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Christopher Joyce

Try this: Write a list of every piece of plastic you touch in a day.

I did it. I stopped counting at 56 items.

2018 was a hot year — in fact, the fourth warmest on record. The only years that were, on average, warmer were the past three, according to the World Meteorological Organization.

It has been warming for decades now. But 2018 brought several major new and markedly more precise reports from scientists about what climate change is doing to the weather and how dire they expect the consequences to be.

That didn't stop President Trump and others from continuing to question the evidence.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

As climate negotiators from around the world meet in Poland this week and next to figure out how to keep greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere, they are hearing some discouraging news: Emissions of the biggest pollutant, carbon dioxide, are going up.

For three years — 2014 through 2016 — the amount of atmospheric CO2 had leveled off. But it started to climb again in 2017, and is still rising.

"Last year, we thought, was a blip — but it isn't," says Rob Jackson, a climate scientist at Stanford University in California.

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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The Trump administration released a major climate assessment on Black Friday, the culmination of years of research by the country's top climate scientists. It's well over 1,000 pages and touches on a daunting range of topics.

When the South Atlantic Ocean was young, sea monsters ruled it.

Some of their bones have turned up along the coast of West Africa and are going on exhibit Friday at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. They tell a story of the bloody birth of an ocean.

The fossils of giant swimming reptiles called mosasaurs have been found in the rocky cliffs of Angola, overlooking the Atlantic. It's not a country known for fossils. Few scientists have looked there — half a century of civil war made it too dangerous. But geologically, Angola is special.

Some of the world's top climate scientists have concluded that global warming is likely to reach dangerous levels unless new technologies are developed to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says pledges from the world's governments to reduce greenhouse gases, made in Paris in 2015, aren't enough to keep global warming from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees F) above pre-industrial temperatures.

Conservationists have developed a new high-tech strategy to trace the cartels that smuggle much of the illegal ivory around the world — by using DNA to track ivory back to specific ports.

Biologist Samuel Wasser from the University of Washington is behind the effort. He notes that while poaching in Africa has dipped recently, too many elephants are still dying.

Scientists working in South Africa say they've found the earliest known drawing. It was dug up in a cave where early humans apparently lived for thousands of years and left behind numerous artifacts.

A warming world could eventually make some of our most familiar ecosystems — deciduous forests, grasslands, Arctic tundra — unrecognizable.

That's the conclusion of a team of more than 40 scientists who took a novel approach to predicting the effects of how human-caused global warming will alter ecosystems. They looked about 20,000 years back in time.

More Americans die from the effects of heat than of any other form of severe weather, and this summer has seen one heat wave after another. Some places in the U.S. and elsewhere have recorded their highest temperatures ever. In fact, the average temperature around the planet over the past four years has been the highest ever recorded, and nine of the 10 hottest years were all in this century. (The other was 1998.)

A huge pack of floating ice along the northern Greenland coastline is breaking up and drifting apart into the Arctic Ocean — another consequence, scientists say, of global warming caused by the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

"We've never seen anything this large in terms of an opening north of Greenland," says polar scientist Ted Scambos of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, which collaborates with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Plastic trash is littering the land and fouling rivers and oceans. But what we can see is only a small fraction of what's out there.

Since modern plastic was first mass-produced, 8 billion tons have been manufactured. And when it's thrown away, it doesn't just disappear. Much of it crumbles into small pieces.

When a huge floating gyre of plastic waste was discovered in the Pacific in the late 1980s, people were shocked. When whales died and washed ashore with stomachs full of plastic, people were horrified. When photographs of beaches under knee-deep carpets of plastic trash were published, people were disgusted.

Though some of it came from ships, most, presumably, was from land. But how much was coming from where?

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