Climate questions, questions and answers

We hear you.

You ask us all sorts of questions about the biggest problem of our time. You ask us about science. You ask us what policy levers have helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions. You ask us about your daily dilemmas.

You often ask us what you can do.

So, a few weeks ago we invited you to share what’s on your mind, and then we split the questions among several Team Climate reporters based on their area of ​​expertise. There were too many questions that could not be answered and too many to list in one newsletter. Here is a selection.

Which countries have a real chance of fulfilling their obligations under the Paris Agreement? — Michael Svetley, Philadelphia

In accordance with Climate Action Tracking, a research group that analyzes climate goals and policies, very few. Ahead of the United Nations talks in Glasgow last year, the organization found that most major carbon emitters, including the United States and China, were falling short of their promise to stabilize global warming at around 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Celsius. Fahrenheit.

Some are doing better than most, including Costa Rica and the United Kingdom. Only one country was on track to deliver on its promises: The Gambia, a small West African nation that supports renewable energy. — Lisa Friedman

What does the data on greenhouse gas emissions for the last 200 years look like if you subtract volcanic activity? — Hayley Rowlands, Boston

According to volcanic activity, from 130 to 440 million tons of carbon dioxide are released annually. USGS. Human activity generates about 35 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year, which is about 80 times the upper estimate of volcanic activity and 270 times the lower estimate. And that’s carbon dioxide. Human activity also releases other greenhouse gases, such as methane, in much larger quantities than volcanoes.

There is also no evidence that volcanic activity has increased over the past 200 years. Although more has been documented eruptions, researchers at the Smithsonian Institution’s Global Volcanism Program found that this was not due to an actual trend, but rather “an increase in the population living near volcanoes to observe eruptions and improvements in communication technology to report these eruptions.”

Overall, volcanic activity accounts for less than 1 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, which is not enough to make any significant contribution to the increase we have seen over the past 200 years. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change established in 2013 (see page 56 of his report) that the climatic effects of volcanic activity were “insignificant” on a century scale. — Maggie Astor

How can we trust climate modeling when extreme events are much worse than predicted? — Kevin, Herndon, Virginia.

Climate scientists have long said that global warming is causing an increase in the intensity and frequency of many types of extreme weather events. And that’s exactly what’s happening. But global climate models are not really designed to model extreme events in individual regions. For example, the factors that form individual heat waves are very local. Large-scale computer models simply cannot handle this level of detail yet.

However, events sometimes occur that seem so anomalous that they leave scientists wondering if they reflect something completely new and unforeseen, a gap in our understanding of climate. Some researchers are putting the 2021 heat wave in the Pacific Northwest in this category and are trying to figure out if they need to revise some of their assumptions.

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released in April, concluded that we still have time to slow global warming, but only if countries and societies make huge changes right away. This is a big if. — Raymond Zhong

Here is the full set of responses to view.

We also covered common climate questions about food and diet, how to choose durable clothes, wrote a climate guide for kids, and explained why plastic recycling has become so confusing.

We hope that our answers will deepen your understanding of the climate crisis. Please keep asking questions.

On photos: Frederick Law Olmsted, creator of many of America’s most beloved parks, was born on April 26, 200 years ago. Admire his creations.

At the White House: Hundreds of people gathered in Washington on Saturday to demand that President Biden pass climate change legislation. Failure to do so could cost him their vote, they said.

“Woe and Despair”: An environmental activist has died after setting himself on fire in an Earth Day protest on the steps of the Supreme Court.

Behind: Investors concerned about climate change are urging Warren Buffett to do more to cut emissions from his conglomerate’s businesses. He doesn’t have it.

fire season already: Wildfires burned 150,000 acres across three states. At least one person has died.

Verification in practice: In this interview with The New York Times Magazine, Vaclav Smil argues that activists and politicians need more realistic goals to overcome the climate crisis.


  • The global food system relies on very few varieties of fruits and vegetables. This makes it more vulnerable to climate change, It is reported by The Guardian..

  • The war in Ukraine triggered a global energy crisis, causing demand for coal to be higher than ever. according to Bloomberg.

  • Twitter has banned ads promoting climate change denial. CNN reported.

  • There may be fewer North Atlantic right whales left than there are people working to save them. Washington Post tells the story of creatures.

  • Old-growth forests contain more carbon, cleaner water, and a greater variety of life than younger ones. National Geographic Explains Why ancient forests matter.

  • The Sunnyside dump has been a health hazard to the black community for decades. Now, according to the Houston Chronicle, it will become the city’s largest solar farm in the country.


Homosassa, a tiny town on Florida’s west coast, and its rich aquatic life inspired artist Winslow Homer to create some of his most striking artwork. Its “delightful climate,” as he once described it to his brother, made it an ideal retreat from Maine’s cold winters. In Florida, Homer painted thick jungles and a black perch jumping out of the water in the Homosassa River in watercolor. The technique made these works very different from the oil paintings for which Homer is best known.


Thank you for reading. We will return on Friday.

Manuela Andreoni, Jesse Pesta and Sarah Graham contributed to Climate Forward.

Contact us at Climateforward@nytimes.com. We read every message and reply to many!