Warmer temperatures and large-scale disasters, such as megadroughts, aren’t the only results of climate change. The effects of global warming will permeate our lives in subtler ways, too.

We’re smack-dab in the middle of the season for Major League Baseball, America’s favorite pastime. And although it may seem as if the sport and climate change aren’t related, the second is already affecting the first. Since 2010, more than 500 home runs can be attributed to the thinner, warmer air caused by global warming.

“Yay,” you say, home runs make any baseball game more exhilarating. Unfortunately, though, there is a dark side attached to your euphoria. Researchers have now identified 26 global warming accelerators—known as “amplifying feedback loops”—that currently aren’t being properly included in climate models, adding even more urgency to the need to respond to the climate crisis to try to avert the most severe consequences of a warming planet.

Did I scare you a little? That might be good. Seeing frightening news about climate change day after day may shape the way you feel about the phenomenon—and how willing you are to take action to address it.


Climate change can be thanked for more than 500 home runs since 2010. Several hundred more home runs per season are expected if global warming continues.

More home runs

Historians say that there are several Major League Baseball “eras”: first, there was the pre-1920s, low-scoring, Dead Ball Era; followed by the modern Live Ball Era, characterized by power hitters such as Babe Ruth and Henry “Hank” Aaron. Regrettably, a Steroid Era (from 1994 to 2004)—when steroid use spread throughout the league—overshadowed a portion of the Live Ball Era. Now, baseball could be on the cusp of another: the Climate Ball Era, where higher temperatures due to global warming increasingly determine the outcome of a game.

According to a new Dartmouth College study, the results of which were published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society on May 1, 2023, more than 500 home runs since 2010 can be attributed to higher-than-average temperatures resulting from climate change—with several hundred more home runs per season to come with future warming.

While the Dartmouth researchers attribute only 1 percent of recent home runs to climate change, they found that rising temperatures could account for 10 percent or more of home runs by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions and climate change continue unabated. The explanation for this is found in physics: warmer temperatures reduce the density of the air. Baseball is a game of ballistics, and a batted ball is going to fly farther on a warm day.


Because of the open-air Wrigley Field, the Chicago Cubs will probably experience 15 more home runs per season.

To reach their conclusions, the Dartmouth researchers analyzed more than 100,000 Major League Baseball games and 220,000 individual hits to correlate the number of home runs with the occurrence of unseasonably warm temperatures. They accounted for factors such as the construction of balls and bats, the use of performance-enhancing drugs and the adoption of cameras, launch analytics and other technology intended to optimize a batter’s distance and power. They then estimated the extent to which the reduced air density that results from higher temperatures was the driving force in the number of home runs on a given day compared to home runs at other times.

The scientists say that while temperature isn’t the dominant factor in the increase in home runs, it does matter; and the influence of climate change will substantially increase by the end of the century if we continue to emit greenhouse gases and temperatures rise.

The researchers also examined each major league ballpark in the United States to gauge how the average number of home runs per year could rise with each 1 degree Celsius increase in the global average temperature. They found that the Chicago Cubs’ open-air Wrigley Field would experience the largest spike, with more than 15 extra home runs per season; while the Tampa Bay Rays’ domed Tropicana Field would remain level at one extra home run or less no matter how hot it gets outside.


Baseball games played in the cooler evening hours lessen the influence that temperatures have on the distance a ball travels.

Night games would lessen the influence that air density and temperature have on the distance a ball travels. Covered stadiums, such as Tropicana Field, would nearly eliminate it. Curbing the rise in home runs—and thus the excitement they bring to a game—might seem counterproductive, but there are additional factors to consider as global temperatures rise, particularly the exposure of fans and players to heat.

Usually, climate scientists focus on the increased likelihood and severity of natural disasters such as floods, heat waves and hurricanes because of the far-reaching devastation such events inflict and because there are records to study them. Determining how climate change is affecting cultural institutions and forms of recreation is more difficult. Major League Baseball is a rare entity: it’s a multibillion-dollar industry that is very data-rich. That allowed scientists to identify the effect of climate change on things that we don’t normally document. This cultural American touchstone also happens to have a significant relationship with physics in that temperature affects gameplay. And that can be an entry point to understanding a phenomenon that is impacting the planet and every individual on it.

Amplifying feedback loops

Okay, I admit that the baseball story I just related to you is my way of getting you into a, perhaps, more serious discussion.


Warming in the Arctic leads to the melting of sea ice. That creates additional warming because unlike ice, seawater absorbs rather than reflects solar radiation. That’s an example of an amplifying feedback loop.

An international collaboration led by Oregon State University scientists has just identified 27 global warming accelerators, known as “amplifying feedback loops,” including some that researchers say may not be fully accounted for in current climate models.

In climate science, amplifying feedback loops are situations where a climate-caused alteration can trigger a process that causes even more warming, which in turn intensifies the alteration. An example would be warming in the Arctic, leading to melting sea ice, which results in further warming because seawater absorbs rather than reflects solar radiation.

Many of the 41 climate change feedback loops—both biological and physical—that the Oregon State University researchers looked at significantly increase warming because of their connection to greenhouse gas emissions. Biological feedbacks include forest dieback, soil carbon loss and wildfire; physical feedbacks involve changes such as increased Antarctic rainfall, shrinking Arctic sea ice and reduced snow cover. The scientists say that this is the most extensive list available of climate feedback loops and that climate models may be underestimating the acceleration in global temperature change because this large and related set of amplifying feedback loops isn’t being fully considered. Interactions among the feedback loops could cause a permanent shift away from the Earth’s current climate state to one that threatens the survival of humans and other life-forms.


A “forest dieback” is when many trees or an entire forest dies. Factors that may lead to forest diebacks include drought; parasites; pathogens; pollution, such as acid rain; and temperature changes.

In addition to the 27 amplifying feedback loops the scientists identified were seven that are characterized as “dampening”; they act to stabilize the climate system. An example is carbon dioxide fertilization, where rising concentrations of atmospheric CO2  lead to increasing carbon uptake by vegetation. The effects of the remaining seven feedback loops, including increased atmospheric dust and reduced ocean stability, are not yet known.

The accuracy of climate models is crucial, say the researchers, as it helps guide mitigation efforts. Their paper, which was published in the journal One Earth in February 2023, makes two calls to action for “immediate and massive” emissions reductions:

1) Minimize short-term warming, given that climate disasters in the form of coastal flooding, intense storms, permafrost thaw, wildfires and other extreme weather events are already occurring.


Climate disasters, including those in the form of more intense storms, are already happening.

2) Mitigate the major threats looming from climate tipping points that are drawing ever-closer due to the prevalence of the many amplifying feedback loops. A tipping point is a threshold after which a change in a component of the climate system becomes self-perpetuating.

The researchers state that even comparatively modest warming is expected to heighten the likelihood that the Earth will cross various tipping points, causing big changes in the planet’s climate system and potentially strengthening the amplifying feedbacks.

While it’s too late to fully prevent the pain of climate change, if we take meaningful, transformative steps in energy production, food production, nature preservation and transportation soon—while prioritizing basic human needs and social justice—it could still be possible to limit the harm.


Transitioning to clean energy, such as solar power, will help to limit the harm from climate change.

Multiplying frightening facts

It’s a fact that emissions have risen substantially over the last century, despite several decades of warnings that they should be significantly curbed. Now, a team of Penn State researchers has investigated how seeing frightening news about climate change day after day may shape the way people feel about the phenomenon and how willing they are to take action to address it.

Surprisingly, given the often stated public aversion to gloom-and-doom news, the Penn State team, who published their results in the journal Climatic Change on May 1, 2023, found that while seeing bad news about climate change can make people more afraid over time, it also encourages audiences to think about what society can do to address the problem.

In one experiment, the researchers exposed participants to three days of negative news stories about climate change. A follow-up study consisted of participants reading negative news headlines about climate change in the form of Twitter posts for seven consecutive days.


The more exposure that people have to frightening climate change news stories, the more likely they are to think that they can make a difference in addressing the issue.

The results showed that three days in a row of reading doom-and-gloom news stories about climate change was linked to greater fear and less hope, which can make a reader feel that he or she isn’t able to do anything to tackle the problem. However, in the follow-up study where people saw only headlines and a short Twitter post (not full news stories) for a longer period (seven days), fear peaked after a few days and then held steady. So, over time, people who repeatedly saw climate change headlines started to feel like they could do more to affect that change and that the topic was important.

Before the study, it was postulated that as people are repeatedly exposed to threatening climate news devoid of solutions, their efficacy beliefs would decrease over time. But the opposite pattern was observed in the second study.

One possibility for this is that as the public copes with unpleasant feelings about the enormous threat climate change presents, they may convince themselves that they have control over the situation, which translates into greater efficacy beliefs that their actions will make a difference. The findings suggest that people have gotten used to doom-and-gloom reporting around climate change and what may be more important for motivating them to act is that they see coverage of it daily. This is called an “agenda-setting effect,” where a topic that is covered more often in the news is then viewed as more important by people who consume the news.


June 2023 was the world’s hottest June since records have been kept, according to the European Union’s climate monitoring service.

Under certain circumstances, then, fear can be motivating. People exposed to higher-threat headlines, which tends to evoke more fear, generally expressed greater intentions to share the information than people exposed to lower-threat headlines, which means there may be an advantage to evoking the jitters. However, people’s responses over time were essentially the same regardless of whether they were shown the higher-threat or lower-threat news headlines. That tells us that simply mentioning climate change activates pre-existing emotions and the thoughts associated with it.

This, however, does not mean that fear-appeals should be used for all climate change communications. Instead, the more important factor may be imparting hope and solutions. People need to feel like there is still something we can do to make a difference. That means that reporters and strategic communicators should include information about climate change solutions in their environmental messaging.

Continuing communications

The findings from the baseball study remind us that it’s important to recognize the pervasive way in which climate change has altered, or will alter, the things we care about that are not necessarily encapsulated in heat waves, megadroughts or Category 6 hurricanes—large-scale disasters that can appear random and beyond anyone’s control. The effects of global warming will also permeate our lives in subtler ways.


Integrating all the earth sciences will require a lot of collaboration around the world, but it would be a huge step forward in developing global climate change mitigation policies.

Amplifying feedback loops have shown us that we need to integrate all the earth sciences because the world’s climate can only be fully understood by considering the functioning of all the planet’s systems together. That will require large-scale collaboration, providing better information for policymakers.

I know that what I can do is keep the climate change news and messaging coming, whether that’s in the form of a fun baseball factoid or the results of the latest science study on the state of our home in the cosmos.

Here’s to finding your true places and natural habitats,