November 30, 2020
With Joe Biden set to take office in two months, career scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency have become emboldened to openly stymie President Trump's last-minute rush to deregulate federal environmental protections, the New York Times reports. That includes filing "dissenting scientific opinions" and emailing one another about studies that contradict Trump-era rules.
The European Court of Human Rights on Monday said it would greenlight a lawsuit coming from six Portuguese children and young adults against 33 European countries over what the plaintiffs call a lack of government action to curb climate change. The ruling clears a major hurdle for the groundbreaking case, which will now proceed to responses from each defendant country.
The United Nations Development Programme is facing several allegations of fraud and corruption linked to the multibillion-dollar Global Environment Facility, the Financial Times reports. Among the allegations is a document that describes "financial misstatements" worth millions of dollars across UNDP's portfolio of projects meant to address issues such as deforestation, conservation and pollution.
Climate change has come into focus with Georgia's two Senate runoff elections, which will ultimately determine which party has control of the chamber next year. It's particularly important when considering the threat global warming poses to the state's 16 toxic Superfund sites.
The risk of drought in the American Southwest is growing, recent research from the University of Nevada suggests, prompting researchers to call for more planning to safeguard water needs for the 56 million people that live around Nevada's Great Basin region. The study looked at layers in rock pillars called stalagmites and found that a past drought in the region lasted 4,000 years.
For decades, scientists have projected that increasing temperatures and CO2 would cause trees to shed their leaves later in the year and lengthen the overall growing season, which would help slow the rate of global warming. But the new study contradicts that belief, showing that deciduous trees in temperate European forests are losing their leaves earlier as the planet warms.
The world's latest energy supergiants aren't digging mines and drilling wells, but are rather leading the race to electrify the global economy, Bloomberg reports. Enel, Iberdrola, NextEra Energy and Orsted have the clout and financial might of the energy behemoths that relied on fossil fuels before them. But they are prioritizing the building or buying of clean power plants.
November 25, 2020
Janet Yellen, President-elect Joe Biden's pick to run the treasury, may play a crucial role in getting corporations to take global warming seriously, if she's confirmed by the Senate, The Washington Post reports. Yellen, a former chair of the Federal Reserve, has sounded off on the need to address climate change, and her selection is another sign of the Biden administration's intent to tackle the climate crisis.
The Montreal Protocol's Kigali Amendment is a little-known climate accord meant to phase out the use of hydrofluorocarbon refrigerants, climate super-pollutants that would otherwise have caused as much as 0.5 degrees Celsius of additional global warming by 2050. John Kerry, President-elect Joe Biden's new climate envoy, helped make it happen.
For 10,000 years, the Swinomish tribe have relied on the bounty of salmon and shellfish in the waters of northwestern Washington. But those fish populations have diminished in recent years, as climate change warms the oceans and stresses ecosystems. The tribe has responded with an ambitious, multipronged climate plan, The Washington Post reports, prompting 50 other Native tribes to follow suit.
Wildfires like the ones that devastated the West Coast this year could become more common in the Northeast, as rising temperatures dry out more forested areas. Last year, 11,000 acres of the New Jersey Pine Barrens burned, after dry and windy conditions turned a seemingly innocent bonfire into an inferno. Some Northeast policymakers are already enacting new measures to mitigate future risks.
A coalition of nine environmental groups is suing the Environmental Protection Agency over a rule that extends the life of giant pits of toxic coal sludge that could leak into nearby water sources, particularly after heavy rains. The rule allows for more than 400 coal ash pits across the country—waste disposal sites where coal residue is mixed with liquid in open-air ponds—to stay open as far in the future as 2038.
The European Union has drafted a deal to curb greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 percent from 1990 levels by 2030, as opposed to its current target of 40 percent, Reuters reports. If EU leaders approve the draft, it could make the bloc the first major economy to submit a new climate pledge under the Paris climate accord before a year-end deadline to do so.
November 24, 2020
General Motors turned its back Monday on the Trump administration's legal fight to nullify California's strict fuel economy rules, signaling that it was ready to work with President-elect Joe Biden to reduce climate-warming emissions from cars and trucks. It's the latest signal that corporate America is moving on from President Trump.
President-elect Joe Biden affirmed climate change as a top priority on Monday, selecting former Secretary of State John Kerry to serve as a special envoy for climate, and giving him a seat on the National Security Council. Kerry's task will be not only to bring the United States back into the Paris climate accord, but push for more ambitious commitments to cut global carbon emissions.
Two Category 4 hurricanes this month have left Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala in tatters, as torrential rains destroyed crops, washed away cattle and ruined whole communities. The fallout from the disasters is being exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, CNN reports, as hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the storms seek shelter, where they face increased risk of infection.
With Joe Biden set to take office in January, climate activists are keeping up pressure to hold the president-elect to his promises of transitioning the nation away from fossil fuels and killing the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline. Many activists hope the new administration will extend those pledges to the Dakota Access and Line 3 pipelines as well.
A collection of government and commercial forecasts predict that Southern and Eastern states will face another warm winter, which could be bad news for natural gas prices, Bloomberg reports. Colder winters typically mean higher demand for gas. And if the forecasts hold true, the 2020-2021 season will be the latest in a series of abnormally mild winters across the Northern Hemisphere.
The Trump administration is racing against legal deadlines and a merciless regulatory calendar in its last-ditch effort to sell drilling rights in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge before President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in on Jan. 20. But the White House still faces the reality of the market, which shows that funding for Arctic drilling is becoming harder and harder to find, Bloomberg reports.
Financing for coal projects is drying up at ever increasing rates as more countries target zero carbon emissions amid an energy transition sweeping the world, Reuters reports. The exit from coal by big international banks and government-backed agencies, which has accelerated this year, is likely to push coal companies to rely on things like carbon offset credits to obtain funding.
Some of the worlds biggest economies are putting a price on pollution as they wrestle with how to make good on ambitious pledges to reduce their planet-warming emissions, Reuters reports. China, Japan and South Korea have all followed the European Union in pledging to cut emissions to "net-zero" in recent weeks. And U.S. President-elect Joe Biden made a similar promise during his election campaign.
November 23, 2020
Global greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 will drop by 4 percent to 7 percent in 2020 because of the response to the coronavirus pandemic. But that decline is just "a tiny blip" in the trajectory of global warming and won't stop the continued overall buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, said researchers in the latest World Meteorological Association annual bulletin.
Conservation advocates and Trump officials are fighting what looks to be the last major environmental battle of this administration over oil and gas development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Despite mounting public pressure to prevent Arctic drilling, the Trump administration is rushing possible lease sales in the region and finalized a rule aimed at stopping banks from refusing to fund such projects.
By any measure, the Arctic has changed profoundly in the last 40 years, warming three times as fast as the global average, and losing billions of tons of summer sea ice and land-based glacier ice. Now scientists suspect that rapid warming in the Arctic is causing more climate extremes farther south, including bouts of severe cold and snow, which researchers call "warm Arctic, cold continents."
The Group of 20 summit closed on Sunday, offering a stark reminder of the growing gap between internationally coordinated efforts and the United States to tackle the coronavirus and climate change. As President Trump continued to openly rail against global pacts such as the Paris Agreement, many world leaders responded by releasing a statement that emphasized the importance of such efforts.
As restaurants try to keep patrons warm outside during the pandemic, it begs the question: How bad are those outdoor propane heaters for the environment? And climate change is contributing to a rise in winter drownings, making activities like ice fishing and snowmobiling more dangerous. We look at that and more in the latest Warming Trends.
A week after it sent four astronauts to the International Space Station for the first time, SpaceX launched the first of two satellites Saturday that will monitor sea level rise over the next decade. NASA's Sentinel 6-Michael Freilich oceanography satellite will collect information on atmospheric temperature and humidity to improve weather forecasts and climate models.
November 20, 2020
The White House may not be preparing to transition to a Biden administration, but Wall Street is. While Trump and other Republican leaders continue to dispute the election results, the financial sector is moving ahead with plans to begin the transition to a carbon-free economy and acknowledge an administration eager to tackle the climate crisis.
The Trump administration on Thursday proposed to loosen Obama-era safety regulations for the oil industry in the Arctic Ocean off Alaska, to ease the way for petroleum extraction in the region, an effort that President-elect Joe Biden will likely throw out once in office. The Obama-era rules were made to improve safety after a Shell drilling rig ran aground in the Gulf of Alaska in 2012.
Climate activists have set a high bar for President-elect Joe Biden's staff picks, asking that he exclude anyone with ties to fossil fuel industries, NPR reports. Biden faced backlash this week after naming Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond to lead the Office of Public Engagement. Disappointed activists called the move "a betrayal," pointing out Richmond's financial ties to the fossil fuel industry.