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Lauren Sommer

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2021 was the sixth hottest year on Earth since record-keeping began. That is according to a new federal report out today. But climate scientists say the bigger concern is that it's part of an extremely hot decade. NPR's Lauren Sommer has more.

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With the U.S. Senate split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, the White House could not afford to lose even one Democratic senator to advance its major social spending and climate change legislation. Well, on Sunday, it lost one.

With billions of dollars for clean energy, the Build Back Better legislation has the potential to substantially and rapidly cut heat-trapping emissions in the U.S. But Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., rejected the bill on Sunday, and that means Build Back Better is effectively dead at a time when scientists say the world can't afford to wait on climate change.

As the United Nations climate summit enters its last hours, there is modest progress on reducing reliance on fossil fuels and giving aid to countries most at risk from extreme weather. But stubborn divisions over the details of key issues remain.

In what would be a first in decades of such negotiations, nations could call for an end to using coal and subsidizing fossil fuels. Despite some weaker language, those two elements remain in the most recent draft being circulated for consensus agreement among the more than 100 participating countries.

At a small house outside of Nairobi, Kenya, a big event took place on a late October afternoon — one that also has big repercussions for climate change. Winifred Mumbua Muisyo got electricity at her home for the first time.

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There's one number you hear a lot at the international climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: One-point-five degrees.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: To just 1.5 degrees Celsius.

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At 22 years old, Hilda Flavia Nakabuye stepped onto a very big stage. The audience was filled with hundreds of international delegates attending the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference, where countries were hashing out efforts to slow climate change.

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Leaders from around the world are gathering in Glasgow, Scotland, to hammer out new pledges to fight climate change. The stakes are high. Scientists warn that heat-trapping emissions must fall dramatically by 2030. Otherwise, the world faces more extreme hurricanes, floods and droughts, likely displacing millions of people. Still, negotiations at the COP26 meeting are expected to be tough. Here are four reasons why.

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Next week, world leaders meet to negotiate new climate agreements - high stakes for developing countries. Many contribute little to climate change but are severely affected by it. NPR's Lauren Sommer talked to a young activist from Uganda.

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Being seven months pregnant is not exactly comfortable. Then there's being seven months pregnant in 110-degree heat with a broken air conditioner.

"It was the most challenging time," says Keishell Brown, a pregnant mother in Fresno, Calif. "It was very hard to sleep. There's no cool air coming. The fan is just blowing hot air."

On a hot afternoon in California's Sequoia National Park, Alexis Bernal squints up at the top of a 200-foot-tall tree.

"That is what we would call a real giant sequoia monarch," she says. "It's massive."

At 40 feet in diameter, the tree easily meets the definition of a monarch, the name given to the largest sequoias. It's likely more than 1,500 years old.

Still, that's as old as this tree will get. The trunk is pitch black, the char reaching almost all the way to the top. Not a single green branch is visible.

With tens of thousands of people displaced by floods, wildfires and hurricanes this summer, researchers warn that the majority of untapped fossil fuels must remain in the ground to avoid even more extreme weather.

The rapidly warming climate is the "greatest threat" to global public health, more than 200 medical journals are warning in an unprecedented joint statement that urges world leaders to cut heat-trapping emissions to avoid "catastrophic harm to health that will be impossible to reverse."

In early May, flames began to spread through a pine forest, consuming a dense carpet of leaves and underbrush. The burn was the definition of a "good fire," intentionally ignited to clear vegetation that could fuel future infernos.

It happened in the state leading the nation in controlled burns: Florida.

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Coastal cities need billions of dollars to build defenses against sea level rise. Tensions are rising over where that funding will come from: taxpayers or private companies with waterfront property?

Explore the project: https://apps.npr.org/sea-level-rise-silicon-valley/

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Coral reef biologists are often asked the same question again and again: "When my kids grow up, will there still be coral reefs?"

"That's a question I ask myself," says Christopher Cornwall, a research fellow at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. "The greatest fear is that all the coral will be gone at a certain point in time."

They're purple, spiky and voracious, and just off the West Coast, there are more of them than you can count.

Purple sea urchins have exploded in recent years off California, covering the ocean floor in what divers describe as a "purple carpet." And they devour kelp: the once-lush forests of seaweed that hugged the coastline are disappearing. Since 2014, 95 percent of the kelp have vanished across a large part of Northern California, most of it bull kelp.

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