President Joe Biden speaks to guests during a visit to North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University on April 14, 2022 in Greensboro, North Carolina. Credit: Allison Joyce/Getty Images
President Joe Biden speaks to guests during a visit to North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University on April 14, 2022 in Greensboro, North Carolina. Credit: Allison Joyce/Getty Images

Facing immense political pressure to address surging energy prices in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Biden administration on Monday began the process of selling leases for new oil and gas drilling on public lands, a move that will likely increase the nation’s already rising greenhouse gas emissions. 

It’s the first time the administration has decided to sell onshore oil and gas leases on federal land, further frustrating activists who hoped to see President Biden finally buckle down on climate policy this year after months of hard compromises and failed legislation.

Since taking office, President Biden has tried to strike a delicate balance when it comes to his environmental and energy agendas, hoping to embody his campaign promise of uniting the nation around bipartisan cooperation. He shut down the Keystone XL pipeline but declined to do the same with Minnesota’s Line 3 replacement pipeline, a nearly identical project in most aspects. He promised to ban new leases for oil and gas on public lands, but didn’t put up a fight when a federal court blocked that decision—and in fact, went on to hold the largest offshore lease deal in history. And he let West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin—a conservative Democrat with big ties to fossil fuels—all but dictate the components of the Build Back Better Act, Biden’s flagship climate legislation. That bill would have played a key role in achieving the administration’s goal of reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

So when Manchin blocked Build Back Better last December, many climate activists hoped it would free Biden to take far stronger action on addressing the worsening climate crisis through executive authority and rulemaking.

“The need to appease the West Virginia senator is gone now,” Bill McKibben, a prominent climate activist and founder of the grassroots organization 350.org, wrote in The New Yorker shortly after Manchin said he wouldn’t vote for Biden’s bill. “Using executive authority—and boldly—may be the only way that Biden will get anything done.”

Now as the Biden administration moves forward with its plan to auction nearly 144,000 acres of public land across at least seven states for new oil and gas leases, climate campaigners are complaining that President Biden is continuing to compromise at the expense of his climate agenda. Those auctions will begin this June in New Mexico, Wyoming, Colorado, Nevada, Montana, North Dakota and Utah, according to notices posted Monday by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management.

“The administration is in a tough place, but none of those moves are going to do much in the short term to reduce prices and they will have a long term impact on our climate,” McKibben told me in an email. “It would be a lot better for our climate and a lot smarter politically if Biden clearly placed the blame for prices where it really rests, on Big Oil, and used this moment to help the country break free from fossil fuels.”

While activists are criticizing Biden for not being more aggressive, whom to blame for his climate agenda’s lack of progress is complicated. Manchin’s hold in the 50-50 split Senate bears the lionshare of responsibility for any stalled legislation. In fact, Manchin now appears to be attempting to revive Build Back Better as a way to advance his own agenda of increasing domestic oil and gas production—an idea that has gained traction since the Ukraine war broke out in late February.

Former President Donald Trump’s breakneck pace at appointing federal and Supreme Court judges to the bench is also making it more difficult for Biden to advance his climate goals through regulatory action. When the Biden administration tried to place a temporary ban on new offshore lease sales in January, a Trump-appointed federal judge in Louisiana blocked the move. The Biden administration has also proposed placing strict new limits on pollution from cars and power plants, but those rules could be derailed by the conservative majority on the Supreme Court—also the result of Trump appointments.

Biden is also facing intense political pressure from Democrats in Western states, where oil and gas production on federal land make up a significant portion of state revenue, such as New Mexico and Colorado. That pressure has only increased amid the Ukraine war and as midterm elections draw nearer.

New Mexico has quickly become the second largest oil producing state in the country, contributing more than 10 percent of the total U.S. oil output in January, with more than a third of the state’s budget in recent years coming from oil and gas royalties on public lands. That’s forced Democrats there to be far more wary of federal climate policy that could impact the state’s bottom line and jeopardize Democratic seats.

“A typical person here in New Mexico is trying to put food on their table and thinking about how to pay their bills,” New Mexico Rep. Angelica Rubio told POLITICO. “When they hear a [call for an oil] ban, that means an end of the job. My effort as a legislator has been to find what the middle ground is.”

In some ways, the Biden administration has tried to mitigate the potential climate consequences of the new lease sales. The parcels for sale make up 80 percent less land than what was originally nominated by the industry. The administration also raised for the first time in more than a century the federal royalties that companies must pay to drill on public lands, signaling that any future leases won’t necessarily be on the industry’s terms.

“For too long, the federal oil and gas leasing programs have prioritized the wants of extractive industries above local communities, the natural environment, the impact on our air and water, the needs of Tribal Nations, and, moreover, other uses of our shared public lands,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement last week. “Today, we begin to reset how and what we consider to be the highest and best use of Americans’ resources.”

Today’s Indicator

50 percent

That’s how much the United States increased its exports of liquified natural gas between 2020 and 2021, hitting a record high average of 9.7 billion cubic feet per day. The U.S. could break that record again this year as it increases its exports to Europe in reaction to the Ukraine war.

In this view from an airplane rivers of meltwater carve into the Greenland ice sheet near Sermeq Avangnardleq glacier on Aug. 4, 2019 near Ilulissat, Greenland. Credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images
In this view from an airplane rivers of meltwater carve into the Greenland ice sheet near Sermeq Avangnardleq glacier on Aug. 4, 2019 near Ilulissat, Greenland. Credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

There is still a good chance that humanity can prevent some of the most dire consequences of global warming by the end of the century, so long as all the pledges made under the Paris Agreement since last year’s global climate talks are carried out on time, new research has found. But while that conclusion provides some reason for optimism, the study’s authors warn that the outcome depends on governments getting serious about drastically reducing the world’s rapidly rising greenhouse gas emissions. 

By evaluating the latest promises made at COP26 last October, a study published Wednesday in the scientific journal Nature concluded that there is now a slightly higher than 50 percent chance global warming can be kept from rising an average of 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels if governments adhere strictly to the timelines of their pledges.

Those pledges include 154 nations that promised to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and 76 that promised to reach “net zero emissions” by 2050—although China promised to do this by 2060 and India by 2070. Reaching net zero emissions, at least in theory, means that those countries would either no longer emit greenhouse gases or they would remove from the atmosphere as much as they release so that their net contribution to global warming would be zero.

The study’s finding is a positive development, considering that before the October climate talks, scientists projected a less than 50 percent chance of keeping warming below that threshold and said the world was on track to warm by 2.7 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. Scientists have warned that any warming above 1.5 degrees Celsius, the most ambitious target under the Paris Agreement, would result in serious consequences for humans and wildlife, including significant sea level rise, drastic biodiversity loss and major increases in extreme weather events.

Still, the researchers involved in the Nature study made sure to caveat their findings, noting that even though many countries have now pledged to reduce their emissions and set specific timelines for doing so, the vast majority aren’t taking the appropriate steps to achieve their goals.

“There’s a slightly better than 50 percent chance of limiting warming to 2 degrees or below, if countries meet all of their net-zero commitments,” Zeke Hausfather, a climate modeling scientist who co-authored an attached commentary to the new study, told me. But “that’s a very big if, given that many countries like the U.S. have domestic politics that make it tough to translate those sort of commitments into the near-term action we need to get there.”

In many ways, the world has gone backwards on climate since COP26, especially in recent months as world leaders have looked for ways to punish Russia for its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. With Russia supplying much of Europe and Asia with oil, gas and coal, many Western countries, including the United States, have begun to increase their own production of fossil fuels as a way to cut off a major source of income for Russia and temper already record-high global energy costs.

And in a trend that has especially concerned climate campaigners, 2021 also saw a resurgence in coal-fired power—an industry that many analysts believed had already peaked and was well on its way out. In the U.S., for example, emissions soared last year after annual coal use grew for the first time since 2014.

In fact, funding for fossil fuels has only grown since 2016, the first year after the Paris Agreement was adopted, according to a new report from several environmental groups. Fossil fuel financing from the world’s 60 largest banks has reached $4.6 trillion since the signing of the climate accord, with $742 billion in fossil fuel financing in 2021 alone, that report found.

Wednesday’s study also made clear that the path to keeping global warming to just 1.5 degrees Celsius is now almost entirely out of reach unless the countries most responsible for global greenhouse gas emissions—including the United States, the European Union and China—dramatically and quickly change the ways they produce energy, move around and grow and consume their food. Meeting that scenario now has just a 6 to 10 percent probability of coming true, the study said.

For Hausfather, however, the main takeaway from the study should be “cautious optimism.” It shows that there is still time to mitigate the climate crisis and “put some of the darker climate futures more firmly out of reach,” he said.

“I think it’s really up to us as citizens now to hold politicians’ feet to the fire,” he said. 

That’s it this week for Today’s Climate. Thanks for reading, and I’ll be back in your inbox on Tuesday.

Today’s Indicator

2035

That’s how soon California would ban the sale of all gasoline-powered vehicles in the state under a new rule proposed by state regulators Wednesday, part of the state’s ambitious efforts to tackle climate change.

Police take protesters out during an action of Scientist Rebellion to denounce the climate situation on April 6, 2022 in Madrid, Spain. Scientists and researchers threw fake blood at the Congress of Deputies building, one of many protests planned across the globe between April 4 to 9, 2022 by the international movement Scientist Rebellion. Credit: Aldara Zarraoa/Getty Images
Police take protesters out during an action of Scientist Rebellion to denounce the climate situation on April 6, 2022 in Madrid, Spain. Scientists and researchers threw fake blood at the Congress of Deputies building, one of many protests planned across the globe between April 4 to 9, 2022 by the international movement Scientist Rebellion. Credit: Aldara Zarraoa/Getty Images

A growing number of scientists around the world are stepping out of their labs and onto the streets to demand greater action to curb global warming, some even risking arrest as they chain themselves to banks and other institutions that they say aren’t taking the climate crisis seriously enough. As rising greenhouse gas emissions continue to drive up sea levels and exacerbate storms, wildfires and droughts, it’s putting increasing pressure on the scientific community to depart from its typical role as a neutral information provider and pick up the torch of activism.

Last week, an estimated 1,000 scientists in more than 25 countries staged demonstrations to demand that world leaders do far more to reduce climate-warming emissions, including a handful of researchers who were arrested for locking themselves to the gate of the White House and to the front door of the JPMorgan Chase bank in Los Angeles, as well as blocking traffic on the I-395 highway in Washington, D.C.

The events were part of a growing movement dubbed the “Scientist Rebellion,” a coalition of researchers around the world who seek to “expose the reality and severity of the climate and ecological emergency by engaging in non-violent civil disobedience.”

“I personally feel very strongly that we have a moral responsibility to do everything we can to wake up the public now, especially since it’s very clear that for decades, only residing within the peer reviewed literature has not worked at all,” Peter Kalmus, a NASA climate scientist who was arrested with three others in Los Angeles on April 6, told me in an interview. “Scientists are people too, and we’re citizens, and we’re parents, and we also have a right to speak out like this.”

The demonstrations came after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the third part of its latest landmark climate report, which warned that the world would likely reach the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere needed to push global temperatures past an average rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels in just five or six years. After that threshold is crossed, scientists say, some of the worst consequences of climate change will become irreversible, including significant sea level rise, drastic biodiversity loss and even populated parts of the planet eventually becoming unlivable for humans due to persistent drought and extreme weather and heat.

The average global temperature has already risen more than 1 degree Celsius, and climate scientists worry that if far more isn’t done in the coming years, the most ambitious goals of the Paris climate accord could be lost before this decade even comes to a close. Despite growing public outcry to tackle the climate crisis, carbon dioxide emissions continue to rise, the report found, with emissions in 2019 being about 12 percent higher than they were in 2010 and 54 percent higher than in 1990.

“It’s now or never, if we want to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius,” Jim Skea, co-chair of one of the report’s working groups, told ICN’s Bob Berwyn last week. “Without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, it will be impossible.”

For Kalmus, who said he’s worried what kind of world he’s leaving behind for his two teenage sons, he’s urging his political leaders to stop the funding and expansion of fossil fuels—something he calls “insane,” given the recent scientific reports. Last week, Kalmus and more than 250 other scientists wrote a letter to President Biden, calling on the administration to immediately halt all new development of oil and gas infrastructure and extraction in the United States.

In reaction to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has exacerbated global energy costs, the Biden administration recently agreed to increase U.S. exports of natural gas to help European countries wean off their dependence on Russian fuels. Increasing exports would also likely mean building new fossil fuel infrastructure, which many environmentalists fear will only deepen the nation’s dependence on the industry at a time when scientists say the world needs to be moving toward renewable energy instead.

Until politicians start taking those threats seriously, Kalmus said, he’ll keep calling on other scientists to join the cause, including putting themselves at risk of arrest for civil disobedience. “This is bigger than any one of us, it’s bigger than our careers. It’s bigger than our lives,” he said. “I know there are a lot more scientists out there who are starting to think that they need to take a stand.”

Thanks for reading Today’s Climate. I’ll be back in your inbox on Friday.

Today’s Indicator

74 percent

That’s the percentage of worldwide ecological damage that can be attributed to wealthy nations due to their share and use of global resources, says a new report published in the journal Lancet Planetary Health.

Safety flame flares out of the the barge extracting methane gas on Lake Kivu, at the Kivuwatt power plant in Kibuye, Karongi District, in the Western Province of Rwanda, on Nov. 1, 2021. -Credit: Simon Maina/AFP via Getty Images
Safety flame flares out of the the barge extracting methane gas on Lake Kivu, at the Kivuwatt power plant in Kibuye, Karongi District, in the Western Province of Rwanda, on Nov. 1, 2021. -Credit: Simon Maina/AFP via Getty Images

Global methane emissions increased last year by the largest amount since measurements of the greenhouse gas began in 1983, a new government report said. It was the latest in a series of stark reminders over recent months that even amid growing public outcry to address the climate crisis, not nearly enough is being done to curb rising emissions of planet-warming gases.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a preliminary analysis Thursday that determined the concentration of methane floating in the atmosphere increased by 17 parts per billion in 2021, surpassing the previous record high increase of 15.3 parts per billion set in 2020, even as a global pandemic slowed much of the world’s economy.

Unlike carbon dioxide, which can remain in the atmosphere for centuries, methane only lasts for roughly 9 years. But the gas—which is the main component of natural gas and permeates the air from fossil fuel infrastructure, landfills and even farms with livestock—is far more potent at heating the planet than CO2. Over a 20-year period, methane traps about 80 times more heat than CO2, and about 25 times more over 100 years, scientists say. That makes methane the second leading driver of global warming, behind carbon dioxide, despite the fact there is far less of it in the atmosphere compared to CO2.

But methane’s outsized role in heating the planet, as well as its lifespan and where it comes from, also make it an excellent target in the fight to slow climate change, said Phil McKenna, who has reported on the significance of short-lived climate super-pollutants like methane for Inside Climate News for years.

“I’ve been covering methane emissions for years, and both scientists and policymakers tell me cutting methane emissions is one of the most effective ways to quickly combat climate change because of the gas’s potency and short atmospheric life,” McKenna told me.

It’s not entirely clear why methane emissions continue to surge, McKenna said, noting that the leading driver could be rising emissions from wetlands, oil and gas operations or agriculture—or it could be because the atmosphere’s ability to remove methane is decreasing. What is clear, however, is that research shows that there are areas decision-makers can target to quickly reduce methane emissions.

For example, McKenna said, roughly a third of human-caused methane emissions come from the oil and gas sector, meaning leaks coming from pipelines, oil and gas wells and other infrastructure could be pinpointed and plugged relatively easily and inexpensively.

Scientists from Stanford released a study in February that determined that the Environmental Protection Agency has been radically undervaluing just how much methane is heating the planet and that targeting the gas is critical to meeting global climate goals. Similarly, research has found that coal mines and even the stoves in your home are emitting far more methane than previously thought, underscoring the importance for governments to tackle the climate pollutant sooner rather than later.

Some progress has been made on international efforts to curb methane. Last November, during the COP26 global climate talks, more than 100 nations, including the United States, pledged to cut global methane emissions by 30 percent or more by 2030.

But climate campaigners noted this week that promises don’t equate to action. In the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released earlier this week, the United Nations panel lambasted governments and corporations who have vowed to drastically reduce emissions but have failed so far to do so. Emissions in 2019 were about 12 percent higher than they were in 2010 and 54 percent higher than in 1990, the report said.

“It is a file of shame, cataloging the empty pledges that put us firmly on track toward an unlivable world,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said regarding the report. “Some government and business leaders are saying one thing but doing another. Simply put, they are lying. And the results will be catastrophic.”

That’s it this week for Today’s Climate. Thanks for reading, and I’ll be back in your inbox on Tuesday.

An earlier version of this article incorrectly described the findings of a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration preliminary analysis, which found that global methane emissions increased by 17 parts per billion in 2021, which surpassed the previous record high increase of 15.3 parts per billion set in 2020.

Today’s Indicator

$2 trillion

That’s how much money the U.S. economy could lose every single year because of climate change if more isn’t done to curb rising temperatures, a new federal government report warns.

President Biden promotes the bipartisan infrastructure deal and his now stalled Build Back Better Act on Sept. 14, 2021, at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Arvada, Colorado, saying the policies will help the U.S. address climate change and environmental justice. Credit: Helen H. Richardson/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

President Joe Biden invoked the Defense Production Act on Thursday as part of his larger effort to accelerate the transition of the United States to renewable energy and drastically reduce the nation’s carbon emissions by the end of the decade. The Cold War-era law provides serious financial incentives for companies to develop a domestic supply chain for lithium, nickel and other materials used in the batteries for solar and wind farms, as well as electric vehicles.

That’s a big deal since those materials are predominantly produced outside of the United States, a fact that has put the U.S. at a disadvantage to countries like China and has helped to drive Republican opposition to renewable energy and EVs. 

In 2019, China was responsible for 80 percent of rare earths imports, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Conversely, the U.S. has only a handful of mines that produce key minerals for large-capacity batteries, including just one active mine in Nevada that produces lithium.

“We need to end our long-term reliance on China and other countries for inputs that will power the future,” Biden said Thursday at a White House press conference, where he also announced that the U.S. would release one million barrels of oil per day from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Debate over the clean energy transition, which scientists say is necessary to slow the climate crisis and avoid its worst consequences, has only intensified as Russia’s war in Ukraine exacerbates already record high global energy prices. By releasing oil reserves, Biden hopes to temper those rising costs. And by agreeing to increase U.S. exports of natural gas to Europe, he hopes to help countries break their dependence on Russian fossil fuels as punishment for President Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked aggression.

But many analysts have said that increasing fossil fuel production is a short-sighted solution and that moving to renewable energy and electric vehicles is the best way to loosen Russia’s grip on the energy market and tame long-term market volatility.

Last month, the U.S. and the 30 other member nations of the International Energy Agency launched a critical minerals security program, which could eventually include steps such as the stockpiling of metals needed for EVs and other renewable energy applications, ICN’s political reporter Marianne Lavelle reported.

“We don’t want supply-chain bottlenecks to prevent us from being able to electrify the transportation sector,” U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said at an international energy conference in Paris last week. 

By invoking the Defense Production Act, Biden is now sending further signals to the private sector to start developing a strong local supply chain around renewable energy by ensuring the government will help pay for some of the costs, such as feasibility studies for new mines. The move could help speed up several new and proposed lithium mining and extracting projects that are in various stages of development in states including Maine, North Carolina, California and Nevada. Though some of those projects are already facing opposition from environmental groups, the Associated Press reported.

The law also gives the president significant emergency authority to control domestic industries for the purpose of national defense. President Trump, for example, invoked the act in 2020 to help clear up supply-chain issues encountered in the manufacturing of ventilators and to ensure the production of additional N95 face masks as the coronavirus pandemic overwhelmed the nation’s health care system and roiled the global economy. Biden also invoked the act last year to speed up Covid vaccination and testing efforts.

Biden’s latest use of the law comes at a time when U.S. demand for battery storage is skyrocketing and supply is lagging. Last year, the U.S. market added 3,508 megawatts of battery storage capacity, more than double what was added in 2020, according to a report issued last week by the research firm Wood Mackenzie and the American Clean Power Association, a trade group. It’s a record growth that would have been far stronger had there not been issues with rising costs of raw materials like lithium, and delays in international shipping, the report said.

“Demand is just really high,” Chloe Holden, a co-author of the report, told ICN’s clean energy reporter Dan Gearino. “Supply is constrained.”

That’s it this week for Today’s Climate. Thanks for reading. The newsletter will take a break next Tuesday, since I’ll be at ICN’s annual retreat, interacting with colleagues face-to-face for the first time in nearly a year. But I’ll be back in your inbox on Friday.

Today’s Indicator

16 to 20

That’s how many named tropical storms are expected to form in the Atlantic ocean this year, according to forecasters at AccuWeather, marking what could be another record-high hurricane season.

A scientist works with permafrost samples in an underground laboratory of the Melnikov Permafrost Institute in the eastern Siberian city of Yakutsk on Nov. 26, 2018. Credit: Mladen Antonov/AFP via Getty Images
A scientist works with permafrost samples in an underground laboratory of the Melnikov Permafrost Institute in the eastern Siberian city of Yakutsk on Nov. 26, 2018. Credit: Mladen Antonov/AFP via Getty Images

In France, scientists working on an experimental fusion-power reactor, which could potentially revolutionize how humankind generates carbon-free electricity, had to put their research on hold due to key parts shipping in from Russia. 

A global consortium of permafrost scientists who were set to embark on a multi-year expedition in the Arctic to collect crucial data on global warming have also had to cancel their plans due to Russian sanctions and international uproar.

And the Arctic Council, which helps coordinate oil pollution responses and scientific research activities in the Arctic, practically unraveled this month after seven member countries announced they were boycotting future talks in Russia, which currently chairs the council.

Russia’s war in Ukraine is testing global alliances in the scientific community that have been built over several decades, threatening to derail critical climate research at a time when scientists say there’s no time to waste. The issue is especially poignant in the Arctic, which is warming four times faster than the rest of the world due to climate change and plays a vital role in storing much of the world’s greenhouse gas deposits.

Beneath the Arctic’s frozen surface is approximately 1.5 trillion metric tons of organic carbon matter in the form of frozen soil and ancient plant matter called permafrost. That’s twice as much carbon as what’s currently floating in the atmosphere, and scientists have long warned that as the Arctic’s permafrost melts, it could unleash enough carbon into the air to send the Earth’s climate spiraling out of control. As the planet warms, more Arctic permafrost melts, releasing more carbon gas and driving even more warming in a vicious cycle.

That tipping point is one reason why researchers see their work in the Arctic as so important. Researchers say establishing a baseline on how much carbon the region is absorbing and emitting is crucial to understanding how much of a threat that tipping point poses and how soon it could happen. Russia has also expressed interest in exploring the Arctic’s oil reserves as global warming opens more of the region to possible drilling, a move that could add significantly more CO2 to the atmosphere.

But the ability for scientists to conduct their Arctic research has grown increasingly complicated as Russia’s devastating war in Ukraine drags on into its second month. For one thing, Russia is a massive country that makes up 50 percent of the Arctic coastline.

“At least half our work would have been in Russia, and now we can’t do any science there at all,” Sue Natali, Arctic program director for the Woodwell Climate Research Center in Massachusetts, told TIME Magazine.

Natali is one of the permafrost researchers whose travels to the Arctic have been canceled because of the war. Two pallets of methane and carbon monitoring equipment originally destined for Russian research stations now sit unused in the back of her lab.

Russian and Western scientists have also become dependent on each other’s expertise, as the end of World War II ushered in a new era of scientific discovery and global cooperation. Maribeth Murray, executive director of the Arctic Institute of North America at the University of Calgary in Alberta, told Hakai Magazine that she “can’t name a field” in which Russian scientists aren’t involved.

In fact, Russian scientists have collaborated with Western researchers on everything from unlocking the power of atoms to firing probes into space, The Associated Press reported. And scientists say that the loss of that kind of cooperation could have longstanding consequences for scientific endeavors and the potential benefits that research could bring to humankind.

With the Arctic Council in possible disarray, it’s also unclear how nations will regulate future activities in the Arctic, such as shipping, drilling and conservation efforts—all of which has been negotiated to some degree or another through the council’s efforts. As sea ice vanishes, polar waters are opening to industries eager to exploit the region’s bounty of natural resources, including oil, gas and valuable metals used in everything from military equipment to renewable energy, Reuters reported.

“The Arctic is facing its biggest crisis in 35 years,” Klaus Dodds, a political expert at Britain’s Royal Holloway University who studies Arctic relations, told the news agency.

Thanks for reading Today’s Climate, and I’ll be back in your inbox on Friday.

Today’s Indicator

450 square miles

That’s the size of an ice shelf that collapsed last week in East Antarctica, the first time scientists have observed such a collapse in the region since record keeping began nearly half a century ago.

Climate activists take part in a demonstration organized by Friday For Future movement as part of the Global Climate Strike, to call for action against climate change on March 25, 2022 in Rome, Italy. Fridays For Future is a global climate strike movement by students that was started in August 2018 with Swedish pupil Greta Thunberg. Credit: Antonio Masiello/Getty Images
Climate activists take part in a demonstration organized by Friday For Future movement as part of the Global Climate Strike, to call for action against climate change on March 25, 2022 in Rome, Italy. Fridays For Future is a global climate strike movement by students that was started in August 2018 with Swedish pupil Greta Thunberg. Credit: Antonio Masiello/Getty Images

After a two year hiatus due to pandemic lockdowns and other public health restrictions for Covid-19, the world’s youth are once again marching in the streets en masse, lambasting their leaders for the continued rise of global greenhouse gas emissions and demanding that they do far more to address the rapidly worsening climate crisis.

Photos of the protests have already begun to flood Twitter and other social media. In Tokyo, high school students are protesting outside an investment bank, demanding it stop financing new coal plants. In Bangladesh, children—some of whom have yet to reach their teenage years—are standing waist deep in water, urging world leaders to do more to stop the rising seas that are already making floods worse in their hometowns. And at the Neumayer Station III research facility in Antarctica, climate researchers are holding signs with nothing but their lab and frigid tundra behind them, demanding more be done to slow the melting of the earth’s glaciers and ice caps.

More than 700 protests worldwide are planned for Friday, according to Friday’s for Future, the youth climate strike organization that sprung from Greta Thunberg’s solitary school strike and vigil at the Swedish parliament in 2018.

By 2019, Thunberg’s humble protest had evolved into a major movement, as she led an estimated 250,000 people through New York City’s financial district, demanding that Wall Street investors move their money toward renewable energy and away from fossil fuels, the main driver of human-caused climate change.

Children and young adults, worried about what climate change meant for their future, skipped school and turned out in huge numbers. In total, around 6 million people worldwide were believed to have marched in the 2019 strikes, marking what is believed to be the biggest climate demonstration in history and sparking a major political shift in how seriously world leaders began viewing the threat of global warming.

But since then, youth climate activists, who over the last two years have been forced to organize their movement over Zoom and through other online means, say governments have done very little to wean their countries off fossil fuels and are also failing to provide proper help to the developing countries that are least responsible for global warming but suffering the most because of it. Developing nations are still waiting on the full $100 billion per year promised by wealthier countries to help them adapt to the consequences of rising temperatures.

Those criticisms were also leveled at world leaders after last year’s COP26 global climate talks ended in what environmentalists and climate campaigners widely called a failure. By returning their demonstrations to the streets, the youth campaigners hope to make a show of force, as they did in 2019, pressuring their leaders to take a stronger stand against an oil and gas industry that still holds its grip on the world’s economic and political systems.

“We’ve been incredibly isolated and while the climate movement has continued during Covid, we need to reignite hope and strikes to push our leaders to act,” Liv Schroeder, the national coordinator and policy director for Fridays for Future U.S., told me in an email. “I want those in power to listen to us very carefully. Young people are angry, and I want fossil fuel executives to be as scared as we are.”

Friday’s strikes come as new reports from the scientific community show that the climate crisis is progressing far more quickly than previously thought, leaving even less time to implement solutions. In February, scientists from around the world released a landmark climate report, which warned that the world is already experiencing irreversible climate change and humanity isn’t moving nearly quickly enough to adapt.

And a study published this week in the journal Nature Reviews Earth & Environment found that even with the record drop in emissions caused by pandemic lockdowns in 2020, global emissions have rebounded so much in 2021 that the world is likely now on track to warm by 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels within the decade. That jeopardizes the key target set by the Paris climate accord, which scientists say must be met to avoid the worst consequences of global warming by the end of the century.

It’s a finding not lost on youth climate strikers like Schroeder. “Every fraction of a degree matters. The climate crisis does not allow for a moderate” approach, she said. “Nothing about what is headed our way will be moderate.”

That’s it this week for Today’s Climate. Thanks for reading, and I’ll be back in your inbox on Tuesday.

Today’s Indicator

25

That’s how many days earlier, on average, the world’s birds are laying their eggs compared to 100 years ago, according to a new study that points to global warming as a possible culprit.

Residents of Irpin flee heavy fighting via a destroyed bridge as Russian forces entered the city on March 7, 2022 in Irpin, Ukraine. Credit: Chris McGrath/Getty Images
Residents of Irpin flee heavy fighting via a destroyed bridge as Russian forces entered the city on March 7, 2022 in Irpin, Ukraine. Credit: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

In war torn Ukraine, Russia’s month-long invasion has already resulted in thousands of deaths—including more than 900 civilians—and has left some of the nation’s biggest cities in ruins. Nearly a quarter of Ukraine’s 44 million residents have been forced from their homes, with some fleeing west, away from the harshest fighting, and others leaving the country altogether.

For many of those who have fled, the war has been a story of what they were forced to leave behind: husbands who remained to fight, homes that have been passed down for generations and careers to which many have dedicated their lives.

Among them is Natalia Gozak, executive director of Ecoaction, one of Ukraine’s largest environmental nonprofits and a staunch advocate for renewable energy as a way to combat climate change.

Last year, Gozak helped organize Ukraine’s largest climate march from her office in Kyiv. Today, her life looks much different as she leaves behind the work that she has spent much of her life building. Inside Climate News spoke with Gozak, who is now living in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, about the day she fled her home in Kyiv with her children and husband and what the war has meant for Ukraine’s once vibrant environmental community.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Natalia, are you in Lviv now? Can you tell me about your situation?

Gozak: Yes, I’m in Lviv. This is the city in the west of Ukraine, and I managed to move out of Kyiv on the first day of this war. Normally, I’m based in Kyiv. There is our office, my apartment, everything.

So, you left on the first day. When did you realize you were under attack? Can you tell me about your decision to leave?

Gozak: We knew something was going on. Maybe a few months before the start of this war, we were planning what we would do as an organization and as a family. So, I had a preliminary plan and a bag packed. But still, I didn’t believe this was possible—that Kyiv was under attack.

Natalya Gozak
Natalya Gozak

On Thursday, the 24th of February, I woke up at 5 a.m. from the sound of explosions. This was incredible. You could imagine yourself not waking up from an alarm, but from the sound of explosions in your normal, usual life.

I woke up and I also woke up my husband. He’s a military person and he was very quick to identify that yes, these are explosions. And he first ran to fuel the car. We managed to pick up my mom from a nearby location and then maybe in half a day, we left. 

And it took us a really long time. Normally, the way from Kyiv to Lviv takes maybe 7 or 8 hours to drive. It took us 24 hours. We spent the night in the middle and we used small roads because all the main roads were traffic jammed.

It was not clear at the time for how long the fighting would continue. We thought maybe a few days. So, I packed for a few days, a week maximum.

But soon it became clear. It wasn’t acceptable to live in a city under attack. It was really uncomfortable, stressful. It was like all the world turning upside down.

What about your family? Are they with you in Lviv?

Gozak: My kids and mom and cats, actually. But my husband went back the next day, back to Kyiv, to join the defense forces and defend our city. He has military experience in 2014 and 2015, but normally he’s a biologist and this is not his main duty.

That’s incredibly brave and heartbreaking. Have you been in touch with your husband? Do you know if he’s OK?

Gozak: For now, we talk almost every day. Sometimes he disappears and I cannot reach him when they have some more—let’s say—active operations. But yeah, he’s OK.

There’s a lot of people in the same situation. And it’s not because this is something they want to do. For us, it’s crucially important to stand for freedom and democracy, for European values. It’s clear that under Russian occupation, the previous way of life will not be possible.

I’m so sorry for how terrible this last month must have been for you. The death toll and displacement of people continue to climb, and Russia’s tactics continue to be more disturbing and inhumane. Even under intense pressure, Ukraine refused to surrender Mariupol to the Russians on Monday. And this week, President Joe Biden is traveling to Europe to show support for Ukraine and discuss the possibility of further punishment against Russia for its actions. What do you think is most important for Americans to think about or understand at this point of the war?

Gozak: Everybody could do something to contribute to stopping this incredible war. It’s important to ask decisionmakers to show support in public, to demand total sanctions to stop the economy of Russia. Any export should be stopped as soon as possible. This is what is fueling this war machine, starting with fossil fuels.

But also timber and uranium exports. The U.S., as far as I know, stopped importing Russian oil, gas and coal, but at the same time continues to import uranium for the nuclear industry. This is still part of the huge income for Russia, which is paying for new tanks, missiles, everything.

That’s one part of the story. The second part of the story is military support. I was a pacificist for all my life. But being now in this situation, unfortunately it looks like Russia’s military only understands force, and the time for democracy and discussions have already passed.

Now it is the time for military support. Now we’re asking NATO countries for their support for a no-fly zone. Military support is what is crucially needed.

Natalia, can you tell us more about the work you left behind? You’re also a climate activist and renewable energy advocate, and your organization, Ecoaction, has grown a lot in recent years. As someone who dedicated her career to tackling climate change, what has this war meant for you and your work?

Gozak: We used to be the biggest environmental NGO in Ukraine in terms of budget, staff enrolled, and topics covered. That’s a hard part of the story as well. All our advocacy work and media work, and all we did in the previous years, became rather senseless. I do hope we can come back to our work after we win, when we rebuild the country.

For now, some NGOs are shifting to humanitarian aid or military volunteer support. What I’ve seen in these four weeks is the environmental community is becoming less and less. They are shrinking because other issues are important now.

When people are dying in Mariupol from hunger in the 21st century, we will never talk about climate change.

What about more broadly? Surely this war will affect how Europe in general pursues its plans to tackle climate change. I know the European Union’s environment ministers, for example, began reassessing the bloc’s climate policies last week in light of the Russian invasion and its impact on rising energy costs. The big question is whether this moment spurs a more rapid transition to renewable energy or slows it down. What’s your view of all this?

Gozak: I’ve said this before. For years, we advocated for small, decentralized renewables. These are sustainable solutions not only in terms of climate but now in terms of war and military risks. What do we see now? Russians are targeting coal power plants, nuclear power plants, which are the centralized sources of energy. And these are easy for an enemy to target.

But if a country relied more on decentralized energy sources, this would not be possible. Occupying just one or two nuclear power plants, they are able to take like one-third of Ukraine’s overall energy supply.

From our perspective, it is absolutely clear that this is a chance to review our energy policy. A green pathway not only reduces the emissions to help reach climate goals, but clearly it ensures more security.

Do other Ukrainians feel similarly? Svitlana Romanko, a leading Ukrainian environmental lawyer, wrote an essay in the LA Times recently where she argued that the Ukrainian invasion should prompt world leaders to invest in renewable energy in ways that will survive beyond the war, and that banks should see this moment as a reason to stop funding fossil fuels. Do many others in Ukraine agree?

Gozak: Yeah, we have a clear consensus in the environmental society that fossil fuels, this is what is feeding the Russian military machines. Even the state authorities and ministries, they are calling for a ban of Russian fossil fuels. From inside Ukraine, it’s crystal clear.

Others like Yevgenia Zasiadko, head of the climate department at an environmental protection group in Kyiv, have said the intense fighting is also causing irreversible damage to the environment. Is that another concern people should have during this war?

Gozak: This is something for the future. This is what we’re doing. Yevgenia is also part of Ecoaction, along with our other colleagues, gathering data on the environmental impacts of war. This is the initiative that was started by the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine. They suggested that civil society help them collect such cases.

We collect these cases of environmental war crimes so that after we win, Russia should pay everything. Not only the social cost and infrastructure they ruin, but they should also equally pay for the damage against the environment. That’s why we’re trying to document such cases.

But this isn’t something we should be talking about right now. This is something for the future.

Right, it must be hard thinking about climate change and the environment right now while your countrymen are fighting for their lives and freedom.

Gozak: Absolutely. 

Natalia, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me, especially with everything that has happened to you. I hope you’re doing OK, given the situation.

Gozak: Thanks also to you.

Thanks for reading Today’s Climate. I’ll be back in your inbox on Friday.

Today’s Indicator

10 percent

That’s how much of the European Union’s greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture. Now a plan aimed at addressing those emissions and initially scheduled to publish this week has been delayed because of the Ukraine war.

The Texas State Capitol is seen on Sept. 20, 2021 in Austin, Texas. Credit: Tamir Kalifa/Getty Images
The Texas State Capitol is seen on Sept. 20, 2021 in Austin, Texas. Credit: Tamir Kalifa/Getty Images

Texas is threatening to cut ties with some of the world’s biggest financial firms over their efforts to address the climate crisis. On Wednesday, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar sent letters to 19 investment firms, including financial giants BlackRock and JPMorgan Chase, accusing them of violating a new state law that prohibits Texas from doing business with any companies that are divesting from the fossil fuel industry for environmental reasons.

It’s the latest move from Texas leaders to stifle a climate movement that they believe threatens the state’s bottom line. It also highlights the state’s propensity to lean into America’s culture war, which continues to paralyze Congress in its ability to pass any kind of meaningful climate policy, even as public pressure to advance climate action grows and the nation experiences some of the worst extreme weather events ever recorded.

With the culture war raging over hot button topics like transgender rights, abortion access and accusations of voter suppression, Texas has regularly remained in the spotlight by pushing forward controversial laws and policies in recent years. That includes legislation regarding climate change and renewable energy.

While a growing number of local and state governments have pledged to divest from fossil fuels in response to increasing public demand to address global warming, Texas has done the opposite. Last year, state lawmakers passed Senate Bill 13, which prohibits Texas from contracting with or investing in companies that divest from oil, natural gas and coal companies. The law defines divestment as refusing to do business with a fossil fuel company because that company does not commit to environmental standards higher than expected by federal and state law, the Texas Tribune reports.

In Wednesday’s letter, Hegar accused the firms of “boycotting” fossil fuels and demanded information over their “investment policies and procedures” to see if they were in violation of the state law. 

“We know some of these companies hold investments in oil and gas today, but what about the future? Are they selling the hope of a ‘green’ tomorrow with promises to divest or reduce their fossil fuel exposure?” Hegar wrote.

Any company that was found to be in violation, or is presumed to be in violation due to not responding in a timely manner, risks having its existing contracts with the Texas government canceled and could be cut out of Texas pension funds, Hegar added.

Specifically, the letter singled out the financial firms’ so-called ESG funds as potential violations of the Texas law. ESG funds are investment funds that attempt to do “social good” by taking environmental, societal and corporate governance factors into account. And they have seen record-breaking growth in recent years as investors look for ways to put their money into climate-friendly endeavors.

In 2020, ESG funds were the fastest growing segments of the global market, despite the pandemic grinding the world economy to a near standstill. In fact, the ESG market is poised to reach $41 trillion by the end of the year, with ESG-related assets accounting for one in three dollars managed globally.

While there is a growing body of evidence that ESG funds don’t benefit the environment nearly as much as their supporters claim they do, their popularity poses a threat to states like Texas, which still have a sizable portion of their economies tied to excavating fossil fuels.

Texas is the top crude oil and natural gas producing state in the country, accounting for 43 percent of the nation’s crude oil production and 26 percent of its marketed natural gas production in 2020, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. And in 2019, the oil and gas industry generated $411.6 billion for the Texas economy, according to an analysis released last year by the Texas Oil and Gas Association and the American Petroleum Institute.

Still, a growing number of economists say taking climate change into account is the fiscally responsible thing to do and that Texas has already begun to transition away from fossil fuels whether its leaders like it or not. A 2021 analysis from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, a clean energy advocacy group, found that the oil and gas industries are now responsible for 10 percent of the Texas gross domestic product, down from 21 percent in 1981. That drop is partly due to rising competition from renewable energy.

“Tax revenue, employment and overall contribution to the state’s economy from the oil and gas industry has been in a slow decline for decades,” said Trey Cowan, the report’s lead author. “Texas policymakers must recognize the potential risks of continuing to buoy an industry that faces unprecedented competition.”

That’s it this week for Today’s Climate. Thanks for reading and I’ll be back in your inbox on Tuesday.

Today’s Indicator

$51

That’s the dollar value the Biden administration estimates is caused every time a ton of carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. A federal judge restored Biden’s estimate for the so-called “social cost of carbon” this week after a Trump-appointed judge blocked it last month.

Sarah Bloom Raskin, nominee to be vice chairman for supervision and a member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, speaks during the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee confirmation hearing on Feb. 3, 2022 in Washington, D.C. Credit: Bill Clark-Pool/Getty Images
Sarah Bloom Raskin, nominee to be vice chairman for supervision and a member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, speaks during the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee confirmation hearing on Feb. 3, 2022 in Washington, D.C. Credit: Bill Clark-Pool/Getty Images

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin announced Monday he wouldn’t support the nomination of Sarah Bloom Raskin, President Biden’s pick as top bank regulator at the Federal Reserve and an outspoken advocate of addressing the risks that global warming poses to the world’s financial systems.

Without the support of Manchin, who continues to hold powerful sway over the 50-50 split Senate, Raskin’s nomination has little chance of passing, dashing the hopes of environmentalists who believed she would help reign in a new era of climate-conscious regulation at what is arguably the world’s most powerful central bank.

Raskin has been unabashedly vocal about her belief that climate change poses an existential threat to the world’s financial systems. “If we ignore climate change, we in essence destroy the economy,” Raskin told lawmakers in March 2020, just as the coronavirus pandemic began to trigger lockdowns around the world.

That stance has drawn ire from Republicans, who say it’s not the Fed’s role to oversee climate issues and have worked for months to derail Raskin’s nomination. It also helped tank support from Manchin, the Democrats’ most conservative senator, who has made his fortune from coal and natural gas companies and has been a major obstacle to President Biden’s climate agenda.

“Her previous public statements have failed to satisfactorily address my concerns about the critical importance of financing an all-of-the-above energy policy to meet our nation’s critical energy needs,” Manchin said about Raskin in a statement Monday.

But a growing number of economists have taken positions similar to Raskin’s, saying that intensifying storms, wildfires, heat waves and droughts are already making it far more difficult for companies to conduct their business without major interruptions. Analysts say global warming also poses a transitional threat, meaning that as governments pass laws requiring the adoption of renewable energy, it could saddle residents with the costs of stranded assets, such as oil pipelines and natural gas power plants, that no longer serve a purpose in the coming decades.

A report released last year by Swiss Re, one of the world’s largest insurance providers, found that by 2050, the effects of climate change could shave as much as $23 trillion off global economic output when compared with growth levels without climate change. And in January, the financial firm Deloitte released a report that said the United States could lose $14.5 trillion over the next 50 years if it continues to delay transitioning its economy to net-zero emissions.

“Ms. Raskin’s outspokenness on climate is completely legitimate because it is an existential threat, and because climate-related shocks do pose threats to financial stability, and to the safety and soundness of financial firms and markets,” Richard Berner, an Obama-era director of the Treasury Department’s Office of Financial Research and co-director of New York University’s Volatility and Risk Institute, told E&E News.

At the Federal Reserve, Raskin would have had a host of tools at her disposal to help address the financial threats from climate change, including setting federal interest rates and designing monetary policy over how banks should treat future investments. Specifically, activists had hoped Raskin would use the Fed’s regulatory powers to stymie the flow of money into the fossil fuel industry and other businesses with significant carbon footprints.

Still, despite Manchin’s opposition, Democrats are moving forward with Raskin’s nomination, holding onto hope that they can convince some Republicans to cross the aisle. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said Monday that he would push forward a vote on Raskin. And Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the White House was continuing efforts “to garner bipartisan support” for Raskin.

Even without Raskin’s approval, Democrats still have some leverage to push forward climate-related financial regulation. This week, the Securities and Exchange Commission is expected to propose a new landmark rule that would require all publicly traded companies to disclose their greenhouse gas emissions and the climate risks their businesses face. It’s a move that would put the United States more in line with what other countries are already requiring, underscoring just how out of touch some U.S. lawmakers are when it comes to accepting the realities of the climate crisis.

Thanks for reading Today’s Climate, and I’ll be back in your inbox on Friday.

Today’s Indicator

70 percent

That’s how much Sweden is expected to increase its ability to generate electricity from wind power by 2024, officials announced Monday, marking a major boom in renewable energy development in the country.

Nigerian Chairman of Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority Timipre Sylva attends the "Saudi Green Initiative" forum, in the capital Riyadh on October 23, 2021. Sylva made comments this week that his country should be left out of the global clean energy transition. Credit: Fayez Nureldine/AFP via Getty Images

Energy leaders from some developing countries in Africa and Asia, many of which have economies that heavily rely on fossil fuel extraction, are once again asking that their nations be left out of the push to transition the world to renewable energy. It’s a situation that raises questions over what a “just transition” should look like and whether wealthy countries, which are historically responsible for the majority of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, are pulling their fair share of weight in that effort.

At CERAWeek—the annual global energy conference hosted in Houston this week—leaders from Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and Malaysia reiterated that their countries are least responsible for climate change, and that expecting them to transition to clean energy at this point would be unfair and detrimental to their economies’ development.

“We are still in transition from firewood to gas,” Timipre Sylva, Nigeria’s oil minister, said at the conference. “Please allow us to continue with our own transition.”

“They want all of us, including those of us without food, to carry the burden of transition,” Bala Wunti, general manager of the country’s state-owned oil company, added.

The comments highlight just how complicated the debate over transitioning the world to renewable energy has become and signals that issues surrounding that debate could drive a real wedge into next year’s global climate talks in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.

Nigeria, like a handful of other developing nations in Africa, Asia and South America, is highly dependent on fossil fuels for revenue. But there’s another issue that affects more countries: Some 900 million people in the world, most of them in Africa, still have no access to energy for basic needs, Sylva said. Many leaders don’t want to be constrained in their ability to supply power to their populations from the cheapest, most reliable options, including in cases where that option would be natural gas.

Countries like the United States, Canada and Russia have long benefited economically from their exports of fossil fuels. But poorer countries that haven’t had the same opportunity to tap the oil reserves beneath their own lands for profit, such as Malaysia, Ghana and Guyana, have said for years that they can’t be expected to give up the chance to also benefit from an oil and gas market that has helped to make so many developed countries rich.

Some African nations, like Equatorial Guinea, are highly dependent on revenues from oil and gas production and could face real financial trouble if their ability to sell those products is constrained.

Behind this is a concern that hundreds of millions of people lack access to energy, and that sub-Saharan African nations in particular account for a tiny fraction of greenhouse gas emissions, and an even smaller portion of historical emissions, said Nicholas Kusnetz, ICN’s oil and gas reporter. There’s a sense that wealthy countries pressuring less developed ones to transition away from fossil fuels, including efforts to cut off international finance for fossil fuel development, is therefore unjust, he added.

“The point is that building a handful of natural gas power plants will make a negligible impact on the climate, and any increase in emissions should be made up for by wealthy nations cutting their own,” Kusnetz said, reporting this week from the Houston conference.

Developed countries, including the United States, Canada, Japan and much of western Europe, make up just 12 percent of the global population today but are responsible for 50 percent of all the planet-warming greenhouse gases released from fossil fuels and industry over the past 171 years. And just 38 of the world’s richest nations account for more than two-thirds of the world’s oil demand.

Yet it’s the world’s poorest countries, and particularly developing nations in the Global South, that feel the consequences of climate change the most. The small island nations of Kiribati, for example, could see as much as two thirds of its land mass swallowed by the ocean by the end of the century if the sea level rises by just 3 feet. And in Madagascar, one of the poorest countries in the world, more than 1 million people are on the brink of famine, in part because climate change is exacerbating drought conditions.

In fact, the latest IPCC report, which evaluates research around the world regarding the state of global warming, shows more clearly than ever how greenhouse gas emissions from a minority of people in developed countries are driving deadly climate extremes like heat waves and droughts, while poorer Black and Brown people in developing countries disproportionately bear the impacts, including deaths, property destruction, famines and displacement, ICN’s Bob Berwyn reported.

Further complicating energy transition debates in many developing countries with abundant fossil fuel reserves is what economists call the “resource curse.” That’s when discovering a valuable resource like gold or oil, which should benefit residents, ends up harming the public, such as leading to conflict, corruption, poverty and poor health outcomes.

Rich nations have tried responding to these complex realities by offering to help poorer nations in their efforts to adapt to the climate crisis. In 2009, the world’s wealthiest nations pledged to give poorer nations $100 billion a year to adapt to climate change, starting in 2020. That promise, however, has so far come up short.

But on Wednesday, U.S. special envoy for climate change John Kerry said that next year would be the year the United States and other wealthy countries fulfilled their promise. “We’re just a little bit shy of it for 2022,” Kerry told members of the United Nations Security Council. “It is absolutely clear we will have it for 2023. I still think we can get it for 2022.”

That’s it this week for Today’s Climate. Thanks for reading and I’ll be back in your inbox next Tuesday.

(Nicholas Kusnetz contributed to this report)

US President Joe Biden announces a ban on US imports of Russian oil and gas, March 8, 2022, from the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. Credit: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images
US President Joe Biden announces a ban on US imports of Russian oil and gas, March 8, 2022, from the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. Credit: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden announced today that the United States was banning all imports of Russian oil, gas and coal, the latest in a series of severe economic sanctions being waged against President Vladimir Putin for his unprovoked war in Ukraine. The United Kingdom also announced its own plan to phase out Russian oil and oil products by the end of the year.

But breaking ties with Russia’s energy supply is the easy part. It’s what comes next that will be difficult, policy experts say. And exactly how Western countries choose to shift away from Russian fossil fuels will have major implications for the climate.

As the Ukraine conflict puts a squeeze on an already volatile energy market, it is reigniting a decades-old argument over the importance of energy independence and the role renewable energy, such as solar and wind, should play in achieving it.

In the United States, those in the debate have largely fallen into two camps. On one side, two senators from fossil-fuel producing states—Joe Manchin, D-W.Va, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska—are leading an effort to replace Russian energy imports by increasing domestic production of oil and gas.

On the other side, a group of climate hawks in the House have joined up with Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., to propose alternative legislation that would also ban Russian imports, but require the United States to replace them with renewable energy over time.

Similarly in Europe, which is far more dependent on Russian oil than the U.S., climate campaigners are urging their lawmakers to hasten the transition to renewable energy and not to increase oil drilling in the Northern Sea as they implement new restrictions on Russian energy.

Just 3 percent of crude oil imports into the U.S. came from Russia last year. Still, U.S. lawmakers are warning the already high energy prices could get even higher. Rising gasoline prices—which hit an average of $4 per gallon in the U.S. this week—are putting massive political pressure on government leaders to find quick solutions for consumers, even if they come at the expense of long-term environmental goals.

Energy analysts say that could be a major problem for the clean energy transition, which is already struggling to meet expectations.

For example, dozens of nations pledged to reduce their dependence on coal power last fall at a major international climate summit. But coal has made a comeback, largely because of Asian countries seeking cheap fuel options amid rising global energy prices. Similarly, development of new solar, wind and hydroelectric energy last year fell far behind what’s needed to meet President Biden’s goal of creating a carbon-free power grid by 2035.

“The energy transition was already in trouble—80 percent of the world’s energy is still from fossil fuels,” Dieter Helm, an economist and professor of energy policy at Oxford university, told the Financial Times.

In the short term, Helm believes both the United States and the European Union will increase their domestic production of oil and gas, moves that will most certainly create new challenges for global  efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years.

U.S. production of oil and gas have only increased under President Biden and are expected to hit record highs in 2022 and 2023, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. At a press conference announcing the U.S. ban this morning, President Biden said, if anything, the Ukraine conflict should be persuading governments to more quickly transition to renewable energy.

Complicating matters further, China is considering buying or increasing stakes in Russian energy and commodities companies. That news is sure to drive another wedge into the already difficult global climate talks, in which countries have struggled so far to find common ground on how to address climate change and who exactly will pay for the efforts.

Last week, hundreds of climate scientists from around the world released their latest update on the state of global warming, and their report was grim. The world is already experiencing irreversible climate change and humanity isn’t moving nearly quickly enough to adapt, the landmark report said.

António Guterres, the United Nations secretary-general, didn’t hold his punches when he spoke about the report and what he thought it would mean if the world fails to transition to clean energy quickly enough.

“Delay is death,” Guterres told the room of U.N. delegates in Geneva last week. “It is essential to meet the goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees. Science tells us that it will require the world to cut emissions by 45 percent by 2030 and achieve net zero emissions by 2050.”

Thanks for reading Today’s Climate, and I’ll be back in your inboxes on Friday.

Today’s Indicator

90 billion tons

That’s how much carbon dioxide will be released into the atmosphere if more isn’t done to halt and reverse the trend of deforestation and worsening drought in the Amazon rainforest, a new report said.

After killing it back in December, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin is resuscitating President Biden’s signature Build Back Better Act, giving environmentalists some hope that a national climate policy may yet be reached this year ahead of a consequential midterm election. But the likelihood of Manchin’s version of the bill looking anything like Biden’s $2 trillion package are slim, and the tradeoffs will likely threaten Biden’s environmental agenda and global climate efforts at large.

Manchin, who has been pivotal in passing any budget legislation in the 50-50 split Senate, expressed this week that he was interested in reopening negotiations on the legislation and suggested that some of the previous climate provisions in the original bill may still be on the table. But the West Virginia Democrat also made it clear that he wants to boost production of U.S. oil and gas on public lands as part of a larger effort to boycott Russian fuels, a move that could complicate negotiations over a future Democratic spending bill.

Russia is one of the world’s biggest producers of fossil fuels and its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has sent prices of oil, gas and coal skyrocketing as nations seek ways to punish President Vladimir Putin’s aggression.

At a Natural Resources Committee hearing on Thursday, Manchin criticized the Biden administration, saying it “continues to drag its feet” on domestic production of oil and gas on federal lands. And at a news conference that same day, he said that while he supports Democrats’ efforts to advance clean energy, supplying Europe with natural gas amid the Ukraine war was a higher priority.

“The bottom line is the production of fossil fuels right now,” Manchin said at the press conference. “Wind and solar [are] not going to put natural gas over there. We can build a pipeline in two to six months. Basically, the administration needs to step up and help us on that.”

Manchin’s effort to ban Russian fuel in the U.S. is gaining some traction among Democrats, but the idea of increasing oil and gas drilling on public lands runs counter to the Biden administration’s climate agenda, including reducing U.S. emissions by 50 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. While Biden has failed to live up to his promise to halt drilling on federal lands, a dramatic increase in production could push up U.S. emissions and jeopardize the administration’s larger climate aspirations. On Tuesday, Biden announced he is releasing 30 million barrels of oil from U.S. strategic reserves in an effort to curb rising gas prices associated with the Russian invasion.

The prospect of increased domestic fossil fuel production also sets up what will undoubtedly be a heated fight between Manchin and staunch climate hawks in Congress.

Progressive Senate leaders, like New York’s Sen. Chuck Schumer and Vermont’s Sen. Bernie Sanders, have been some of Manchin’s harshest critics, frequently pushing back against the West Virginia lawmaker’s attempts to whittle down spending in Build Back Better and nix provisions he believed would hurt the natural gas industry. In an interview with the Associated Press, however, Sanders said he would at least entertain new negotiations with Manchin.

Last year, Manchin was heavily criticized for his ties to the fossil fuel industry as public pressure increased on passing Biden’s massive social spending package. In 2020, Manchin made nearly half a million dollars from a coal brokerage firm he founded and received another $400,000 from fossil fuel interests. And in the current electoral cycle, Manchin has received more in political donations from the oil and gas industry than any other senator.

Nonetheless, some climate campaigners have welcomed the news from Manchin, saying any step toward national climate policy is better than nothing at all.

“We should give Joe Manchin the pen so we actually know where he stands, and then we should negotiate and come to an agreement,” Jamal Raad, executive director of climate group Evergreen Action, told CNN. “If we are looking to lower costs and stop enabling fossil fuel fascists like Putin, we actually have a policy prescription on the table. That’s the climate investments in Build Back Better.”

Today’s Indicator

$440

That was the price for a ton of coal in Asia on Tuesday, a rise of $127 from the previous day. Global coal prices surged this week as countries halted doing business with Russian fossil fuel companies. 

As Ukrainians awoke to the sounds of explosions and reports of a Russian invasion last week, a delegation of Ukraine’s top climate experts had a difficult decision to make: wrap up their work on the major climate report set to be released in a matter of days or pull out of the process and seek refuge.

“I just realized that it’s not possible because there’s real danger for me and my family, and all our delegates,” Svitlana Krakovska, a climate scientist who led Ukraine’s contributions to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report on global warming, told POLITICO last week. “It’s very difficult to think about climate change impacts when you have impacts of Russian missiles in our Kyiv, and tanks everywhere.”

The 3,675-page IPCC report, published Monday by hundreds of experts living in almost every country, detailed in stark terms how the deadly and destructive consequences of the climate crisis were already happening, and warned that humanity was not adapting nearly fast enough to the world’s new realities. 

But as Russian aggression reached the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital on Friday, the country’s climate scientists were forced to retreat from their work amid intermittent shelling and a lack of internet. Ukraine’s sole author to the IPCC assessment—a botanist at the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine named Yakiv Didukh—performed the final line-checks for his section of the report from a bomb shelter in Kyiv.

“I can hear explosions from my house,” Didukh told Reuters. “It is difficult for me now to think and talk about the climate, because the psychological situation is very tense. I am waiting and hoping that this will end and I will be able to do science.”

But experts have said considering the Russia-Ukraine conflict in terms of climate change is paramount. And some scientists worried that the war might draw attention away from the gravity of Monday’s report, including that any further delay in transitioning the global economy to carbon-free energy would be an existential threat to humankind and many of the world’s ecosystems.

It might be hard to concentrate on the new science assessment as a war erupts in Europe, but it’s important to focus on both subjects at the same time because they are deeply related, Rod Schoonover, a climate security expert with the Council on Strategic Risks’ Center for Climate and Security, and a former United States intelligence officer, told ICN’s Bob Berwyn.

“You shouldn’t shut one or the other off. Humanity’s relationship to fossil fuel is underwriting this invasion,” he said. “Putin thought he could get away with it because of Europe’s dependence on Russian gas.”

Others online made similar connections, with Twitter users on Monday comparing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to the United States’ invasion of Iraq in 2003. For years, energy experts have said that the U.S. takeover of Iraq was more about securing strategic oil reserves than it was about reports of the country having weapons of mass destruction—reports that were later found to be untrue.

In fact, the Russian invasion has spurred scientists, energy analysts and climate activists to call for a quicker transition to renewable energy, which they say would supply countries with cheap electricity and help diffuse international tensions exacerbated by energy insecurity.

Several studies have warned that as the climate crisis worsens, armed conflicts will increase, as nations fight over dwindling resources, including access to clean water, and as refugees flee from social unrest and worsening storms, heatwaves and droughts.

That idea, that climate change is a “threat multiplier,” is one reason why the U.S. Army released its first climate strategy this month in an effort to better prepare for more conflicts driven by global warming.

There’s “an increased risk of armed conflict in places where established social orders and populations are disrupted,” the army strategy said. “The risk will rise even more where climate effects compound social instability, reduce access to basic necessities, undermine fragile governments and economies, damage vital infrastructure, and lower agricultural production.”

Thanks for reading Today’s Climate, and I’ll be back in your inbox Friday.

Today’s Indicator

2035

That’s the year Germany is considering requiring its energy sector to become fully powered by renewable sources, potentially one of the most ambitious climate targets in the world, according to Reuters.

As the harsh reality set in Thursday that President Vladimir Putin was, in fact,  invading Ukraine, starting the largest conflict in Europe since World War II, many analysts speculated what a major war could mean for a continent that has long depended on exported fossil fuels from Russia.  

One casualty, analysts surmised, would be global efforts to tackle climate change. Dealing with the immediate consequences of war could prompt countries to set aside their efforts to deal with the broader climate crisis. A prolonged war could lead to a growing number of nations cutting ties with Russia, along with its significant supply of oil and gas to the world, spurring other countries to boost their own production and increase emissions. Already, the world market is feeling the crunch, with oil prices soaring above $100 per barrel for the first time since 2014.

But there is also evidence that Russia’s foray could be inadvertently accelerating the transition to cleaner energy. As stocks plummeted on Thursday in reaction to Russia’s invasion, the European Renewable Energy Index surged as much as 9.3 percent. It was the biggest stock jump since the pandemic lows of March 2020 and posed a stark contrast to the European market’s collapse.

In the United States, individual renewable energy companies also saw massive gains. When the market closed Thursday, the stock price for Sunrun Inc., an American company that provides residential solar panels and batteries, had skyrocketed nearly 22 percent. Conversely, stocks for oil majors like BP, Chevron and ExxonMobil all remain down after a major price drop on Wednesday.

“When there’s less certainty about other sources of energy, that will help renewables because they’re a cheap source of electricity,” Joe Keefe, CEO of Pax World Funds, a line of fossil-fuel-free funds, told the financial services firm Morningstar. “They’ve become very competitive from a price standpoint and are good long-term investments.”

Some developing countries have also expressed that they see the Russia-Ukraine conflict as an opportunity to attract new global investments around clean energy, a move that could help provide long-term energy security, while at the same time helping nations meet their climate goals.

“I see an opportunity here as the economics for investing in renewable energy here in the Philippines might even be accelerated,” Ceferino Rodolfo, the country’s top trade official, said regarding the Russian conflict at a virtual meeting hosted by energy developers on Wednesday.

Like most island nations, the Philippines depends heavily on imported fossil fuels and could benefit significantly from installing more wind, solar and hydroelectric power—something the nation has been pushing for as it aims to phase out its coal-fired power plants.

Still, it’s unclear just how the Eastern European conflict will play out and whether it will ultimately advance or hinder the world’s climate efforts. Besides its horrific toll on human life, war is also an incredibly carbon-heavy endeavor. A drawn out conflict involving a world superpower could mean a major bump in greenhouse gas emissions in the coming months or years.

The U.S. military, for example, released a massive amount of climate-warming emissions during its 20-year armed conflict in the Middle East. Since the beginning of the Global War on Terror in 2001, the military has produced more than 1.2 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases, according to one recent analysis. That exceeds what entire countries like Portugal and Denmark emitted during that same period.

Russia’s army undoubtedly has its own massive carbon footprint. As of last year, Russia’s army ranked second largest in the world, behind the U.S., when considering overall budget, enlisted troops and military vehicles combined. Among its arsenal are 15,398 tanks, 3,429 aircraft and 55 submarines, which produce a lot of greenhouse gas emissions.

That’s it this week for Today’s Climate. Thanks for reading and I’ll be back in your inbox on Tuesday.

Today’s Indicator

750,000 square miles

As of Tuesday, that’s the span of ice covering the Antarctic coast, marking the lowest amount of sea ice surrounding the continent in four decades, researchers said.

For years, students have been arguing that their universities have a moral obligation to slow global warming. After all, they ask, isn’t the point of college to give them a brighter future—and isn’t staving off the worst consequences of the climate crisis by the end of the century part of that? Now a coalition of students from some of the nation’s most prestigious universities have filed complaints in their states, arguing that their colleges have a legal obligation to fight climate change, too. 

The complaints, filed Wednesday by students from Yale, Princeton, MIT, Stanford and Vanderbilt, ask  their respective attorneys general to investigate whether the colleges are in violation of the Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act. The law, adopted by nearly every state decades ago, requires charitable institutions to invest their endowments in ways that align with their “charitable purpose”—that’s essentially the public good that charities, nonprofits and other organizations provide that grant them their tax-exempt status.

By funding the fossil fuel industry, whose products are the main driver of global warming and are subsequently causing major ecological damage, human health problems and exacerbating social inequities, the universities are in direct conflict with their educational purposes and individual missions, the complaints allege. The complaints estimate that altogether the schools have hundreds of millions of dollars currently invested in coal, oil and natural gas companies.

“Our universities’ persistent and deliberate greenwashing and silence on divestment has left us no other choice,” Aaditi Lele, a freshman at Vanderbilt, told Inside Climate News. “They have failed to listen to their moral imperative, and so we’ve turned to hold them to their legal imperative.”

That legal imperative includes “a duty to promote the public interest in exchange for their tax-exempt charitable status,” Alex Marquardt, an attorney with the Climate Defense Project, a climate-focused legal firm that helped the students file their complaints, said in a statement. “That duty is incompatible with fossil fuel investments,” he added.

It’s a novel legal approach from the growing divestment movement, largely led by youth and young college students who say they have grown increasingly frustrated with a lack of urgent action being taken to address climate change from public officials, including those running their schools. Already, some schools have caved to the pressure.

A handful of major universities, including Havard, Cornell, Boston University and the University of Minnesota, have all said in recent years that they would divest—to varying degrees—from companies and holdings that largely promote fossil fuel use. In fact, more than 200 schools worldwide have agreed to make similar divestments, according to the Global Divestment Commitments Database, a roster maintained by advocacy groups 350.org and Stand.earth.

Young climate campaigners also argue that investing in fossil fuels is financially irresponsible, an opinion shared by many of the world’s top financial experts. Climate change, and the consequences associated with it, remains the top financial fear among global investors and financial experts in 2022, according to the World Economic Forum’s annual risk survey.

If climate change isn’t more urgently addressed, the financial projections are also pretty dire. A report released last year by Swiss Re, one of the world’s largest insurance providers, found that by 2050, the effects of climate change could shave as much as $23 trillion off global economic output when compared with growth levels without climate change. And last month, financial firm Deloitte released a report that said the United States could lose $14.5 trillion over the next 50 years if it continues to delay transitioning its economy to net-zero emissions.

That’s it this week for Today’s Climate. Thanks for reading and I’ll be back in your inbox on Tuesday.

Today’s Indicator

28 gigawatts

That’s how much renewable energy capacity the U.S. installed last year, which analysts say is less than half of what’s needed to reach President Biden’s goal of a carbon-free grid by 2035.

A new study has confirmed what scientists have been warning about for a long time. Climate change has exacerbated the megadrought gripping the American West so much that the last two decades are now the driest the region has seen in 1,200 years.

It’s a figure researchers have touted before, when they pointed out that between 2012 and 2016, Western states experienced their worst dry spell in more than a millenia. But since the beginning of the 21st century, when the drought conditions began, the situation has worsened far more quickly than previous models anticipated, according to a study published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change. It’s the latest evidence that the baseline researchers use to help understand the world’s complex weather systems continues to change faster than their understanding of it.

“This study supports what scientists keep telling me: We’ve moved past any semblance of a ‘new normal,’” said Liza Gross, the West Coast reporter for Inside Climate News, where she has covered how heat and drought have affected one of the world’s most profitable agriculture industries. “Things are changing so rapidly that it’s hard to establish the kind of baseline scientists need to predict future events. Each event seems to shatter past records.”

In fact, scientists have pushed back on using such phrases as “the new normal” to describe what they’re observing. That’s because that phrase implies predictability, Gross said, and Monday’s research shows how the goalpost keeps moving. “If anything, they said, it’s a new abnormal,” she added.

The study also showed that human-caused global warming contributed significantly to the severity of today’s dry conditions. By combining observational climate data with measurements of tree rings, which are wider apart in wet years and thinner in dry ones, researchers were able to link tree ring width to past moisture content in the soil. With that, the authors said they could determine that although the West would have still experienced a drought without climate change, its severity would have been about 60 percent less than what it is today if humans weren’t rapidly heating the planet.

The region’s ongoing drought has especially complicated matters for the seven states that depend on the Colorado River for their water needs. Monday’s news comes as water levels at the nation’s two largest reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, are at their lowest levels ever recorded. Just how those states—as well as Native American tribes, the federal government and even Mexico—are allowed to use the Colorado River are determined by a contract that will expire in 2026, setting up a looming showdown over what future management of the river should look like. Researchers have said those dry conditions could persist for years to come.

The region’s powerful agriculture industry is also sure to weigh in on the negotiations. Farming has become increasingly expensive as climate change supercharges floods and extreme rain, while elongating drought conditions at the same time. A recent analysis based on government data found that insurance payments to farmers have risen more than 400 percent for drought-related losses and nearly 300 percent for losses from rains and flooding, from 1995 to 2020.

The drought is also contributing to the massive damage that increasingly destructive wildfires are causing in Western states. The worst U.S. wildfire season on record took place in 2020, burning more than 10 million acres across several states and costing $16.5 billion.

So, what’s the take away from all this? “The worst-case scenario keeps getting worse,” Park Williams, the study’s lead author and a climate hydrologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, told The Associated Press. “We need to be preparing for conditions in the future that are far worse than this.”

Today’s Indicator

88 percent

The percentage of the roughly 8,000 new passenger vehicles sold in Norway in January that were fully electric—signaling a possible market shift that could help the country meet its climate goals.

Facing mounting public pressure to fulfill his promises to tackle climate change and elevate environmental justice, as well as uncertain prospects for passing national climate policy, President Joe Biden is now counting on $1.2 trillion in federal infrastructure money to push his agenda forward. But some states could use that federal funding in ways that ultimately make global warming worse and exacerbate the nation’s environmental inequities.

The historic infrastructure package, which Congress passed last year with bipartisan support, will soon offer a lifeline to states seeking to rebuild roads, bridges and other critical infrastructure, much of which are decades old and in dire need of repair. The Biden administration says the money will create jobs and build more sustainable and equitable communities, while addressing the worsening climate crisis.

In December, Biden transportation officials sent out a memo encouraging states to prioritize climate resilience, public transit and bike paths over highway expansion projects when accessing federal funding. And on Thursday, the administration released more guidance, directing states to submit plans for how they would use the new federal money for electric vehicle charging stations in a way that aligned with the Justice40 initiative—Biden’s program that aims to deliver 40 percent of the “overall benefits” of the government’s clean energy investments to disadvantaged communities. 

But the guidance is generating opposition from Republican states, whose leaders say they should have the right to spend those federal dollars as they see fit, including on projects that would expand roads and highways. That’s a serious problem for Biden’s climate efforts, some analysts say, because it would encourage more driving and increase traffic, boosting greenhouse gas emissions.

Transportations is already the nation’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for nearly a third of its total emissions. An analysis published last year by Georgetown Climate Center found that federal infrastructure money, which states will begin receiving over the next five years, could significantly increase those emissions if states continue to add lanes to highways in an effort to alleviate congestion.

“This is a major blind spot for politicians who say they care about climate change,” Kevin DeGood of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, told the New York Times. “Everyone gets that oil pipelines are carbon infrastructure. But new highways are carbon infrastructure, too. Both lock in place 40 to 50 years of emissions.”

For decades, states have added lanes to their highways, hoping to reduce traffic congestion. But environmentalists say what actually happens is that the expanded roads encourage more driving, leading to more cars and congestion, and creating a cyclical problem called “induced traffic demand.

Expanding the nation’s highways could also exacerbate pollution in vulnerable communities that have historically borne the brunt of poor air quality and benefited the least from environmental regulations. Many of the nation’s highways, for example, cut through communities of color and low-income neighborhoods that lacked the political or financial power to stop the projects when they were first built. Those communities also tend to sit close to other sources of pollution, like power plants and chemical factories.

Those factors are contributing to a growing body of research that shows that people of color suffer disproportionately from tailpipe pollution—the kind that would increase if states expand their highways, environmentalists say. A move to electric vehicles could help alleviate that problem, something more and more states are opting to do. Still, environmental justice activists say, the short-term impact of highway pollution on communities of color needs to be addressed more urgently.

That’s it this week for Today’s Climate. Thanks for reading and I’ll be back in your inboxes on Tuesday.

Today’s Indicator

$238 million

That’s how much the New York state pension fund, the third largest in the nation, said it would divest from nearly two dozen oil and gas companies that it says aren’t moving toward a clean economy.