Here’s what humans are doing to the planet

Jay Owen Earth Systems Science

Academic rigor, journalistic flair





Humans are changing the climate in profound ways, triggering rapid changes and increasing extreme events around the world, a much anticipated climate report released this morning warns. Some of these changes, particularly involving the oceans and polar regions, will be irreversible for millennia.

The climate assessments released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are a big deal. They’re the guidebooks many governments use as they plan their climate policies. The new report lays out climate changes so far and what’s ahead if greenhouse gas emissions continue at a high rate. Robert Kopp, a lead author of the chapter on ice and oceans, explains the findings and what they say about tipping points, sea level rise and the future.

Also today:


Stacy Morford
Environment + Climate Editor


What might seem like small changes, like a degree of warming, can have big consequences. AP Photo/John McConnico

Profound changes are underway in Earth’s oceans and ice, new IPCC climate report warns – one of the authors explains the findings

Robert Kopp, Rutgers University

Some of the climate changes will be irreversible for millennia. But some can be slowed and even stopped if countries quickly reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, including from burning fossil fuels.


Arts + Culture

Taxing bachelors and proposing marriage lotteries – how superpowers addressed declining birthrates in the past

Amy Froide, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Go back to 17th- and 18th-century England and France and you’ll see the same sort of handwringing over birthrates that we’re seeing today.


Ethics + Religion

In Moscow, Idaho, conservative ‘Christian Reconstructionists’ are thriving amid evangelical turmoil

Crawford Gribben, Queen’s University Belfast

A controversial pastor is aiming to convert a town of 25,000 people as part of grand expansion plans. A scholar says the congregation’s influence is growing.

Why refusing the COVID-19 vaccine isn’t just immoral – it’s ‘un-American’

Christopher Beem, Penn State

America’s founders accepted the reality of human selfishness. But, they also said people were capable of thinking for the good of the whole, which is necessary for a free society.


Environment + Energy

3 wildfire lessons for forest towns as Dixie Fire destroys historic Greenville, California

Bart Johnson, University of Oregon; David Hulse, University of Florida

Hundreds of computer simulations point to a few best strategies for keeping homes safe from fire in a warming climate.



Hip-hop holiday signals a turning point in education for a music form that began at a back-to-school party in the Bronx

A.D. Carson, University of Virginia

With Congress designating Aug. 11, 2021, as Hip-Hop Celebration Day, a scholar and performer of the art form makes the case for hip-hop to become more prominent in American academe.

Shutting down school vaccine clinics doesn’t protect minors – it hurts people who are already disadvantaged

Katherine A. Foss, Middle Tennessee State University

For decades, US schools have been common sites for vaccine clinics to respond to outbreaks and provide catch-up immunizations. So why are they suddenly controversial?


Politics + Society


What is ranked choice voting? A political scientist explains

Joshua Holzer, Westminster College

It may be new to Americans, but ranked-choice voting has a long history, and it is spreading rapidly across the U.S.


Science + Technology


A cybersecurity expert explains how Pegasus spyware invades phones and what it does when it gets in

Bhanukiran Gurijala, West Virginia University

A tool made for tracking criminals and terrorists has potentially been used against politicians, dissidents and journalists. Here’s how the spyware works.



People living with HIV face harmful stigma daily – DaBaby’s rant was just more public than most

Sannisha Dale, University of Miami

Microaggressions are more subtle than outright discrimination. But they can directly affect HIV treatment outcomes.

Is drinking good for you in any way? If not, why is alcohol legal for adults?

Margie Skeer, Tufts University

Consuming alcohol makes accidents more likely and it can harm your heart, your liver and even change your brain. But making the sale of beer, wine and hard liquor illegal flopped.


Trending on site

What will the Earth be like in 500 years?

Michael A. Little, Binghamton University, State University of New York; William D. MacDonald, Binghamton University, State University of New York

The Earth is constantly changing in natural ways, but most of those changes are very slow. Humans are speeding up other changes with global warming.

How years of fighting every wildfire helped fuel the Western megafires of today

Susan J. Prichard, University of Washington; Keala Hagmann, University of Washington; Paul Hessburg, United States Forest Service

More than 40 fire scientists and forest ecologists in the US and Canada teamed up to investigate why wildfires are getting more extreme. Climate change is part of the problem, but there’s more.

Why do cats knead with their paws?

Julia Albright, University of Tennessee

According to a veterinarian, the behavior some people call ‘kneading the dough’ or ‘making biscuits’ is a clue your cat feels comfortable around you.