Climate Change Reshaping the World

Virtually all reporting in newspapers, radio, TV, etc. focuses on specific events.  It’s often helpful to see “the big picture” … the overall trend within which the events are occurring.  That helps each of us plan and adjust to achieve the most positive future outcomes we can.  I gather that the editors of the Washington Post decided to create a big picture statement, based on the myriad of reported events they see.  I’ll add comments afterwards.


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How climate change is reshaping the world


By Washington Post Staff

April 20, 2022


At The Washington Post, we’re dedicated to covering the impacts of climate change and a warming world — both in the United States and around the world.

We’re dedicated to covering solutions, too. But we don’t believe in shying away from the extent of the problem and the impact warming temperatures are already having on our planet. Climate change is and will continue to touch almost everything around us, from our septic tanks to your seasonal allergies and the turbulence you experience on your next flight.

The most drastic impacts are disproportionately affecting poorer countries. And scientists are clear — without swift and drastic action, Earth will become uninhabitable. There is still time to stop some further impacts of a warming planet. (We’re tracking President Biden’s environmental actions here). But a warming and changing planet is already here.

Here is a look at some of The Post’s climate coverage on how rising temperatures are impacting the people, animals and agriculture around the world.


Mudslides are displacing millions of Brazilians

Terrence McCoy

The Washington Post

In Brazil, climate change has caused intense droughts, followed by punishing rains and catastrophic flooding. The country now has a problem that many here fear is impossible to solve. In a country of profound inequality and widespread poverty, the poor have long been locked out of the formal housing market, clustering together in often unsafe locations.

The nation does not have the resources, the logistical capacity or the political will to relocate the estimated 4 million Brazilians in areas of risk, housing analysts say, let alone address the underlying social issues that first gave rise to the favelas.


The cradle of civilization is becoming a grave 

by Louisa Loveluck and Mustafa Salim

(Emilienne Malfatto for The Washington Post)


Carved from an ancient land once known as Mesopotamia, Iraq is home to the cradle of civilization — the expanse between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers where the first complex human communities emerged. But years of below-average rainfall have left Iraqi farmers more dependent than ever on the dwindling waters of the Tigris and Euphrates.

In the historic marshes, men are clinging to what remains of life as they knew it, as their buffaloes die and their wives and children scatter across nearby cities, no longer able to stand the summer heat.

Temperatures in Iraq topped a record 125 degrees in 2021, with aid groups warning that drought was limiting access to food, water and electricity for 12 million people here and in neighboring Syria. With Iraq warming faster than much of the rest of the globe, this is a glimpse of the world’s future.

Rising water threatens South Sudan

By Rachel Chason and Adrienne Surprenant

(Adrienne Surprenant/Item/for The Washington Post)


Every year, South Sudan has a rainy season. But the water levels since 2019 have set records. Flooding in 2021 displaced more than 700,000 — about 1 in every 15 people in South Sudan. In some cases, mothers had so little to eat that they could not breastfeed. Cases of malaria and other waterborne illnesses surged.

The rising waters are driving what the World Food Program says is the biggest hunger crisis to hit South Sudan since it became independent from Sudan in 2011. More than 60 percent of the population is considered at a crisis level or worse.


In England, historic buildings are collapsing

 By William Booth

(Tori Ferenc for The Washington Post)


Hurst Castle has stood on its sandy spit since 1544, through the Napoleonic Wars and World War II. Its garrison protected the Allied forces on D-Day.

But last year, a large section of the castle — a wing constructed in the mid-19th century by the best military engineers in the world — tumbled into the fast currents of the Solent strait.

“Hurst Castle is one of the canaries in the coal mine, but it is just one of many,” said Keith Jones, climate change adviser for the National Trust, which cares for 28,000 historic buildings, including castles, mansions, barns, lighthouses, mills, pubs and villages, as well as holiday cottages.

The National Trust warned that while 5 percent of its 67,426 sites — natural and constructed — already face the “highest level” of threat from climate change, that portion could rise to 17 percent over the next 40 years, depending on what actions the world takes to limit future warming.

A lack of weather data in Africa is

thwarting critical climate research

 By Rachel Chason and Rael Ombuor

(Sarah Waiswa for The Washington Post)


Africa has just one-eighth the minimum density of weather stations recommended by the World Meteorological Organization, which means there is a problematic lack of data about dozens of countries that are among the most vulnerable to climate change.

On the ground, the dearth of data has meant inaccurate forecasts and poor or nonexistent early-warning systems for people increasingly experiencing deadly cyclones, prolonged droughts and intense floods. In the academic world, researchers say the lack of data has led to challenges in measuring the extent of climate change.

Drought in South America may be the new normal

 By Diego Laje, Anthony Faiola and Ana Vanessa Herrero

(Victor Caivano/AP)


From the frigid peaks of Patagonia to the tropical wetlands of Brazil, worsening droughts are slamming farmers, shutting down ski slopes, upending transit and spiking prices for everything from coffee to electricity.

So low are levels of the Paraná River running through Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina that some ranchers are herding cattle across dried-up riverbeds typically lined with cargo-toting barges. Raging wildfires in Paraguay have brought acrid smoke to the limits of the capital. Last year, the rushing cascades of Iguazu Falls on the Brazilian-Argentine frontier reduced to a relative drip.

Analysts fear the droughts are a harbinger of a new normal, portending consistently lower crop yields in the future.


The Great Barrier Reef nears a tipping point

By Darryl Fears

(Glenn Nicholls/AFP/Getty Images)


Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is experiencing its sixth massive bleaching event as climate change has warmed the ocean.

Reef managers have confirmed that aerial surveys detected catastrophic bleaching on 60 percent of the reef’s corals. The discovery is particularly disturbing, researchers said, because a cooling La Niña weather pattern in the ocean usually offsets warming that stresses coral and causes them to lose color.


How to manage your climate anxiety

If climate change feels scary and overwhelming to you, you’re no alone.  With so much on the line, it’s normal to want to tune out when it comes to news about our warming planet.  Here are some tips for managing those feelings.  (Each tip has a link to much greater “how to” detail.)


Take care of yourself: Need immediate stress relief? Try one of these surprising science-based strategies. Need help with general climate anxiety? Here are some tips for coping and how a climate journalist manages her climate grief.


Make sustainable changes: Individual actions alone won’t stop climate change — but they can restore to you a sense of agency because you change what you can control. One place to start is going greener in your kitchen or planning a more climate-friendly vacation.


Track progress: There’s still time for positive systemic change. We’re keeping track of what the Biden administration is doing to fight climate change, as well as tracking related policies and solutions being proposed in the United States and abroad.

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Years ago, when I was having dinner with the developer who coached me as I developed the Garden Atrium community, he was ruing the burden of environmental legislation aimed at protecting the sea life in nearby Chesapeake Bay.  I mentioned forecasts of rapidly declining sea life population.  His wife jumped into the dialogue with, “I was at the market yesterday and they had a huge variety of seafood!”  What occurred to me:


  • Trends I don’t personally see can be challenged. Who knows whose projection is really true?  “Dissonance Theory” details ways in which all of us tend to dispel information that goes counter to what we believe … especially if it challenges something in our day-to-day lives with which we’re comfortable … or even treasure.


  • Change – especially away from something with which we’re fond – is uncomfortable. My wife now has a mild case of diabetes, which forced diet changes.  She had to let go of some foods she’s enjoyed all her life.  That’s not easy.  If we believe the data that underlies the need to change, we might then change … but begrudgingly!


When I completed my most recent sustainability book, I was searching for a title.  D suggested “The Challenge of Change.”  Well, books need catchy titles or they won’t come off the shelf to be read.  Same with movies or articles.  I didn’t think D’s suggestion was especially catchy.  However, the more I see how problems are not being addressed, and how much we tend to fight the need to change – and sometimes even fight with weapons! – the more I think D hit the proverbial nail on the head.

The only other thought that I’ve learned, as we host visits to our Garden Atrium homes and site, is:


People need to experience the problem and the solution

in order to have the motivation to change.  And …

They need to feel better after they’ve made the change.


It’s the carrot, not the stick.  If I shift to a new food, for whatever reason, and if I enjoy that new food even more than the previous food, then I might think, “Why haven’t I done this before?”

Learning about the problems happening in several places on our planet makes me feel sad, but doesn’t motivate me enough to actually change what I do … until I’m affected personally.

Driving that e-car has to be more fun than the old gas car.  But I won’t know whether or not it really is more fun until I personally experience it. And no amount of rhetoric or inducements or testimonials will cause me to change from what I’ve been doing as much as my own new experience can.

(By the way, you can download “The Challenge of Change” from our web site.  There’s no cost whatever.)


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