From the hottest oceans on record to billions of dollars in climate-related disaster in 2021, here are three short summaries of climate & cleantech news stories from Nexus Media.
The world’s oceans broke heat records, again, in 2021, according to new research from a team of 23 international scientists analyzing thousands of ocean temperature readings. The “ocean stores more than 90% of the Earth’s net heat gain due to greenhouse gases, thus ocean warming is a fundamental indicator of climate change,” Lijing Cheng, lead author and associate professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told the Washington Post. “The record ocean warming in 2021 is strong evidence that global warming continues.”
The study, published today in Advances in Atmospheric Sciences, found the Earth’s oceans have heated up eight times faster since the 1980s than they did in previous decades – a rate only possible because of humans’ extraction and combustion of fossil fuels – and a trend scientists expect to continue. To put the 14 zettajoules of heat energy absorbed by the oceans into context, study co-author John Abraham, a professor at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, wrote in a Guardian op-ed, “Oceans have absorbed heat equivalent to seven Hiroshima atomic bombs detonating each second, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”
The apartment fire that killed 17 people in the Bronx on Sunday illustrates the urgent energy and environmental justice imperatives for improving building efficiency. Reports indicate the fire was started by a space heater, even though the building’s heat was working. Internal stairwells choked with smoke and other factors prevented residents from escaping the smoke-filled building. Public housing residents are forced to use space heaters and even their gas stoves to heat their living spaces, raising fire risks, indoor air pollution, and increased climate pollution. “To hear from initial reports that a faulty space heater is the cause of such a large fire is horrifying and unacceptable,” Taylor Morton of WE ACT on Environmental Justice told Earther. “New Yorkers deserve adequate and efficient heat in the wintertime, and this event proves that outdated infrastructure can not only impact our quality of life, but can be deadly.”
Twenty extreme weather disasters killed 688 people in the U.S. last year and collectively inflicted at least $145 billion in damage, NOAA reported Monday. 2021 was the deadliest year for climate extremes in a decade (even with, as Earther notes, likely under-estimated death tolls from the Pacific Northwest heatwave and Texas freeze), and NOAA also determined 2021 was the fourth-hottest year on record in the U.S. By far the most expensive disaster, Hurricane Ida left a $74 billion trail of destruction from Louisiana to New York and four months later residents are finally moving from tent camps into trailers.
“2021 was, in essence, watching the climate projections of the past come true,” Rachel Licker, a senior climate scientist at UCS, told CNN. “The fingerprints of climate change were all over many of the billion-dollar events that hit the US this year.”
Just from disasters that caused at least $1 billion in damage, extreme weather has inflicted $750 billion of damage on the U.S. in the past five years alone. The reports came as Joe Manchin (D.-W.Va.) and Senate Republicans hold up the Build Back Better Act and its $555 billion in climate and clean energy provisions.
The NOAA reports also came the same day a Rhodium Group report found U.S. climate pollution jumped more than 6% from 2020 to 2021, while Munich Re announced that globally, natural disasters cost the world $280 billion in 2021, of which only $120 billion was covered by insurers.
Sources: E&E News, AP, Earther, CNN, Washington Post $, Politico Pro $, Axios, The Hill, Reuters, Forbes; Ida trailers: Houma Today, AP; Munich Re: FT $, Bloomberg $), Reuters, AP; Joe Manchin: Rolling Stone