Climatically Speaking: The Best Stories on Climate, Food, Science and Culture, (10th ed.)

Icebergs, Photo by Ghost Presenter from  Pexels

Icebergs, Photo by Ghost Presenter from Pexels

Escaping the hazards of climate change in underground bunkers; a more planet friendly form of capitalism; mapping sea-level rise across the globe; recent worldwide heat waves; crops, nutrition and climate change; the doctor who solved a heart-wrenching mystery and more.


Welcome to the 10th edition of Climatically Speaking. I wonder ... do you think humans have the will to stop runaway global warming? I don't think anyone knows the answer to that yet. Though five wealthy bankers are convinced we're doomed. And they've cooked up a scheme. Hint: It doesn't include the rest of us.  

A meeting with five bankers

In this riveting piece at Medium, Douglas Rushkoff describes being paid handsomely by a group of investment bankers to give a talk on the future of technology—except that his audience turns out to be five men, who think it's too late to solve climate change and other global plights.

As Rushkoff soon learns, these fortunate five believe Earth will descend into chaos in our lifetimes, and they're planning to weather the apocalypse in underground compounds. So they asked Rushkoff to advise on how to protect their stashes of food, and other supplies, from angry mobs. The men also want to know how to reward and control their security forces, since they expect currency to be worthless. And many of their ideas are creepy: Should they maintain loyalty by forcing their guards to wear special collars? Or, what about using armed robots, instead?

Rather than work toward solutions that might prevent the collapse of civilization in the first place, the men have chosen to save themselves—if such an event takes place—and leave the rest of us to somehow cope with the fallout. Although Rushkoff's account reads like the plot of an apocalyptic film with a cast of five sinister characters, this story is, unfortunately, true. My hats off to Rushkoff for his thoughtful response. 

Is there a plan B? 

But perhaps global capitalism could remain intact, at least in the short term, without wrecking the planet and causing social unrest. Jeremy Lent, author of "The Patterning Instinct: A Cultural History of Humanity's Search for Meaning," believes he might have a solution and outlines his ideas in this post on his website. It's a fascinating and brilliant read. 

Climate, environment and energy

A very cool map 

Take a look at how a 2°C and 4°C increase in global temperatures will impact sea-level rise in this map at Bifrost. Although it doesn't include every place on Earth, the map provides a handy visual for familiar cities and regions, such as London, New York and New Jersey. But what if you want to know how sea-level rise will affect your community down to your street and address? There's a map for that, here, at Climate Central. Have fun! 

Record-setting high temperatures across the globe

As Adam K Raymond writes at New York magazine, record-high temperatures are being set from Kyoto Japan, the south-central part of the U.S. to Sweden—where fires are burning in the Arctic Circle. These heat waves are caused by heat domes, "high-pressure areas that trap hot air and increase temperatures." Scientists predicted long ago that greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels would raise global temperatures and increase the intensity and frequency of extreme heat waves. 

Food and farming

Some people think that higher levels of carbon dioxide will be better for plants, but that's not likely true for the animals—including humans—who consume those plants. As scientists note at PLOS Medicine, higher concentrations of CO₂ increase cereal crops' growth while reducing amounts of protein, micronutrients and B vitamins in rice and wheat. This could result in more incidences of diarrhea, anemia and infections, especially in areas of Southeast Asia and Africa. 

Science, health and technology

Imagine being an obstetrician at one of two maternity hospitals in Vienna in 1840 and witnessing the deaths of a disproportionate number of mothers and babies. Yet, the second maternity hospital, which employs only midwives, doesn't have nearly the same death rate. Remember, this was before germ theory. In this compelling translation of Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis' detailed report, published by Seth Godin at Medium, you'll learn how a compassionate and brilliant obstetrician solves the puzzle but in the process learns the heartbreaking truth: He and his staff are responsible for the deaths. Why?And how does Semmelweis respond? 


It will take more than renewable energy and green products to solve pollution and resource depletion, according to Ravi Nadjou, author of this inspiring piece at Fast Company. We'll need to change our consumption habits, too, because everything we produce requires inputs from Earth, even goods produced with renewable energy and made from recycled or earth friendly materials. And there's also the human component to consider. According to Nadjou, in order to live fulfilling lives in the future, humans will need to make a radical shift in how they perceive themselves and their relationships with nature. (A big thank you to Nory Griffin, @ClimateYesNow, for sharing this excellent piece on Twitter)

We must learn to value quality of life over quantity in life. We must help each other enhance our material, emotional, and spiritual well-being and reach our full potential. Let’s use our compassion, ingenuity, wisdom, and our sense of unity with nature to co-create a conscious bioeconomy.
— Ravi Nadjou, Fast Company (, June 20, 2018

As per Sammy Roth's Climate Point newsletter, carbon dioxide levels beginning the week of July 8, 2018 were 409.16 ppm. You can track weekly, yearly and historical levels of CO₂ on NOAA's website, here.

Stories in the most recent edition of Climate Point include: how summers are getting hotter faster than other seasons; coping with sea-level rise in the Northeast region of the US; and air quality in our national parks. If you're interested in subscribing (it's free!) to Climate Point, you can take a look at past editions, here, and sign up, here

Closing thoughts

I took a break from climate change this past week to write a personal narrative piece on cars. As a point of interest, one of my father's old cars could fly! And I did something gross to my grandmother's green, 1969 Cadillac DeVille, which you can read about by clicking the link to the story below, or, if you're reading this via email, here.  

That's all for today's edition of Climatically Speaking, except that I'm almost out of gas. I can drive only 50 more miles before I have to fill my tank. So, just for the record, I've gone 1 1/2 months on a half a tank of gas. I'm not bragging, though. I don't have a day job outside of my home, and I don't like to drive. But who says gas guzzlers—aka my used, 2006 Ford Taurus—can't have low carbon footprints?     —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!