climate change

Sue Ogrocki/AP

Scott Pruitt, the current head of the Environmental Protection Agency, first came to national prominence back when he was Oklahoma's attorney general. In that role, he sued the agency he now runs 14 times, in a series of court cases alleging overreach by the federal government.

New research suggests that global warming could cause temperature swings to get unusually extreme. And the regions where the biggest swings will occur are among the poorest in the world — and the least responsible for the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.

Climate scientists already know that as the planet warms, there's a bigger chance of extreme weather: bigger hurricanes, for example, or heavier rainfall.

Lani Estill's family ranches on thousands of acres in Modoc County on the border of Nevada and California. Her operation, Bare Ranch, sits in a place called Surprise Valley. It's a beautiful, almost forgotten place "Where the West still lives" — that's the county's motto.

"We have things going on here that you just don't see going on everywhere in the nation," Estill says. "Cattle are still gathered on horseback. We have cattle drives down the main country road."

On the 40th floor of a new Denver skyscraper, overseeing workers in hard hats and orange vests, construction manager Michael Bjes touts some of the measures that will make this building energy efficient: Energy Star appliances, LED lights, "water efficient toilet fixtures throughout the entire building."

A short drive north of Fairbanks, Alaska, there's a red shed stuck right up against a hillside. The shed looks unremarkable, except for the door. It looks like a door to a walk-in freezer, with thick insulation and a heavy latch. Whatever is behind that door needs to stay very cold.

"Are you ready to go inside?" asks Dr. Thomas Douglas, a geochemist at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Before it got cold this winter, it was warm. Very warm. In fact, new data out Monday shows 2017 was the third warmest year recorded in the lower 48 states.

And it was also a smackdown year for weather disasters: 16 weather events each broke the billion-dollar barrier.

First, the heat. Last year was 2.6 degrees F warmer than the average year during the 20th century.

This story is a collaboration with Reveal, the Center for Investigative Reporting, and PRX. You can share your own experience with increased flooding here.

Record low sea ice this fall, and near record warm temperatures, are bad news for villages along Alaska's coast. Winter ice used to serve as a buffer, protecting the shoreline during the region's strong fall storms. Now, it's forming later in the year, leaving communities exposed.

Nowhere is that more evident than in Newtok, which sits on a river not far from the Bering Sea. The later freeze-up has allowed the river to eat away at the village's thawing permafrost. During a storm, blocks of tundra the size of a minivan slump into the water and disappear.

California has the toughest air quality regulations of any state in the country. But they're not tough enough to satisfy a new state law that requires California to double the rate at which it cuts greenhouse gases.

So this month, the California Air Resources Board approved a plan it says is aimed at "decarbonizing" the state's economy.

We're on the Bering Land Bridge, where woolly mammoths roamed 20,000 years ago. Today, the land is covered in bright green grass and miniature shrubs.

But there's something strange — bright white objects jutting out of the ground.

As I walk a little closer with archaeologist Owen Mason, he tells me what they are.

"Right there, that's a whale shoulder blade," Mason says, pointing to a bone about the size of a German Shepherd.

Pages