August 10, 2018
Central Asia's Aral Sea has been drying up, leading to a peculiar kind of tourist attraction for visitors who want to see the ecological crisis. The dry parts of the sea include an area where rusting ships rest on sand, and where a lighthouse is no longer next to any waves.
August 9, 2018
Puerto Rico is now estimating that Hurricane Maria killed more than 1,400 people, far more than the official death toll of 64, in a report to Congress seeking billions to help the island recover from the devastating storm. The territory's government said the additional deaths resulted from the effects of a storm that led to a "cascading failures" in infrastructure.
Newly disclosed emails show Trump administration officials pushed to promote coal power in a report on the "bomb cyclone" winter storm that hit the eastern U.S. in January. Administration officials urged the report's authors to highlight reliability issues with natural gas power and to discuss coal plant closures as part of the analysis.
The Trump administration has ordered NOAA to take over water management in parts of California, saying water should be prioritized for firefighting and not for endangered species protections, even though state officials say they have enough water to fight the fires. NRDC's Kate Poole called the move "nothing more than a smokescreen" to weaken endangered species protections.
The idea of injecting reflective material into the atmosphere to mimic the cooling effects of ash from volcanic eruptions would likely have no net benefit for the food supply, researchers say. A paper in the journal Nature says it would mean less sunlight for photosynthesis.
At least 100 nuclear power stations in the U.S., Europe and Asia sit a few meters above sea level and could be threatened by flooding from accelerating sea level rise and storm surges, Ensia reports. Research suggests climate change will impact these areas sooner than currently anticipated.
The Trump administration took a first step to opening 1.6 million acres of public land in California to fracking, ending a five-year moratorium and triggering alarms among environmentalists. The state sued earlier this year after the administration began rolling back federal fracking rules.
Legal challenges have interrupted work on two natural gas pipelines in Virginia, which environmental advocates say is evidence that the projects were approved too hastily. The delays may turn out to be short-lived, but the successful legal appeals from opponents are notable.
Coal companies lobbied Congress to reduce their payments meant to help miners with black lung disease, saying the ailment was in decline and the victims' fund was financially healthy, both of which are contradicted by government findings. Read more from ICN about the challenges miners with black lung disease face in securing benefits.
The northern black widow spider is being spotted further north than ever before, likely because of climate change. Scientists are working to track this dangerous development by asking for the public to send photos when they spit the spiders.
August 8, 2018
California regulators aren't backing down from the auto standards fight. A new proposal unveiled Tuesday would force automakers to comply with California's strict standards for tailpipe emissions from new vehicles sold in California even as the Trump administration moves to weaken federal rules. Read more from ICN on the Trump administration plan.
Climate science deniers and fossil fuel evangelists have every reason to celebrate the influence they have in the Trump administration, but instead they see reasons for dread. With carbon tax proposals being discussed, climate lawsuits advancing and corporations embracing the need for action, many of those at the Heartland Institute's "America First" conference grappled with the reality that a fossil-reliant future is not secure.
A lawsuit argues that fossil fuel interests have been given an inappropriately prominent role in an Interior Department panel that is looking at changes to royalty payments for extracting fossil fuels on public lands. The Western Organization of Resource Councils is asking a federal judge to disband the Royalty Policy Committee and strike down its recommendations.
The EPA has released documents that show former Administrator Scott Pruitt received no scientific evidence from EPA staff before saying in a television interview that human activity is not the main cause of climate change. A group of public employees sued to show that Pruitt, who has since resigned amid scandal, was not using science as the basis for his claims.
A ruling by federal regulators means National Fuel could revive its plan to build a natural gas pipeline from Pennsylvania to Elma, New York, near Buffalo. FERC ruled New York regulators failed to act within a one-year limit before denying a water quality certificate for the Northern Access Pipeline.
There is an irony in Canada's internal battle over the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, meant to carry tar sands oil from landlocked Alberta to the British Columbia coast, a resource policy analyst writes. Oil production in Alberta's oil sands is powered in part by a glut of cheap natural gas, created in part by gas producers in British Columbia, the province fighting the pipeline expansion.
New research suggests that increasingly dry conditions in the Mojave Desert over the last century have cut the region's bird population in half. Scientists say the main cause is decreasing rain and snow that has left less surface water available, and that new species aren't replacing those that have moved on.
With drought and a heat wave still baking much of Europe, Swiss army helicopters began airlifting water to thousands of thirsty cows grazing in the mountains. Switzerland also will cut import tariffs on livestock feed to help farmers deal with the drought, the government said. Read more from ICN about the heat wave and climate change connections.
August 7, 2018
The risk of devastating floods will soar in many of North America's Western river basins by 2100, if we don't dramatically slow climate change, according to a new study. The research, published in Nature Climate Change, provides a grim analysis of a kind of extreme weather called a "rain-on-snow" flood, which is when heavy rains fall on top of deep snowpack and trigger intense floods.
The Mendocino Complex fire has become the largest in California history, burning more than 283,000 acres in a summer of many destructive fires. The fire, which is still burning, has surpassed a record set only last year by the Thomas fire that burned more than 281,000 acres.
President Trump is blaming California's fires on the state's environmental policies and has inaccurately claimed that water that could be used to fight the fires is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. State officials and experts are dismissing the comments as patently untrue.
A group of leading climate scientists are warning of a domino-like cascade of events that could shift the Earth into a "hothouse" state in which human efforts to reduce emissions would largely be futile. The authors of the study, which appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, say their findings are not conclusive but should serve as another warning that the commitments of the Paris agreement may not be enough to keep the planet's temperature at a stable level.
The Mountain Valley pipeline may need to be rerouted after federal energy regulators ordered all work to stop, leading to additional delays for an already troubled project. The order requires federal agencies to take a closer look at the environmental ramifications of the project. The lead developer, EQT Corp., says it is confident that agencies will restore the permits with minimal delays.
Climate change is bringing severe rains and warmer temperatures to the Upper Midwest, damaging rice beds. Northern wild rice is a staple food for Ojibwe communities and is used in traditional ceremonies. Yields have been erratic in recent years, leading to fears that climate change is leading to a permanent shift in the crop's availability.
August 6, 2018
The Securities and Exchange Commission has dropped a two-year investigation into how Exxon Mobil Corp. uses climate-change regulations in its calculations of asset values. The company said it was notified by the SEC that the agency is not recommending any penalty against the company at this time. (Read more on the background of the SEC's investigation from ICN, SEC Involvement Sharpens #ExxonKnew Focus on What Its Accountants Knew.)
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has ordered an immediate stop to construction of the Mountain Valley natural gas pipeline from West Virginia to Virginia. The commission's action follows a July 27 order from a federal appeals court that vacated decisions by federal agencies to allow construction across federal lands.
Automakers say they will not immediately change plans because of the Trump administration's move to freeze fuel economy standards, meaning they will stick to the Obama-era rules. The companies are waiting to act because of legal challenges against the Trump plan, and some see improvements in efficiency and development of zero-emissions vehicles as necessary to be able to compete in markets worldwide.
Republican candidates up and down the Eastern Seaboard are opposing the Trump administration's plan to expand offshore drilling. Meanwhile, Democrats are using the issue against Republicans in areas that are GOP-friendly but oppose drilling off of their shores.
While Congress and the Trump administration do almost nothing to act on climate change, the military is preparing for the reality. In South Carolina, this likely will lead to spending on mitigation projects, such as a sea wall at the Marine Corps training grounds at Parris Island, among other projects.
Iowa-based Alliant Energy has released a plan showing how it intends to cut emissions by 80 percent by 2050. The company intends to close all of its coal-fired power plants and spend $2 billion on renewable energy projects. Alliant joins a small but growing group of utilities making these types of pledges.