history museums basically have libraries of dead plants and animals, along with data about them, that allow us to study the past, and compare it to what’s going on now. It’d be best if we could cut down on the death, but in the mean time, we might as well learn from it, right? I don’t miss the smells, though.

Getting back to the point of this post, the researchers also discussed the implications of the faster change in smaller birds:

It could be that smaller-bodied birds are adapting more quickly to evolutionary pressures. But the available data did not allow the U-M-led team to test whether the observed size shifts represent rapid evolutionary changes in response to natural selection.

“If natural selection plays a role in the patterns we observed, our results suggest that smaller bird species might be evolving faster because they experience stronger selection, are more responsive to selection, or both,” said co-senior author Brian Weeks, an evolutionary ecologist at the U-M School for Environment and Sustainability.

“Either way, body size appears to be a primary mediator of birds’ responses to contemporary climate change.”

So, if larger-bodied birds are responding more slowly to global change, what’s the prognosis for the coming decades, as temperatures continue to climb?

“Our results suggest that large body size could further exacerbate extinction risk by limiting the potential to adapt to rapid, ongoing anthropogenic change,” said study lead author Marketa Zimova, a former U-M Institute for Global Change Biology postdoctoral researcher now at Appalachian State University.

“In contrast, the body-size effect on evolutionary rates might increase persistence of small taxa if their rapidly changing morphology reflects a faster adaptive response to changing conditions.”

It’s important to remember the broader context in which this is happening. Specifically, the fact that bird populations are declining dramatically. It’s kind of neat to see natural selection in action like this, but it’s important to remember that this isn’t birds “changing their body sizes”, it’s the death or decreased reproductive success of birds that, in this case, are too big, or have wings that are too short. What I said about squid and lizards last October applies here as well:

When the average limb length of a Caribbean anole population changes, that doesn’t mean that we’ve got the same number of lizards and they all just have different legs. It means all of the ones with different proportions died. If you lay tens of thousands of eggs at a time, like the squid, then your population can probably bounce back pretty quickly if a few of you adapt to changing conditions. For those of us who reproduce more slowly, a drop in population like that means that it will take that much less to kill off everyone that remains.

If bird populations were stable as this change took place, then I don’t think there would be much cause for concern, but they’re not. They are adapting to climate change, but combined with habitat destruction, pollution, and pesticides, that may not be enough for many species. The world is changing around us, and every species on the planet is responding to it, ourselves included. Whether we are able to survive will depend on how quickly we adjust, and how much we do to slow down the warming. At the moment, it’s not looking good.

Thank you for reading! If you liked this post, please share it around. If you read this blog regularly, please consider joining my small but wonderful group of patrons. Because of my immigration status, I’m not allowed to get a normal job, so my writing is all I have for the foreseeable future, and I’d love for it to be a viable career long-term. As part of that goal, I’m currently working on a young adult fantasy series, so if supporting this blog isn’t enough inducement by itself, for just $5/month you can work with me to name a place or character in that series!

It’s Not the Heat, It’s the Humidity: The Dark Side of Urban Greenery

I talk a lot about why we should cover our cities with plants. They’re good for our health in a number of ways, and through transpiration, they tend to cool off their surroundings. Urban heat islands are a big problem that is getting bigger as the planet warms, and plants are regularly proposed as at least a partial solution. I continue to believe that we should have as much urban greenery as possible, but some recent research has touched on a concern I’ve had for a while now.

As I said the other day, we urgently need to be rebuilding our society to deal with a coming heat that can no longer be avoided. That means that we need to account, as best we’re able, for conditions unlike anything our species has ever encountered. I want us to actually be proactive about this. We should be moving cities away from low-lying coastal areas, or rebuilding them to withstand rising seas. We should be moving our agriculture indoors, to the greatest degree possible, to protect food production from the heat and instability of this brave new world.

And, since we know that the temperature will keep rising, we should be planning for extreme heat waves, even if we do manage to literally green our cities. That means accounting for the fact that the transpiration that works so well to lower the temperature also works to increase humidity. Even if all the plant life lowers a city’s temperature by ten degrees, that won’t make it safe outside if the humidity creates wet-bulb conditions, in which we lose our ability to cool ourselves by sweating. The one advantage that cities have in this regard is that they tend to be drier than their surroundings, and bringing in more plants could make the heat deadly at lower temperatures:

A new study, led by Yale School of the Environment scientists and published in Nature, investigated the combined effect of temperature and humidity on urban heat stress using observational data and an urban climate model calculation. Researchers found that the heat stress burden is dependent on local climate and a humidifying effect can erase the cooling benefits that would come from trees and vegetation.

“A widely held view is that urban residents suffer more heat burden than the general population owing to the urban heat island phenomenon. This view is incomplete because it omits another ubiquitous urban microclimate phenomenon called the urban dry island — that urban land tends to be less humid than the surrounding rural land,” says Xuhui Lee, Sara Shallenberger Brown Professor of Meteorology, who directed the study.  “In dry, temperate, and boreal climates, urban residents are actually less heat-stressed than rural residents. But in the humid Global South, the urban heat island is dominant over the urban dry island, resulting in two to six extra dangerous heat stress days per summer.”

Lee and YSE doctoral student Keer Zhang, lead author of the study, say they were motivated to investigate the issue for several reasons: a large percentage of the global population lives in urban areas; many people in informal urban settlements do not have access to air conditioning; and the problem is going to get worse as temperatures rise and more people move to cities. About 4.3 billion people, or 55% of the world’s population, live in urban settings, and the number is expected to rise to 80% by 2050, according to the World Economic Forum.

The researchers developed a theoretical framework on how urban land modifies both air temperature and air humidity and showed that these two effects have equal weight in heat stress as measured by the wet-bulb temperature, in contrary to other heat indexes, which weigh temperature more heavily than humidity. Wet-bulb temperature combines dry air temperature with humidity to measure humid heat. The results of the study, the authors note, raise important questions.

Green vegetation can lower air temperature via water evaporation, but it can also increase heat burden because of air humidity. The question then is to what extent this humidifying effect erases the cooling benefit arising from temperature reduction. We hope to answer this question in a follow-up study, where we are comparing observations of the wet-bulb temperature in urban greenspaces (with dense tree cover) and those in built-up neighborhoods,” Lee says.

I’ve made the same assumption they’re calling out. This doesn’t negate the various benefits I mentioned at the top, which is why I still like the “green cities” idea, but it underscores the importance of guaranteeing access to artificial cooling. I’ve said before that we’re pretty close to a world in which spending time outside will be lethal in a growing portion of the the population, for a growing portion of the time. We know how to deal with lethally cold temperatures – the fact that we generate heat just by living, means that we can insulate ourselves against the cold, at least for a time. That’s not an option when it comes to heat. I suppose we could try to give everyone a version the liquid cooling garments that astronauts wear, but to me, it seems more practical to start rebuilding cities so that, in addition to the goals of the 15 minute city concept, it’s possible for most of the population live their day to day lives without having to go outside at all. This would require a pretty radical rebuilding of most cities, but in the face of the coming heat, we need to do that anyway.

I will probably keep being nervous about the recent unexplained spike in sea surface temperatures going forward. Even the best-case scenario, going forward, is a terrifying reminder that the really bad times the scientists have been warning us about are a lot closer than most people realize. Having plants around is a good thing, but the rules are changing as the temperature rises, and we have to change with them if we want to survive.

Thank you for reading! If you liked this post, please share it around. If you read this blog regularly, please consider joining my small but wonderful group of patrons. Because of my immigration status, I’m not allowed to get a normal job, so my writing is all I have for the foreseeable future, and I’d love for it to be a viable career long-term. As part of that goal, I’m currently working on a young adult fantasy series, so if supporting this blog isn’t enough inducement by itself, for just $5/month you can work with me to name a place or character in that series!

Record Ocean Heat Frightens Scientists, Threatens Grim New Era

For the last few decades, Earth’s oceans have been absorbing the vast majority of global warming – over 90%. This has resulted in declining oxygen levels, marine heatwaves, and a myriad of problems for marine life. Last March, I covered research from Monterey Bay Aquarium that confirmed that “extreme” heat is now the norm for a majority of the ocean’s surface. That would be alarming enough, even though the news is a year old, but now we’ve got more bad news to add to it:

Temperatures in the world’s oceans have broken fresh records, testing new highs for more than a month in an “unprecedented” run that has led to scientists stating the Earth has reached “uncharted territory” in the climate crisis.

The rapid acceleration of ocean temperatures in the last month is an anomaly that scientists have yet to explain. Data collated by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), known as the Optimum Interpolation Sea Surface Temperature (OISST) series, gathered by satellites and buoys, has shown temperatures higher than in any previous year, in a series stretching back to 1981, continuously over the past 42 days.

The world is thought to be on the brink of an El Niño weather event this year – a cyclical weather system in the Pacific, that has a warming impact globally. But the El Niño system is yet to develop, so this oscillation cannot explain the recent rapid heating, at a time of year when ocean temperatures are normally declining from their annual March and April peaks.

Prof Mike Meredith of the British Antarctic Survey said: “This has got scientists scratching their heads. The fact that it is warming as much as it has been is a real surprise, and very concerning. It could be a short-lived extreme high, or it could be the start of something much more serious.”

The image shows the annual variation of ocean surface temperatures for every year from the present, dating back to 1981. April 2023 is far and away the hottest global sea surface temperature from that time period.

The image shows the annual variation of ocean surface temperatures for every year from the present, dating back to 1981. April 2023 is far and away the hottest global sea surface temperature from that time period.

That “something much more serious” is will happen, sooner or later. As the oceans warm, their capacity to keep absorbing the excess heat diminishes, which means that from our perspective, things are going to suddenly start warming a lot faster. Hotter oceans also have less capacity to absorb gases from the atmosphere, which increases the rate at which greenhouse gas concentrations increase. On top of all of that, there’s the fact that a hotter ocean creates stronger storms, which will set us even further back in this age of endless recovery. If the oceans are reaching some sort of thermal tipping point, that could also disrupt the big ocean currents that are so important to moving heat around the planet, and to bringing oxygen to the depths. A big change to those currents could have pretty immediate and dramatic effects on a global scale. It’s not just this year, either. Over the last 15 years, the oceans have apparently warmed as much as the previous 45 years; a finding that has been described as so disturbing that scientists don’t like to talk about it:

Scientists from institutions including Mercator Ocean International in France, Scripps Institution of Oceanography in the United States, and Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research collaborated to discover that as the planet has accumulated as much heat in the past 15 years as it did in the previous 45 years, the majority of the excess heat has been absorbed by the oceans.

In March, researchers examining the ocean off the east coast of North America found that the water’s surface was 13.8°C, or 14.8°F, hotter than the average temperature between 1981 and 2011.

The study notes that a rapid drop in shipping-related pollution could be behind some of the most recent warming, since fuel regulations introduced in 2020 by the International Maritime Organization reduced the heat-reflecting aerosol particles in the atmosphere and caused the ocean to absorb more energy.

But that doesn’t account for the average global ocean surface temperature rising by 0.9°C from preindustrial levels, with 0.6°C taking place in the last four decades.

The study represents “one of those ‘sit up and read very carefully’ moments,” said former BBC science editor David Shukman.

Lead study author Karina Von Schuckmann of Mercator Ocean International told the BBC that “it’s not yet well established, why such a rapid change, and such a huge change is happening.”

“We have doubled the heat in the climate system the last 15 years, I don’t want to say this is climate change, or natural variability or a mixture of both, we don’t know yet,” she said. “But we do see this change.”

It’s true, we don’t know for sure what’s going on. Maybe Godzilla is to blame!

In all seriousness, I don’t blame Shuckmann for being careful in the claims she makes. If I’m annoyed, it’s because of the people who love to jump on qualifiers like that to say, “See? They don’t even know what’s happening!” The reality is that even if this turns out to be a blip, and we’re lucky enough to get cooler sea surface temperatures over the next few years, that won’t change the trajectory we’re on. The heat in the oceans won’t just go away, even if it’s not at the surface. What’s more, when you have an unusually hot year, that adds to the momentum of the whole crisis. Ice melts a bit faster, permafrost thaws and rots a bit more, we get a few more fires, and now there’s just that much more CO2 in the atmosphere, and that much less ice to reflect sunlight back into space, and ecosystems are just that much less resilient.

As long as greenhouse gas levels keep rising, this can only go one way.

A study published earlier this year also found that rising ocean temperatures combined with high levels of salinity lead to the “stratification” of the oceans, and in turn, a loss of oxygen in the water.

“Deoxygenation itself is a nightmare for not only marine life and ecosystems but also for humans and our terrestrial ecosystems,” researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in January. “Reducing oceanic diversity and displacing important species can wreak havoc on fishing-dependent communities and their economies, and this can have a ripple effect on the way most people are able to interact with their environment.”

The unusual warming trend over recent years has been detected as a strong El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is expected to form in the coming months—a naturally occurring phenomenon that warms oceans and will reverse the cooling impact of La Niña, which has been in effect for the past three years.

“If a new El Niño comes on top of it, we will probably have additional global warming of 0.2-0.25°C,” Dr. Josef Ludescher of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Research told the BBC.

It looks like we should expect more extreme weather in the coming year or so, but if we have reached a point where the oceans are going to be less effective at absorbing heat and greenhouse gases, then things up on dry land are probably going to start progressing much more quickly. I often talk about how the action that has been taken so far to end fossil fuel use is criminally inadequate, but at this point that’s only half the picture. It’s been a decade or two since we passed the point at which dangerous warming could still be prevented. The inaction of our leadership, which seems to be a gerontocracy still stuck in the mid-20th century, has meant that it will keep warming for the rest of my life, and the rest of your life, dear reader, and the lives of your children, and of their children. Absent a series of technological and political miracles that seems very unlikely, this is our future now.

That means that simply ending fossil fuel use, while absolutely essential, is not enough. We must do better to prepare for a hotter planet. We must change how we produce food, to protect it from the conditions that we have created. We must reshape our infrastructure to deal with higher temperatures, stronger storms, and rising seas. We must take measures to to help those countries that have been deliberately kept poor for the benefit of rich nations withstand the hellish forces that have been unleashed upon this world.

Well, we must do all of that if we value human life. If we want to weather this storm, and keep making the world better.

It is past time that we considered that “we” don’t really want any of that, when it comes to the aristocracy of global capitalism. Despite Biden’s words, his actions show that he feels no urgency to deal with climate change. I’ll probably write more about this soon, but the people who run our world seem to be deliberately driving us to destruction, while setting themselves up to rule what remains. Maybe they think that reducing the population will reset the timer on how long they can cling to a system based on endless growth. Whether it’s delusion, malice, or both, they seem poised to use global warming to kill off most of humanity, while they live in luxury and insist that it’s all for the greater good.

I think the oceans could literally be boiling, and they’d still insist that they know best.

We are running out of time and options, both as a species, and as the working class that makes up most of that species. I don’t know how much longer we can afford to wait for those at the top to go against everything they believe, and act for the benefit of humanity. I think we’ve already wasted more time than we had on that false hope, and we’ve yet to fully grasp the price that we’re going to pay for that. We need revolutionary change, and we need it as soon as possible. It is my hope that a combination of worsening conditions, and a general strike, might get the powerful to change their tune. I don’t know how to get there from where we are. I’ll look into it, but I feel like we need more than my current attempt at an organizing guide. Mass unionization is probably the most direct route to the kind of organization we need. It’s a concept that’s familiar to people, and unions are more popular now than at any time I can remember. While I still like the notion of organizing centered around communities, the reality is that work is a bigger part of people’s lives than community right now, so it makes sense on multiple levels to start there.

In the meantime, one thing that individuals can do, outside of organizing and agitating, is prepare for hard times. If you can afford to, make a habit of keeping a store of non-perishable food, not just because climate change may disrupt supply chains and lead to shortages, but also because in the event of a general strike, you and those around you are likely to need the supplies. I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before, but a strike is a siege, and so success will depend on how well supplied we are.

At the same time, if you can, feed people who are hungry. Help people who need help. Economic desperation is the main weapon wielded by the rich in the class war, and undermining that empowers people, and builds solidarity. Those of us who want humanity to have a future have to come together and fight for that future. What I laid out above is the only path I can see that might lead to revolutionary change without war. As mentioned above, this big jump in ocean temperatures may just be a blip. We might have a rough year, then go back to a “normal” that’s still unacceptable. But we might not. Things have gone so far that it’s a real possibility that we’ve passed a major tipping point sooner than expected. If we don’t organize, prepare, and change course very soon, things will get ugly.

Thank you for reading! If you liked this post, please share it around. If you read this blog regularly, please consider joining my small but wonderful group of patrons. Because of my immigration status, I’m not allowed to get a normal job, so my writing is all I have for the foreseeable future, and I’d love for it to be a viable career long-term. As part of that goal, I’m currently working on a young adult fantasy series, so if supporting this blog isn’t enough inducement by itself, for just $5/month you can work with me to name a place or character in that series!

The global economy has lost more money to invasive species than to earthquakes

Invasive species are, as I’ve said before, a point at which traditional environmentalism intersects with climate activism. They can, by overwhelming local species, effectively terraform an entire land mass, as European earthworms have almost completed doing to North America. I think most of the time, even for species that don’t spend their lives underground, people don’t tend to notice invasive species or the effects they have. It’s very like how climate change has been “invisible” to most people, for most of the last 30 years, and it’s only recently that a lot of people have noticed something’s off.

Well, just as we’ve been using money to measure the cost of natural disasters, we can apparently now measure the cost of species invasion, and it turns out that the two are pretty comparable:

In a new study, an international research team led by scientists from the Écologie, systématique et évolution (CNRS/Université Paris-Saclay/AgroParisTech) reveals an explicit order of magnitude: the global economic impact of these biological invasions is equivalent to that of natural catastrophes. From 1980 to 2019, financial losses due to invasive alien species amounted to $1208 billion (US), compared to nearly $1914 billion in losses caused by storms, $1139 billion attributed to earthquakes and $1120 billion due to floods.

Scientists have also found that the costs of biological invasions increased more rapidly than those of natural disasters over a given period. Invasive alien species have a long-lasting and cumulative effect: for example, the zebra mussel is capable of attaching itself to a wide variety of substrates, wreaking havoc on everything from ship hulls to nuclear power plant pipes. Its spread is particularly problematic in North America.

Honestly, that makes sense. I’ve seen the way invasive species can choke out all life except for themselves, and there’s no way something like that doesn’t ripple out through the ecosystem. What economic damage is done, for example, by honeysuckle wiping out a forest’s understory? I don’t know, but it can’t be zero.

I’ve long held that we, as a species, now affect this planet on the scale of a “force of nature”, but it’s a power that we currently cannot control. Time will tell, I suppose, whether we manage to change that before we destroy ourselves, but the one reason I’m a bit optimistic about that, is that our ability to figure out how we are changing the world is growing.

More than that, ecologists have been working on how to control invasive species for a long time, and it’s something where, if nations were to actually take the issue seriously, we could probably make pretty radical progress pretty quickly. As with everything else, invasive species control isn’t going to save the world by itself, but it’s a piece of the puzzle, and it’s something that normal people can actually get involved with. Clearing out a local invasive could easily be part of community cleanup efforts, for example, with the support of local universities and/or nature centers, and I’m willing to bet that there are people in such institutions who would love to get more community involvement in that stuff. Imagine how much we could get done if the government got involved to help with material costs, or even provide financial incentives? We’ve used bounties in the past to destroy and destabilize ecosystems – why not do the same for rehabilitating them?

Murdered for defending a forest: Official autopsy undermines cop justification

This past January, I wrote briefly about the police killing of a forest defender named Manuel “Tortuguita” Terán . When I posted that, we didn’t know much, including who the victim was, but I pointed out that the story given by the cops – that Tortuguita had fired on them first – was probably a lie. The primary reason for that assumption was the simple fact that cops lie all the time, about pretty much everything. The secondary reason is that while there probably are activists out there who would feel justified in attacking police, I cannot believe that they’d go about it by facing an advancing wall of armed cops head-on, without any cover. My assumption seems to be well-founded, and I think I should provide a content warning for descriptions of gunshot wounds going forward.

The people who knew Tortuguita said that they were a pacifist, and as far as anyone knew, they were unarmed. Then came the body cam footage from cops who were nearby, saying that the gunfire they heard sounded suppressed (some of the cops’ weapons had silencers) and responding to someone on the radio implying that the cop who did get shot was the victim of “friendly fire”. Then came the autopsy commissioned by Tortuguita’s family, which indicated that they’d been hit by dozens of bullets – so many that their paths through their body frequently intersected.

And now, we have the official autopsy, revealing, in addition to the horrifying damage to their body, zero gunpowder residue on Tortuguita’s hands, meaning zero evidence that they had fired a gun.

DeKalb county’s autopsy, released to the media through open records requests on Wednesday, offers no support for the notion that Paez Terán fired a weapon, stating that “gunpowder residue is not seen on the hands” or clothes of Paez Terán. Residue on the hands might indicate that a person fired a gun, but neither this analysis nor a test known as the GSR kit is foolproof, according to experts.

Patrick Bailey, director of the DeKalb county medical examiner’s office, told the Guardian that the county forwarded evidence to the GBI for them to perform the GSR kit, or gunshot residue test.

Nonetheless, the autopsy report does little to clarify what actually happened that day, except for noting in 19 pages of clinical detail the 57 gunshot wounds that Paez Terán received, employing every letter of the alphabet more than once to label the injuries.

“I tried to read the whole thing – in the end it was a little too much,” said Daniel Paez, Manuel’s older brother, reached at his home in Texas. “The very fact that they’re talking about Manny, and how they died – I didn’t even want to share it with our mother, since the pain of losing Manny continues to haunt us; it doesn’t seem to get better.”

“It’s just brutal,” said Wingo Smith, one of the team of attorneys representing the Paez Terán family. “It’s just gruesome, the effect of the shots on their body, the actual devastation.” Smith and his colleagues received the autopsy results and met with staff at the DeKalb medical examiner’s office last week, and shared the report with the Paez Terán family.

I want to note, here, that we don’t seem to have any body cam footage from the officers that killed Tortuguita. It’s almost like there’s either something to hide so they won’t release it, or the cops went in with an intent to kill, and so turned of the cameras. I have no evidence for this, of course, other than the fact that they apparently lied about what happened, and the fact that, once again, body cam footage of the event is either being held back, or doesn’t exist. According to the Intercept article I linked earlier, the cops initially lied by saying there wasn’t any footage at all, then walked that back partially, saying there was footage of the aftermath (which they’re not releasing).

I’ve felt this way for a while, but I think there’s ample reason to view this killing as an extrajudicial execution for the crime of opposing them. They went in ready to kill, and that’s exactly what they did. That would explain the inconsistencies in the story, it would fit what everyone around Tortuguita had to say about who they were, and it would explain why there’s no footage of the shooting – because the cops didn’t want there to be.

This is exactly the shit that the movement to defend the Atlanta forest is trying to stop. A huge facility for cops to train in urban warfare is just another level of militarization, on top of the harm done to the community by destroying the forest. Tortuguita was killed for trying to stop that. Crimethinc goes into more detail in their post Atlanta Police and Georgia State Patrol are Guilty of Murder: The Evidence and the Motive:

Gunshot residue tests are held to be reliable indicators of whether a person has fired a gun, scientifically and legally speaking. Gunshot residue can wear off over a period of four to six hours, but as mentioned in the autopsy, Tortuguita’s hands were bagged shortly after the murder, in order that if there was any gunshot residue on their hands, it would be preserved. According to the “Investigator Narrative” included in the autopsy, the official who prepared that narrative reported to the scene of the murder within two and a half hours and “covered the hands with white handbags to preserve any trace evidence.”

We can be sure that Atlanta authorities missed no opportunity to secure and publicize any evidence that could corroborate their narrative that Tortuguita shot first. Instead, because the autopsy showed that Tortuguita did not fire a gun at all, the results of the Dekalb County autopsy were suppressed for months.

Is it possible that Tortuguita somehow fired a gun while wearing gloves, or fired a gun and then cleaned their hands? According to the Dekalb County autopsy, Tortuguita experienced at least 57 gunshot wounds; this video shows that all of the gunfire occurred in less than eleven seconds.1 That means that Tortuguita died within a few seconds of the first shot, whoever fired it. In the instants between the first couple shots and their death, there was no time for Tortuguita to remove and conceal gloves, nor to clean gunshot residue off their hands.

To all that evidence, we must add the findings of the second autopsy, the one that Tortuguita’s family commissioned, which found that Tortuguita was “likely sitting cross-legged with their hands up” when they were killed.

This is consistent with the gunshot wounds described in the autopsy conducted by the Dekalb County Medical Examiner:

• Right Forearm and Hand—fractures of the index finger and thumb metacarpal. […]

• Left Forearm and Hand—fracture of the middle finger proximal phalange.

The image is a diagram of the locations of gunshot wounds on Tortuguita’s body. A majority of them seem to be on their legs, with several on their hands and arms, two in their gut, two in the collarbone region, and one through the eye.

As can be seen in the diagram included in the Dekalb County autopsy, bullets struck Tortuguita in both their left hand and their right hand. If they had been holding a gun in either of those hands, the gun would have been struck by a bullet, leaving evidence that Tortuguita had been holding the gun when police opened fire. Atlanta authorities would have eagerly released that evidence in order to corroborate their narrative.

They have done no such thing. They did release a photograph of the gun that they allege was in Tortuguita’s possession—but in the photograph, the gun does not show any sign of having been struck by a bullet.

It follows that Tortuguita did not fire a gun on the morning of January 18, 2023.2

In that case, how did it occur that an officer was shot that day, and with a bullet allegedly matching a handgun registered to Tortuguita that was found on the scene?

According to an early Georgia Bureau of Investigation press release,

The handgun is described as a Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm. Forensic ballistic analysis has confirmed that the projectile recovered from the trooper’s wound matches Teran’s handgun.

In fact, Georgia State Patrol—the officers who murdered Tortuguita—are all standard-issued firearms that use 9mm ammunition. According to the “Investigator Narrative” included in the Dekalb County autopsy, during the killing of Tortuguita,

“The uniformed officers reportedly discharged their service weapons, to include a .223 caliber rifle and 9mm handguns.”

So the fact that the gun apparently registered to Tortuguita used 9mm ammunition proves nothing, considering that Georgia State Patrol officers were shooting 9mm ammunition that day.

If exculpatory “forensic ballistic analysis” existed confirming that the bullet that struck the officer was fired from the specific handgun registered to Tortuguita, the authorities would surely have released that by now. The fact that they have not done so suggests that the GBI statement that “the projectile recovered from the trooper’s wound matches Teran’s handgun” means simply that it was 9mm ammunition, like all the bullets that the Georgia State Patrol officers were firing.

Tortuguita experienced at least 57 gunshot woulds within a period of eleven seconds. That offers a hint of how many bullets were in the air during the murder. We don’t know how many rounds Georgia State Patrol officers fired off, but it may have been considerably more than that.

I would say it’s almost guaranteed that there were more bullets than that. It’s been shown that cops tend to miss more often than they hit their targets, so there were probably at least 100 9mm bullets in the air during those 11 seconds. The article goes on to discuss the body cam footage I mentioned earlier, with an officer apparently believing the police shot one of their own. More than that, the police “evidence” doesn’t fit with the video footage we do have:

One more detail remains to be accounted for. According to the “Investigator Narrative” included in the Dekalb County autopsy, “Two empty 9mm shell casings were located under the decedent’s body” by the investigator who arrived on the scene after the shooting. Did Tortuguita fire those shells?

Video footage distinctly shows that the first three shots were fired in a steady, practiced rhythm, followed an instant later by a fourth shot, after which all the other shots began. It seems most likely that an edgy officer—not Tortuguita—fired those four shots, after which all the other officers began firing. If Tortuguita had fired those first shots, there would presumably have been three or four shell casings around Tortuguita’s body—and more to the point, there would have been gunshot residue on Tortuguita’s hands.

  Have I mentioned that cops lie, yet? I feel like I might have forgotten to mention that. Cops lie a lot, which makes it hard to believe anything they say, especially since they also have a habit of planting evidence. The Crimethinc article goes on to discuss motive, and some other factors – it’s worth a read.

Environmental activists are murdered with shocking regularity around the world, where activists – often Indigenous people – are pushing back against environmental destruction that is almost universally driven by greed. According to The Guardian, Tortuguita was the first such killing in the US. The biggest driving factor in Atlanta, while greed is certainly involved in the Cop City project, seems to be the degree to which USian cops hate being told “no”. They want their new playground, they want unchallenged authority, and they are clearly willing to kill to get their way.

I believe I’ve said before that I have a great deal of respect for the people on the front lines of this fight, and I hope it’s clear to all of you that using that “military” terminology is important. These activists are not trying to wage war, but a a war is being waged against them, and their lives are very much in danger.

If you want to help, Defend the Atlanta Forest has a few suggestions, most of which don’t involve putting your body on the line:

There are many ways to get involved. You can support online, help organize your community, show up for actions, or any other number of activities depending on your availability and comfort level. The movement appreciates the need for diverse tactics, meaning many forms of struggle that move towards a common goal. Here’s some more ideas:

  • You can sign up for sporadic text alerts here: 470.606.1212
  • You can Visit the forest at 3251 W Side Place, Atlanta GA 30316.
  • You can organize protests, send phone calls or emails, or help with direct actions of different kinds to encourage contractors of the various projects to stop the destruction. You can find some of the contractors here:
  • Call Brasfield & Gorrie (678.581.6400), the Atlanta Police Foundation (770.354.3392), and the City of Atlanta (404.330.6100) and ask them to cancel the project and to remain peaceful with tree-sitters and other on-the-ground protesters.
  •  You can form an Action Group in your community, neighborhood, town, city, college, or scene. Together, you can host information nights, movie screenings, potluck dinners, and protests at the offices of contractors, at the homes of the board members, on campus, or elsewhere. You can post and pass out fliers at public places and shows, knock on doors to talk to neighbors and sign them up for text alerts, fundraisers, or actions, or you can innovate new activities altogether.
  • You can conduct independent research about the destruction of the forest, construction projects, their funders, their contractors, or lesser-known details about the project using public records searches or other open source investigation techniques and send your findings to us at defendtheatlantaforest[at]protonmail[dot]com.
  • You can organize to join or create a camp in the South River/Weelaunee Forest. Respect people’s space and try to be friendly.
  • Finally, you and friends or your group could organize to caravan down to the forest from near or far during weeks of action.

Obviously, this fight is ongoing. The twitter account associated with this list has announced a week of action from June 24th to July 1st of this year (2023, for people reading this in the future). As they said, how you go about helping is up to you. Any help is better than none, and it takes a village to raze and empire. Tortuguita’s cause was just, and it’s one that we should carry on, be it in their name, or just because it is necessary. Climate change, bigotry, capitalism, authoritarianism – they’re all different fronts on the same war, and sitting out the fight simply isn’t an option.

Thank you for reading! If you liked this post, please share it around. If you read this blog regularly, please consider joining my small but wonderful group of patrons. Because of my immigration status, I’m not allowed to get a normal job, so my writing is all I have for the foreseeable future, and I’d love for it to be a viable career long-term. As part of that goal, I’m currently working on a young adult fantasy series, so if supporting this blog isn’t enough inducement by itself, for just $5/month you can work with me to name a place or character in that series!

Conflict between humans and animals is rising with the temperature

When we talk about societies coping with climate change, a huge part of any conversation tends to be about dealing with mass migration of people. With changing weather conditions and rising seas, many places that have historically held large populations are becoming increasingly hostile, and the number of people displaced by climate change is ever-growing. The thing is – humans aren’t the only ones being displaced. You probably don’t need me to tell you this, but changing climate conditions have also been driving animals to seek out new places to live, or new sources of food. With so much of the planet affected by human activity, and so much habitat being destroyed in the name of greed, displaced animals are increasingly showing up in populated areas. This, in turn, is driving an increase in conflict between humans and wildlife:

The new study shows that climate shifts can drive conflicts by altering animal habitats — like sea ice for polar bears — as well as the timing of events, wildlife behaviors and resource availability. It also showed that people are changing their behaviors and locations in response to climate change in ways that increase conflicts. Other examples of the effects of short- and long-term climate events include:

  • Torrential floods in Tanzania led to more lion attacks after their usual prey migrated away from floodplains.
  • Higher air temperatures in Australia triggered more aggressive behavior in eastern brown snakes, leading to more incidents of snake bites.
  • Wildfires in Sumatra, Indonesia — triggered by El Nino — drove Asian elephants and tigers out of reserves and into human-inhabited areas, leading to at least one death.
  • Disruption of terrestrial food webs during La Nina events in the Americas drove black bears in New Mexico and foxes in Chile into human settlements in search of food.
  • Warmer air and ocean temperatures in a severe El Nino led to an increase in shark attacks in South Africa.

Most cases of human-wildlife conflict linked to climate involve a shift in resources — not just for wildlife, but also for people.

A majority of cases on land also involved a change in precipitation, which will continue to be affected by climate change. Many resulted in human deaths or injuries, as well as property damage.

In 2009, for example, a severe drought struck the western part of Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro Region. This reduced food supplies for African elephants, which in turn entered local fields to graze on crops — at times destroying 2 to 3 acres daily. Local farmers, whose livelihoods were directly threatened by the drought, at times resorted to retaliatory killings of elephants to try to mitigate these raids.

“Identifying and understanding this link between human-wildlife conflicts is not only a conservation issue,” said Abrahms. “It is also a social justice and human safety issue.”

These types of conflicts are likely to rise as climate change intensifies, particularly as mass migrations of people and wildlife increase and resources shift.

Unfortunately, we know this kind of conflict often goes, and it doesn’t tend to end well for the non-human participants. Another factor that this article doesn’t mention is the risk of disease transmission. I mentioned this last year, but the increase in human-animal interaction also increases the risk of a new disease being transmitted. Regardless of how, exactly, COVID19 ended up in the human population, there seems to be universal agreement that the disease was zoonotic in origin, probably carried by bats. There are plenty of animal diseases that humans simply cannot catch, but there are plenty more that we can, and as I said last year, we can thank climate change for the fact that “once in a century” pandemics will probably come multiple times in this century.

The upside, according to these researchers, is that there’s evidence that better understanding how humans and wildlife come into conflict can help us mitigate that problem:

But, it doesn’t have to be all bad news.

“One major motivation in studying the link between climate change and human-wildlife conflict is finding solutions,” said Abrahms. “As we learn about specific incidents, we can identify patterns and trends — and come up with interventions to try to address or lessen these conflicts.”

Some interventions may be as simple as public-awareness campaigns, such as advising residents of the American Southwest during La Nina years to carry bear spray on a hike. Governments can also plan for times when extreme climate events will bring people and wildlife into closer contact. Botswana, for example, has funds in place to compensate herders and ranchers for drought-induced attacks by wildlife on livestock, often in exchange for pledges not to engage in retaliatory killings of wildlife.

“We have effective drought forecasts now. So, governments can engage in fiscal planning for mitigating conflicts ahead of time,” said Abrahms. “Instead of a ‘rainy day’ fund, have a ‘dry day’ fund.”

To Abrahms, one success story of note lies in the waters of the eastern Pacific. In 2014 and 2015, a record number of humpback and blue whales became ensnared in fishing lines off the California coast. Research later showed that an extreme marine heat wave had pushed whales closer to shore, following their primary food sources. California regulators now adjust the start and end of each fishing season based on climate and ocean conditions in the Pacific — delaying the season if whales and fishing gear are likely to come into close contact.

“These examples show us that once you know the root causes of a conflict, you can design interventions to help both people and wildlife,” said Abrahms. “We can change.”

We can change.

I talk a lot about how humanity’s greatest strength is our ability to work together for mutual benefit, but another strength is our ability to thrive under all sorts of conditions, and to change how we do things to better suit our environments. I think we might put too much emphasis on how we change our environments to suit us, because while we do do that, the fact remains that what changes we make are often dictated by local conditions. In the past, when “local conditions” included regular, violent encounters with animals, our solution has often been to kill those animals. With a global society that’s blessed with abundance, that’s no longer necessary to ensure our survival. We could, pretty easily, ensure that any time one part of the planet is having a rough time, they get resources from those areas that are doing better. To some degree, we do this now, but it’s inadequate, and often comes with conditions that empower whoever’s providing the aid. In a world that doesn’t prioritize the endless greed of the aristocracy, we would have far more flexibility to change how we interact with our surroundings.

We should also be rewilding a lot of developed land, and practicing ecosystem management to help wildlife cope with climate change. While the main reason people want to do that is to help slow or reverse global warming, it will also make it far less likely that animals will feel a need to interfere with us. We have a wealth of knowledge that could help us build a very different, much better society, and I also believe we have the material resources to do that. What we lack is organized political power to actually bring that better society into being.

Thank you for reading! If you liked this post, please share it around. If you read this blog regularly, please consider joining my small but wonderful group of patrons. Because of my immigration status, I’m not allowed to get a normal job, so my writing is all I have for the foreseeable future, and I’d love for it to be a viable career long-term. As part of that goal, I’m currently working on a young adult fantasy series, so if supporting this blog isn’t enough inducement by itself, for just $5/month you can work with me to name a place or character in that series!

Check out this interview about the movement to #StopCopCity

I’m working on an actual post catching up on events in Atlanta, but for tonight, I encourage you to check out this interview. Matthew Johnson does a great job breaking down what’s going on with “Cop City”, the dubious history of Atlanta PD, the very dubious police account behind their killing of a peaceful activist, and how things got to this point in the first place. The whole situation is a nightmare, and really underscores just how little say people have in the government that supposedly serves them.