August 21, 2020
From all over the San Francisco Bay area and beyond, summer tourists typically jam the streets of California's Russian River beach towns to experience a slice of paradise. In Guerneville, residents of the popular destination are left wondering what will happen to their homes, as wildfires continue to rage and officials order them to evacuate for a second year in a row.
Greenland lost a record amount of ice in 2019, researchers reported Thursday. Nearly half the ice was lost in July, when the region roasted from an unusual heat wave. The net ice loss of more than 530 billion metric tons was more than twice the annual average since 2003, the scientists said. And July's loss alone equaled the amount lost in an average year.
Alaska's highly prized salmon are getting smaller, and climate change is a suspected culprit, a new study reported, documenting a trend that may pose a risk to a valuable fishery, indigenous people and wildlife. The study found that four of Alaska's five wild salmon species have shrunk in average size over the past six decades, with stunted growth becoming more pronounced since 2010.
The Pine Gulch fire north of Grand Junction exploded early Wednesday morning, growing 42 percent in size to become the second-largest wildfire in Colorado's recorded history and prompting new evacuations. The fire, one of four major wildfires burning across the state, grew from 87,778 acres, when it was measured Tuesday evening, to 125,108 acres by Wednesday morning.
The rate at which humanity is consuming the Earth's resources declined sharply this year as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to researchers. Pandemic-related lockdowns led to a 9.3 percent reduction in resource consumption, but scientists still believe humans are consuming resources far quicker than nature's ability to regenerate them.
Soaring temperatures, intensified flood risks and heightened water stress will threaten 57 U.S. nuclear plants over the next 20 years, forcing operators to take additional resiliency measures, according to a new report by Moody's Investors Service. "The consequences of climate change can affect every aspect of nuclear plant operations," the report said.
The pandemic has hobbled the weekly student protests that made Greta Thunberg and other campaigners a global phenomenon—so they're now hitting up politicians in person. German Chancellor Angela Merkel got a firsthand taste of that on Thursday, when Thunberg and three other youth activists met with her for 90 minutes to press for more aggressive German leadership on climate change.
August 20, 2020
Dozens of fires continue to rage out of control in California, forcing residents to flee their homes as a weeklong heat wave threatens to push temperatures into the triple digits and overload the state's power grid. Those crises are converging as the state also continues to fight a virus that is killing 130 Californians a day.
A relentless heat wave has forced California utilities to use rolling blackouts to prevent an overload of the power grid, as air conditioners push electricity use way up. But rather than blaming companies or regulators for the blackouts, some experts say there is a relatively simple step that could help the situation right now: demand response.
Speakers on the third night of the Democratic National Convention switched their focus to climate change, gun control and immigration as they strived to highlight their policy differences from the Republican Party. Still, some fear that party regulars are putting the climate crisis on the back burner, our own reporting found, with the party removing key climate language from its platform.
The Trump administration's method of keeping William Pendley, the controversial acting head of the Bureau of Land Management, in power, even after his nomination was withdrawn, is probably not legal, law experts warn. President Trump withdrew Pendley's nomination over the weekend, yet Pendley continues to run the agency because of policies that dictate he do so until the director role is filled.
When Seattle lawmakers last year attempted to ban gas hookups in new buildings in an attempt to reduce a major source of the city's greenhouse gas emissions, they ran into significant opposition from local business owners. But newly obtained internal documents reveal that the opposition was actually a sophisticated plan organized by Seattle's gas supplier, Puget Sound Energy, The Guardian reports.
The construction of large-scale dams has played a surprising role in limiting rising seas, new research says. Over the past century, melting glaciers and the thermal expansion of sea water have driven up ocean levels. But in the 1970s, the water that dams prevented from entering the ocean would have contributed around 12 percent more to the rate of annual sea level rise, the study found.
The state of Louisiana will aim to achieve net-zero emissions statewide by 2050 under a new executive order signed by the state's Democratic governor, John Bel Edwards. The order establishes a task force to make recommendations for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and to help the state reach intermediate targets, including reducing state emissions 26 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.
August 19, 2020
As California on Tuesday avoided what would have been the state's biggest coordinated blackout of all time, it must now deal with its next crisis. A combination of dry lightning and extreme heat ignited 155 fires within 24 hours, with more expected to come. The blazes torched tens of thousands of acres, forcing people to flee their homes and prompting Gov. Gavin Newsom to declare a state of emergency.
Colorado this week experienced what scientists for decades had been warning would be the consequences of an unchecked warming climate. Wildfires burned across more than 135,000 acres, drought wilted crops, stream flows shrunk to the point where state officials urged limits on fishing and record temperatures baked major cities.
A new lawsuit against the Tennessee Valley Authority, the nation's largest public utility, is accusing the company of being an illegal monopoly, pressuring so-called "never-ending" contracts onto local power providers and stifling renewable energy growth. TVA has already locked 141 of its 154 local retail electricity distributors into the contracts across its territory.
The Democratic National Committee this week quietly dropped language calling for an end to fossil fuel subsidies and tax breaks from its party platform, HuffPost reports. In July, a ledger of party demands included those calls, but the language disappeared from the final draft of the party platform circulated Monday, sparking outrage from environmental advocates.
With former Vice President Joe Biden now the Democratic Party's official presidential candidate, climate change has become a core campaign issue and a focus for his fund-raising. Biden has raised more than $15 million in candidate contributions from hundreds of new donors who specifically identify with climate change as a cause.
Fourteen states and Washington, D.C., are suing the Trump administration over a new rule that would allow for the transportation of liquefied natural gas by rail, citing health and safety risks. The rule, finalized this year, would allow for the fuel to be transported on rail tank cars. Previously, a special permit was needed for such transport.
The captain of the ship that ran aground in Mauritius and spilled about 1,000 tons of oil into the Indian Ocean has been arrested, The New York Times reports. The captain, Sunil Kumar Nandeshwar, was arraigned in a district court in the country's capital, Port Louis, on the charge of endangering the safe navigation of a vessel, an offense under Mauritian maritime laws.
Torrential rainfall on Tuesday caused floods on the upper reaches of China's Yangtze river that threatened a 1,200-year-old world heritage site and forced authorities to evacuate more than 100,000 people. Researchers say that the river's record flooding this summer is just a preview of climate disasters to come, our own reporting found.
August 18, 2020
The Trump administration on Monday finalized its plan to open up part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil and gas development, a move that overturns six decades of protections for the largest remaining stretch of wilderness in the United States. The decision sets the stage for what is expected to be a fierce legal battle over the fate of the refuge.
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.