Climate Enforcers Need Hard Evidence. Friederike Otto Has It

But attribution science can do a lot more than tell us how climate change influences the weather. Otto wants to use her attribution reports to hold polluters to account for extreme weather events. “We have started to do a lot of work with lawyers, to basically bridge this knowledge gap between what we can say scientifically and what has so far been used in terms of evidence,” she says. With legal cases underway in Germany and Brazil, attribution science is moving into the courtroom.

OTTO COFOUNDED World Weather Attribution in 2014 with the oceanographer Heidi Cullen and climatologist Geert Jan van Oldenborgh. At first, Otto—who has degrees in physics and philosophy—thought that the main role of weather attribution was to untangle the complexity of weather systems to quantify how much climate change was influencing extreme weather. Other scientists had established how to use climate models to attribute weather events to

A Mass Extinction Is Taking Place in the Human Gut

In November 2022, Swiss scientists opened an eagerly awaited package from rural Ethiopia. It was full of shit.

For two months, public health researcher Abdifatah Muhummed had been collecting stool samples from children in a remote, pastoralist community in Ethiopia’s Somali Region, as part of a global effort to catalog and preserve the diversity of human gut bacteria. He split each sample into four tubes, froze them at –80 degrees Celsius, and shipped two of them to Europe. 

Trillions of bacteria, fungi, and other microbes live in the digestive tract. Many of them are beneficial to human health—influencing our metabolism and immune system, for example. But their diversity is under threat from industrialization, urbanization, and environmental changes.

When Muhummed analyzed some of the samples he’d collected—culturing them in petri dishes and adding a dye to make them visible under a microscope—he was astounded to find signs of antibiotic resistance, even

Florida Is Fighting to Feed Starving Manatees This Winter

Few vignettes show how much human activity has affected wildlife more than the scene at Florida Power & Light’s plant in Cape Canaveral. Hundreds of manatees bask in an intake canal on its southeast edge, drawn by the warm waters. These manatees are hungry. Pollution has decimated their usual menu of seagrasses in the Indian River Lagoon. Many have starved: 1,101 died in Florida in 2021, and as of December, 2022’s official estimate was nearly 800 deaths. So along the canal, members of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are tossing them lettuce.

“It’s just emblematic of how dire the situation is,” says Rachel Silverstein, the executive director of environmental nonprofit Miami Waterkeeper. “The point where we would need to artificially feed a wild animal because their ecosystem is so destroyed that they cannot find food for themselves is pretty extreme.”

The supplemental feeding program began in early

You’ve Been Choosing Your Goals All Wrong

If you’re getting ready to set your yearly goals for 2023, stop. Chances are, you’re going about building and breaking habits all wrong, according to the experts—especially if you’re extremely motivated in January, but find yourself getting distracted or overwhelmed come February. Before we get into the specifics of how to start or break a habit that you’ll actually stick to, there are a few things you need to know.

The most important thing is that habits are actually separate from goals. “Goals are how we make decisions—how we commit to an exercise program, or to eating healthily, or to saving money,” says Wendy Wood, provost professor emerita of psychology and business at the University of Southern California and the author of Good Habits, Bad Habits: The Science of Making Positive Changes That Stick. “But habits are how you stick with a behavior.” 

That’s because once something becomes a

Alaska’s Arctic Waterways Are Turning a Foreboding Orange

This story originally appeared on High Country News and is part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Dozens of once crystal-clear streams and rivers in Arctic Alaska are now running bright orange and cloudy, and in some cases they are becoming more acidic. This otherwise undeveloped landscape now looks as if an industrial mine has been in operation for decades, and scientists want to know why.

Roman Dial, a professor of biology and mathematics at Alaska Pacific University, first noticed the stark water-quality changes while doing field work in the Brooks Range in 2020. He spent a month with a team of six graduate students, and they could not find adequate drinking water. “There’s so many streams that are not just stained, they’re so acidic that they curdle your powdered milk,” he said. In others, the water was clear, “but you couldn’t drink it because it had a really weird mineral