David Wallace-Wells

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Forests Are No Longer Our Climate Friends

Canadian wildfires have this year burned a land area larger than 104 of the world’s 195 countries. The carbon dioxide released by them so far is estimated to be nearly 1.5 billion tons — more than twice as much as Canada releases through transportation, electricity generation, heavy industry, construction and agriculture combined. In fact, it is more than the total emissions of more than 100 of the world’s countries — also combined.

But what is perhaps most striking about this year’s fires is that despite their scale, they are merely a continuation of a dangerous trend: Every year since 2001, Canada’s forests have emitted more carbon than they’ve absorbed.…  Seguir leyendo »

As Smoke Darkens the Sky, the Future Becomes Clear

My father, who died of lung cancer, used to say that as soon as people inhaled their first cigarette, they immediately knew, if they weren’t in denial, that they were harming themselves.

I felt the same way on Tuesday in New York, my eyes itching and my nose burning and the taste in my throat like I’d swallowed a charcoal bonbon. This had to be bad. The sky wasn’t quite the apocalyptic orange of Australia’s Black Summer or San Francisco’s Day the Sun Didn’t Rise, but it had grown confrontationally eerie, enveloping the city in a blanket of toxic smog.

Until now, if people in the green and leafy Northeast looked at arid Western cities covered in smoke from wildfires, they could say, that can’t happen here, thank God.…  Seguir leyendo »

Apparently the Pandemic Emergency Is Over

Twenty-two million deaths later, it’s over. On Friday, the World Health Organization declared the end of the Covid-19 global health emergency. In the United States, the public health emergency will officially be withdrawn next week. For years now, Americans despairing at the death and disruption of the pandemic have found themselves asking, when will it end? The answer, officially, is now, however arbitrary that may seem.

How did we get here? In 2020, we talked about “flattening the curve” and “zero Covid”. We let ourselves imagine that an endgame might arrive soon. We looked at graphs charting the waves of the Spanish flu and wondered how many such waves we might have to endure: Would it be one winter surge or two?…  Seguir leyendo »

How Did No-Mandate Sweden End Up With Such an Average Pandemic?

If you know one thing about Sweden’s pandemic, it is almost certainly that the country followed a radical, contrarian public health path. Its hands-off approach to Covid-19 mitigation — no stay-at-home orders to begin with, and no mask mandates later on — was one that many on the pandemic left quickly derided as sadistic public policy and many on the pandemic right praised as enlightened.

That was the story three years ago, and although the terms of the debate have been somewhat frozen in time since, the argument has been burning again. In recent weeks, the former state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, the architect of the Swedish response, has been taking a sort of victory lap through the media.…  Seguir leyendo »

Europe Turned an Energy Crisis Into a Green Energy Sprint

This was supposed to be a winter of energy crisis in Europe. Beginning last spring, not long after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the fear of gas shortages spread across the continent, along with fears of what might follow. The coming winter crunch was compared to wartime, with energy experts less focused on whether it would bring rationing than how much. Others suggested that spectacular price spikes would mean suspensions of energy markets and that the continent as a whole would experience not a “cost of living crisis” but a crisis of “molecules” — in which there wasn’t enough energy to be had, no matter the price.…  Seguir leyendo »

Britain’s Cautionary Tale of Self-Destruction

In December, as many as 500 patients per week were dying in Britain because of E.R. waits, according to the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, a figure rivaling (and perhaps surpassing) the death toll from Covid-19. On average, English ambulances were taking an hour and a half to respond to stroke and heart-attack calls, compared with a target time of 18 minutes; nationwide, 10 times as many patients spent more than four hours waiting in emergency rooms as did in 2011. The waiting list for scheduled treatments recently passed seven million — more than 10 percent of the country — prompting nurses to strike.…  Seguir leyendo »

Has Climate Change Blinded Us to the Biodiversity Crisis?

Perhaps you saw the memes, circulating like new variants of anxiety in the early months of the pandemic: a series of tidal waves, one following another and each taller than the last. The first wave represented Covid-19; behind it, and larger, the economic recession that would supposedly follow; then, a towering wave for climate change; and then, behind that and largest still, biodiversity collapse.

For the kind of person who has spent the past few years increasingly alarmed about climate, it might be strange to think of anything as looming larger than warming, which in recent decades has seemed to subsume not only all other ecological crises in the collective cultural imagination but also the existential fate of the species and the planet.…  Seguir leyendo »

China Has an Extraordinary Covid-19 Dilemma

More than one-sixth of the people on the planet live in China. That’s 1.4 billion people who have spent the last three years in the world’s most intrusive pandemic surveillance state, designed to limit the spread of Covid-19 at almost any cost.

Americans, particularly on the right, have spent an awful lot of time and political energy complaining about pandemic overreach for the last two years. But our restrictions had nothing on China’s. In the United States, many statewide stay-at-home orders lasted just a few weeks. None exceeded three months, and most were only sporadically enforced. As protests erupted across China last month, one-third of the country was in partial or total lockdown — workers stuck in quarantine facilities, neighborhoods sealed, businesses and schools closed.…  Seguir leyendo »

The World Took a Bold, Toothless Step Forward on Climate Justice

The United Nations climate conference that concluded last weekend in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, did not appear, at the outset, poised to deliver a major breakthrough. Unlike last year’s meeting in Glasgow, this year’s was not designed to produce new emissions pledges, and so the countries that pollute the most weren’t under particular pressure to offer any new promises.

Beyond Secretary General António Guterres’s fiery opening remarks, there were few high-profile rhetorical performances at COP27 by world leaders like those last year by Boris Johnson and then-Prince Charles of England, who engaged in a sort of Olympics of climate hyperbole. Prime Minister Mia Mottley of Barbados brought to this year’s conference an exciting set of proposals to reshape the institutions of development and climate finance, at a time when the global community had been moved especially by the monsoon flooding in Pakistan to consider the injustices of warming and the need for “loss and damage” payments to vulnerable countries.…  Seguir leyendo »

‘Estamos en una peor situación de lo que esperaba’

No hay muchas abstracciones más impugnadas en el mundo contemporáneo que el progreso. ¿Están mejorando las cosas? ¿Con la suficiente rapidez? ¿Para quiénes?

Estas preguntas están simbólicamente unidas, de un modo un tanto singular, a Bill Gates. Objetivamente, Gates es uno de los filántropos más generosos que haya conocido el mundo, al que sus críticos ven cada vez más, en estos tiempos de agudizada desigualdad de ingresos, como la criatura de una plutocracia sesgadamente optimista; los miles de millones de dólares que dona cada año la Fundación Bill y Melinda Gates son quizá más sintomáticos de los problemas del mundo que una posible solución, siquiera parcial.…  Seguir leyendo »

‘We’re in a Worse Place Than I Expected’

There are not many more contested abstractions in the contemporary world than progress. Are things getting better? Fast enough? For whom?

Those questions are, in a somewhat singular way, tied symbolically to Bill Gates. By objective standards among the most generous philanthropists the world has ever known, Gates is seen more and more by critics, in a time of intensifying income inequality, as a creature of the Pollyannaish plutocracy — with the billions given each year by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation perhaps more significant as a symptom of the world’s problems than a potential solution. Even a partial one.…  Seguir leyendo »

Europe’s Energy Crisis May Get A Lot Worse

I don’t think many Americans appreciate just how tense and tenuous, how very touch and go the energy situation in Europe is right now.

For months, as news of the Ukraine war receded a bit, it was possible to follow the energy story unfolding across the Atlantic and still assume an uncomfortable but familiar-enough winter in Europe, characterized primarily by high prices.

In recent weeks, the prospects have begun to look darker. In early August the European Union approved a request that member states reduce gas consumption by 15 percent — quite a large request and one that several initially balked at.…  Seguir leyendo »

COVID-19, año tres. ¿Eso qué significa?

Quizá te sorprenda saber, dado el ánimo pandémico de Estados Unidos —y del mundo, en realidad—, que probablemente la mitad de todos los contagios de COVID-19 se han producido en lo que llevamos de este año, y solo estamos en julio. En diciembre, la cifra podría alcanzar el 80 por ciento o más. La discrepancia entre el número de casos y las consecuencias graves es mayor que nunca: una décima parte de los contagios terminan en muerte respecto a las fases iniciales de la pandemia. Sin embargo, por lo que se refiere estrictamente a los contagios, este año supera a los dos anteriores.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Mysteriously Low Death Toll of the Heat Waves in India and Pakistan

It’s monsoon season now in India, which means it is possible to look back on the extraordinary succession of heat waves that swept across South Asia starting this spring — and begin, at least, to take stock of their impact.

From late March through the end of June, a period of almost 100 days, high temperatures in Delhi were above 100 degrees Fahrenheit on all but 15 of them, with many days breaking 110 degrees. For large parts of those months, the punishing heat stretched over much of the subcontinent, often blanketing more than a billion people and in certain places crossing 122 degrees.…  Seguir leyendo »

La contaminación del aire mata a 10 millones de personas al año. ¿Por qué nos parece normal?

Por cada 1000 personas vivas en la Tierra, 973 inhalan toxinas con regularidad, solo 27 no lo hacen; lo cual significa, casi con toda seguridad, que tú también lo haces.

El otoño pasado, la Organización Mundial de la Salud (OMS) disminuyó su norma mundial de calidad del aire de 10 microgramos de partículas por metro cúbico a cinco. Estos términos y normas pueden parecer abstractos, lo que hace que su significado sea un poco difícil de entender. Pero el mes pasado, el proyecto del Índice de Calidad del Aire y Vida de la Universidad de Chicago (AQLI, por su sigla en inglés) —el referente en la investigación de la calidad del aire mundial— publicó una actualización importante, en la que incorpora los nuevos lineamientos y llega a esa cifra de 973 de 1000 (97,3 por ciento).…  Seguir leyendo »

Una catástrofe alimentaria en camino

La llamaban crisis incluso antes de que comenzara la guerra: más de 800 millones de personas vivían en estado de hambre crónica. Pero, como ya habrán escuchado, la invasión rusa de Ucrania —dos países que, según se calcula, producen suficiente alimento para 400 millones de personas y representan hasta el 12 por ciento de todas las calorías comercializadas a nivel mundial— dificultó aún más las cosas y agravó el hambre.

The New York Times cubrió por primera vez el efecto de la guerra en el hambre mundial a principios de marzo, apenas una semana después de que comenzara el conflicto; en mayo, el secretario general de la ONU advertía sobre “el fantasma de una escasez mundial de alimentos” y The Economist dedicó su portada a “la catástrofe alimentaria que se avecina”.…  Seguir leyendo »

Cinco errores sobre el cambio climático

A veces, las cosas cambian tan deprisa que casi no nos damos cuenta de que, de pronto, estamos viviendo en un mundo nuevo. Hace un año no habíamos oído hablar de Greta Thunberg, que acababa de comenzar sus huelgas delante del Parlamento sueco: una chica de 15 años, sin amigos, que protestaba de forma solitaria contra la indiferencia de su Gobierno ante la crisis climática. Hoy, apenas 12 meses después, es el rostro de un movimiento mundial de millones de adolescentes que se manifiestan desde Nueva York y Montreal hasta Ciudad del Cabo, Delhi y Seúl, para exigir que los poderosos traten sus futuros como si les importaran.…  Seguir leyendo »

Time to Panic

The age of climate panic is here. Last summer, a heat wave baked the entire Northern Hemisphere, killing dozens from Quebec to Japan. Some of the most destructive wildfires in California history turned more than a million acres to ash, along the way melting the tires and the sneakers of those trying to escape the flames. Pacific hurricanes forced three million people in China to flee and wiped away almost all of Hawaii’s East Island.

We are living today in a world that has warmed by just one degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) since the late 1800s, when records began on a global scale.…  Seguir leyendo »