During his 18 years in office, Texas state representative Lon Burnam has been the odd man out in a legislature that overwhelmingly believes in business, development and the unbridled support of oil and gas.
During the last session of the House, he introduced more than a dozen pieces of legislation that would have required the industry to become a more responsible steward of the environment and the state to be more of an industry watchdog.
His record: Zero wins and 12 losses.
In an interview with InsideClimate News last summer, when asked why he doesn't just move away, Burnam said he stays because Texas needs to hear from a Texan what the future holds for the environment if change isn't made.
NPR has cut back on the number of staffers focused solely on the environment and climate change.
Earlier this year, the news outlet had three full-time reporters and one editor dedicated to covering the issue within NPR's science desk. One remains—and he is covering it only part-time. A few reporters on other desks occasionally cover the topic as well.
The move to shift reporters off the environment beat was driven by an interest to cover other fields more in depth, said Anne Gudenkauf, senior supervising editor of NPR's science desk.
"The decisions you take today will determine whether Europe remains a world leader," Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament, declared before the European Council as it decided how ambitious the continent should be in tackling the climate crisis.
With just over a year left for governments to reach a meaningful climate treaty, leadership is indeed up for grabs.
And Europe right now may have a greater right to the mantle of climate leadership than any other claimant.
Early on Friday, its heads of state, meeting in Brussels, unanimously endorsed a deal that includes a binding cut of at least 40 percent in greenhouse gas reductions by 2030, compared to 1990, along with somewhat less dramatic and non-binding goals for increasing energy efficiency and renewables.
But in light of the intricacies of Europe's convoluted governance that make any such agreement hard to strike, the broader import of this step was that it offers a glimmer of hope that a global carbon deal might not be such a farfetched idea.
Pennsylvania regulators used flawed methodology to conclude that air pollution from natural gas development doesn't cause health problems. The revelation has further eroded trust in an embattled state agency.
The news was first reported Monday by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The paper cited court documents that show how air quality studies conducted by the Department of Environmental Protection in 2010 and 2011 failed to analyze the health risks of 25 chemicals. The studies also didn't report some instances where high pollutant levels were detected.
The evidence came from statements of two DEP scientists who were deposed in a lawsuit.
Their depositions call into question the report's conclusion that the air sampling found no health risks from shale development.
The DEP "did not identify concentrations of any compound that would likely trigger air-related health issues associated with Marcellus Shale drilling activities," the study's executive summary said.
Even though insurers are in the business of protecting others from risk, a new report shows that most major United States players are turning a blind eye to a serious threat to their own bottom line—climate change.
"It's shocking...most of the industry continues to be far behind where they need to be in terms of understanding and articulating [climate risk]," said study author Cynthia McHale, insurance program director at the Boston-based nonprofit Ceres.
This stands in stark contrast to other big businesses, from carmaker General Motors to candymaker Mars Inc., that are increasingly taking a public stand on climate change and devoting resources to combat it.
Democrats are justifiably worried about holding onto control of the United States Senate in the midterm elections Nov. 4. Most forecasts have Republicans winning seven seats for a 52-48 advantage, which would almost certainly spell doom for any action on climate change.
But here's the real catch: Even if Democrats win the Senate by a slim margin, climate action could still be foiled for the next few years by members of their own party.
In several critical races, particularly in energy-producing states, Democratic candidates' stated climate change beliefs somewhat echo their Republican opponents'. Most toe the party line and accept the idea that the world is warming, but resist action that could theoretically harm their home-state economies, such as cutting fossil fuels.
"In races like these, climate advocates don't have a candidate to root for," said RL Miller, chair of the California Democratic party's environment caucus and founder of Climate Hawks Vote, a superPAC helping to elect climate-conscious candidates. "They are lose-lose scenarios for us. Sadly, there are more of these races than there should be at this point in the climate fight."
Anti-climate action Democrats are running in elections from coast to coast. With most of the attention focused on the U.S. Senate midterm races, here are some of the politicians to be aware of, based on conversations with several experts:
Candidate: Alison Lundergan Grimes, Kentucky secretary of state
Views on Climate Change: Grimes has said she believes climate change is happening, but that the Obama administration "has taken direct aim at Kentucky's coal industry." She has said multiple times in interviews that she will fight for "what keeps the lights on." Kentucky gets nearly 93 percent of its electricity from coal.
What's at Stake: Despite the fact that coal mining accounts for less than 1 percent of Kentucky jobs, the industry's centuries-old legacy means it is still considered vital to the state's livelihood.
Opponent: Mitch McConnell, minority leader in the Senate; the 30-year veteran could become majority leader if Republicans win enough seats in the elections.
Allowing United States oil producers to export crude would not only sway markets at home and abroad, it would also worsen global warming and present other environmental risks, the Government Accountability Office said in a new survey of experts.
"Additional crude oil production may pose risks to the quality and quantity of surface groundwater sources; increase greenhouse gas and other emissions; and increase the risk of spills," said the report.
That finding dampened what otherwise read as a win-win conclusion—that oil producers would get higher prices, production would rise and consumers would pay less at the pump if exports were allowed.
People living along the proposed route of a natural gas pipeline through Michigan have been bombarding federal regulators with letters opposing the project planned by ET Rover Pipeline Company LLC.
In the face of mounting opposition in one county, ET Rover, a subsidiary of Houston-based Energy Transfer Partners, quietly revised its plan and rerouted the pipeline north though two counties that were surprised to suddenly be dealing with the project.
The letter-writing campaign was directed at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the federal agency that will decide the project's fate. FERC is the lead agency responsible for conducting environmental reviews of proposed interstate pipelines, and as part of the process it allows time for the public to weigh in with comments.
SolarCity Corp., the nation's largest residential solar service provider, has a history of pushing the envelope. It introduced the industry's first leasing program for homeowners, offered discounted solar installations through Groupon, and is pouring money into a solar manufacturing plant in the United States.
In the last two weeks, the company added two financial innovations: a first-of-its-kind nationwide solar bond program to sell bonds directly to individual investors who want to support the spread of clean energy; and a hybrid financing program (MyPower) that gives customers lease-like payments as well as ownership of the solar system.
San Mateo, Calif.-based SolarCity, founded in 2006 by brothers Lyndon and Peter Rive, has grown to more than 6,000 employees. It is a full-service solar provider—including design, permitting, financing, installation, monitoring and maintenance—with operations in 15 states. So far, the company has installed more than 750 megawatts of photovoltaic solar systems for homes, businesses, governments and schools.
Elon Musk, founder and chief executive of electric car maker Tesla Motors, is chairman of the SolarCity board—and cousin to the Rive brothers. All three share a sense of urgency about the threat of climate change.
Limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius will require reworking how nations produce and use energy—away from fossil fuels to a mix of aggressive energy efficiency, nuclear power, carbon capturing technologies, and renewable power. The International Energy Agency estimates that renewable power will have to supply 65 percent of the world's power supply.
That makes solar a crucial part of the effort to avoid the worst effects of a warming climate. Federal tax credits, which have been a big driver in solar growth, are set to expire at the end of 2016.
Following the launch of MyPower, Lyndon Rive, SolarCity's chief executive, talked to InsideClimate News about the company, the MyPower program and the challenge of spreading solar far and fast enough.