August 18, 2020
California on Monday finalized fuel efficiency agreements with five of the world's largest automakers in an attempt to undercut the Trump administration's rollback of Obama-era standards. As part of the deal, BMW, Ford, Honda, Volkswagen and Volvo agreed to follow California's more stringent auto emissions standards as opposed to those recently finalized under President Trump.
New York City champions itself as a climate leader, but experts and organizers say its response to the ravages of climate change in marginalized communities—specifically, to extreme heat—have come up short. As the climate crisis worsens, activists say those neighborhoods need green and holistic solutions, such as access to higher quality affordable housing and benefits from green infrastructure.
Lawmakers and consumer groups expressed outrage on Monday that the operator of California's electricity grid had not adequately prepared for a heat wave and was resorting to rolling blackouts. Sweltering weather has smothered much of the West over the last week and is expected to strain the electric grid that serves about 80 percent of California.
One of the hottest air temperatures recorded anywhere on the planet in at least a century, and possibly ever, was reached on Sunday afternoon at Death Valley in California's Mojave Desert, where it soared to 130 degrees Fahrenheit. The National Weather Service reported the record at the crest of an extreme heat wave in the region—an occurrence that is becoming more frequent as the climate warms.
The United Association of Union Plumbers and Pipefitters, the nation's pipe-fitting and plumbing union, is backing Joe Biden for president. The endorsement comes even as the union's chief, Mark McManus, acknowledged that his union, which has 359,000 members in the United States and Canada, doesn't see eye to eye with Biden on every issue—in particular, on the Keystone XL pipeline.
President Trump's decision to withdraw his controversial nominee, William Pendley, to lead the Bureau of Land Management was a rare example of Democrats and conservation groups being able to leverage the vulnerability Republicans face ahead of an election that could end the party's control over the Senate.
August 17, 2020
For 150 years, the Greenland Ice Sheet withstood anthropogenic climate change—each winter, enough snow piled up to balance the ice lost to spring and summer melting. But that all changed 20 years ago, a new study warns, and the glacier's melting has now hit a point of no return. Even if warming was halted today, the country's ice would continue to disappear, researchers said.
William Perry Pendley, the former oil-industry lawyer and vocal public-land antagonist, has been withdrawn as the Trump administration's pick to lead the Bureau of Land Management. Pendley, a lightning rod for criticism over his stances on climate change and fossil fuel development, has served as acting director since last year and was slated for a confirmation hearing as director this fall.
New York's coastal resilience funding is the latest casualty of Covid-19, after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the state was postponing a $3 billion bond act due to a massive budget deficit. But activists argue that, as storms get worse and sea levels rise, the delay could cost New York more money in the long run and further harm the state's communities of color.
This summer, flooding in China's Yangtze River Basin wiped out farmland, prevented high school students from taking college entrance exams and destroyed huge amounts of merchandise. Now researchers warn that those disasters could play prelude to the climate crisis yet to come, saying that the country would be the worst impacted by inundation if the global temperature rises by 4 degrees Celsius.
A heat wave rolling through the Southwest has forced intermittent power shut-offs in California, a state already struggling with wildfires and a recent surge in coronavirus cases, raising fears that the rising temperatures could turn deadly. The state shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers for several hours on Friday to avoid a damaging overload.
Iowa is seeking about $4 billion in disaster relief after a storm packing hurricane-force winds tore across the Midwest last Monday, Governor Kim Reynolds said. The storm killed at least three people, Reuters reports, and caused widespread property damage in cities and rural towns, leaving more than half a million homes and businesses without power.
The Democratic National Convention starts in Milwaukee this week, but will be held almost entirely online, with hundreds of live feeds, because of the ongoing pandemic. Still, some DNC members are planning events to emphasize climate change, which they see an existential crisis that will outlast Covid-19.
Previously unreported industry data have revealed that greenhouse gas emissions from Canada's oilpatch have more than doubled so far this year to levels much higher than anticipated, as the country changes the way it measures emissions. The findings come as the country implements new plans to reduce emissions from methane, a potent climate pollutant.
August 14, 2020
Firefighters across three Western states are battling wildfires that have destroyed more than 90,000 acres, CNN reports. More than 100 homes have been evacuated after officials in California, Oregon and Colorado issued orders to do so. The Lake Fire north of Los Angeles has already burned over 11,000 acres, fire officials said, and was 5 percent contained as of Thursday evening.
The Environmental Protection Agency announced a long-anticipated rollback of methane emission regulations for the oil and gas industry on Thursday, marking the Trump administration's latest attack on federal climate policy. The move comes at a time when global methane emissions from human activity are already rising and could result in a catastrophic increase of the climate "super-pollutant."
The world's largest listed oil companies have wiped almost $90 billion from the value of their oil and gas assets in the last nine months as the coronavirus pandemic accelerates a global shift away from fossil fuels, The Guardian reports. Seven major oil firms, including Royal Dutch Shell, BP, Total and Chevron, have reported downgrades totaling $87 billion on the value of their assets.
Tropical Storm Josephine formed in the Atlantic Ocean on Thursday, the earliest date on record for the formation of a J-named storm, another sign the Atlantic hurricane season is more active than usual, forecasters said. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting as many as 25 named storms this season, the highest in the agency's history.
The climate science community is mourning the loss of a pioneering climate scientist and glaciologist, Konrad Steffen. Koni, as he was known to his friends and colleagues, apparently fell to his death in a deep opening in the ice called a crevasse on Saturday while doing research in Western Greenland. He was 68 years old.
Artificial light at night has long been suspected to disturb ecosystems on land and affect human health. Light from cities and ships also repels or attracts many species of fish, stresses coral reefs and disrupts the circadian rhythms of wood lice on sandy beaches. A new study published in Scientific Reports is the first to quantify how much light pollution reaches the seafloor near coastal cities, researchers say.
August 13, 2020
Stark warnings by federal scientists and wildlife experts about the grave threat posed by Donald Trump's border wall to rare and endangered species were repeatedly ignored by the Department of Homeland Security, the Guardian reports. Experts warn that rare desert springs and streams, which provide the only U.S. habitat for the endangered endemic Río Yaqui fish, are in danger of drying up.
We're in the midst of a big moment in the clean energy transition, but you might not have noticed. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden recently proposed a climate and clean energy plan that aims to get the country to net-zero emissions by 2050—something that in the past would have generated significant backlash. It shows just how far the idea has permeated mainstream politics.
Antarctic ice shelves have lost nearly 4 trillion metric tons of ice since the mid-1990s, a new study analyzing satellite data from 1994 to 2018 found. Ocean water is melting them from the bottom up, causing them to lose mass faster than they can refreeze, it says, spelling bad news for the hundreds of glaciers along the Antarctic coastline and raising the threat of global sea level rise.
Video: Covid-19 Will Be Just 'One of Many' New Infectious Diseases Spilling Over From Animals to Humans
Prior to Covid-19, the term "zoonosis" was unfamiliar to many people. But these animal-transmitted illnesses make up more than 70 percent of new infectious diseases in humans and are becoming even more common. Experts warn that if we don't change the reasons for their rise, including climate change, more pandemics are just around the corner.
The pandemic has exacerbated already severe energy and economic inequalities in Indian country, such as inefficient energy infrastructure, high costs and a lack of funding for new projects, The Guardian reports. In the face of these challenges, Native people are turning to renewable energy to help their tribes achieve energy and economic independence.
Humble dirt could pack an unexpected climate punch, according to a new study published in the journal Nature. An experiment that heated soil underneath a tropical rainforest to mimic temperatures expected in the coming decades found that hotter soils released 55 percent more planet-warming carbon dioxide than did nearby unwarmed areas.
The Trump administration is moving to loosen environmental standards for showerheads following a string of public complaints from the president about low-flow fixtures designed to save water. The proposal, which drew swift criticism from consumer groups, would change the definition of a showerhead, allowing quicker water flow than current standards permit.
Wind turbines and solar panels produced a record 10 percent of the world's electricity in the first half of 2020, while coal-power declined, but steeper change is needed to meet targets set under the 2015 Paris climate agreement, a new report from an independent think tank said.
August 12, 2020
Joe Biden's pick for vice president recently introduced climate equity legislation into Congress and has advocated for holding fossil fuel companies accountable for climate pollution, though some environmentalists criticize her service as California's attorney general, claiming Harris did not go as far as other state law enforcers in pursuing litigation against the industry.
A group of former EPA leaders from both Democratic and Republican administrations unveiled a "road map" intended to guide the next administration, stating that the group was "concerned about the current state of affairs at EPA." Though the statement does not mention Trump directly, it critiques actions taken by his administration's EPA.