Climatically Speaking: The Best Stories on Climate, Food, Science and Culture, (7th ed.)

Icebergs, Photo by Ghost Presenter from  Pexels

Icebergs, Photo by Ghost Presenter from Pexels

Last updated August 13, 2018

James Hansen, 30 years ago; climate change and refugees; climate change, hope and fear; global warming graph; video of Kilaeuea; underground greenhouses; drawing glaciers; Antarctica rising and more.


Welcome to Climatically Speaking. I almost skipped posting this week, due to the heart-wrenching events at the border. I went to a dark place. Although grieving the anguish in the world is part of being fully human—and, yes, I question the humanity of our current leaders—remaining in that state won't make the world a better place. Other than voting out the most egregious officials and praying (if you do that), I have one thing to offer: Donate to an organization ( that helps families reunite, if you are financially able to do so. Another option is to contribute through local churches and other organizations in your community.

Climate, environment and energy

Climate scientists speak

Thirty years ago, in 1988, former NASA scientist James Hansen told Congress that Earth was warming and that he was 99 percent positive humans were causing it, as Oliver Milman writes at the Guardian. And we have made so much freaking progress since then, right? Well, no, not exactly. In fact, we're emitting 61 percent more carbon dioxide than we were 30 years ago, as Eric Holthaus notes at Grist. But Holthaus also has this to say:  

At the time of Hansen’s speech, fossil fuels provided about 79 percent of the world’s energy needs. Now, despite every wind turbine and solar panel that’s been installed since, it’s actually worse—81 percent.
— Erik Holthaus,, June 22, 2018

I read enough about climate change to know that the future will most likely bring hardships that most of us have never experienced. But because I'm not a scientist, I'm hesitant to write too much about troubling times ahead. And I don't need to. As climate scientist Kate Marvel notes, writing at Scientific American, "The future will bring upheaval and uncertainty. Sometimes disaster will be imprinted with the undeniable fingerprint of climate change." How will we respond? What if you or someone you know becomes a refugee? Many, such as farmers and people escaping rising seas along coastlines, will be from the U.S. Marvel delves into uncomfortable concepts with the hope that we'll start building communities that can adapt to change—communities built on compassion, not hate. (Many thanks to The Climate Lemon for sharing this piece)

Climate scientists often have to collect and interpret climate change data as well as communicate the dangers ahead—all without scaring people too much. But they also have to balance that with providing hard facts so communities can take action and be prepared for catastrophic events. In this poignant essay at The Monthly, Ecologist Lesley Hughes describes this tension with such heart-rending honesty that, by the end, you'll understand why being a climate scientist is like riding a roller coaster. In addition, some scientists say that the survival of civilization rests on our ability to stay below a 2°C rise in global temperatures. I know I've said this many times, but we are not on track to meet that goal. 

Climate, environment and energy in brief

If you woke up this morning in search of an-easy-to-read global warming graph that describes Earth's temperatures over the last 137 years, you're in luck because I found one by Chris Canipe and Andrew Freedman at Axios. Also, two stories from last week offer some hope, for a change. As Katie Langin reports at Science, melting ice at Antarctica actually causes the ground to rise (beneath Antarctica), which could help slow down the rate of rising seas. In addition to that, Bill McKibben published an opinion piece at the Guardian about the declining health of fossil fuel markets.  

Food and Farming

When the weather gets too hot for crops and water supplies become scarce, you can always build a Walipinis, an underground greenhouse. That's what a farmer in Bolivia did. The link, above, is to a short video (01:39) from the BBC. But my favorite part about Walipinis is their location: You build them outdoors, instead of under buildings. Are they cool or what?

Science, health and technology

Today's science video is courtesy of The Atlantic. You can learn more about filming Kilaeuea, here

Ph.D. student-turned-filmmaker Tyler Hulett ventured across the currently erupting volcano Kīlauea to film this short compilation of photographs that, when edited together and sped up, depicts the flow of a lava river. It was a dangerous project, the extent of which Hulett wouldn't become aware until nearly a year later.


Oh, how I do love my glaciers. And it saddens me to think they're going away. So, for today's Culture segment, we're visiting Zaria Forman to admire her drawings of glaciers from around the globe. I'm in awe. You really don't want to miss this! If you would like to know more about the artist and the story behind her work, there's an excellent interview by Kate Yoder at Grist, here.

Closing thoughts

I would like to invite you to visit my Patreon page. But you don't have to contribute financially to view my Patreon posts. That's just not my style. I'm hoping to build a community where I share content that I'm not ready to share on my website. You can also learn about my short- and long-term goals. I've already posted a video in addition to a welcome post. You can find me on Patreon, here.

Last week's carbon dioxide levels were 411.13 ppm, as per Sammy Roth's Climate Point newsletter, here (sign-up form). I always find a story at Climate Point that I missed. But if I had to choose a favorite one from last week's edition it would be the one about Trump's plans to reverse clean air and water standards:   

The researchers found that if Trump succeeds in reversing protections for clean air and water, 80,000 more people will die every decade than would have otherwise.
— Sammy Roth, Climate Point newsletter; source: Marianne Lavelle, Inside Climate News

That's all for this week's edition of Climatically Speaking. Until next week, stay cool. It's supposed to reach 106°F (41.1°C) tomorrow in my part of the woods. What about yours?   —Laura

Please note: My editor took off for the hills and hasn't been seen for years. If you're a journalist or scientist and find mistakes in these summaries, please reach out through the contact form in the menu at the bottom of this page. I don't mind being corrected at all. Thanks!