Katherine Bagley is a reporter for InsideClimate News who covers the intersection of environmental science, politics and policy, with an emphasis on climate change. She is co-author of the InsideClimate News book "Bloomberg's Hidden Legacy: Climate Change and the Future of New York City," published in November 2013 and winner of the Deadline Club's Award for Reporting by Independent Digital Media. Her writing has also been included in the anthology Best American Science and Nature Writing.
She previously worked as a freelance journalist and editor, contributing print and multimedia work to Popular Science, Audubon, OnEarth and The Scientist, among other publications.
You can reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the probable next Senate Democratic leader, has been vocal about the need for climate action and has compiled a solid pro-environment voting record, but he's never been a leader on the issue, environmentalists and political experts said.
A senator since 1998, Schumer's principal focus in a 42-year political career has been economic policy and immigration. Since Hurricane Sandy devastated New York City in 2012, he has joined in calls for world leaders to act on global warming.
"Sen. Schumer has made it clear that he views environmentalists as an important constituency and the environment as an important issue for the party," said David Goldston, director of government affairs for the Natural Resources Defense Council. "On an individual level, it hasn't been where he's put most of his time. In a new role, he'll have to look at things through a new lens."
Political commentators and journalists say the three-term senator is "exactly who Democrats need" to overhaul the party and regain majority control, in the words of the Washington Post's Dana Milbank. The current Democratic leader of the Senate, Harry Reid of Nevada, announced his plan last week to retire after 2016. Reid and some other party leaders, including Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, endorsed Schumer for the post this week.
Schumer drew criticism from New York's anti-fracking grassroots activists last May when he told MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, "Democrats throughout the country have supported fracking." The environmentalists flooded Schumer's office with calls and letters protesting his comment. A few weeks later, he walked back his statement at a fundraiser, said Alex Beauchamp, director of Food and Water Watch's work in the Northeast and a spokesman for New Yorkers Against Fracking.
Democratic Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, one of the most vocal and active climate leaders on Capitol Hill, announced Friday morning he would not seek re-election in 2016.
The Senate minority leader's retirement is a major loss for the climate movement, several political and environmental experts told InsideClimate News.
Reid, 75, has championed dozens of environmental initiatives during his five terms in office, including designating more than 3 million acres of federally protected wilderness, promoting renewable energy, and thwarting three new coal-fired power plant projects in his home state. In recent years, he's become an outspoken advocate for climate action, calling global warming, "one of the greatest challenges of our time."
The edges of Antarctica's ice sheets have been thinning at a rapid rate over the past decade—up to 70 percent faster than average in some spots—due to warming oceans and air.
Known technically as ice shelves, these edges float just offshore in bays or fjords and act as barriers that keep larger, land-based ice sheets from slipping into the ocean. Once they are gone, there will be nothing to hold back the continent-sized ice masses from sliding into the warmer oceans and melting, raising sea levels precipitously.
According to a new study published in the journal Science this week, this could happen by the end of the century.
"Within a lifetime of people who read this story, many of these shelves will be gone," said Andrew Shepherd, a polar scientist at the University of Leeds who reviewed the study before publication. "This is real, rapid environmental change. These shelves have been around for 10,000 years. It is a classic example of how drastically you can disturb the planet with small changes."
Hundreds of museums across the country––including some of the most prestigious––are being asked by more than 30 scientists to cut their ties to the fossil fuel industry.
In a letter sent to more than 330 science and natural history centers on Tuesday, the researchers said that when "some of the biggest…funders of misinformation on climate science" give millions of dollars to science-focused museums, it acts to "undermine public confidence in the validity of the institutions."
"Museums are feeling budgetary crunches, and these donors bring in large sums of money," said Beka Economopoulos, co-founder and director of the Brooklyn-based Natural History Museum, a new educational organization that coordinated the letter. "Museums, even unintentionally, are unlikely to bite the hand that feeds them. There is a threat of self-censorship where the philanthropy serves to make museums more reticent to offend the donor, or certainly to critique the practices of the donor."
The campaign comes just weeks after the release of public documents show Smithsonian-affiliated astrophysicist Wei-Hock (Willie) Soon published articles arguing that the sun, not greenhouse gases, is driving modern climate change after receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars from fossil fuel interests. He later failed to disclose that funding in academic journals' conflict-of-interest statements.
Museums are some of the world's top tourist destinations, particularly for families. Science-related institutions made up four of the top 10 most visited museums across the globe in 2014.
Concern over these museums' close financial ties with major oil-and-gas donors has been mounting for years. Fossil fuel billionaire David Koch, for example, sits on the boards of trustees of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. Koch gave the Smithsonian $15 million to build the Hall of Human Origins, which opened in 2010. The exhibit has been widely criticized for ignoring the role humans play in driving modern climate change, and the challenge it poses to modern society.
For three decades, more than half of Americans have considered climate change a serious threat. Yet today, the U.S. still lags behind much of the rest of the developed world as understanding of global warming has become more widespread.
That's one finding of a new analysis of dozens of international climate polls since the 1980s by researchers at Cardiff University in Wales.
"Broadly speaking, people that are skeptical are in the minority across most of the world," said Stuart Capstick, a Cardiff scientist who studies public perceptions of global warming and was the lead author of the recent analysis.
President Barack Obama ordered the federal government to cut its greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below 2008 levels by 2025, and mandated that at least 30 percent of its electricity come from renewable energy sources.
The executive order, which Obama signed Thursday morning, is the latest in a string of climate-related decisions the president has made in recent months to solidify his legacy on global warming in the face of Congressional gridlock. It also comes ahead of international climate treaty talks in Paris later this year, when all eyes will be on the United States, historically the world's top carbon emitter.
Obama's recent actions include vetoing a bill that would have fast-tracked a verdict on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline; banning drilling in Alaska's Bristol Bay; rolling out the Clean Power Plan to curb carbon emissions from coal plants; and in a joint announcement with China, pledging to cut U.S. emissions up to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.
"We're encouraged to see this administration take a more aggressive stance in fighting climate change," said Karthik Ganapathy, a spokesman for the environmental group 350.org. "But in 2017, President Obama's decision on Keystone XL and the success or failure of COP 21 in Paris are what will really define his legacy on the issue. We're going to continue urging the White House to heed the science, and do what's necessary to prevent climate catastrophe."
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is making it tougher for governors to deny man-made climate change. Starting next year, the agency will approve disaster preparedness funds only for states whose governors approve hazard mitigation plans that address climate change.
This may put several Republican governors who maintain the earth isn't warming due to human activities, or prefer to do nothing about it, into a political bind. Their position may block their states' access to hundreds of millions of dollars in FEMA funds. Over the past five years, the agency has awarded an average $1 billion a year in grants to states and territories for taking steps to mitigate the effects of disasters.
"If a state has a climate denier governor that doesn't want to accept a plan, that would risk mitigation work not getting done because of politics," said Becky Hammer, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council's water program. "The governor would be increasing the risk to citizens in that state" because of his climate beliefs.
When science historians Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway published their 2010 book "Merchants of Doubt," they exposed how a small network of hired pundits and scientists delayed legislative action on issues ranging from tobacco to flame retardants to climate change for decades.
Five years later, a film based on the book is in theaters—and is as relevant as ever.
A small group of industry-funded scientists and commentators continue to sow doubt about the science of climate change in Congress and in the media. The oil and gas industry has poured millions of dollars into the communications strategy in an effort to continue America's reliance on fossil fuels and protect its billions in profits. Last month, the release of public documents showed that scientist Wei-Hock (Willie) Soon of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics had accepted fossil fuel funds for publishing papers arguing that the sun is driving modern climate change, not mounting greenhouse gases. He also failed to disclose the funding in academic journals' conflict of interest statements.