Sign in

Environmental writer living in Washington, DC. Opinions are his own.

A heatwave is sweeping across the Arctic.

Last month, parts of the Arctic hit 86.5 degrees Fahrenheit — 36 to 43 degrees hotter than average for this time of year. The temperatures come about a year after Siberia hit 100 degrees.

Unfortunately, these record heat waves are part of a larger trend. Over the past 50 years, the Arctic has warmed three times faster than the rest of the Planet, according to a new study.

And as the Arctic melts, it isn’t just polar bears and penguins that will suffer — the rest of the world will face the consequences…

When it comes to American climate action, Joe Biden’s been a bit of a trailblazer. Already Biden has rejoined the Paris Agreement, overturned 34 Trump-era rollbacks, and set the framework for a 50–52% cut in United States’ emissions by 2030.

But all these actions may still not be enough, according to a new report by the International Energy Agency. The 224-page report lists more than 400 milestones needed for the world to hit net zero by 2050 (the consensus mark for avoiding a climate catastrophe), and Biden’s goals could fall well short.

For those of us drunk on Biden’s early…

California is already grappling with a warmer, drier reality thanks to climate change.

In late April, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a drought emergency in two Northern California counties. Less than a month later, he extended that declaration to 41 of the state’s 58 counties.

“The hots are getting a lot hotter in this state, the dries are getting a lot drier,” said Newsom at a news conference. “We have to recognize that we’re living in a world that we were not designed to live in.”

The declaration comes at the tail end of a five-year drought, and amid what some…

In his excellent book No Good Alternative, William T. Vollmann apologizes to the future for the carbon-heavy actions of his generation.

Through dark humor and wit, Vollmann echoes millions of people worldwide, especially in America, who justify the use of coal and other fossil fuels to maintain a certain lifestyle.

“So kindly refrain from pretending that all we did with coal was burn it,” writes Vollmann, tongue-in-cheek. “It served us so delightfully as to leave us no good alternative.”

Vollmann was writing about coal, gas, and oil, but the same can be applied to the meat industry. Even when presented…

There’s been a lot of anger over meat lately.

After a Daily Mail article falsely claimed that President Joe Biden’s climate targets would require Americans to slash their meat consumption by 90%, conservatives took to social media and TV to express outrage.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) called Biden “The Hamburglar,” and Gov. Greg Abbot (R-TX) said dietary cuts were “not gonna happen in Texas!” Meanwhile, Donald Trump, Jr., bragged(?) about eating four pounds of meat in a day.

This sounds like just another day of toxicity rooted in misinformation, but reducing the discussion to “partisan politics” would ignore the…

Last week, the United States hosted the Leaders Climate Summit, a two-day virtual forum to promote international coordination on climate action. Attended by 40 world leaders, the summit intended to present the U.S. as a leader on global climate efforts, while pressuring other countries to make more ambitious commitments.

“We’re here at this summit to discuss how each of us, each country, can set higher climate ambitions that will in turn create good-paying jobs, advance innovative technologies, and help vulnerable countries adapt to climate impacts,” said President Joe Biden at the summit.

So, just how well did the White House…

The world can’t quit coal.

Last year, China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, generated over half the Planet’s coal-fired power — that’s up nearly 10% from half a decade ago. The country has also committed to building hundreds of gigawatts more coal power, outpacing the rest of the world combined.

But it’s not just China. Mexico, India, and Africa are all doubling down on coal use, too. And though many large nations are ramping up renewable power sources, it’s not enough to avoid the worst climate impacts.

“Progress is nowhere near fast enough,” Dave Jones, a power analyst…

This week Biden unveiled his American Jobs Plan, a $2 trillion bill aiming to upgrade the nation’s infrastructure and create millions of jobs. If passed, the bill would be a significant win for climate action, accelerating the shift to renewable energy, building out electric vehicle infrastructure, and expanding mass transit.

The bill shows Biden’s continued integration of climate action into larger plans, without making those plans solely about the environment. When speaking on the specifics in Pittsburgh, Biden only mentioned “climate” once.

Here, politics is just as important as the policy.

Photo credit: Adam Schultz / Biden for President

Instead of focusing on climate, Biden is once again…

Are we too pessimistic for our own good? When it comes to climate change, it sure seems that way: Each week comes with a barrage of increasingly bleak stories of suffering and death.

The New York Times has a phrase for this trend: bad-news bias. And new research shows this bias is infecting how the media reports stories: 87% of national U.S. media stories about the coronavirus were assessed as negative.

Applying that research to climate change, we’d likely see similar results.

Deforestation in Great Otway National Park, Victoria, Australia. Photo credit: griffyn m/Unsplash

Of course, with little progress on the international climate goals, it’s hard to stay positive. But writing about…

With the COVID-19 relief bill passed, Democrats are turning to their next big priority: clean infrastructure. And that means greening the transportation sector, which makes up the largest portion of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

Fortunately, Biden’s $2 trillion plan goes all in on clean transportation, aiming to further electrify the rail system, expand charging availability, and invest in electric cars. But even $2 trillion won’t clean up one industry: air travel.

The Biden administration has yet to figure out what to do about airline emissions, which are set to triple by 2050. …

Brandon Pytel

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store