Andrew C. Revkin

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The crew of the doomed Lord Franklin expedition in an 1895 painting by William Thomas Smith. The men were trapped as they sought to navigate the Northwest Passage. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

This month, as the luxury cruise ship Crystal Serenity completed its pioneering transit of the Northwest Passage, a Canadian expedition announced the discovery of the Terror, a British ship that vanished along the same general Arctic route some 170 years ago.

For the Crystal Serenity, the biggest luxury liner ever to complete the passage, it was smooth sailing on waters that in the Terror’s day were covered by sea ice so impenetrable that it trapped the ship and another British vessel as they sought a route across the top of North America. All 129 men on what was known as the Lord Franklin expedition died.…  Seguir leyendo »

It’s hard to think of a tougher challenge than accelerating humanity’s transition to nonpolluting energy sources and limiting global warming, especially in a world with abundant fossil fuels and fast-growing energy needs.

But that’s the assignment that Bill Gates, the Microsoft co-founder and world’s richest person, has set out to tackle with a new multibillion-dollar fund that will invest in research on potentially breakthrough clean-energy technologies. He expects to double his clean-energy investments to $2 billion over the next five years.

Mr. Gates sat down recently with me to discuss the undertaking in his first extended interview since he announced the effort in December at the Paris climate conference.…  Seguir leyendo »

The slogan "For the Planet" was projected on the Eiffel Tower on Friday as part of the COP 21, the climate conference in Paris. Credit Francois Mori/Associated Press

At the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro 23 years ago, the world’s nations adopted a treaty that pledged, but ultimately failed, to cut the emissions driving global warming. In Paris over the last two weeks, negotiators from around the world met for the 21st time since then in an effort to move from aspiration to action.

As legions of bleary-eyed diplomats, environmentalists and lobbyists make their way home across the planet, you’ll hear proclamations that COP 21, as the meeting was called, was a historic turning point, and a profound failure.

Both will be right, depending on the scale of reference.…  Seguir leyendo »

Given the weather of late, extremes seem to have become the norm.

New York City just had its hottest June-to-August stretch on record. Moscow, suffering from a once-in-a-millennium heat wave, tallied thousands of deaths, a toll that included hundreds of inebriated, overheated citizens who stumbled into rivers and lakes and didn’t come out. Pakistan is reeling from flooding that inundated close to a fifth of the country.

For decades, scientists have predicted that disastrous weather, including heat, drought and deluges, would occur with increasing frequency in a world heated by the rising concentrations of greenhouse gases. While some may be tempted to label this summer’s extremes the manifestation of our climate meddling, there’s just not a clear-cut link — yet.…  Seguir leyendo »