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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The pace and severity of climate change are simply outrunning humans' efforts to contain it.

The big picture: Severe flooding hit Canada and the Pacific Northwest before the ink was even dry on the climate agreements reached last week at the COP26 summit. And the extreme weather caused by climate change will continue to worsen, even if every one of those new commitments is met.

  • The nations attending the summit agreed to try to keep warming to 1.5° Celsius above preindustrial levels, though we're still on course to exceed the goal.
  • Warming is still slightly below that threshold, at about 1.1°C, but we're barreling toward it — and already seeing unprecedented extreme events even before we get there.

As the world warms, the odds of extreme weather and climate events are rapidly escalating, Any additional increment of warming is dangerous, scientists who study extreme weather events and their climate change connections say.

  • "It's quite clear that for each additional 0.5°C of warming there is a clearly discernible and substantial increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme temperatures and extreme downpours," climate scientist Daniel Swain tells Axios.
  • The effect isn't linear, he said — double the warming we've seen so far, which the world is on course to do now, would produce more than double an increase in the severity of extreme weather.

Between the lines: At multiple points during COP26, climate negotiators held up pictures of their grandchildren while making speeches about how they worry about what the future generations will face due to climate change.

  • But climate disasters are occurring here and now, says Friederike Otto of the Grantham Institute at Imperial College in London. She specializes in studying how climate change affects extreme events.
  • "This COP has again shown that climate change is being treated as a problem of the future," Otto told Axios. "Climate justice seems to have been narrowed just to intergenerational justice but people are dying today, too."  

What's next: Emerging research shows that if and when emissions reach net zero, additional warming would slow down quite quickly, said Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Penn State University. That would halt the escalation in extremes, he said.

  • The question is how far we let climate change progress before we get to that point, he told Axios. However bad extreme weather has gotten at the time we reach net zero, it's likely to stay there.

The bottom line: "We do not know with any certainty when to expect nasty surprises like monsoon disruptions, the die-off of the Amazon rainforest, or the disintegration of the West Antarctic or Greenland ice sheets," says Kate Marvel, a NASA climate researcher. 

  • "The only way to reduce the risk is to limit warming as much as possible."

Go deeper

Early winter heat shatters records in U.S., Canada

Temperature departures from average on Dec. 2, 2021, as depicted by the GFS computer model. (Weatherbell.com)

A widespread and intense heatwave is roasting large portions of the U.S. and Canada, shattering daily and monthly temperature records.

Why it matters: Winter is the fastest-warming season across the U.S., and the lingering warmth is shortening the snow season in places like Colorado and Montana, where mountain snowpack is a critical source of water during the summer months.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
26 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Trump social media group raises $1 billion from undisclosed investors

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Donald Trump's social media startup on Saturday announced that it secured $1 billion in new investment as part of its ongoing efforts to become publicly traded via a blank check company.

Between the lines: None of the investors were identified, which is highly unusual for this sort of transaction.

Updated 2 hours ago - Health

Massage, facial, pedicure... intravenous drip?

A salon on the Upper East Side of New York that offers IV drip therapies. Photo: Jennifer A. Kingson/Axios

IV drips — the kind you might get if you're rushed to the hospital — are trending as a spa treatment, thanks in part to endorsements by celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Madonna.

Why it matters: Like other "wellness" trends with a whiff of medical imprimatur, IV nutrient drips can be harmless or mildly restorative — or go awry, particularly in the wrong hands.