Please help keep this Site Going

Menopausal Mother Nature

News about Climate Change and our Planet


Don’t Do Just One Thing – The New York Times

Welcome to the Climate Fwd: newsletter. The New York Times climate team emails readers once a week with stories and insights about climate change. Sign up here to get it in your inbox.


CreditTyler Varsell

We get a lot of email here at Team Climate, and one of the most common questions is “What can I do?” That’s why, last fall, we added a One Thing You Can Do section to our newsletter. Since then, we’ve looked at everything from Valentine’s Day flowers to boiling water.

This week, we wanted to take a closer look at the “one thing” approach.

“There are two sides to the coin,” said Carina Barnett-Loro, a senior program manager at the Climate Advocacy Lab, an organization that aims to encourage climate action.

On one side, she said, taking small actions can help foster or reinforce a person’s identity as an environmentalist and lead to deeper engagement. Maybe, she said, “they start by changing a light bulb and they end up putting solar panels on their house.”

But Ms. Barnett-Loro said there were dangers, too. One is “single-action bias.” That’s when the sense of satisfaction from a good deed — say, installing that energy-efficient light bulb — diminishes or eliminates the sense of urgency around the greater problem.

To help counteract that, she suggested a guide from Columbia University’s Center for Research on Environmental Decisions. Among the tips: Make a climate action checklist, or organize potential actions in tiers so they can be tackled incrementally.

A related problem is disproportional “climate compensation,” when everyday positive actions are used to mentally justify high-impact negative actions. As an example, Patrik Sorqvist, co-author of a recent study of the phenomenon, pointed out that flying halfway around the world on vacation has a huge impact on climate no matter how many bike trips or meatless Mondays you do.

“When people try to act in environmentally friendly ways, they often, in fact, do further harm to the environment,” wrote Dr. Sorqvist, research director of environmental psychology at the University of Gavle in Sweden, referring to climate compensation. “In the economically healthy part of the world, it is quite common,” he noted.

So, individual actions are important. But avoid the pitfalls and stay focused on the big picture.

“I don’t see a way that small personal actions get us to scale fast enough to meet the magnitude of the climate crisis,” Ms. Barnett-Loro said. “It can’t just be one thing. It needs to be one thing and a complete transformation.”

CreditCreditPhoto Illustration by The New York Times and Getty Archives Photo

It’s been unusually hot recently in some scorching-hot parts of the world. And it’s been unusually hot in places that aren’t accustomed to being hot at all, especially this time of year.

India last week was in the grip of its worst heat wave, based on how much of the country was affected, according to the National Disaster Management Authority. The capital, Delhi, reached a daily record of 118 degrees Fahrenheit, or 48 degrees Celsius, on June 10.

San Francisco peaked at 100 degrees Fahrenheit on June 12, also a daily record, according to the National Weather Service.

Even Helsinki, Finland, way up north on the Baltic Sea, practically turned into an outdoor sauna when the daily high peaked at 84 degrees Fahrenheit on June 6.

What’s going on?

It’s not yet known whether these individual heat waves are directly linked to climate change. Attribution studies, as they are called, take a while to carry out. But the heat waves are consistent with the overall trend of accelerating global warming. As average temperatures rise because of industrial emissions in the atmosphere, heat records are more frequently broken.

Heat waves are bound to get more frequent and more intense, we reported last summer.

Humanity is no more prepared now than it was then, and the consequences are far-reaching. Sweden and Norway had an unseasonable spate of wildfires in April because of an unusually hot and dry spring. And firefighters in California are bracing for a bad wildfire season, a year after the state’s most disastrous ever.

Some South Asian cities could become uninhabitable if heat and humidity levels continue to rise at their current pace, one recent analysis found.

Heat waves in the Arctic are having another knock-on effect. The ice is thawing — both the vast, mile-thick Greenland ice sheet and sea ice in the Arctic Ocean.

The Greenland ice sheet had a record-setting day on June 12 when melting was seen on more than 45 percent of its surface — about 275,000 square miles. This was the earliest extensive melt “pulse” in four decades of satellite-based measurements. Researchers say a region of high-pressure air stalled over the island, drawing warm air from the south.

The Arctic is warming twice as fast as other parts of the planet, though it is too soon to say how the rest of this melt season will pan out. Cooler weather would slow the melting down.

Sea ice reaches a maximum extent in March and then starts melting, reaching minimum coverage in September. This year, because of the warm conditions, sea ice loss is about three weeks ahead of normal, and on target to reach one of the lowest minimums ever.


Please help keep this Site Going