Rebecca Hersher | Prairie Public Broadcasting

Rebecca Hersher

Opening arguments ended Monday in Texas in the highest profile criminal case ever brought against a company and its employees for allegedly failing to adequately prepare for the effects of climate change.

The company, Arkema, owns a chemical plant outside Houston that flooded when Hurricane Harvey dumped more than 5 feet of rain on the area in 2017. The rising water knocked out power to the plant and caused volatile chemicals stored there to heat up and eventually catch fire. Burning containers and trailers sent up a column of black smoke above the facility for days.

Everyone who lived through Black Saturday remembers the heat and the wind that day in February 2009. The temperature soared to 115 degrees Fahrenheit — so hot it sucked the breath out of you, made your vision swim and your fingers swell. The wind blew in from the northwest, from the vast, arid Australian interior. Flags flew stiff. Fire danger was extreme.

Updated Feb. 21, 11:56 a.m. ET

Coming off a shift at Tuen Mun Hospital in Hong Kong on Wednesday night, cardiologist Alfred Wong was getting ready to go to dinner with his wife. The last time they ate together, she brought the meal to the courtyard below their apartment, placed it on a bench, then sat down at least 10 feet away.

From across the patio, they ate. On separate benches. Looking at each other.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

All right. After listening to those voices, I want to bring in one of our colleagues who is covering this outbreak. It's NPR science reporter Becky Hersher, who is reporting from Hong Kong. Hi, Becky.

First came the fires, denuding millions of acres of forest in eastern Australia. Now comes the rain, more than 12 inches in just 48 hours over this past weekend in some areas of New South Wales.

That sequence, severe bushfires followed by torrential rain, is bringing a third cataclysm — landslides and large-scale erosion.

Last year was the second hottest on record globally, according to the latest climate data collected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA.

It's the latest confirmation that the Earth is steadily getting hotter — the planet has already warmed about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (or almost 1 degree Celsius) compared with in the mid-20th century — and that robust greenhouse gas emissions are causing global warming to continue unabated.

Embers are raining down on communities across Australia.

In early March, people who live along Mozambique's long coastline began to hear rumors about a cyclone.

The storm was forming in the Indian Ocean, in the narrow band of warm water between Mozambique and the island of Madagascar. Overnight on March 14, 2019, the storm struck Mozambique head-on, barreling over the port city of Beira and flooding an enormous swath of land as it moved inland toward Zimbabwe.

Normal November weather in Mozambique's capital, Maputo, is pleasant and warm with a chance of epic thunderstorms. The sun will be shining in the morning, and then boom the sky opens up and a stiff wind begins to blow and it's probably best if you're inside.

Greenhouse gas emissions have risen steadily for the past decade despite the current and future threat posed by climate change, according to a new United Nations report.

The annual report compares how clean the world's economies are to how clean they need to be to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change — a disparity known as the "emissions gap."

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