Chicken little forecast

Still Chugging Along

Volcanoes are erupting in The Philippines, but on-fire Australia received some welcome rain. The Iran war cries have been called off and The Donald’s military powers are about to be hamstrung by the Senate. Meanwhile, his impeachment trial is starting, and we’re all on Twitter for a front-row seat.


What Could Go Right? Climate doomscrolling strikes again

What do recent headlines on the world breaking the 1.5C limit for the first time mean?

Emma Varvaloucas

Emma Varvaloucas

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Climate doomscrolling strikes again

Last week it’s likely you saw a lot of headlines like this one:

If you didn’t read the article—or didn’t finish it—you might be left thinking that we have already passed the level of warming that the world set as a target at the 2015 Paris Agreement

Luckily for those of us prone to climate anxiety, a host of climate scientists and researchers, including Jonathan Foley of Project Drawdown and Zeke Hausfather of Berkeley Earth, have clarified what these headlines mean and don’t mean. 

Most importantly, they don’t mean that we have breached the Paris Agreement target. We will not have done that until the average temperature across 20 or 30 years has surpassed 1.5 Celsius. Our best estimates still indicate that that will happen in the early 2030s (not that that is good, but it’s not now). 

The numbers highlighted in recent headlines come from a new report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which says that it’s more likely than not that we’ll see, between 2023 and 2027, the Earth’s temperature go past 1.5C of warming for at least one year, but that it’s unlikely that the average temperature across five years will. In other words, the rise above 1.5C will likely be temporary. 

This temporary rise is due to increasing global emissions but also due to the meteorological event El Niño/La Niña, warming and cooling phases in the Pacific Ocean that we flip between every few years. We’re about to finish a cooling La Niña phase and enter a warming El Niño one. So the WMO expects us to surpass 1.5C while El Niño does its thing, but come back down again when it’s done.

This does not mean, of course, that we can kick back and relax when it comes to climate change. Absolutely not! All the usual climate change context about emissions driving warming and needing to decarbonize ASAP remains. As data scientist Hannah Ritchie points out in her excellent explainer of the WMO report, temperatures during “cool” La Niña phases are now “much higher than they were during warm El Niño phases from decades ago.”

But as she also says, it’s important that updates like this one from the WMO are communicated and understood correctly, so we can engage with them correctly as well. To highlight two risks that misunderstanding these headlines pose from opposite ends of the “common responses to climate change” spectrum, Ritchie writes:

. . . there is the impact on peoples’ mental health. Many people (wrongly) believe that 1.5C is a catastrophic boundary: that once we cross it, the fight is over. To tell people that this is coming in a few years is to tell them that the end is near. . . .


. . . it gives ammunition to climate deniers. There are a range of negative impacts that are projected to happen in the 1.5–2C range. Many won’t happen after just one or two years at 1.5C. But skeptics will use this to their advantage. “See, they said that X was going to happen at 1.5C. We’ve reached that point, and it hasn’t happened. Scientists have been lying.”

To be fair to the BBC, the article itself is decently clear on all of the above. But from what I have seen, quality of coverage has varied across outlets, and additional clarification in the age of doomscrolling headlines never hurts. As Project Drawdown’s Foley tweeted, “Be wary of money- and attention-seeking headlines that are designed to scare you.” To that I would add, read articles in their entirety whenever you can!

Quick hits

Long range anxiety, begone. Battery startup Gotion High Tech, a supplier to Volkswagen, just announced a new lithium battery that can last up to 1,000 kilometers, or about 620 miles. Mass production is scheduled to begin in 2024.

This is curious: effective weight loss drug Ozempic may also curb addictive and compulsive behaviors, from binge drinking and shopping to picking skin. The evidence is just anecdotal experience so far, but researchers are interested in pursuing the matter.

Last week, Minnesota’s governor, Tim Walz, signed two pieces of gun reform legislation, one a red flag law and the other for universal background checks. Michigan followed quickly on its heels, with Governor Gretchen Whitmer signing a red flag bill into law on Monday. Those two bring the count to 21 US states that have passed red flag laws since 1999. By the way, The Trace, a nonprofit newsroom that covers only gun violence, has just launched a solutions-based newsletter that looks interesting.

Below in the links section, so long, acid rain; hello, preeclampsia blood test; see you soon, revolutionized prosthetics; and more.

By the Numbers

A pop-up section in which we celebrate numbers that represent substantial improvement in people’s lives

8.6%: Malaria prevalence in children in Ghana, down from 26.7 in 2014
83.36%: The decline in malaria deaths in India between 2015 and 2022
12%: The decline in new HIV infections in the US between 2017 and 2021

Children’s reading scores have soared recently in Gulf South states. Mississippi went from being ranked 49th for fourth-grade reading in 2013 to 21st last year, while Louisiana and Alabama were the only states to see reading gains during the pandemic. “All three states have trained thousands of teachers in the so-called science of reading,” the Associated Press reports, “which refers to the most proven, research-backed methods of teaching reading. They’ve dispatched literacy coaches to help teachers implement that training, especially in low-performing schools.” Other states are now adopting similar policies.

Is moral progress a myth?

Some say we’re moving backwards. But the evidence—including the international abolition of slavery, global declines in violence, and a rise in rights for the disenfranchised—says otherwise. | Read more 

How to Be Optimistic About America | S4 E15

What road is hyperpartisanship taking us down? Can we learn from our history? And is the current state of American politics worse than ever before? Today, we talk with CNN’s senior political analyst and author of Lincoln and the Fight for Peace, John Avlon, to discuss how the past can inform our understanding of and response to current political conditions. | Listen to the episode

Progress, Please

(Found good news? Tweet at us @progressntwrk or email.)

Other good stuff in the news 🐷

Energy & Environment:

Public Health:

Science & Tech:

Politics & Policy:

Society & Culture:


TPN Member originals 🧠

(Who are our Members? Get to know them.)

Department of Ideas 💡
(A staff recommendation guaranteed to give your brain some food for thought.)

A Thread on Stealth CampingTwitter

Why we picked it: This is a rare staff pick that is not an article but a Twitter thread that went viral, written by an inveterate traveler named Randy who chose to live on the road for over five years. He shares his methods of how to find a place to sleep anywhere, from the side of highways to the middle of corn fields, and talks about how the constant travel and long periods of isolation changed him. It’s fascinating, to say the least. If you’re intrigued, Brian recommends the book Freedom by Sebastian Junger, which covers similar themes. —Emma Varvaloucas & Brian Leli

Until Next Time

We regret to inform you of some baaaad news out of New Zealand. 🐑

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Emma Varvaloucas

Emma Varvaloucas is the Executive Director of The Progress Network. An editor and writer specializing in nonprofit media, she was formerly Executive Editor of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review and is the editor of two books from Wisdom Publications.