Some say when reporting on environmental stories you should always find a reason for hope, otherwise the graveness of the situation will make people want to give up. So keep reading, because here comes hope from a legendary 94-year-old British naturalist.
But first: In all my years covering the environment, never has there been such a convergence of devastating climate-related news, from forest infernos to ferocious weather systems.
As I write, Hurricane Sally is battering communities in the southern United States. At one point this week there were at least seven tropical systems whirling across the Atlantic. It has been a record year – there have been 20 named storms so far, surpassing the typical seasonal average of 11.
In Antarctica, we have learned that ocean warming is threatening the Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers, which already account for 5 percent of the global sea level rise. These glaciers connect the West Antarctic ice sheet to the ocean. As they disintegrate, more ice will tumble off the land into the sea with potentially catastrophic consequences.
At the opposite pole, scientists have just announced a colossal island of ice about twice the size of Manhattan has broken free from the Arctic’s largest-remaining ice shelf in northeast Greenland.
The integrity of Earth’s glaciers is crucial to the stability of the climate system. And projections show sea levels could rise more than a metre in just 80 years as polar ice melts, which would drown coastlines around the world.