Nicolas Magand on the internet

My name is Nicolas Magand and I live in Paris, France. I work as a social media and engagement editor at the Global Editors Network, a non-profit aimed at promoting innovation and sustainability in the news industry. Here I blog mostly about tech and media, but many other topics can face my enthusiasm.

Filtering by Tag: climate change

The imminent climate change catastrophe, if not already started

Fiona Harvey, writing on The Guardian, about a newly published provisional statement on climate change, from the World Meteorological Organisation:

Global temperatures have continued to rise in the past 10 months, with 2018 expected to be the fourth warmest year on record.

Average temperatures around the world so far this year were nearly 1 ℃ above pre-industrial levels. Extreme weather has affected all continents, while the melting of sea ice and glaciers and rises in sea levels continue. The past four years have been the hottest on record, and the 20 warmest have occurred in the past 22 years.

The warming trend is unmistakeable and shows we are running out of time to tackle climate change […] On current trends, warming could reach 3 ℃ to 5 ℃ by the end of this century.

Another day, another worrisome report about climate. I'm afraid the great K.C. Green's Gunshow drawing – the origin of one of the strongest meme – will stay trendy for a while.

A few climate change realities

In a perplexing, worthwhile, but quite long, article on The New Yorker, Bill McKibben describes the reality of the world's situation towards climate change. If the second half tends to go nowhere as interesting as the title promises, they are some good bits to be shared here. A quick selection:

Late in 2017, a United Nations agency announced that the number of chronically malnourished people in the world, after a decade of decline, had started to grow again—by thirty-eight million, to a total of eight hundred and fifteen million," largely due to the proliferation of violent conflicts and climate-related shocks."

Then this one:

Two centuries ago, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere was two hundred and seventy-five parts per million; it has now topped four hundred parts per million and is rising more than two parts per million each year. The extra heat that we trap near the planet every day is equivalent to the heat from four hundred thousand bombs the size of the one that was dropped on Hiroshima.

An old classic:

Nine of the ten deadliest heat waves in human history have occurred since 2000.

This:

By 2070, tropical regions that now get one day of truly oppressive humid heat a year can expect between a hundred and two hundred and fifty days, if the current levels of greenhouse-gas emissions continue.

And this:

By 2050, if temperatures rise by two degrees a quarter of the earth will experience serious drought and desertification. The early signs are clear: São Paulo came within days of running out of water last year, as did Cape Town this spring. In the fall, a record drought in Germany lowered the level of the Elbe to below twenty inches and reduced the corn harvest by forty per cent.

My favourite:

Alex Steffen, an environmental writer, coined the term “predatory delay” to describe “the blocking or slowing of needed change, in order to make money off unsustainable, unjust systems in the meantime.” The behavior of the oil companies, which have pulled off perhaps the most consequential deception in mankind’s history, is a prime example.

And the kicker:

This past May, a team of scientists from the University of Illinois reported that there was a thirty-five-per-cent chance that, because of unexpectedly high economic growth rates, the U.N.’s “worst-case scenario” for global warming was too optimistic. “We are now truly in uncharted territory.

Worrisome to say the least.

Reporters covering environmental issues are becoming more and more vulnerable

Eric Freedman, on the Nieman Journalism Lab, on the growing pressure surrounding environmental journalists:

Covering the environment is one of the most hazardous beats in journalism. According to one estimate, 40 reporters around the world died between 2005 and September 2016 because of their environmental reporting — more than were killed covering the U.S. war in Afghanistan.

Environmental controversies often involve influential business and economic interests, political battles, criminal activities, anti-government insurgents or corruption. […] In both wealthy and developing countries, journalists covering these issues find themselves in the cross-hairs. Most survive, but many undergo severe trauma, with profound effects on their careers.

Sadly, not a surprise.

Spain wants to fully switch to renewable energy by 2050: Which countries will follow?

Arthur Nelsen, on Mother Jones:

Spain has launched an ambitious plan to switch its electricity system entirely to renewable sources by 2050 and completely decarbonize its economy soon after.

By mid-century greenhouse gas emissions would be slashed by 90 percent from 1990 levels under Spain’s draft climate change and energy transition law.

To do this, the country’s social democratic government is committing to installing at least 3,000 MW of wind and solar power capacity every year in the next 10 years ahead.

2050 feels very far away – and this Spanish plan is still a draft law proposal – but if it means they will be out of this terrible equation, and if it means other countries will follow, then good job Spain.

The effective use of satire for convincing an audience

Elisabeth Preston, writing on Undark:

Over a decade’s worth of research shows that while satire does carry some risks, it can be an effective tool for communication. Satire can capture people’s attention and make complex topics accessible to a wider audience. In some circumstances, it can even sway beliefs. If scientists want to communicate with the public about a serious subject, they might try a joke.

It is not only good news though:

But humor could also manipulate audiences in the opposite direction. “Comedy could just as easily be used to engage people with perspectives that misrepresent or undermine science,” [Lauren Feldman, a communication researcher] says.

Another risk: people might not get the joke.

You already know what I will say but yes, I think The Onion is doing an terrific job when it comes to satire: humourous pieces with a real message; my favourite category being American Voices, where they publish fake one-line opinions from the public regarding a very real issue.

Evolution, climate change, and long-snouted dolphins

Ultimate biology nerd clickbait title right?

Ed Jong, on the Atlantic, giving a possible explanation on why a few fossil dolphin species had an unusual long snout, sometimes as much as five times longer than their heads:

Crucially, these long-snouted species arose during a time in the middle of the Miocene when ocean temperatures started climbing. In cold water, warm-blooded predators like dolphins have an advantage over cold-blooded prey like fish or squid, because they’re better at maintaining a high metabolism and swimming at high speeds. As the oceans warm, fish can move faster and the dolphins’ advantage disappears. Perhaps some of them regained the upper hand by evolving long snouts that could swiftly sweep through shoals of prey.

Nature is fascinating.

The climate change catastrophe that is coming

Jonathan Watts, writing on the Guardian about the UN warning to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C (instead of between 1.5 and 2°C): where "half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people."

The vocabulary associated with climate change has seriously changed recently. I think it is for the better. Instead of saying "glaciers are melting" or "average global temperatures went up for the Xth year in a row", we are now talking about the actual consequences of such changes, and not just mere observations, unremarkable to most readers.

The half-degree difference could also prevent corals from being completely eradicated and ease pressure on the Arctic, according to the 1.5C study, which was launched after approval at a final plenary of all 195 countries in Incheon in South Korea that saw delegates hugging one another, with some in tears.

Not a good sign.

Chilling facts about air conditioning

Lily Strelich, on the June 14th Quartz Obsession newsletter, on the theme of air conditioning:

Most A/C units rely on refrigerants like hydrofluorocarbons, which are potent greenhouse gasses. Carbon emissions from cooling have tripled since 1990, contributing to the warming climate, which in turns requires more air conditioning. Cool the room, warm the globe, repeat.

This points me to the fact that there has been a lot of – deserved – coverage on the impacts of cars and transportation on climate change, but I've found many people pretty clueless when it comes to energy consumption in general. Filling up the whole kettle for a single cup of tea, or turning the heater up before wearing a sweater are somehow less criticised behaviors than leaving the car engine run while waiting for a friend to come down.

If you are not a subscriber of the Quartz Obsession newsletter, you're missing out on a great source of daily facts; a good game to play with your colleagues is guessing the topics every day before the newsletter arrives.

By the end of this year, Bitcoin could be using 0.5% of the world's total consumption of electricity

Some worrisome numbers about Bitcoin on Eurekalert! Science News:

A single transaction uses as much electricity as an average household in the Netherlands uses in a month. By the end of this year, he predicts the network could be using as much as 7.7 gigawatts--as much as Austria and half of a percent of the world's total consumption. "To me, half a percent is already quite shocking. It's an extreme difference compared to the regular financial system, and this increasing electricity demand is definitely not going to help us reach our climate goals," he says. If the price of Bitcoin continues to increase the way some experts have predicted, de Vries believes the network could someday consume 5% of the world's electricity. "That would be quite bad."

You would think the world would know better by now, 2018, about how we are destroying our planet, but sadly, nothing seems able to stop us if there is some extra money to be made.

Last week, I worked on trasncribing and editing an interview of the former editor-in-chief of the Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, mostly about journalism and climate change. Rusbridger made so many great points, but this one resonated most with me:

If we believe that [climate change] is the biggest story of our lives — which it probably is — and then you look and see how that translates into how the media covers it, there’s a terrible mismatch between this immensely important story and the way the media deals with it now.

I'd be curious to see how many of the publications covering blockchain and cryptocurrencies news are carefully mentioning their monstrous electrical consumption, and how many actually talk about the following climate impacts.

My bet is most of them just don't.

To end this post on a lighter note, an old gem from the Onion.

The hottest fashion trend

Caroline Haskings, writing for The Outline, describing the dataviz of annual average temperatures:

Our entirely avoidable plunge into oblivion, as a nice poster.

Not sure about the avoidable part in 2018, but indeed this pattern looks very good. So good in fact, that I saw another great use for this kind of pattern, just this week on kottke.org: blankets.

According to climate scientist (and crocheter) Ellie Highwood, these blankets are a subset of “temperature blankets” made to represent, for example, daily temperatures over the course of a year in a particular location.

I can see this become a – sad, tragic – fashion trend for other things: phone cases, socks, window blinds, ties, &c. The pattern looks that good.

Check also

Whenever I watch Columbo, as you should, I take some screenshots.

Making lists is something on which I love to waste time; my—ever-changing—favourite songs list was a real challenge.

On the great Letterboxd, I keep a log of the movies I watch, rate them, sometimes review them. 

If you speak French, I highly recommend my friend Nabil's podcast: Art Oriented.

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