Rising sea temperatures are leading the habitat for Vibrio bacteria – which lives in warm, brackish water – to expand.
The portion of coastlines in which Vibrio bacteria can thrive has risen 56% since the 1980s.
It’s one of many ways climate change is worsening human health.
The amount of coastal water in which harmful bacteria can live has increased 56% over the past few decades, a report published Wednesday found.
That bacteria family, called Vibrio, lives in salty or brackish coastal waters, including in the US and Canada. The infection it causes, vibriosis, is usually contracted by eating raw or undercooked seafood or by exposing a wound to bacteria-infested seawater. Mild cases resolve in about three days, but Vibrio can also cause severe diseases, including gastroenteritis, life-threatening cholera, dangerous wound infections, and sepsis.
The reasons Vibrio is becoming a greater threat are that sea surface temperatures are rising and seawater is getting saltier. That’s one of many alarming findings from the medical journal The Lancet’s sixth annual report on health and climate change. In it, researchers from academia and the United Nations tracked 44 indicators of health effects linked to climate change.
Their conclusion: Climate change is worsening health around the globe and exacerbating existing health and social disparities.
“As the COVID-19 crisis continues, every country is facing some aspect of the climate crisis,” Anthony Costello, executive director of the report, said in a statement, adding, “The Lancet Countdown’s report has over 40 indicators and far too many of them are flashing red.”
One of those red indicators is the link between rising sea temperatures and waterborne diseases like vibriosis. According to the report, the amount of habitable coastline for Vibrio bacteria in certain latitudes of the northern hemisphere has expanded from 7% in the 1980s to 10.9% in 2020.
Most Vibrio infections happen during the summer
Every year in the US, an estimated 80,000 people are sickened by Vibrio and 100 die from their infections. Because Vibrio bacteria thrives in warm water, 80% of those infections are contracted between May and October, according to the CDC.
The bacteria isn’t just a threat to people: In April, after hundreds of dead fish washed up on shore in New Jersey, the culprit turned out to be a species of Vibrio bacteria, according to the Associated Press.
“It is suspected that if there are wider temperature swings during the fall and spring, then this could worsen the impact of these mortality events,” the state’s Department of Environmental Protection said.
While 100 human deaths per year is a low toll from a public-health perspective, rising sea temperatures are poised to make Vibrio – and, most likely, the infections and deaths it causes – more widespread.
Specifically,the amount of habitable coastline for Vibrio bacteria rose from 1.2% to 5.1% in the Atlantic Northeast and from 1.2% to 5.1% in the Pacific Northwest between the 1980s and 2020, the Lancet report found. During the same period, the habitable area for the bacteria in the Baltics increased from 47% to 82%.
Other concerning indicators described in the Lancet report include an increased potential for diseases spread by mosquitoes and a concerning link between extreme heat events and poor mental health, including suicidality.
When countries meet next month for the COP26 climate negotiations in Scotland, Costello said, he thinks it could be an opportunity to respond to climate change and COVID impacts simultaneously.
“We have a choice. The recovery from COVID-19 can be a green recovery that puts us on the path of improving human health and reducing inequities, or it can be a business-as-usual recovery that puts us all at risk,” he said.
A nonprofit group is suing Texas officials over the closing of public beaches for “SpaceX flight activities.”
Save RGV said the Boca Chica beach has been closed for SpaceX launches for over 450 hours per year since 2019.
SpaceX did not respond to a request for comment, but said in August that the group’s allegations were “not accurate.”
Environmentalists have sued Texas officials over claims they continually closed public beaches to allow SpaceX to test out its rockets.
An environmental nonprofit group, called Save Rio Grande Valley (Save RGV), filed the lawsuit in Cameron County state court on Monday, Reuters first reported. The court document claims that the repeated closure of public beaches along the Gulf Coast violates the Texas Constitution and “Texans essential right to access Texas public beaches.”
The lawsuit said that Cameron County, Texas General Land Office, and its commissioner George P. Bush have allowed the Boca Chica beach, an 8-mile stretch of land near Brownsville, to be closed for up to 450 hours per year so SpaceX can test its spacecrafts.
Save RGV said in its lawsuit that the land is part of a wildlife refuge in Cameron County and aims to prevent future closures of the land, as well as State Highway 4 – the only road that leads to the beach.
SpaceX didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Save RGV’s lawsuit said a 2013 amendment to the Texas Open Beaches Act allowed the closure of public beaches located along the Gulf Coast “for space flight activities.” Since 2019, county officials have repeatedly closed-off the beach and State Highway 4 for various SpaceX launches, including its Falcon rockets, the lawsuit states.
The group also said that, per the amendment, the public was to be given at least 14 days notice before a closure went into place. But, Save RGV alleges the county often gave notice only hours before the land would be closed-off. The lawsuit alleges that there have been reports of SpaceX closing the beach on its own and extending closure hours without official county approval.
Save RGV says the amended law violates the Texas Constitution because it restricts public access to the land and claims the SpaceX closures have negatively impacted the ability of residents who live near the beach to fully enjoy their home, as well as prevented members of the nonprofit from participating in activities that help preserve local wildlife.
“This isn’t rocket science,” Jim Chapman, a board member of Save RGV, said in a statement to Reuters. “The Texas Constitution is crystal clear. In Texas, access to public beaches cannot be restricted.”
Save RGV has clashed with SpaceX in the past. It alerted the district attorney to the issue over the summer. At the time, SpaceX reportedly told the district attorney Save RGV’s allegations were “not accurate.”
Last month, the Federal Aviation Administration said it would extend a period for the public to submit comments on a draft report studying the environmental impacts of the proposed SpaceX rocket program in Boca Chica.
In August, “60 Minutes” reported it had obtained government documents showing SpaceX disrupted public access to the beach in “excess of 1,000 hours in 2019,” violating its FAA permit, which only allowed the areas to be closed for 300 hours per year.
“60 Minutes” also reported that SpaceX’s Starbase facility in Texas had created tension with local residents who claim the space company conducts tests with little warning – tests which have caused residents to evacuate their homes. They also alleged the tests led to brush fires and property damage.
Running a vineyard can be a complicated balancing act between multiple sides of the business.
Weather is a merciless wild card – wildfires, freezes, and hailstorms can kill nearly a year’s worth of grapes.
Vineyard owners love the outdoors, the intricate winemaking process, and the end product.
Despite years of studying and learning from professional winemakers before he opened a vineyard, the sheer amount of work required to run a winery still surprised Tony Smith, the owner of Ab Astris Winery in Texas’ wine country.
“Wine-making is romantic to some people, and sometimes it is romantic. But there’s just a lot of hard work,” he told Insider. “It’s much harder than I thought it would be.”
Boutique vineyard owners told Insider that they whirl between spending hours in the fields pruning, selecting grapes, and doing farm work; guiding guests through wine tastings; governing the fiddly winemaking process, and managing all the typical tasks of running a business.
“Making wine is not an easy process,” Lloyd Davis, owner of Corner 103 in Sonoma, California, said. An unexpected freeze, an invasive pest, freak hailstorms, or raging wildfires can wipe out almost an entire year’s worth of work.
“In the wine world there’s something always going on, whether it’s dealing with weather, whether we’re having rain or no rain, dealing with wildfires,” Davis said. “There’s always something to keep you on your toes.”
However, Davis said one of the pleasures of owning a vineyard is creating a wine that he loves to drink, a process that lies at the junction of scientific precision, personal taste, and intuition.
“It’s like cooking,” he said. “There’s a recipe to make a wine, but if you follow the recipe, you’re going to make something barely drinkable.”
Once grapes are pressed, the juice ferments during months-long stays in tanks, oak barrels, and bottles. Davis tastes the liquid throughout the process to know what kind of barrel to put the wine in, whether to add a chip of oak wood into the barrel to nudge the wine closer to his ideal flavor, and when the wine is ready to be released.
When deciding which grapes to pick every day – around October he’s choosing Cabernet Sauvignons and Merlots – he measures the sugar content but bases his decision on whether the grapes have a compelling flavor.
“As any wine maker will tell you, great wine starts in the vineyard,” said Theodora Lee, the owner of Theopolis Vineyards.
It’s consuming work. While Lee loves fine wine, farming, and the outdoors, she said running her business has left her almost no time for personal relationships, while severe heat, drought, and wildfires related to global warming are making wine grapes increasingly vulnerable.
Pandemic-related issues have also sliced revenue for winemakers who relied on big events, restaurant sales, and corporate wine-tastings prior to the pandemic.
Chris Wachira, the owner of Wachira Wines, is struggling to fill staff without extra money to attract applicants. Though she wants to export wines to Kenya, her home country, where she was never able to find California wine, she has put a halt on expanding her business because of a crippling shortage of glass bottles to ship her products in.
“It’s quadrupled my stress levels, Wachira said. “There’s always a new issue to navigate.”
Whiny, self-obsessed, not politically engaged enough – the accusations directed at millennials by older generations seem endless.
Millennials, or anyone born between 1980 and 2000, often get painted as pampered do-gooders with a naive worldview, whose priorities extend only to getting sabbaticals and being allowed to work from home.
That said, decades of disregard for the climate, unfair policies and structures being implemented between the generations, and questionable ideas concerning success in the workplace have left 18 to 38-year-olds with a heavy weight to bear.
Twenty-one young people from Germany told Insider of the problems the baby boomers have created and perpetuated in Germany and how they can be solved:
‘Let’s stop talking about what’s gone wrong.’
We’re hurtling towards the edge of a cliff at full pelt – it isn’t for the sake of science that we’re trying to figure out the quantity by which sea levels are set to rise; it’s about survival.
Together, with more than 67,000 other children and young people from our Plant for the Planet initiative, I’ve committed myself to combat the climate crisis. And yes, perhaps the older generation is listening to us but are they doing enough?
The climate crisis is the greatest challenge of our time. The CO2 clock is ticking. What must we do and what can we do right now? Well, we can massively reduce our CO2 emissions. And we can plant 1,000 billion trees to absorb a quarter of man-made CO2. I’d say to the older generations, to company bosses, and to politicians: “Let’s stop talking about what’s gone wrong or what’s going wrong – let’s plant trees together and save our future.”
‘It’s older people who get to call the shots on pensions – yet they no longer have to cough up.’
Most baby boomers will be retiring soon, which will put considerable pressure on our pension system. There’s a massive disparity between the number of working people and the increasing number of pensioners for whom those working people are footing the bill.
I think a simple and logical solution would be if everyone had to work for a period of time during their later years. And retirement should be linked to life expectancy. I’m skeptical about who decides what’s what when it comes to pensions. You only find older people sitting on the Pensions Commission, who no longer foot the bill themselves. We younger people have to hand out payments but aren’t given a say.
‘The biggest problem the baby boomers have left us isn’t that they haven’t grown out of their crap.’
The biggest problem the baby boomers have dumped on us isn’t that they haven’t grown out of their crappy habits: it’s the state they’ve in which they’ve left the future of our pension system. Pay-as-you-go financing, which has been successfully practiced for decades, will come under increasing pressure as more baby boomers leave the workforce and begin receiving benefits from the pension fund. This news comes as no surprise but politics has, so far, failed to make provisions for that day, when it comes.
Fewer contributors and more beneficiaries mean great challenges will be posed for the statutory pension for a good 15 years. How these challenges will be managed isn’t just a technical question. In fact, some are taking the opportunity – through scandalous inaction – to slowly chip away at the principle of solidarity when it comes to pensions and to privatize them. If all employees became contributors, we could increase contributions slightly and, if necessary, avoid shying away from tax subsidies.
‘We’ve inherited the baby boomers’ workaholic attitude and taken it to the next level.
The notion that Generation Y has no interest in professional success and thinks of the home office as synonymous with doing nothing is certainly not new – and unfortunately, it’s firmly rooted in the minds of many among the older generation. I actually believe we’ve inherited their workaholic attitude – always better, always more, always higher – and that we’ve taken what the baby boomers did and pushed it much further.
Whether among friends, colleagues, or in reports in the media – no other generation linked with topics such as burnout or partly unpaid overtime as often as ours. The demands on our generation when it comes to starting a career are enormous. You’re expected to have five years of professional experience after completing your studies as well as to nearly have finished your Ph.D. Of course, you can’t solely blame the baby boomers, but they’ve always stressed the importance of establishing a career and reinforced that it was the key to a successful and happy life. Although we’ve taken on this attitude, we’d actually do a lot better to leave it behind. Generation Y continues to work a lot, but having a private life is much more important than money: leisure and downtime shouldn’t be overlooked.
Our generation is on its way to achieving the ideal work-leisure balance and to putting the baby boomers’ workaholic madness to rest.
‘Too much emphasis on progress and performance is a key problem we’ve inherited from the older generation.’
A serious problem we’ve inherited from the older generation is this fixation on progress and performance. In our tireless efforts to push boundaries, whatever the cost, there’s usually little room to address the often serious consequences. There’s no doubt about it: constant growth and development do pay off and, as a species, we have to take certain risks every now and then in order to move forward and survive. But pushing boundaries mustn’t become the objective itself nor must it come at the cost that it currently does.
In order to steer us into a desirable future, we need those in decision-making positions to be sharp. They need both the courage to change yet the informed judgment to pick up on warning signs too. To ensure we don’t continue to deplete our resources, we need a clear plan that takes into consideration the effects of our actions. Otherwise, we’ll leave our future generations with more – possibly even more serious – problems than those we have inherited, whether they be nuclear waste, the bees dying off, or climate disasters.
‘Our education systems barely differ to those of the previous generation – and neither has the emphasis on grades and targets in the world of work, unfortunately.’
I’m firm on the notion that we owe much to those who came before us. Especially the generation born in 1968, who revolutionized so much and helped break down so many structures.
But one area in which far too little has happened in recent decades is education. Our education systems have barely changed from those of the previous generation – and neither has the emphasis on grades and targets in the world of work, unfortunately.
At the age of 10, our children are still “sorted” into schools – not based on their individual talents, but purely according to their grades. Applicants are still assessed according to their qualifications on paper far too often, and not by what they actually know. And academic degrees are still worth more than emotional education.
I still remember the look of horror on the faces of my first boyfriend and his parents when I announced I was leaving high school as soon as I legally could, to follow my heart and become a childcare worker.
But I think I learned more life lessons through doing so than I could have ever done at university.
And that’s exactly what our generation so urgently needs: lessons in life. More and more tasks are being taken over by machines and artificial intelligence. The skills Generation Y needs in professional life today are not obedience, authority, and academic knowledge, but empathy, flexibility, and problem-solving.
Our generation must adapt quickly to new circumstances, because the job you did yesterday may look quite different tomorrow. And the office is no longer about sitting at a desk from nine until five; it’s about working at a time and place that maximizes one’s quality of work, based on the individual.
That’s why I’m committed to ensuring our future generations get better human and digital education, so they make our world more human and each individual person can be as he or she is – and thus achieve their own best performance.
‘Those who monopolize most of the power are, on average, much too old.’
Today’s prosperity is probably the greatest legacy of the previous generation. We should definitely be grateful for it. But it’s not as though it’s being passed down to younger generations without its drawbacks. The downside is that his focus on prosperity means few provisions have been made for the future and we haven’t adapted to our current challenges.
Those who monopolize most of the power are still, on average, far too old. Our generation is still trapped in a gilded cage. At some point, young Germans are going to escape that cage and find that the country is no longer at the top of the list of industrial nations.
This power needs to be handed over to the younger generation at an early stage. We’re ready to take on the responsibility and start restructuring things.
‘The older generation knows little about what constitutes a healthy and balanced diet.’
The abundance in food and convenience have featured heavily in the kitchens of the post-war generation. Where meat had previously featured rarely on the dining table, it was almost a compulsory, everyday part of meals in the 1950s. But it had to be simple, fast, and cheap.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that this kind of practice can’t go on indefinitely for future generations.
Due to this abundance and a lack of true appreciation for food, some among the older generation have little idea about what constitutes a healthy, balanced diet. What’s more, over the years a lot of marketing-driven pseudo-sciences – which, simply put, is often wrong and sometimes even dangerous – have persisted.
Questions like: “Where do vegans get protein from if they don’t eat meat?” or the myth that milk consumption is good for the bones (when the opposite is true) are still firmly anchored in their minds and will only be shifted with a lot of effort.
We try to set a good example and show that vegan life is anything but boring, that we don’t just live off salad or tofu – that the kitchen can be a place to have fun. We’re trying to show that cooking with friends, either alone or in pairs, is not another tedious chore; it’s the best thing you can do.
‘Politicians must take us and our ideas seriously.’
The baby boomers, our parents and theirs, have been instrumental in ensuring we grew up with high living standards. I’m grateful for that but we’ve also inherited a few problems, one of them being the pension situation. Like many in my generation, I don’t assume I’ll be provided for in old age. The level of baby boomers being paid for by us is ever increasing while there are fewer of us to foot the bill. It’s great that people are living longer but the subsidy for the pension system is already the largest item in the German budget.
At the same time, less and less is being invested in the future: for example, in education, and in infrastructure. My generation is outnumbered. But those who focus only on large voter groups are putting the future of our country at risk in favor of short-term electoral success. Politicians must take us and our ideas seriously. Ultimately it will help not only one generation but the whole country.
‘We know humanity has power over the Earth’s biophysical systems, thanks to our predecessors.’
For some time, we’ve known humanity affects and has control over the Earth’s biophysical systems more than any other force of nature – knowledge we’ve attained only thanks to our predecessors. It is both a blessing and a curse for our generation.
Never before have so many people been able to inhabit our planet and never before have commodities like regular holiday flights been so easy and readily affordable.
At the same time, hurricanes, floods, and heatwaves have threatened to destroy (and, in many cases, have destroyed) the lives and homes of millions.
My personal goal, through a more responsible approach than previous generations, is to help our generation ensure this power sticks around long term, instead of putting it at risk by inviting irreversible climate disasters.
‘Older generations aren’t prepared to take risks.’
Setting up a business in Germany is far too complex; it should be more straightforward. Other countries are well ahead and we should be moving on as soon as possible. The tax system in Germany is also massively outdated and makes it extremely difficult for those looking to get started with a business.
Start-ups could be much better supported with tax reforms so the start-ups could focus more on taking care of their business. Singapore has attracted startups from all over the world with its simple control system and has become the hub of the crypto scene. Our political structures are also too slow to change and aren’t able to keep up with innovation. Things have to change on this front.
A survey by U.S. News showed Germany was in first place in the “Entrepreneurship” category, ahead of Japan and the USA. It’s clear Germany is at the forefront despite the clear room for improvement.
Work has also changed: people used to stay in the same job their whole life, which is why it used to be feasible to work without constantly developing and learning. Today we seem to switch jobs every year or two. I think it has a lot to do with the Internet.
We always need to be ready to learn new things and take risks. And many opportunities and possibilities arise with the Internet if you’re open to it – cryptocurrencies are something I’m currently heavily involved in and open to, and I realize older generations aren’t.
There’s a conflict simply because older generations always advocate stability and safety over risk-taking, which they aren’t prepared to do. I can only speak for myself but if I’d never taken risks, I’d never have learned. We have to learn through trial and error that you can’t make money from anything and everything. Failure has become a valid part of working life, even if older generations still don’t want to admit it.
But older generations are starting to accept the start-up scene for what it is: it’s fast-moving, involves risk-taking, and isn’t always lucrative.
‘The older generation has left European peace in a fragile state.’
The rapid rise in greenhouse gases, the dramatically worsening climate crisis, the question of nuclear waste disposal, the irreversible death of countless plant and animal species – these are just some of the many consequences of failed climate and environmental policies from previous generations. Because they haven’t relied on sustainability, they’ve dumped the consequences of and responsibility for their actions onto future generations. We’re now having to face a mammoth challenge together: to keep global warming below two degrees to give future generations the chance to make mistakes.
As for Europe, our younger generation has inherited the task of establishing European peace, a project which the older generation has left in a sorry state. The continually rising rate of youth unemployment within the EU, austerity policies, Brexit – all of these things have greatly weakened the notion of the “European community” and reinforced right-wing nationalist and populist forces in Europe. I myself have close ties with Greece, and over the years I’ve witnessed the destructive effects of austerity there, and have also seen growing disillusionment towards the EU. We have to stop this in its tracks and do it now because lasting peace between us all is the most basic of prerequisites for taking on the many challenges ahead and finding solutions for tomorrow.
Where justice and gender equality are concerned, the older generation has set us on a path of clear progress, particularly as regards legal equality between the sexes. While we have to defend this success, we also have to continue fighting for 100% equality between men and women, whether in family and work, pay or pension, and the end of sexual violence towards women and girls.
‘Digitisation is largely a generational issue.’
Being digital means being online, networking, being open to new business models – and being young. It seems to be a largely generational issue: older people are less likely to be online than younger people, which is a pity because digitization opens up many new possibilities, especially for people who are aging. It can simplify and enrich everyday life. I hope people of all ages will greet digitization with open arms and optimism, but obviously not without a healthy dose of skepticism. Networking is at the heart of the digital world and could contribute to a better level of understanding between young and old. And it would help us learn much more from older people and vice versa.
‘Pension plans are a big disappointment.’
The subsequent drop in birth rate as a result of the rise of the contraceptive pill among the baby boomers is exacerbating demographic change. This has resulted in a shortage of specialists and labor in all areas of the economy. We young entrepreneurs and managers in particular are suffering from this as employers. Moreover, our country’s pension plans are a huge disappointment for our generation and an attack on intergenerational justice, particularly in view of demographic changes. The question of billions of funding for the “maternal pension” that’s been proposed in Germany remains open.
What can be done to increase employment rates and to mitigate the consequences of demographic change, as well as the pensions package? We need to look at options for flexible retirement. The statutory retirement age should be done away with. And working time law needs to be fundamentally reformed.
‘Climate change presents us with challenges that will dictate the opportunities of future generations.’
We’ve inherited a lot of problems to do with CO2 in the atmosphere. Climate change today presents us with a task – and how we manage this task will directly determine the opportunities available for future generations. That’s why I’m fully committed to limiting climate change as much as possible. We will only succeed with a market-based climate policy in which politicians set clear targets for reducing emissions. Other bans and regulations are unnecessary and provide false incentives. If we succeed in building a global emissions trading scheme with ambitious goals, which is as broad as possible for all economic sectors, I’m convinced we can limit global warming to an acceptable level.
‘We’ve been left with a society that revolves around profit rather than sustainability.’
We have much to thank the previous generations for: no generation has grown up as carefree and with as many possibilities as ours. However, it’s come at a price: we’ve been left with a society that revolves around profit rather than sustainability, where material prosperity counts more than individual happiness.
My professional field, science, is set up for the short term: there are many temporary contracts, focusing on trendy topics. But this profit-focused society has left its mark everywhere. The environment is riddled with pesticides, exhaust gases, plastics, and much more. People are stressed and it seems they would sooner pop pills than demand the time to live more healthily. Hardly anyone stops to breathe.
We, all generations together, can define new goals and break out of this established cycle, that’s exploiting human and environmental resources. Instead of sitting passively in front of the television and getting worked up about company bosses, we should all be taking responsibility and consuming both more sustainably and consciously. And we should be asking ourselves from time to time what actually makes us truly happy.
‘We’re still teaching as though we’re in the 19th century.’
Living in the 21st century, teaching 19th-century style: this is what seems to be at the core of our schooling.
I’ve tried myself to fend this off with learning methods that combine critical thinking and communication with creativity and teamwork, as well as the use of digital media. My students shouldn’t just be learning content and facts; they should be learning how to obtain new facts, how to share work effectively and efficiently, and how best to absorb and apply what they’ve learned. In this way, they develop openness, a willingness to learn, and also a certain degree of independence. The teacher becomes more of a companion for learning and a moderator.
My school is open to digital media and supports me in my creative work. I almost always use QR codes or get foreign-language authors, into the classroom via Skype.
Yet, due to a lack of technical support, training, time, and security, few teachers can organize something like this on their own initiative. On my page “Toller Unterricht” I publish lots of my ideas as well as tried and tested lesson plans, with materials included.
Politicians have made promises to digitize schools. In addition to the lack of qualifications teachers have, there also seems to be a lack of equipment. I’m glad my school has some projectors and smartboards I can use for my lessons, but some don’t even have Internet access.
Data protection is currently being taken to ridiculous extremes: new data protection regulation makes the use of private computers difficult, so some are being advised to use paper and pen. This won’t work within the frame of a digitization strategy for Germany in 2018.
Therefore, comprehensive reform is needed. Only then can we equip all our students with the skills to prepare them for life and learning in the 21st century.
‘It’s as if the parents think schools are responsible for raising children.’
The older generation has paid far too little attention to sustainable development. Sustainable development means empowering children to form their own opinions and encouraging them to act sustainably. Sustainable development means the current generation is developing, not compromising the next generation, but actively considering it. Children haven’t been sensitized to this at all.
I think there’s a very different tone in schools now. I get the sense that kids are becoming less and less respectful. Manners are disappearing and, unfortunately, you rarely see a boy holding the door open for a girl. It’s as if parents think schools are responsible for bringing children up.
Some children are only interested in who has the latest, highest-end mobile. The children who do not have a say in this are outside the picture – and I think that the generation above us is responsible for instilling different values.
‘We’ve inherited a toxic political style from the generation before us.’
We’ve not inherited generational conflicts; we’ve inherited a toxic political style from the generation before us, which has dealt little with political change or shaping the future and has been more focused on how everything can remain as is. One only has to look at how Merkel’s government dealt with a climate crisis and how it’s always been ignored and fought against by one commission or another. This political style has disappointed our generation and rightly so: it’s clear to young people that a little isn’t enough to answer the hard questions. For example, how can we still find well-paid and permanent jobs in 20 years’ time in spite of digitalization?
‘The older ranks of conservative politicians are afraid of change.’
As an activist for a united Europe, I’m always reminded of how much of the older ranks of conservative politicians fear change. While young people are almost unanimous in their commitment to a united Europe, the older generation is still resistant to it, although though the United States of Europe has been on the agenda of previous German political figures such as Franz Josef Strauss himself.
While old politicians are practicing against the left by remaining on the right, today’s young people are already focusing more on the spirit of the European Parliament, namely by looking for solutions.
In the 21st century, it is no longer about just having ideas, but about collaborating for a shared future. For example, the campaign #FreeInterrail – a free Interrail ticket for all Europeans as soon as they turn 18 – was devised by the youth for the youth. Ideas like these will secure our peace and cohesion in the long term.
Even the ambitious climate goals laid out by politicians in campaign promises fall far short of what’s needed to stop the climate crisis.
Though Biden and the Democrats can be blamed for their conflicting and inconsistent priorities, the base of the issue lies not with politicians, but with those of us who care about combating global warming. If Biden represents the most ambitious mainstream climate plan to date, that means we have not been ambitious enough in what we demand of our politics. We can no longer ask for abstract goals, or rely on the slow machine of electoralism. We must demand radical action – the complete abolition of the oil and gas industry.
We need a big, concrete goal
We already know that the time for action on climate is past-due. Even if we stopped all oil and gas production today, it’d be too late to arrest many of the effects of climate change. The desire to do something about climate change is there – public concern about climate change has grown steadily over the last few years, and the majority of people in most developed countries say they’d be willing to take action to prevent climate change.
Yet the demands we make of our politicians are milquetoast. Climate was not a central feature of the 2020 presidential debates, and the broadcast media barely covers climate at all, meaning our politicians are rarely pressured to take the drastic measures necessary to tackle the crisis.
And that’s because Americans don’t have a concrete goal for how to tackle climate change – we get lost in the morass of individual action (reduce, reuse, recycle), or in the technocratic, long-term goals of politicians. Only when the mainstream public has a real target to strive for will we be able to make actual progress on climate change. We need to call for the complete abolition of extractive industries.
But as long as there’s a profit incentive to keep extracting oil and gas, there will be no reason for oil and gas companies to stop. So we must eliminate the ability of oil and gas companies to profit from extraction, whether through laws that make the process illegal, or through massive protests that make the daily functions of oil and gas companies untenable.
This might seem like a lofty goal considering the bleak political moment we live in, but by drawing this line in the sand, we can then effectively evaluate whether politicians are moving toward that goal or not, and can develop a clearer sense of what actions need to be taken to meet that goal.
As Naomi Klein writes in “This Changes Everything,” politicians almost never declare an issue a crisis worth taking drastic action on until people force them to.
“Slavery wasn’t a crisis for British and American elites until abolitionism turned it into one,” Klein writes. “Racial discrimination wasn’t a crisis until the civil rights movement turned it into one … if enough of us stop looking away and decide that climate change is a crisis worthy of Marshall Plan levels of response, then it will become one, and the political class will have to respond.”
Shifting the Overton window
Having a concrete goal (stopping the worst effects of climate change) with a concrete target (stopping oil and gas extraction) is the only way to move a pro-environment agenda forward.
As of now, there is no mainstream coherent objective when it comes to climate beyond “do something about it.” Contrast that with other successful political movements: Occupy Wall Street fought not for incremental change, but against the actions of specific banks and for the end of economic inequality. During the uprisings over police killings of people of color in the past year, activists fought not for an abstract idea of reform, but the complete abolition (or at least defunding) of the police. Socialist activists who supported Bernie Sanders in 2020 fought not to “do something” about healthcare, but for an actual policy proposal – Medicare for All.
Though all of these movements met setbacks and were repressed by the state, they undoubtedly shifted the Overton window of our politics so that once seemingly impossible ideas are now part of everyday political dialogue. Dramatic restructuring of police departments, vast economic change and free healthcare – ideas that just a few decades ago were barely even part of mainstream discourse – are now discussed as realistic goals. This push creates a positive cycle of change: The discourse shifts, lofty goals then seem feasible, and that allows people to push for more change – more people show up at pipeline protests, more people support movements against police brutality, more people pressure politicians into action – which then further shifts the discourse.
We can now see the same thing happening with the climate crisis: Even major publications are platforming what once seemed like radical solutions to stopping oil and gas production and consumption.
But these movements, as powerful as they are, still remain on the fringe of the fight against climate change. As Klein points out, mainstream environmental organizations push for incremental change, while people thirst for something more radical.
We cannot end climate change without ending the extraction of fossil fuels. But if we keep considering that an unrealistic proposition, we’re doomed to use up massive amounts of people’s energy to push for small reforms, a cycle that creates cynicism and defeatism.
It’s a tall order to abolish all fossil fuel extraction, but the first step is simply naming it as a goal.
The polar jet stream circles the northern hemisphere, swirling up to nine miles above our heads like a curvy, ethereal crown on the planet.
This band of strong wind separates cold air from the Arctic from warmer air to the south, and it’s responsible for transporting weather from west to east across the US, over the Atlantic, and into Europe. It controls how wet and warm these regions are.
But according to a recent study, the jet stream is shifting north as global temperatures rise. That’s because the delicate balance of warm and cold air that keeps the stream in place is getting disturbed. If greenhouse-gas emissions continue unabated, the study found, the jet stream will break out of its normal range by 2060.
“The ‘onset’ of the jet stream’s northward migration may have already begun,” Matthew Osman, a researcher at the University of Arizona’s Climate Systems Center who co-authored the study, told Insider.
That would wreak havoc on weather in the northern hemisphere, bringing more extreme events like droughts and heat waves to southern Europe and the eastern US. More rain and flooding are expected in northern parts of Europe and Scandinavia, Osman said.
A migrating jet stream
The North Atlantic jet stream exists and is held in place thanks to the clash between warm air zooming north from the tropics and cold air in the Arctic. Once these air masses meet, they move east at 110 miles per hour, driven by the Earth’s rotation.
But rising air temperatures mess with that hustle and flow. The Arctic is warming twice as fast, on average, as the rest of the planet. So that warm air travels farther north before it finds cold air, which leads the jet stream’s position to migrate toward higher latitudes.
Osman noted that the jet stream is capricious; the band’s location is constantly shifting as the temperature differential that causes it fluctuates. But his study took the long view, examining the stream’s location over the last 1,250 years. To reconstruct that past behavior, the researchers looked at ice core samples from 50 sites on the Greenland Ice Sheet that date back to the 8th century. The cores revealed how much snow had fallen, and when.
Then, using climate models, the team simulated where the jet stream might move over the next four decades if greenhouse-gas emissions continue at their present rate. The results showed that the wind band’s current movement threatens to exceed any previous shift.
It’s expected to significantly deviate from the norm, with potentially devastating consequences.
“By pushing the jet stream outside its already large natural range, we could be exposing ourselves to increasingly severe climate risks in the future,” Osman said.
More droughts and flooding could be coming
Osman’s study suggests that the jet stream’s migration will likely cause the US East Coast to warm more quickly than it already is. And both North America and Europe will experience more droughts and heat waves.
“Europe, on the downstream end of the North Atlantic jet, will feel these effects most acutely,” Osman said.
In particular, semi-arid regions of southern Europe could become more arid. Parts of northern Europe that already have a wetter, milder climates, like Scandinavia, could become even wetter. That additional rainfall would prompt more floods like the ones that plagued Europe this summer.
Changes in the jet stream could affect polar vortices, too
Some scientists think that warming will also make the jet stream wavier than it already is.
The jet stream’s path is meandering and sinusoidal because not all warm air moves north at the same rate, nor does all polar air travel south uniformly. Hence the many waves in the wind band.
But a study published last month suggests that melting Arctic sea ice could increase the intensity and size of those deviating bulges. When that sea ice melts, more heat and moisture move from Earth’s surface up toward space. That acts like a rock thrown into the pond of the atmosphere – it creates strong ripples above the Arctic that deform the jet stream. This creates wiggles that push extraordinarily cold air toward the equator.
So a more wobbly jet stream, consequently, increases the chances of intense winter storms and cold snaps in the US. Examples of this extreme winter weather include the polar-vortex event that struck the US in 2019 and the winter storm that left millions of Texans without power in February.
“If the jet stream’s waviness increases in the future, this might imply that extreme events such as the polar vortex could also become more frequent,” Osman said.
Federal wildlife officials gave up on being able to save more than two dozen species this week, and declared 22 animals and one plant to be extinct.
On Wednesday, the US Fish and Wildlife Service proposed removing 23 species from the endangered species list. The list was drafted under the Endangered Species Act, a wildlife protection bill signed into law in 1973 to help protect and recover at-risk species and the ecosystems they live in.
This week’s delisting was the largest group of extinction proposals made at one time, according to the FWS.
The agency’s decision was “based on rigorous reviews of the best available science,” it said in an online statement.
Many of the animals on the list had been endangered for decades, with their most recent confirmed sightings dating back just as long. The last confirmed sighting of the Kauai nukupuu bird, found in Hawaii, for example, was in 1899.
The FWS’s efforts have largely been successful at preventing the extinction of more than 99% of the species on the endangered list. Overall, 54 species have been removed from the list because they were recovered, and 56 were downlisted from endangered (on the verge of extinction) to threatened (likely to become endangered).
The announcement kicks off a 60-day comment period, during which the public can send evidence that suggests the species may still be around. The designations are expected to be finalized by the end of the year.
Species on the proposed extinction list include a bat and a variety of birds, freshwater fish, and mussels, as well as 11 species from Hawaii and the Pacific Islands.
Because the species were so rare for so long, few pictures of them exist. Catch a glimpse of eight of them below.
The ivory-billed woodpecker was once America’s largest woodpecker.
Listed as endangered: 1967 Most recent agreed upon sighting: 1944, Louisiana Biggest threat to extinction: Forest destruction
Bachman’s warbler, last seen in Cuba, used to be among the rarest songbirds in North America.
Listed as endangered: 1967 Most recent agreed upon sighting: 1981, Cuba Biggest threat to extinction: Forest destruction
The San Marcos gambusia lived in the slow-moving section of a freshwater Texas river.
Listed as endangered: 1980 Most recent agreed upon sighting: 1983, San Marcos River (Texas) Biggest threat to extinction: Water pollution from nearby cities
The bridled white-eye, a social bird, foraged for food in groups of five to seven.
Listed as endangered: 1984 Most recent agreed upon sighting: 1983, Guam Biggest threat to extinction: Forest destruction, predators (rats and birds)
The Scioto madtom hid under rocks during the day and emerged at night.
Listed as endangered: 1975 Most recent agreed upon sighting: 1957, Big Darby Creek, a tributary of the Scioto River (Ohio) Biggest threat to extinction: Exact cause unknown (contributing factors likely include water pollution from industry and farms)
The Southern acornshell mussel is one of eight species of freshwater mussels that have been ruled extinct.
Listed as endangered: 1993 Most recent agreed upon sighting: 1973 (generally found in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee) Biggest threat to extinction: Water pollution
The Stirrupshell mussel lived in the Southeast, a biodiversity hotspot for freshwater mussels.
Listed as endangered: 1987 Most recent agreed upon sighting: 1986, Alabama Biggest threat to extinction: Water pollution
The Tubercled-blossom pearly mussel needed clean, healthy streams to survive.
Listed as endangered: 1976 Most recent agreed upon sighting: 1969 (generally found in Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, southern Ontario, Canada) Biggest threat to extinction: Water pollution
On Spain’s northern coast, residents awoke to a shocking sight last week. The head of a young girl was nearly submerged in Bilbao’s Nervion River as the water rose, covering her mouth, nose, and eyes.
The fiberglass sculpture is the work of Mexican hyperrealist artist Ruben Orozco Loza. It’s titled “Bihar,” meaning “Tomorrow” in Basque, the language spoken in the region.
“At first it gave me a feeling of stress, when more of the face was out of the water, but now to me she communicates sadness, a lot of sadness,” Triana Gil, a visitor viewing the sculpture, told Reuters on Tuesday. “She doesn’t even look worried, it’s as if she is letting herself drown.”
Loza does not explicitly say that the “Bihar” refers to climate change – in an email to Insider, he described the piece as a reflection on the decisions we make for future generations more broadly. But it’s hard not to make the connection. The latest report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that from 1901 to 2018, the world’s seas rose by half a foot on average, and the annual rate of sea-level rise nearly tripled.
“Bihar: Choosing Tomorrow” is an exercise in pausing, looking at what’s changing, and above all, a future reflection of what can happen if we continue to bet on unsustainable models,” Loza told Insider in Spanish.
“I hope that this piece helps people reflect and see how, like the sculpture, we can get to a point where we are no longer afloat,” he added.
The piece was and installed quietly in the river at dawn, without warning. It was commissioned by the BBK Foundation, a philanthropic arm of Kutxabank, a Bilbao-based bank.
Tomorrow looks worse for the next generation than it did for the last
It took Loza three months to complete the artwork, which he designed and crafted in Mexico with the help of his wife. He then flew it to Bilbao in eight parts, where it was later assembled and brought to the river by boat. A steel structure keeps the 3.5-ton girl submerged, Loza explained.
Just days before the sculpture appeared, a paper published in the journal Science reported that babies born in 2020 will experience two to seven times more extreme climate events – such as heat waves, wildfires, crop failures, droughts, floods, and tropical storms – than someone born in 1960.
“Our results highlight a severe threat to the safety of young generations and call for drastic emission reductions to safeguard their future,” the authors wrote.
Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius would reduce the burden of extreme weather on younger generations, the Science authors note. Indeed, extreme temperature changes would be twice as pronounced at 2 degrees of warming than at 1.5, according to the IPCC report. But we’re on track to pass that lower threshold in the next 20 years, since the planet has already warmed 1.1 degrees.
So it’s not surprising that many young people around the world are concerned. In a pre-print survey of 10,000 people from 10 countries between the ages of 16 and 25, 59% said they felt “very worried” or “extremely worried” about climate change.
The survey, which was released by the journal Nature this month but has not yet been peer reviewed, also found that 57% of respondents described climate change as making them feel “powerless.” Another 30% said it made them feel “indifferent.” That’s where Loza’s piece might come in.
“Art leaves no one indifferent. That’s its function,” he said.
The climate crisis is creating risks that banks and regulators like the Federal Reserve are failing to address. Wildfires like the Caldor fire are destroying homes, neighborhoods, and entire towns. Hurricanes like Ida are battering and flooding our coasts. Weekly heat waves are overtaxing electric grids and buckling infrastructure. If we don’t get emissions under control quickly, extreme weather, drought, and migration will soon gut the economies of regions and nations.
A rapid transition to clean energy would create millions of jobs, improve public health, and reduce energy costs. But banks are still making massive investments in oil wells and gas pipelines, even though such investments will become worthless if we are to get emissions under control in time to avert catastrophe. If President Biden doesn’t nominate a Fed Chair and Board who will take an active role, the transition is likely to disrupt employment, retirement savings, and the entire economy.
A new Fed chair for a new mission
The 2008 financial crisis grew out of excessive risk taking by banks, coupled with a hands-off regulatory attitude. When it comes to the risk that climate change poses to the financial system, this is our 2007, when the risks of the subprime mortgage bubble grew into the causes of a financial crisis. Massive threats are on the horizon. Financial regulators need to act, or face a spectacular collapse. As President Biden considers the Fed Chair nomination, with a decision expected as soon as next week, he should account for where the Fed is on guiding the financial system through climate-related challenges.
Last year, the Fed finally joined other central banks in acknowledging that climate change poses a threat to the financial system. Since then, current Chair Jerome Powell has repeated that it’s early days on climate, and that the Fed won’t act before studying the issue more. His speech at the Fed’s annual Jackson Hole symposium, which he used as a de facto pitch for reappointment to a second term, didn’t even mention climate.
This approach invites disaster. To cushion the financial system from climate shocks that will dwarf the 2008 financial crisis, the Fed must act now. With a Chair who appreciates the threat, the regulator has the power to mitigate both the damage climate change does to the financial system, and the damage the financial system is doing to the planet.
The Fed is responsible for making sure the biggest banks don’t precipitate a new financial crisis. That includes JPMorgan Chase, Citibank, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo, the world’s four biggest funders of fossil fuels. Until the COVID-19 pandemic, megabanks had invested more in fossil fuels every year since the Paris Agreement, even as scientists and policy makers agree that fossil fuel expansion needs to stop for the world to avoid the worst harms of climate change.
That means these big banks are plowing money into investments that will become worthless as the clean-energy transition accelerates. It’s just the kind of dangerous investment that the Fed failed to prevent in 2007, opening the door to a financial crash that wrecked the economy.
Even worse, when these banks finance fossil fuels, they actively contribute to rising global temperatures. That means more climate damage. The banks are creating conditions that harm their business and the economy long-term, in pursuit of short-term profits.
Powell may get credit for forward thinking changes to the Fed’s monetary policy framework, but his approach to financial regulation is taking us back to 2007. Given the damage the 2008 crisis did to the economy, President Biden cannot accept that attitude in his nominee. The Federal Reserve could have stopped banks from selling bad subprime mortgage loans in 2007, and it can stop them from financing emissions that the economy cannot survive now.
Once the Fed Chair accepts this responsibility, they have the tools to bring banks into line. The Fed can make banks account for the riskiness of financing emissions and run stress tests that evaluate how climate change will threaten the financial system. To reduce risk, the Fed can make banks that invest heavily in fossil fuels hold more capital to protect investors, and even put direct limits on creating or holding the riskiest fossil-fuel assets.
Along with bank regulation, the Fed must review the monetary tools it employed during the pandemic. The Fed’s emergency lending during that panic was a bailout for fossil fuel companies. This bailout provides an ongoing implicit subsidy for these companies, lowering their borrowing costs. The Fed should instead put stringent conditions on any future lending and force investors to reckon with the true riskiness of fossil fuel investments.
Finally, the Fed must help cushion the economy from the impacts that are already baked in, which will disproportionately fall on low-income communities and communities of color. It must maintain its belated focus on full employment, making it easier for those displaced by the economic harms of climate change to find work. It should also help finance a just transition by deploying a stronger Community Reinvestment Act and show greater willingness to lend to state and local governments.
This is climate change’s eleventh hour. The Biden administration has acknowledged climate change as an urgent threat to the financial system. But in the absence of Congressional action, Powell seems determined to sit on his hands and let the financial system fund its own oblivion.
Biden must nominate a Chair and Board members who recognize the scale and urgency of the threat – and who will fulfill the Fed’s mission to protect the economy from climate-related threats using its full range of powers.