The year in climate news

2021 was yet another year that looked like five. It all started with a presidential transition, riots on the Capitol and a blackout in ...


2021 was yet another year that looked like five. It all started with a presidential transition, riots on the Capitol and a blackout in Texas. Before summer even began, drought, heat and fires had already ravaged the West. The Biden administration has faced a number of challenges for its climate program in its country. And then came the United Nations international climate conference in Glasgow in the fall.

Want a blur? Here’s a recap of the year in our coverage.


In February, Texas has turned dark. Huge winter storms plunged much of the central and southern United States into an energy crisis.

Despite the inaccurate claims of Governor Greg Abbott of Texas, we explained: No, the reason for the outages was unfrozen wind turbines. The main problem was the freezing temperatures that blocked production of natural gas, which is responsible for the majority of Texas’ power supply.

Fast forward to early June, when it wasn’t technically summer yet, but the American Southwest was already baking and drying.

By Somini Sengupta

By Blacki Migliozzi and Hiroko Tabuchi

In the oceans, climate change is causing big changes. Warming atmosphere is weakening an arm of the mighty Gulf Stream, some scientists fear, which could have major climatic ramifications from the eastern United States to the Sahel in Africa. And in Antarctica, wilder winds change the currents, the sea releases carbon dioxide, and the ice melts below.

By Moises Velasquez-Manoff and Jeremy White

By Henry Fountain and Jeremy White


The effects of climate change are not equally felt. The fault is not equally shared either. We’ve done stories on some of America’s greats, and perhaps most surprisingly, the emitters of methane. And we took a look at the countries with the most greenhouse gas emissions in history.

By Nadja Popovich and Brad Plumer

we covered how disaster aid often favors white people. And how Native Americans, forced into America’s most unwanted areas by white settlers and the government, now find themselves on land that is becoming uninhabitable.

By Christopher Flavelle and Kalen Goodluck

While the science of climate change is established and we have the technology to deal with it, the bigger question now is: who should foot the bill? This year, calls for climate help and repairs reached a boiling point at the COP 26 climate conference in Glasgow.

By Shola Lawal

We studied how toxic chemicals approved by the EPA for hydraulic fracturing ten years ago. And investigated an unintended consequence of luxury car sales:

By Manuela Andreoni, Hiroko Tabuchi and Albert Sun


A major report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in August summed it up.

By Brad Plumer and Henry Fountain

Knowledge about sustainable living has been around for centuries and is often overlooked. Indigenous people, often among nature’s most effective stewards, have often been overlooked, or worse yet.

By Somini Sengupta, Catrin Einhorn and Manuela Andreoni

We know the way forward requires a transition to renewable energy, but the transition is not always easy.

By Dionne Seacey

Transport is one of the most critical areas to clean up. Some cities lead by example to find out how to electrify public transport.

Electric car will be essential to reduce emissions, but when will they be here?

Either way, they won’t be here without cobalt. And with more than two-thirds of global cobalt production coming from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the country takes center stage. Congo’s quest for cobalt is caught in an international cycle of exploitation, greed and gambling.

By Dionne Seacey, Michael Forsythe and Eric Lipton

We also looked at some downsides of America’s highways – how they divided many black communities, increased car dependency, and resulted in the deaths of wildlife – and some solutions to those issues.

By Nadja Popovich, Josh Williams and Denise Lu

And here’s how a city in Indiana experimented with roundabouts to reduce emissions and save lives:

By Cara Buckley


On a national level, with a new administration, a big infrastructure bill and the eternal debate on how to tackle climate change, it has been a busy year in politics.

While the Trump administration has often rejected science, the Biden administration has tried to resupply government with scientists, but it was not easy:

By Coral Davenport, Lisa Friedman and Christopher Flavelle

Biden tightened pollution rules by a push to eliminate gasoline cars, but the worsening fires in California showed the limits of his power. Achieving climate goals will take a lot. Rather everything will have to change.

And change will require bipartisanship. As we reported this year, many Republicans in Congress no longer deny that the Earth is warming due to fossil fuel emissions. In fact, some find failure to tackle climate change a “political responsibility“for the party. But they also say to give up oil, gas and coal will hurt the economy.

At the same time, Democrats cannot agree with each other completely.

By Coral Davenport

Ultimately, even though paid family leave and other priorities were taken out of Biden’s plan, the bulk of his spending bill became a $ 555 billion plan to tackle climate change.

Internationally, two major conferences took place this year. One you may have heard of. Another, maybe not:

By Catrin Einhorn

Ahead of COP 26 in Glasgow, John Kerry, the first presidential climate envoy, worked on his sales pitch to save the planet. And at the Glasgow conference, the United States and China came to an agreement, despite the challenges ahead for China:

By Keith Bradsher and Lisa Friedman

After two weeks of noble speeches and bitter negotiations between nearly 200 nations, the question of whether the world will make significant progress in slowing global warming still comes down to the actions of a handful of powerful nations. And these nations remain at odds over how best to tackle climate change.

By Somini Sengupta


Now that you’re up to speed, it’s never too late to brush up on your climatology knowledge, whether you’re a kid or a kid at heart.

By Julia Rosen

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