EcoWatch

A feed from EcoWatch, one of the US’s leading environmental news sites at the forefront of uniting all shades of green to ensure the health and longevity of our planet.


25 September 2017. Puerto Rico Faces 'Apocalyptic' Conditions: Humanitarian Crisis Grows for 3.4 Million American Citizens

Puerto Rico's humanitarian crisis continued to grow over the weekend, as officials described "apocalyptic" conditions across the island in the wake of Hurricane Maria .

Many of the 3.4 million American citizens living on the island are without power and disconnected from communications, and officials estimate some areas won't see power restored for months.


Isolated towns and low-income communities are facing increasing shortages of supplies and fuel. Officials estimate the storm also destroyed around 80 percent of the island's crop value, while a dam compromised by heavy rain is causing worries about flooding and accessibility of drinking water .

"The devastation in Puerto Rico has set us back nearly 20 to 30 years," Jenniffer Gonzalez, the island's nonvoting representative in Congress, told the AP.

"I have four children and the youngest is 6 months old. We are preparing for six months, maybe even a year without power," Nina Rodriguez, a human resources manager in San Juan, told the New York Times .

"All the infrastructure has collapsed. Everything we had before the hurricane is beyond reach," she added.

For a deeper dive:

Conditions: CNN , AP , Washington Post , Bloomberg , New York Times . Communications & power: NPR , Vox , NBC . Agriculture: New York Times . Dam: New York Times , Reuters , NBC , USA Today , CNN . Commentary: New York Times editorial

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook , and sign up for daily Hot News .

24 September 2017. Fly Fishing in Yellowstone: How One Veteran Found a New Life in the Outdoors

By Lindsey Robinson

Evan Bogart never wanted to sleep in a tent again. Between 2004-2011, he'd served in the U.S. Army as an infantryman and spent three long combat deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq. He'd spent a good portion of his years in service living in a tent in hot and hazardous deserts. He'd had enough of the outdoors; he wanted to be in places with air conditioning, electricity and no reminders of the war-torn lands he had experienced.

Evan separated in 2011 as an E6 Squad Leader, with an honorable discharge and two Purple Hearts. But his own heart was heavy and troubled. He'd become disillusioned with the U.S. military and its goals in the Middle East. The violence and destruction he'd witnessed left him feeling both angry and guilty. He distinctly remembers one moment in Iraq: "An old woman told me I was a bad man, and I realized I agreed with her."


Leaving the Army and transitioning to civilian life proved to be a bumpy road, pocketed with heavy drinking followed by heavy cannabis use. Evan turned to a variety of substances to help him forget painful memories of his past. He moved around a few times, but felt directionless and unclear of his future. For five years, he lived with what he calls, "something of a death wish."

Then in 2017, one of Evan's closest friends, who had served beside him in combat, convinced Evan to participate in a trip to Yellowstone National Park with Sierra Club's Military Outdoors program. Evan agreed, knowing he was ready to move past his current lifestyle and become an active participant in the world again. He wanted a way to transition away from the drugs and alcohol and pursue an active, outdoors life instead.

The Military Outdoors trip to Yellowstone was designed to expose participants to the National Park's beautiful landscapes and ecosystem through the lens of fly fishing. Evan had wanted to learn the art of fly fishing for a long time, but he never knew quite how to get started or when to make time for it. The cost of gear and instruction had also been a barrier for him. This trip was exactly what he was looking for in his life.

Evan met the group of Military Outdoors vets in the Lamar Valley, where they stayed in cabins at the Buffalo Ranch. The Lamar Valley is a remote, glacier-carved region in the northeast corner of Yellowstone. It is often called America's Serengeti because it is home to so many animal species including elk, grizzly bears, buffalo, antelope, wolves, otters, coyotes and eagles. Evan found his favorite part of the trip was taking early morning hikes from Buffalo Ranch up to Ranger Hill. He would sit on the hillside, take in the sunrise, and enjoy the solitude and peaceful quietness.

During the day, the veterans received casting instruction and practiced fly fishing on the beautiful Yellowstone River. Many rivers run through Yellowstone National Park, but the Yellowstone River is special. It flows undammed for nearly 700 miles, making it the longest free-flowing river in the continental U.S. It is also one of the best trout streams in the world because the species' natural habitat is protected.

The veterans were joined by fly fishing guides Jesse Logan and Steve Harvey, who taught them how to cast and how to seek out the right time and place to lure the prized Yellowstone cutthroat trout. Jesse Logan shared his extensive knowledge of the greater Yellowstone area and how invasive species and floodplain development threaten the river's ecosystem. Another guest speaker, Doug Peacock, spent time with the veterans talking about the outdoors as a restorative place and the ways veterans can help protect wild places.

Before this trip, Evan had only seen Yellowstone as a "car tourist." Afterwards, he walked away more intimately familiar with the Yellowstone ecosystem and inspired to take his new fly fishing skills to other American rivers. Moreover, Evan felt the trip helped him get back into the outdoors and embrace an active lifestyle, which he found strengthened his mental health.

The Yellowstone outing wasn't the only big change for Evan this summer. He also participated in an OARS' raft guide school, thanks to a sponsorship the Military Outdoors program provides for a few veterans each year. At the end of guide school, Evan had come to enjoy the river running lifestyle so much that he accepted a summer job river guiding for OARS on the American River. He spent the summer at the OARS' outpost in Coloma, California—living happily in a tent.

From his time with Military Outdoors, Evan says that the value of these outings is how they reconnected himself and the other veterans to the outdoors. He feels that spending time in the outdoors might be one step toward healing the trauma that he and many vets experienced while in combat. Evan also sees the skills training aspect of the outings as a way to redirect one's life toward jobs or hobbies in the outdoors. He never imagined he'd learn to fly fish or become a river guide, but now he's done both. "These trips turned my life 180," he said.

Moving forward, Evan plans to stay involved with the Military Outdoors program and encourages other veterans to be part of the outdoor community. In the future he hopes to use the skills he gained to be a trip leader on other wilderness outings.

"I'd like to give my heartfelt thanks to the Sierra Club and the Military Outdoors program as well as all the volunteers at Yellowstone Forever and the personnel at OARS who have all made such a great contribution to my life and to my experience with their programs." — Evan Bogart

Photos by Cody Ringelstein or Sarah Chillson .

23 September 2017. How Two Brothers Convinced the Indonesian Government to Clean Up the World's Most Polluted River

By Gary Bencheghib and Sam Bencheghib

On August 14, we set out to kayak down the world's most polluted river, the Citarum River located in Indonesia, to document and raise awareness about the highly toxic chemicals in its waters and the masses of plastics floating on its surface.

We paddled a total of 68km in two weeks on two plastic bottle kayaks from the village of Majalaya, located just south of Bandung to Pantai Bahagia, the river mouth at the Java Sea. Each kayak was made of 300 plastic bottles to demonstrate that trash can have a second life.


Throughout the expedition, we released videos documenting our journey and spotlighted community-based initiatives and individuals who work tirelessly towards restoring the river.

These groups include Bening Saguling Foundation led by Indra Darmawan, Ibu-ibu bersih, Pak Sariban and Jurig Runtah. After completing our descent, our videos were watched by hundreds of thousands online and eventually reached the Indonesian Government. Last Friday in Jakarta we met the Director of Waste Management under the Ministry of the Environment (KLHK), R. Sudirman. During this meeting R. Sudirman announced an emergency plan to clean up the Citarum River as a response to our campaign and videos.

For the next 4 months, Sudirman and his team will be surveying the river and creating a road map of the most polluted parts of the river. His goal is to work hand-in- hand with the 13 City Mayors along the Citarum River, the Provincial Head and the Governor of West Java.

From the moment we stepped foot inside our kayaks, we were completely submerged in trash. At times the water would turn into shades of red, blue and black as a result of the hundreds of textile factories that dump lead, mercury and other chemicals into the river. The industrial and domestic waste prompted environmental groups Green Cross Switzerland and the Blacksmith Institute to name it as one of the world's 10 most polluted places.

Although it seems impossible to clean the river after all the destruction its been through, we are very grateful to have the Indonesian government's support in restoring one of the country's most important rivers for the 15 million people that depend on it.

23 September 2017. General Motors to Run Ohio, Indiana Factories With 100% Wind Power

By Greg Alvarez

Last week I predicted it wouldn't be long before we had more news on Fortune 500 wind power purchases. Well, a whole seven days passed before there were new deals to report.


Wind Powers the Open Road for GM

General Motors (GM) just announced wind power purchase agreements with projects in Ohio and Illinois. The automaker is buying enough wind-generated electricity to power the Ohio and Indiana factories that build the Chevrolet Cruze and Silverado, and the GMC Sierra .

"Technology is driving solutions for mobility and safety in our vehicles, as well as the new energy solutions that build them," said Gerald Johnson , GMNA vice president of manufacturing and labor. "This is the way we do business: offering vehicles that serve our customers' lifestyle needs while providing sustainable solutions that improve our communities."

GM already has plans to soon power 100 percent of its Arlington, Texas, plant using wind, where more than 100,000 SUV's are made every year. Wind's low cost, down 66 percent since 2009, has made it an attractive option for GM as it works toward meeting its 100 percent renewable goal.

Other Buyers Jump on the Bandwagon

GM isn't alone in the headlines this week. Kimberly-Clark , maker of products like Kleenex and Huggies, also announced a new wind deal in recent days. The company will soon source about 33 percent of its electricity needs from wind farms in Oklahoma and Texas .

"It's a powerful demonstration of sustainability initiatives having both great environmental and business benefits," said Lisa Morden, Kimberly-Clark's global head of sustainability.

Why Wind Power Makes Sense for the Fortune 500

Two recent reports looked at why companies like GM and Kimberly-Clark are pouncing on wind power.

David Gardiner and Associates examined the recent trend of manufacturers committing to buying renewables in a new report entitled "The Growing Demand for Renewable Energy among Major U.S. and Global Manufacturers."

David Gardiner and Associates surveyed 160 large U.S. manufacturers, finding that 40 currently have a renewable energy goal in place, and 18 of those 40 have 100 percent renewable targets.

The following 10 states host the most factories for those 18 companies: California, Texas, Ohio, Missouri, Illinois, Michigan, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and North Carolina.

The report adds that manufacturers invest in renewable energy to lower energy costs, secure stable, low-risk energy prices and demonstrate corporate leadership. GM CEO Mary Barra confirms that "pursuit of renewable energy benefits our customers and communities through cleaner air while strengthening our business through lower and more stable energy costs."

Meanwhile, Greentech Media and Apex Clean Energy surveyed 153 large corporate buyers to see what motivates companies to invest in wind.

Eighty-four percent of respondents plan to actively pursue or consider directly buying renewables over the next five to 10 years, and 43 percent plan to be more aggressive in the next 24 months. Sixty-five percent report price as a leading factor in determining purchases.

So yet again, expect to hear more on this trend before long.

22 September 2017. Sea Turtle Population Rebounding But Many Threats Remain

A new study published in Science Advances has found that most global sea turtles populations are recovering after historical declines.

The results from the analysis suggest that conservation programs actually work, and why we must defend the Endangered Species Act (ESA) that protects vulnerable plants and animals, and is currently under attack by political and business interests.


It's not exactly clear why sea turtle populations are making a comeback, but as the New York Times reports, conservation efforts since the 1950s have safeguarded beaches, regulated fishing and established marine protected areas, leading to a boost in turtle numbers.

"Our findings highlight the importance of continued conservation and monitoring efforts that underpin this global conservation success story," Antonios Mazaris, an ecologist at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece, and his team of international researchers wrote in the study.

All sea turtles found in U.S. waters are listed under the ESA. But the Center for Biological Diversity reported that since January, congressional Republicans have launched 50 legislative attacks against the environmental law or on a particular endangered species.

David Godfrey, a member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Marine Turtle Specialist Group and executive director of the Sea Turtle Conservancy , told Newsweek that lawmakers could decrease funding needed to protect vulnerable species or even delist a species from the ESA.

As Godfrey explained to Newsweek:

"You have an administration at the federal level now and members of Congress who would like to diminish the strength of the Endangered Species Act," he said. "There have been complaints for years that it's ineffective, it doesn't work, we're wasting money."

Spreading to the world that these policies are working might push back against those perceptions, but Godfrey hopes the good news won't convince people that all the needed work has been done. "It's something we should acknowledge and be trumpeting," he said. "But it doesn't take long for the trend in their population to start going the wrong way."

The researchers in the current paper note that sea turtles populations are not rising across the board, such as the declining number of leatherbacks in the Eastern and Western Pacific. Their findings reflect the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List, which lists six of the seven types of sea turtles species as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered.

22 September 2017. Baby Rhino Brings New Hope to India’s Manas National Park

A baby rhino spotted alongside its mother in Manas National Park, located in the northeastern Indian state of Assam, is an encouraging new sign that the rhino population in the protected area is on the upswing. The mother, named Jamuna, was rescued as a calf from Kaziranga National Park, located about 200 miles east of Manas and raised at the Center for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation, a facility that cares for injured or orphaned wild animals run by Wildlife Trust of India/International Fund for Animal Welfare and the Assam Forest Department. She was moved to the Manas in 2008 as part of the country's rhino conservation efforts.

The calf is her second since 2013—a positive indication that despite concerns due to poaching of mature males, rhinos in Manas are reproducing.


"This birth is significant, and shows so much promise for this population of rhinos in Assam," said Nilanga Jayasinghe, senior program officer with the World Wildlife Fund's wildlife conservation team. "Greater one-horned rhinos are one of Asia's great conservation success stories, and each new calf adds to the upward trajectory of a rhino population that was once down to about 200 individuals at the turn of the 20th century."

There are now approximately 3,500 greater one-horned rhinos in both India and Nepal where they are found, and it is the only large mammal in Asia to be down-listed from endangered to vulnerable on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

In addition to protecting rhinos and their habitat, translocation, which includes moving rhinos from parks with significant populations to others that historically held rhinos but currently do not, is a conservation tactic that has worked well for greater one-horned rhinos. It helps establish viable populations in multiple locations, enables increased genetic diversity and gives rhinos access to the resources they need to breed.

The World Wildlife Fund has been working with India's Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, the government of Assam, and the International Rhino Foundation to reintroduce rhinos to Manas and establish a breeding population through a program called Indian Rhino Vision 2020 (IRV2020). So far, 18 rhinos have been translocated and there have been 15 new births. There are currently 29 rhinos in Manas, with plans to move 10 additional rhinos in the next few years.

"Manas National Park is the first location to which greater one-horned rhinos were translocated as part of the IRV2020 program, and despite conservation challenges over the years, the population is growing," Jayasinghe said. "As we continue our work to increase populations and further their conservation, we are excited to pause to celebrate this calf's arrival."

22 September 2017. Navajo Nation Readies Legal Action if Trump Shrinks Bears Ears National Monument

Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke 's recommendation to reduce the size of the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah could spark a legal battle between the Navajo Nation and the Trump administration.

"We are prepared to challenge immediately whatever official action is taken to modify the monument or restructure any aspect of that, such as the Bears Ears Commission," Ethel Branch, Navajo Nation attorney general, told Reuters .


The tribe believes that the reduction of Bears Ears' boundaries violates the Antiquities Act , a 1906 law designed to protect archeological sites from looting and vandalism and allows presidents to designate the lands as national monuments without going through Congress.

In December, President Obama used his authority under the Antiquities Act to designate 1.35 million acres of land as the Bears Ears National Monument, which contains 100,000 significant Native American sites.

In Zinke's leaked memo to President Trump, the secretary advised changes to at least 10 national monuments, including shrinking Bears Ears.

According to records obtained by the Salt Lake Tribune , Utah lawmakers have submitted maps and documents to the Interior Department to drastically reduce Bears Ears' size by 90 percent, or down to only 120,000 acres.

As Climate Nexus reported, while the land in Bears Ears is not thought to contain significant oil or gas deposits, mining and fossil fuel interests cheered Zinke's recommendation as a preview of how the Trump administration may handle scaling back protections for more oil and gas-rich federally protected land.

22 September 2017. Nestlé, Unilever, P&G Among Worst Offenders for Plastic Pollution in Philippines Beach Audit

A week-long beach clean up and audit at Freedom Island in Manila Bay has exposed the companies most responsible for plastic pollution in the critical wetland habitat and Ramsar site—one of the worst locations for plastic pollution in the Philippines.

The Greenpeace Philippines and #breakfreefromplastic movement audit, the first of its kind in the country, revealed that Nestlé, Unilever and Indonesian company PT Torabika Mayora are the top three contributors of plastic waste discovered in the area, contributing to the 1.88 million metric tonnes of mismanaged plastic waste in the Philippines per year.


"When we throw something away, there is no 'away.' The Philippines is the third biggest source of plastic ocean pollution because global corporations are locking us into cheap, disposable plastics, rather than innovating and finding solutions," said Abigail Aguilar, campaigner for Greenpeace Philippines. "These corporations are the missing piece in the global fight against plastic pollution. Citizens are burdened with the social and environmental impacts of plastic waste, rather than those that are responsible."

During the clean up, Greenpeace volunteers and coalition partners from the #breakfreefromplastic movement , found items ranging from styrofoam to footwear, along with single-use plastics such as bags, plastic bottle labels and straws . A total of 54,260 pieces of plastic waste were collected during the audit, with most products being sachets.

Developing countries, such as the Philippines, run on a " sachet economy ," which encourages the practice of buying fast moving consumer goods in small quantities. This drives market and profit share for most companies by making it more accessible to people with limited incomes. However, low-value single-use sachets are not collected by waste pickers and usually end up in landfills or scattered indiscriminately as litter in the streets or marine debris.

"It's time these companies stop business-as-usual and use their resources to innovate and redesign their packaging and delivery solutions," Aguilar said. "They could for instance practice extended producer responsibility where companies substitute non-reusable and non-recyclable products with new systems, such as refillables—prevention instead of end-of-pipe waste management. In the long term they'll see this will yield strong environmental and economic benefits."

The Philippines ranks as the third worst polluter of the world's oceans, with China as number one. In a study , China, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia also fall in the list of top 10 countries with mismanaged plastic waste. While their economies are growing, this new-found spending power has led to "exploding demand for consumer products that has not yet been met with a commensurate waste-management infrastructure."

ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries, due to their lengthy coastlines and high plastic usage, are some of the primary sources of marine plastics globally. Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation estimates that the cost to the tourism, fishing and shipping industries was US$1.2 billion in the region alone.

Greenpeace conducted the plastic waste brand audit as part of the #breakfreefromplastic movement alongside its member organizations Mother Earth Foundation , Ecowaste Coalition , Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives and Health Care without Harm .

These are the companies that have been found most responsible for plastic pollution on Freedom Island:

  1. Nestle
  2. Unilever
  3. PT Torabika Mayora
  4. Universal Robina Corporation
  5. Procter & Gamble
  6. Nutri-Asia
  7. Monde Nissin
  8. Zesto
  9. Colgate Palmolive
  10. Liwayway

22 September 2017. Arkansas Plant Board Backs Dicamba Ban Next Summer in Blow to Monsanto

The Arkansas Plant Board has approved new regulations that prohibit the use of dicamba from April 16 through Oct. 31, 2018 after receiving nearly 1,000 complaints of pesticide misuse in the state.

Arkansas, which temporarily banned the highly volatile weedkiller in July, could now face legal action from Monsanto , the developers of dicamba-resistant soybeans or cotton and the corresponding pesticide, aka the Xtend crop system.


Reuters reports:

"Monsanto previously submitted a petition asking the board to reject the proposed cutoff date for sprayings and warned the company may file a lawsuit if the board denied the request. If implemented, the deadline could hurt sales of dicamba herbicides and Monsanto seeds resistant to the chemical.

The board unanimously denied Monsanto's petition and will work with legal staff to prepare a response, according to a statement.

Monsanto developed its Xtend system to address " superweeds " that have grown resistant to glyphosate , the main ingredient in the company's former bread-and-butter, Roundup . It's not surprising that the company might file suit against Arkansas—Xtend crops are expected to expand across 80 million acres in the U.S., creating a $400-$800 million opportunity.

What's happening in Arkansas is just a small slice of what's happening across the country's farm belt . Complaints of dicamba damage have surfaced in 24 states, impacting roughly 3 million acres.

"We are in unprecedented, uncharted territory," Andrew Thostenson, a pesticide program specialist with North Dakota State University Extension, told DTN . "We've never observed anything on this scale in this country since we've been using pesticides in the modern era."

The controversy surrounding dicamba started last year when Monsanto decided to sell its Xtend cotton and soybean seeds several growing seasons before getting federal approval for the corresponding herbicide. Without having the proper herbicide, cotton and soybean growers were suspected of illegally spraying older versions of dicamba onto their crops and inadvertently damaging nearby non-target crops due to drift. Off-target crops are often left cupped and distorted when exposed to the chemical.

Monsanto, DuPont and BASF SE, now sell federally approved dicamba formulations that are supposedly less drift-prone and volatile than older versions when used correctly.

"New technologies take some time to learn," Scott Partridge, Monsanto's vice president for global strategy, told the New York Times . "Thus far, what we've seen in the field, the vast majority, more than three-quarters of them, has been due to not following the label."

But problems with dicamba remain. Farmers their Catch-22 situation to the Times:

Some farmers say they face a difficult choice—either buy the new genetically modified seeds or run the risk that their soybeans would be damaged more by a neighbor's spraying of weed killers than by the weeds themselves.

"If you don't buy Xtend, you're going to be hurt," said Michael Kemp, a Missouri farmer, referring to the brand name of Monsanto's seeds.

Even the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is mulling limits on the dicamba next year and is consulting with state officials and experts, including ones in Arkansas.

"[EPA] is very concerned with what has occurred and transpired in 2017, and we're committed to taking appropriate action for the 2018 growing season with an eye towards ensuring that [dicamba] technology is available...for growers, but that it is used responsibly," said Reuben Baris, who works at the EPA's Office of Pesticide Program.

The Arkansas plant board's regulatory changes will now be subject to a 30-day public comment period followed by a public hearing on November 8. The proposed rule will then be forwarded to the Executive Subcommittee of the Arkansas Legislative Council for final approval.

22 September 2017. Ohio EPA Hikes Fines Against Rover Pipeline to $2.3 Million

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asked the state attorney general's office Wednesday to hold the owners of the troubled Rover natural gas pipeline responsible for $2.3 million dollars in fines. Rover leaked more than 2 million gallons of drilling mud into protected Ohio wetlands this spring, leading the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to order a halt to construction.


The Ohio EPA claim that while Rover's owners, Energy Transfer Partners—which also owns the Dakota Access Pipeline —has done sufficient cleanup and monitoring at impacted sites, the company has refused to pay multiple fines. Over the last two years, the pipeline has racked up more "noncompliance incidents" than any other interstate gas pipeline.

For a deeper dive:

Columbus Dispatch , AP , WOSU , Cleve Scene

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook , and sign up for daily Hot News .

22 September 2017. White House Considers Green Rebrand

The White House convened a "big-picture" strategy meeting on climate and environment this week, Politico reported .

At the meeting, deputy-level White House officials and representatives from agencies discussed how to frame President Trump's larger environmental objectives beyond simply overturning Obama-era regulations. Per Politico, meeting attendees considered the possibility of highlighting job creation and new energy technology and "how to combat the public perception that the administration is out of touch with climate science."


Worry over the administration's environmental PR problem extends beyond the White House: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is conducting mandatory anti-leaking trainings according to multiple reports this week. Reuters reported that an introductory slide for Wednesday's training read that releasing unauthorized information "harms our nation and shakes the confidence of the American people."

For a deeper dive:

WH meeting: Politico

Leaking training: AP , Reuters , the Hill , CBS

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook , and sign up for daily Hot News .

21 September 2017. How Trump Could Undermine the U.S. Solar Boom

By Llewelyn Hughes and Jonas Meckling

Tumbling prices for solar energy have helped stoke demand among U.S. homeowners, businesses and utilities for electricity powered by the sun. But that could soon change.

President Donald Trump —whose proposed 2018 budget would slash support for alternative energy—may get a new opportunity to undermine the solar power market by imposing duties that could increase the cost of solar power high enough to choke off the industry's growth .


As scholars of how public policies affect, and are affected by, energy, we have been studying how the solar industry is increasingly global . We also research what this means for who wins and loses from the renewable energy revolution in the U.S. and Europe .

We believe that imposing steep new duties on imported solar equipment would hurt the overall U.S. solar industry. That in turn could discourage choices that slow the pace of climate change .

Trade Complaints

A bankrupt manufacturer has petitioned the Trump administration to slap new duties on imported crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells, the basic electricity-producing components of solar panels—along with imported panels, also known as modules.

This case follows earlier and narrower complaints filed by SolarWorld , a German solar manufacturer with a factory in Oregon, that Chinese companies were getting an unfair edge as a result of subsidies and dumping .

Due to those cases, the U.S. has imposed duties on solar panels and their components imported from China and Taiwan . The punitive Chinese tariffs averaged 29.5 percent last year, according to the Greentech Media research firm.

Suniva, a U.S. company that—oddly enough—is majority-owned by a Chinese company , lodged this complaint in April under a rarely activated 1974 Trade Act provision called Section 201. SolarWorld Americas joined in a month later.

The key difference in this new case is that it will potentially lead to tariffs on all imported solar cells and panels, rather than specific kinds from particular countries.

Suniva's petition calls on the Trump administration to set a 40-cent-per-watt duty on cells and a minimum 78-cent-watt price for panels.

Prior to the complaint, global prices for solar panels had fallen to 34 cents a watt .

Enormous Progress

This big increase in import duties could undermine the enormous progress the industry has made in cutting the cost of solar-generated electricity. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory finds that tumbling solar module prices contributed a lot to the 61 percent reduction in the cost of U.S. household solar power systems—typically located on rooftops—between 2010 and 2017.

The Solar Energy Industries Association , which represents the sector in the U.S., calculates a blended average price that takes residential, commercial and utility-scale systems into account. It finds prices fell more sharply, dropping by more than 73 percent during that period.

Likewise, the Energy Department's SunShot Initiative declared in September that U.S. utility-scale solar systems were already generating electricity at the competitive rate of 6 cents per kilowatt-hour—three years ahead of the program's ambitious target for 2020. Falling costs for solar panels played a big part in helping the industry hit this milestone ahead of time.

The International Trade Commission will report on Sept. 22 whether it finds that imported cells and panels have caused " serious injury " to Suniva and SolarWorld.

If it does, the independent, bipartisan U.S. agency will hold a second hearing to explore ways to respond. Regardless of what remedies the commission recommends, the White House would get broad powers to increase the cost of imported solar cells and panels to at least theoretically protect Suniva.

Jeopardizing Jobs

Imposing duties on imported solar equipment will not help the U.S. industry as a whole. Like most experts, we believe that the remedy sought in this case will make solar power more expensive for businesses and consumers, which will reduce its competitiveness against other sources of energy.

Imposing new import duties also ignores the fact that the U.S. solar industry employs an estimated 260,000 people in installation, manufacturing, sales and other related activities, according to the Solar Foundation, but only a small fraction of these workers are involved in cell production.

Protecting certain manufacturers would thus come at the costs of harming other parts of the industry. The Solar Energy Industries Association, which opposes Suniva's petition, estimates that 88,000 jobs may be at risk. Steep duties could thus undermine the contribution solar power makes to the U.S. economy.

Solar Globalization

Along with ignoring the effects on jobs across the entire industry, the petition misses the bigger picture . Cell and panel manufacturing composes a small part of a much larger industry that takes advantage of the global manufacturing base.

The rise of China as a solar manufacturing hub is an integral part of what has helped drive costs down for installation companies and consumers around the world. Lowering the cost of solar power systems makes solar energy more competitive against more carbon-intensive sources of electricity, including coal-fired power plants.

The growth of solar energy is one factor helping many U.S. states reduce their energy-related greenhouse gas emissions .

Experts disagree about how much the Trump administration's decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement on climate change matters, particularly as states like California continue to work hard on reducing their carbon footprints .

But there is no debate over whether imposing duties on imported solar cells and panels would hinder the growth of renewable energy in the U.S.—reversing climate progress.

Timeline and Punishment

Section 201 cases differ from more standard trade complaints because they do not require a determination of unfair trade practices. They also open the door to broader trade restrictions to remedy the perceived problem in a given industry.

If the International Trade Commission finds that imports have injured domestic companies, it's expected to give the White House its recommendations by Nov. 13. Trump will probably respond within 60 days .

It took decades of research and investment to drive down the cost of solar power to the point where it is competitive with conventional sources of electricity. Should these latest trade woes increase the cost of going solar, it would be likely to kill domestic jobs and slow progress toward cutting greenhouse gas emissions across the nation.

Llewelyn Hughes is an associate professor at the Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University. Jonas Meckling is an assistant professor of Energy and Environmental Policy, University of California, Berkeley . Reposted with permission from our media associate The Conversation .

21 September 2017. Richard Branson to Donald Trump: The Whole World Knows Climate Change is Real

Virgin Group founder and longtime environmentalist Richard Branson , who faced two damaging hurricanes in a row from his home in the British Virgin Islands, called out President Donald Trump 's refusal to accept the science of climate change .

"Look, you can never be 100 percent sure about links," the British billionaire said Tuesday on CNN's "New Day" when asked about the correlation between global warming and the recent string of major hurricanes to hit the Carribean and the United States.


"But scientists have said the storms are going to get more and more and more intense and more and more often. We've had four storms within a month, all far greater than that have ever, ever, ever happened in history," he said. "Sadly, I think this is the start of things to come."

"Look," Branson insisted, "Climate change is real. Ninety-nine percent of scientists know it's real. The whole world knows it's real except for maybe one person in the White House."

Trump, who famously thinks global warming is a hoax, dismisses the link between climate change and extreme weather events. After Hurricanes Harvey and Irma wrecked Texas and Florida, the president told reporters last week, "We've had bigger storms than this."

Trump's comment seemingly contradicted a tweet that he posted earlier that stated, "Hurricane Irma is of epic proportion, perhaps bigger than we have ever seen," as well as another tweet , "Hurricane looks like largest ever recorded in the Atlantic!"

Branson was shaken after having to ride out Hurricane Irma in his wine cellar in Necker, his private island in the British Virgin Islands.

"I've never experienced anything quite like Hurricane Irma," he said in an Instagram video posted Tuesday. "It literally devastated the British Virgin Islands. The head of the Royal Marines ... said he's been to war zones and has never seen anything like it. There's not a tree left standing. There's very few houses left standing."

Branson pointed out during his CNN interview that the cost of rebuilding the British Virgin Islands and Houston will cost billions of dollars.

But, he noted, "If all that money could be invested in clean energy , in powering the world by the sun and by the wind, where we won't have to suffer these awful events in the future, how much better than having to patch up people's houses after they've been destroyed?"

Putting his money where his mouth is, the philanthropist said he has met with government representatives from Britain and the U.S. to set up a green fund to rebuild the hurricane-wrecked Caribbean, the Thomson Reuters Foundation reported .

"As part of that fund we want to make sure that the Caribbean moves from dirty energy to clean energy," Branson said.

21 September 2017. EPA Adds Prison Locations to Its Environmental Justice Mapping Tool

By Zoe Loftus-Farren

As an environmental reporter, it's not every day that I get to communicate good news—the state of our environment often feels pretty bleak. But today, at least, there is a victory to celebrate: Thanks to the persistence of a small group of prison ecology advocates, the support of their allies, and the assistance of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), prisoners rights and environmental justice advocates have a new tool to add to their activist arsenal.

This summer, the EPA added a "prisons layer" to its Environmental Justice Screening and Mapping Tool . Known as EJSCREEN for short, the tool can be used by the public to assess possible exposure to pollutants that might be present in the environment (i.e., land, air and water) where they live or work.


The new layer allows the public to overlay the locations of the country's 6,000-plus prisons, jails and detention centers with information about environmental hazards like superfund and hazardous waste sites, something the nonprofit Human Rights Defense Center has been pushing for as part of its campaign for the EPA to consider prisoners within an environmental justice context. For the prison ecology movement, which addresses issues at the intersection of mass incarceration and environmental degradation, it could be a game changer.

"It's huge," said Panagioti Tsolkas, cofounder of the Prison Ecology Project , a program of the Human Rights Defense Center. "It's one of those things that I think if you just look at it quickly, it seems almost mundane to have added a layer to this existing map. And in the absence of a movement present to actually use it for something, it could be meaningless…. But in the presence of what we've been doing over the last three years, of building this national movement and organizing model of looking at prisons from an environmental justice perspective … this is pretty massive."

The Prison Ecology Project was thinking of creating it's own map in the absence of an EPA version. And during our own reporting on toxic prisons earlier this year, Earth Island Journal and Truthout attempted to create a map of prisons and superfund sites across the country, but were stymied by a lack of adequate mapping tools.

Tsolkas thinks the tool will prove valuable in the fight against new prison projects. Prisons are often built on marginal lands that, after having been mined, logged or otherwise contaminated, may not be seen as suitable for any other use. At the same time, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), a subdivision division of the U.S. Department of Justice, doesn't typically address the impact of prison-siting decisions on the health of prisoners when completing federally mandated environmental impact statements (EIS).

That was originally the case with the proposed construction of a maximum-security prison atop a former mountaintop-removal coal-mining site in Letcher County, Kentucky. The BOP's initial environmental impact statement for the project didn't mention the potential environmental impacts—like mining-related pollution and water contamination—on the estimated 1,200 people who would be held at the prison if it were built. A revised EIS released earlier this year (following extensive comments by groups like the HRDC and the Center for Biological Diversity), mentions some of the health implications for prisoners, but does not provide a robust discussion of the impacts. According to HRDC, this EIS may represent the only example of an environmental review in which the BOP has made any mention of prisoner health. The final EIS for the new prison is still pending. (Read more about the status of the Letcher County proposal ).

Tsolkas said that the new EJSCREEN prison layer implicitly endorses HRDC's contention that the BOP must consider prisoner health when evaluating the Letcher County project, and others like it.

"What the BOP has been saying is that they basically have no reason, no mandate, nothing that points them to have to look at environmental justice concerns related to prisons," Tsolkas said. "And having the EPA include prisons on the EJSCREEN basically implies the opposite, that federal agencies now need to look at prison populations when they're considering the placement of industrial facilities including prisons themselves."

The new prison layer may also give prison ecology advocates the edge they need to go on the offensive. "Instead of reacting to abuses in existing prisons or responding to proposals for new prisons, we can actually initiate campaigns, and say, 'Hey, this overpopulated prison has documented issues with x, y, and x.," Tsolkas explained. "So we can create campaigns basically using the EJSCREEN tool."

Tsolkas said he'd like "to give a shout-out to the folks at the environmental justice office of the EPA" for making the prison layer a reality. But he'd still like to see more from the agency, especially in the form of a robust national prison-inspection program.

Such a program is not without precedent. The EPA's Region III office—which covers the Mid-Atlantic states of Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware, Maryland and Washington, DC—used to run a "prisons initiative" to improve environmental compliance at prisons and jails across the region. Under the imitative, which ended in 2011, the EPA conducted inspections at prisons, and engaged in outreach and training work.

In a written statement, the agency said it ended the prisons initiative because it "felt prisons in the Mid-Atlantic region were able to ensure environmental regulation compliance by themselves." It seems, however, that there is still room for improvement: A recent investigation by Earth Island Journal and Truthout found that mass incarceration impacts the health of prisoners, prison-adjacent communities, and local ecosystems across the U.S.

"It shouldn't be like pulling teeth," Tsolkas said, referring to the difficultly of getting EPA inspectors out to prisons. "We have hundreds of letters from prisoners across the country saying the water is dirty. It shouldn't take that much to get an EPA representative to go…. They have a key to get into the prisons that most of us don't have short of visitation and breaking laws."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Earth Island Journal .

21 September 2017. 'Rowing the Northwest Passage' Chronicles An Expedition Through the Changing North

By Kevin Vallely

In 2013 four adventurers set out on an 80-day rowboat mission through the Arctic's rapidly melting Northwest Passage. Their journey brought them face to face with the changing seas in a world of climate change . In this excerpt from adventurer Kevin Vallely's new book about the expedition, Rowing the Northwest Passage (Greystone Books), we also see how climate change has affected some of the people the team met along their journey:

An elderly woman walks toward us from the road. Tuktoyaktuk, in the Northwest Territories, is a sizable town by Arctic standards, with a full-time population of 954, but it's small enough that the bulk of the town likely knows we're here. The woman is smiling when she reaches us.

"I saw you coming in," she says. "Where you guys come from?" "We're from Vancouver," I say, my mouth still half full of food. "We started our trip in Inuvik nine days ago." Her name is Eileen Jacobsen and she's an Elder in town. She and her husband, Billy, run a sightseeing business. "You should come up to the house in the morning and have some coffee," she tells us.

Our night's sleep in the Arctic Joule is fitful; our overindulgence runs through all of us like a thunderstorm. By seven in the morning, even with both hatches open, lighting a match in the cabin would blow us out like dirt from that Siberian crater. The roar of the Jetboil pulls me out. Frank's already up, down jacket on, preparing coffee. "You like a cup?"

It's still too early to drop by Eileen Jacobsen's house, so we walk into town on the dusty main road, our ears assaulted by a cacophony of barking dogs. Dirt is the surface of choice for roads and runways in Arctic communities, as any inflexible surface like concrete would be shredded by the annual freeze–thaw cycle. Most of the town runs the length of a thin finger of land, with the ocean on one side and a protected bay on the other. About halfway down the peninsula, a cluster of wooden crosses rests in a high grass clearing, facing west. We heard about this graveyard in Inuvik. Because of melting permafrost and wave action, it's eroding into the sea, and community members have lined the shore with large rocks to forestall its demise. This entire peninsula will face this threat in the coming years. There's not much land here to hold back a hungry ocean.

We notice an elderly man in a blue winter jacket staring at us a short distance away. He's sitting outside a small wooden house and smiles as we approach. "You guys must be the rowers," he says. "Too windy to be out rowing." His jacket hood is pulled tight over his ball cap and he dons a pair of wraparound shades with yellow lenses that would better suit a racing cyclist than a village Elder. His name is Fred Wolki, and he's lived in Tuk for the last fifty years. "I grew up on my father's boat until they sent me to school in 1944, then I came here."

His father, Jim Wolki, is a well-known fox trapper who transported his pelts from Banks Island to Herschel Island aboard his ship the North Star of Herschel Island. Interestingly, we had the Arctic Joule moored right beside the North Star at the Vancouver Maritime Museum before we left. Built in San Francisco in 1935, the North Star plied the waters of the Beaufort Sea for over thirty years, her presence in Arctic waters playing an important role in bolstering Canadian Arctic sovereignty through the Cold War.

"We're curious if things have changed much here since you were a boy," Frank says.

"Well … it's getting warmer now," Fred says, shaking his head. He gestures out to the water speaking slowly and pausing for long moments between thoughts. "Right up to the 1960s … there was old ice along the coast … The ice barely moved … It was grounded along the coastline." He looks out over the shoreline, moving his arm back and forth. "They started to fade away slowly in the 1960s … icebergs … They were huge, like big islands … They were so high, like the land at the dew Line station … over there." He points to the radar dome of the long decommissioned Distant Early Warning Line station that sits on a rise of land just east of us. "It's been twenty years since we've seen one in Tuk." There's no sentimentality or anger in Fred's voice; he's just telling us his story. "It's getting warmer now … Global warming is starting to take its toll … All the permafrost is starting to melt … Water is starting to eat away our land."

I listen to his words, amazed. There's no agenda here, no vested interest, no job creation or moneymaking—just an elderly man bearing witness to his changing world.

Excerpted from Rowing the Northwest Passage: Adventure, Fear, and Awe in a Rising Sea by Kevin Vallely, published September 2017 by Greystone Books. Condensed and reproduced with permission from the publisher.

21 September 2017. Hundreds Dead in Mexico After Earthquake Strikes on Anniversary of Devastating 1985 Quake

In Mexico, a massive 7.1-magnitude quake struck 100 miles southeast of Mexico City Tuesday, collapsing dozens of buildings around the capital city and trapping schoolchildren, workers and residents beneath the rubble.

At least 217 people are dead, and hundreds more are missing. Among the dead are least 21 students at a primary school in Mexico City and 15 worshipers who died during a Catholic mass when the earthquake triggered an eruption at a volcano southeast of the city.


The disaster struck just hours after residents participated in an earthquake preparedness drill marking the 32nd anniversary of a 1985 earthquake that killed 5,000 people. Tuesday's quake follows another earthquake less than two weeks ago, which killed at least 90 people and leveled thousands of homes after it struck near the coast of the southern state of Oaxaca. We speak with Laura Carlsen, director of the Mexico City-based Americas Program of the Center for International Policy.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Democracy Now! .

21 September 2017. San Francisco Becomes First Major U.S. City to Sue Fossil Fuel Industry Over Costs of Climate Change

San Francisco and Oakland are suing Chevron , ConocoPhillips , ExxonMobil , BP and Royal Dutch Shell —the five biggest investor-owned fossil fuel producers in the world—over the costs of climate change .

The two Californian cities join the counties of Marin, San Mateo and San Diego and the city of Imperial Beach that have taken similar legal action in recent months, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.


San Francisco city attorney Dennis Herrera and Oakland city attorney Barbara J. Parker filed separate lawsuits on Tuesday in the superior courts of San Francisco and Alameda County on behalf of their respective cities.

They seek to hold the companies responsible "for the costs of sea walls and other infrastructure necessary to protect San Francisco and Oakland from ongoing and future consequences of climate change and sea level rise caused by the companies' production of massive amounts of fossil fuels," according to a joint announcement from the attorneys.

They claim that the oil and gas giants have known about the link between fossil fuels and climate change for decades but continue to sell their products anyway, thus creating "an ongoing public nuisance that is causing harm now, and in the future risks catastrophic harm to human life and property, including billions of dollars of public and private property in Oakland and San Francisco."

Herrera accused the fossil fuel companies of copying a page from the Big Tobacco playbook by launching a "multi-million dollar disinformation campaign to deny and discredit what was clear even to their own scientists: global warming is real, and their product is a huge part of the problem."

"Now, the bill has come due," Herrera said. "It's time for these companies to take responsibility for the harms they have caused and are continuing to cause.

Oil industry representatives called the lawsuits unproductive.

"Chevron welcomes serious attempts to address the issue of climate change, but these suits do not do that," company spokeswoman Melissa Ritchie told the San Francisco Chronicle in an email. "Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a global issue that requires global engagement and action."

Eric Wohlschlegel, a spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute trade group, added to the publication that the industry has already made climate change a priority and will "play a leading role in driving down U.S. greenhouse gas and other emissions."

But the California city attorneys they want the courts to "hold the defendants jointly and severally liable for creating, contributing to and/or maintaining a public nuisance and to create an abatement fund for each city to be paid for by defendants to fund infrastructure projects necessary for San Francisco and Oakland to adapt to global warming and sea level rise."

"The total amount needed for the abatement funds is not known at this time but is expected to be in the billions of dollars," they said.

Parker called climate change "an existential threat to humankind, to our ecosystems and to the wondrous, myriad species that inhabit our planet."

"These companies knew fossil fuel-driven climate change was real, they knew it was caused by their products and they lied to cover up that knowledge to protect their astronomical profits. The harm to our cities has commenced and will only get worse. The law is clear that the defendants are responsible for the consequences of their reckless and disastrous actions," she concluded.

On a related note, climate experts Peter C. Frumhoff and Myles R. Allen argued in a recent article that fossil fuel giants, not taxpayers, should shoulder the billions of dollars in damages caused by extreme weather events such as hurricanes that are exacerbated by Earth's rising's temperatures.

Frumhoff and Allen write:

Using a simple, well-established climate model, our study for the first time quantifies the amount of sea level rise and increase in global surface temperatures that can be traced to the emissions from specific fossil fuel companies.

Strikingly, nearly 30% of the rise in global sea level between 1880 and 2010 resulted from emissions traced to the 90 largest carbon producers. Emissions traced to the 20 companies named in California communities' lawsuits contributed 10% of global sea level rise over the same period. More than 6% of the rise in global sea level resulted from emissions traced to ExxonMobil, Chevron and BP, the three largest contributors.

The scientists point outed: "It may take tens to hundreds of billions of dollars to support disaster relief and recovery among Gulf coast communities affected by Hurricane Harvey . ExxonMobil, Chevron and BP have collectively pledged only $2.75m ."

21 September 2017. Climate Alliance States Show Us What Real Leadership Looks Like

By Luis Martinez and Kit Kennedy

In a forceful show of climate leadership, Governors Andrew Cuomo (NY), Jerry Brown (CA), and Jay Inslee (WA) and former Secretary of State John Kerry came together in New York City Wednesday as part of Climate Week to celebrate the progress and growth of the U.S. Climate Alliance , the bipartisan coalition that has grown to 14 states dedicated to meeting the Paris agreement climate goal . The coalition was founded by Cuomo, Brown and Inslee after President Trump announced the U.S. intent to withdraw from Paris.

President Trump may prefer to pretend that climate change isn't real—Gov. Cuomo quipped that the Trump administration is in "the State of Denial"—but these leaders detailed the extraordinary strides they're making, in the absence of White House leadership, to slash greenhouse gas emissions and grow their economies at the same time. For New Yorkers, it's exciting to see Cuomo's leadership on clean energy and climate continue to accelerate, from setting strong renewable energy goals , to a successful push with other Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative states to further slash carbon emissions , to banning fracking .


It was a privilege to attend Wednesday's event, where the governors announced that North Carolina has joined the alliance. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said in a statement that "[i]n the absence of leadership from Washington, North Carolina is proud to join the U.S. Climate Alliance, and we remain committed to reducing pollution and protecting our environment." North Carolina has risen to No. 2 nationally for installed solar capacity and is home to more than 34,000 clean energy jobs. And Gov. Cooper recently signed legislation that is expected to roughly double North Carolina's solar generation over the next four years. Kudos to Cooper for joining the alliance and ensuring that North Carolina remains at the forefront of the clean energy economy.

Other members of the coalition are Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. And we're counting on that list to grow even more!

Bright Statistics

According to a new report issued by the alliance Wednesday the coalition represents 36 percent of the U.S. population; 40 percent of U.S. gross domestic product; at least $7 trillion of combined economic activity and 13 million clean energy jobs. These states are proving that climate leadership promotes economic growth:

  • U.S. Climate Alliance states are on track to reach a 24 to 29 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2025, helping to achieve the Paris agreement targets that scientists say are necessary to try to keep the increase in global warming to 2 degrees Celsius and stave off the worst effects of climate change.
  • Between 2005 and 2015, alliance states reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent compared to a 10 percent reduction by the rest of the country.
  • During that same decade, the combined economic output of alliance states grew by 14 percent while the rest of the country grew by 12 percent. On a per capita basis, economic output in alliance states expanded twice as fast as in the rest of the country, showing that climate action and economic growth go hand in hand.
  • The alliance states have attracted nearly $100 billion in renewable energy investment since 2011.

Alliance members' progress and the growth in their ranks is welcome news. With the Trump administration more interested in propping up its friends in the fossil fuel industry than confronting the existential threat of a warming planet, their leadership is crucial.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) stands ready to help these states and others in achieving their climate and clean energy goals. In our new report, America's Clean Energy Future: The Pathway to a Safer Climate Future , based on comprehensive modeling performed by internationally recognized consultants E3, we show that the U.S. can slash climate pollution by 80 percent by 2050 primarily by going big and fast on three key strategies: scaling up energy efficiency improvements to cut overall energy demand in half; scaling up renewable energy to provide 80 percent of our power; and electrifying vehicles and key building energy uses. Underlying these key strategies, we need to build a stronger, smarter, more resilient electricity grid. We can do all this at a cost of only 1 percent of annual energy costs—and by 2050 our pathway costs less than "business as usual."

Governors Cuomo, Inslee, Brown, Cooper and the other U.S. Climate Alliance governors are showing us what climate leadership looks like. Like NRDC, they're galvanized by the Trump administration's abject failure on climate and are ready to keep pushing forward. We know the clean energy pathway to meeting our U.S. climate goals—let's get going on our own. There's so much more to do and states and cities can lead the way until the federal government is ready to lead again.

21 September 2017. Hurricane Maria Devastates Puerto Rico

By Andy Rowell

As new Hurricane Maria brings devastation to Puerto Rico , the governor of the island, Ricardo Rossello, has asked Donald Trump to declare the U.S. territory a disaster zone.

He has said that Maria could be the most damaging hurricane to hit the country in more than 100 years.

With maximum recorded wind speeds of 140 mph and rainfall of up to 25 inches or even higher, Mike Brennan, a senior hurricane specialist from the U.S. National Hurricane Center has also warned locals of flash-flooding and "punishing" rainfall. He added that the storm would remain "very dangerous" for the next couple of days.


"Rainfall is going to continue to be a problem there even after Maria's center begins to move away," Brennan said . "Everybody there should be prepared to stay safe the rest of the day and into tomorrow morning."

In nearby Dominica, the principal advisor to Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, said "The island has been devastated. The housing stock significantly damaged or destroyed … The country is in a daze—no electricity, no running water—as a result of uprooted pipes in most communities and definitely to landline or cellphone services on island, and that will be for quite a while."

As Maria follows on after Hurricanes Irma and Harvey , there is rising anger in the Caribbean about hurricanes and climate change .

There is no one left on the Antigua and Barbuda islands after previous Hurricane Irma effectively destroyed the island's infrastructure and housing with 185 mph winds. All the inhabitants had to be evacuated.

The islands' prime minister, Gaston Browne, told IPS on his way to the 72nd UN General Assembly in New York. "Climate change is real. We are the victims of climate change because of the profligacy in the use of fossil fuels by the large industrialized nations."

He added: "These nations, that have contributed to global warming and sea level rise , have an obligation to assist in the rebuilding of these islands … Our common humanity, as citizens of a common space, called planet Earth mandates a spirit of empathy and cooperation among all nations, large and small."

The climate deniers in the Trump administration though don't want to talk about climate change or how our changing climate is making hurricanes more powerful.

Last week, Donald Trump said: "We've had bigger storms than this. And if you go back into the 1930s and the 1940s and you take a look we've had storms over the years that have been bigger than this."

The EPA Administrator Scott "Polluting" Pruitt added "Now isn't the time to talk about climate change."

But now is the time to talk about climate change. It certainly looks like our changing climate is playing a part, as 2017 looks set to be an unprecedented hurricane season.

According to the meteorologist Eric Holthaus, who tweeted:

There is still uncertainty if Maria will hit the U.S. coastline , but if it does, history will be made. And we are only in September.

The Washington Post's Chris Mooney wrote an article Wednesday entitled: What's scary about 2017's hurricanes isn't just their strength. It's how fast they're achieving it.

According to Mooney: "Rapid strengthening tends to happen when waters are warm, when that warm water is deep, when the atmosphere is moist and when there's little adverse wind flow that could disrupt the storm, according to research papers on the topic and interviews with experts."

And our changing climate is warming the waters and adding more moisture to the atmosphere.

So now is the time to talk about climate change. Pure and simple.

21 September 2017. Nicaragua to Sign Paris Agreement, Leaving Trump Alone With Syria

When President Donald Trump decided to pull out of the Paris climate agreement in June, the United States joined the only two countries of the 197 nations in the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change that declined to sign the 2015 accord: Syria, which has been embroiled in a full-scale civil war for six years; and Nicaragua, as its leaders felt the pact was not strong enough to fight climate change .

But now, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said his country will sign the agreement "soon," Managua-based TV station 100% Noticias reports.


Ortega said on state TV that Nicaragua will join the global action plan to limit temperature rise to well below 2°C to avoid dangerous climate change.

He is doing so out of "solidarity" with countries that are the "first victims" to the effects of climate change and are the most vulnerable to climate-related natural disasters, including countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.

As Quartz points out, Ortega's move leaves Trump in a two-member club with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, one of the world's most brutal dictators.

Some mixed signals about Trump's Paris withdrawal arose last week, but a White House official said Monday: "Consistent with the President's announcement in June, we are withdrawing from the Paris Agreement unless we can reengage on terms more favorable to the United States."

21 September 2017. 14 States On Track to Meet Paris Targets

Fourteen states and Puerto Rico are on track to meet and potentially exceed their portion of the U.S. commitment under the Paris agreement .

The report shows that the member states of the U.S. Climate Alliance (USCA), which has grown to represent 36 percent of the U.S. population and more than $7 trillion of America's GDP, are collectively on track to reach a 24 to 29 percent reduction below 2005 emissions levels by 2025.


USCA founders Gov. Jerry Brown (CA), Gov. Jay Inslee (WA) and Gov. Andrew Cuomo (NY) were joined by former Secretary of State John Kerry at the report's release Wednesday in New York City. "Together, we are a political and economic force, and we will drive the change that needs to happen nationwide," Gov. Brown told reporters at the event.

USCA

For a deeper dive:

New York Times , AP , WSJ , Politico , Bloomberg , InsideClimate News , Washington Times , NY1 , NY CBS , Charlotte News & Observer , Spokesman-Review

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook , and sign up for daily Hot News .

20 September 2017. Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation Awards $20M in Largest-Ever Portfolio of Environmental Grants

Environmental activist and Oscar-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio announced that his foundation has awarded $20 million to more than 100 organizations supporting environmental causes.

This is the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation 's (LDF) largest-ever portfolio of environmental grants to date. The organization has now offered more than $80 million in total direct financial impact since its founding in 1998.


DiCaprio announced the news Tuesday at a John Kerry -hosted climate change conference at Yale University.

"We are proud to support the work of over 100 organizations at home and abroad," DiCaprio said . "These grantees are active on the ground, protecting our oceans, forests and endangered species for future generations—and tackling the urgent, existential challenges of climate change."

The new grants cover six areas: climate change, wildlife and landscape conservation, marine life and ocean conservation, innovative solutions, indigenous rights and the California program .

The Before the Flood documentarian also urged a shift fossil fuels to renewable energy .

"There exist today many proven technologies in renewable energy, clean transportation and sustainable agriculture, that we can begin to build a brighter future for all of us," he said. "Our challenge is to find new ways to power our lives, employ millions of people and turn every individual into an advocate for clean air and drinkable water. We must demand that politicians accept climate science and make bold commitments before it is too late."

As reported by Mashable , during DiCaprio's remarks at the conference, he called out the Trump administration for its refusal to acknowledge climate science, especially as a string of climate-related natural disasters tear across the country.

"We have watched as storms, wildfires, and droughts have worsened, and as extinctions have become increasingly frequent. And some of us have also listened as the scientific community sounded alarm bells about climate change as far back as the early 1990s," he said.

"Yet with all of this evidence—the independent scientific warnings, and the mounting economic price tag–there is still an astounding level of willful ignorance and inaction from the people who should be doing the most to protect us, and every other living thing on this planet."

DiCaprio also lamented Trump's controversial decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement .

"We watched as this White House pulled us back from the Paris climate agreement, the landmark blueprint for containing global emissions and slowing the increase in global temperatures, and we listened as they said that the powerful forces of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma did not change the President's mind about climate change," he said.

"I still believe that the United States has the potential to lead the world on this issue. We can only hope that the president begins to see it too, before it is too late."

Watch DiCaprio's interview with the former Secretary of State below. DiCaprio appears at the 8-minute mark:

20 September 2017. UN Environment Chief: Make Polluters, Not Taxpayers, Pay For Destroying Nature

Erik Solheim , the head of the United Nations' Environment Program, made an interesting point during a recent speech in New York: Companies, not taxpayers, should pay the costs of damaging the planet.

"The profit of destroying nature or polluting the planet is nearly always privatized, while the costs of polluting the planet or the cost of destroying ecosystems is nearly always socialized," Solheim said Monday, per Reuters , at the annual International Conference on Sustainable Development at Columbia University.


"That cannot continue," Solheim added. "Anyone who pollutes, anyone who destroys nature must pay the cost for that destruction or that pollution."

In a recent article , climate experts Peter C. Frumhoff and Myles R. Allen argue that companies like Exxon and other Big Oil and Gas giants—which purportedly knew about the link between fossil fuels and climate change for decades—should shoulder the billions of dollars in damages caused by extreme weather events such as hurricanes that are exacerbated by Earth's rising's temperatures.

Frumhoff and Allen write:

Using a simple, well-established climate model, our study for the first time quantifies the amount of sea level rise and increase in global surface temperatures that can be traced to the emissions from specific fossil fuel companies.

Strikingly, nearly 30% of the rise in global sea level between 1880 and 2010 resulted from emissions traced to the 90 largest carbon producers. Emissions traced to the 20 companies named in California communities' lawsuits contributed 10% of global sea level rise over the same period. More than 6% of the rise in global sea level resulted from emissions traced to ExxonMobil, Chevron and BP, the three largest contributors.

The scientists point out: "It may take tens to hundreds of billions of dollars to support disaster relief and recovery among Gulf coast communities affected by Hurricane Harvey . ExxonMobil, Chevron and BP have collectively pledged only $2.75m ."

During his comments in New York, Solheim noted that economic growth and environmental preservation are not mutually exclusive. In India, for example, the promotion of renewable energy is bringing human health and environmental benefits as well as spurring the economy.

"Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi realized he can electrify the villages and provide any number of green jobs—he can provide high economic growth, he can take care of his people, and take care of the planet by the same policies," said Solheim.

Solheim said that a "pollution-free planet" is achievable but the world must take immediate action to meet that goal.

"Change is happening," he said. "Economic-wise, we are on the right track, but we need to speed up because the challenge is so big."

20 September 2017. C02 and Food: We Can't Sacrifice Quality for Quantity

Bigger isn't always better. Too much of a good thing can be bad. Many anti-environmentalists throw these simple truths to the wind, along with caution.

You can see it in the deceitful realm of climate change denial . It's difficult to keep up with the constantly shifting—and debunked—denier arguments, but one common thread promoted by the likes of the Heartland Institute in the U.S. and its Canadian affiliate, the misnamed International Climate Science Coalition, illustrates the point. They claim carbon dioxide is good for plants, and plants are good for people, so we should aim to pump even more CO2 into the atmosphere than we already are.


We've examined the logical failings of this argument before—noting that studies have found not all plants benefit from increased CO2 and that most plants don't fare well under climate change —exacerbated drought or flooding , among other facts. Emerging research should put the false notion to rest for good.

Several studies have found that, even when increased CO2 makes plants grow bigger and faster, it reduces proteins and other nutrients and increases carbohydrates in about 95 percent of plant species, including important food crops such as barley, rice, wheat and potatoes. A 2014 Harvard School of Public Health study, published in Nature, found that increased CO2 reduced the amount of valuable minerals such as zinc and iron in all of them.

Another study, by Irakli Loladze at the Catholic University of Daegu in South Korea, looked at 130 species of food plants and found increased CO2 caused calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc and iron concentrations in plants to decline by an average of eight percent, while sugar and starch content increased.

As a Scientific American article pointed out, billions of people depend on crops like wheat and rice for iron and zinc. Zinc deficiency is linked to hundreds of thousands of deaths, mostly children, and exacerbates health issues such as pneumonia and malaria. Iron deficiency, which causes anemia, is responsible for one-fifth of maternal deaths worldwide.

Part of the problem with the industrial agricultural mindset and the denier argument that CO2 is plant food or "aerial fertilizer" is the idea that bigger and faster are better. These studies illustrate the problem with the climate change denial argument but, in its pursuit of profit, industrial agriculture has often made the same mistake. Plants—and now even animals like salmon—have mainly been bred, through conventional breeding and genetic engineering, to grow faster and bigger, with little regard for nutrient value (leaving aside anomalies like the not-entirely-successful "golden rice"). But higher yields have often resulted in less nutritious fruits and vegetables.

Genetic engineering's promise was increased yields and reduced need for pesticides , but studies show it has fallen far short of that ambition. A 2016 National Academy of Sciences study, as well as a New York Times investigation, found no evidence that genetically engineered crops increased yields over conventional crops. Although insecticide and fungicide use on GE crops in the U.S. and Canada has decreased, herbicide use has gone up to the point that overall pesticide use has increased. France, which doesn't rely on genetically modified crops, has reduced use of all pesticides—65 percent for insecticides and fungicides and 36 percent for herbicides—without any decrease in yields.

The "golden rice" experiment shows that plants can be engineered for higher nutrient value, but that hasn't been the priority for large agrochemical companies.

As for carbon dioxide, we know that fossil fuel use, industrial agriculture, cement production and destruction of carbon sinks like wetlands and forests are driving recent global warming, to the detriment of humanity. The one flimsy argument climate change deniers have been holding onto—that it will make plants grow faster and bigger—has proven to be a poor one.

Like life itself, science is complex. Reductive strategies that look at phenomena and reactions in isolation miss the big picture. Our species faces an existential crisis. Overcoming it will require greater wisdom and knowledge and a better understanding of nature's interconnectedness. Tackling climate disruption and feeding humanity are connected. It's past time to ignore the deniers, reassess our priorities and take the necessary measures to slow global warming.

David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor Ian Hanington.

20 September 2017. Meet the 4 Horsemen of the EPA-pocalypse

By Mary Anne Hitt

Every week, another decision that endangers our families seems to come out of Scott Pruitt's and Donald Trump's U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA ).

The latest facepalm/outrage comes in the form of confirmation hearings that start this week for four completely unacceptable nominees to critical leadership positions at EPA.


This Wednesday, Sep. 20, the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works will decide whether to confirm Bill Wehrum to lead the EPA's Office of Air and Radiation, David Ross as chief of the EPA's Office of Water, and Michael Dourson to head up the agency's chemical safety programs. Later this month, they will hold a hearing on the nomination of Andrew Wheeler as EPA's deputy administrator, the agency's second-in-command.

We can thank EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt for these four horsemen of the EPA-pocalypse—four people who will gladly choose polluters over public health and clean air and water standards every time.

Andrew Wheeler , who Pruitt has tapped for the number two spot at EPA, was described by the Washington Post as a "longtime coal lobbyist" and has worked on behalf of a company which reportedly has numerous environmental and worker safety violations. Wheeler has spent his career challenging vital life-saving environmental protections that keep our air and water clean so that we can keep our families safe (I wrote this post about him earlier this summer). He also used to be an aide for outspoken climate-denying and corporate-polluter-loving senator, James Inhofe.

Bill Wehrum , Pruitt's pick to head up the office in charge of enforcing the Clean Air Act and keeping your air safe to breathe, is a lobbyist who represents a host of coal , oil, gas, and chemical companies, and was a former George W. Bush-era EPA official. If you recognize his name, it's because he was also nominated to this position in 2006—his nomination was withdrawn when he failed to earn support of the 60 Senators needed for confirmation.

And while he's nominated to lead the EPA's air and radiation office, ironically enough, he's said that the Clean Air Act shouldn't apply to the carbon pollution that contributes to climate change and superstorms like Hurricane Harvey . As my friend John Walke at NRDC put it , Wehrum "is an industry lawyer who was largely responsible for the Bush EPA's record of violating the Clean Air Act more often, and allowing more illegal emissions of harmful air pollution , than any EPA administration before or since."

David Ross , nominated for for the top spot at the Office of Water, has sued the EPA many times related to its clean water safeguards in his work representing fossil fuel states like Wyoming, including challenging the Clean Water Rule and the Chesapeake Bay cleanup program (he lost the latter lawsuit, which the court called "long on swagger, but short on specificity"). According to E&E News , he "has represented states and industry in lawsuits against the agency—some of which were filed by then-Oklahoma Attorney General and now EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt."

Finally, Michael Dourson is on deck to head up the EPA division that oversees the chemical industry, called the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. According to the Environmental Defense Fund , "Dourson has extensive, longstanding ties to the chemical industry (as well as earlier ties to the tobacco industry) . He also has a history of failing to appropriately address his conflicts of interest." The first example they cite hits close to home for me as a West Virginian—they report he was the sole spokesperson for an expert panel studying the 2014 Elk River chemical spill but failed to disclose, until cornered by a reporter, that he had previously "done paid work for both of the companies that produced the chemicals involved in the spill."

In addition, Dourson has spent much of his professional career writing studies that undermine existing science and concerns about toxic chemicals, and call for weaker regulations on chemicals like pesticides . As our friends at the United Farm Workers explain, Dourson was paid by Dow Agrosciences to downplay concerns about a toxic pesticide and cast doubt on a Columbia University study linking exposure to it by pregnant women to irreversible neurodevelopmental problems in children—in other words, to hide the fact that the pesticide is dangerous to kids. As you may have heard, in a highly controversial move the EPA recently reversed restrictions on the use of this pesticide , called chlorpyrifos , shortly after meeting with officials from Dow.

Senators shouldn't get fooled—Scott Pruitt has seized the EPA and is trying to install polluter lobbyists in key positions. We can't let dirty fuel lobbyists win—we need the Senate to draw the line and reject these nominations.

Mary Anne Hitt is the director of the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign .

20 September 2017. Trump's Pick for Top EPA Post Under Scrutiny for Deep Ties to Chemical Industry

From Scott Pruitt to Betsy DeVos , President Donald Trump has notoriously appointed a slew of individuals with serious conflicts of interests with the departments they oversee.

The latest is Michael L. Dourson , Trump's pick to head the EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, the government's chemical safety program. Media reports reveal that the toxicologist is under intense scrutiny for his extensive ties to the chemical industry and a resumé dotted with some of the biggest names in the field: Koch Industries Inc., Chevron Corp., Dow AgroSciences, DuPont and Monsanto .


After working as a staff toxicologist for the EPA from 1980 to 1994, Dourson founded and ran the Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment (TERA), a nonprofit research group that has been paid by chemical corporations to research and write reports that downplay the health risks posed by their products, the New York Times reports. TERA has since been renamed as the Risk Science Center at the University of Cincinnati, where Dourson is a professor.

According to the Associated Press , Dourson's research has been "underwritten by industry trade and lobbying groups representing the makers of plastics, pesticides, processed foods and cigarettes."

Dourson's Senate confirmation hearing was originally set for Wednesday but has been postponed to a date that has not yet been announced. If confirmed, Dourson would be in charge of regulating chemicals produced by "his old industry friends," critics have warned .

Notably, Dourson and TERA was contracted by Dow AgroSciences, the maker of chlorpyrifos, a neurotoxic pesticide that has been shown to harm children's brains at even very low exposure levels. Dourson and his researchers argued in three papers that there were flaws in peer-reviewed studies that linked delays in fetal development from chlorpyrifos exposure, the AP reports.

In March, the EPA controversially refused to ban chlorpyrifos claiming the science is " unresolved " and decided it would postpone the determination of the pesticide until 2022.

Dourson was also the lead author of a report funded by Koch Industries that concluded that human exposures to petroleum coke and coal "if any, are well below levels that could be anticipated to produce adverse health effects in the general population."

Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), the ranking minority member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works panel that will evaluate Dourson's qualifications was alarmed by Trump's choice.

"Dr. Dourson's consistent endorsement of chemical safety standards that not only match industry's views, but are also significantly less protective than E.P.A. and other regulators have recommended, raises serious doubts about his ability to lead those efforts," Carper told the Times. "This is the first time anyone with such clear and extensive ties to the chemical industry has been picked to regulate that industry."

A number of experts and environmental and consumer health groups have also spoken against Dourson. The Environmental Defense Fund has listed a number of further objections, including:

  • After the 2014 chemical spill in Charleston, West Virginia, the state hired Dourson's company, Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment (TERA), to convene and manage a health effects expert panel . TERA then appointed Dourson to chair the panel and act as its only spokesperson. The panel's report failed to disclose that Dourson and TERA had done paid work for both of the companies that produced the chemicals involved in the spill. These conflicts only came to light upon questioning of Dourson by a reporter at the panel's news conference.
  • Dourson and TERA have done extensive work on behalf of the so-called Perchlorate Study Group (PSG), which is actually comprised of producers and users of perchlorate. The work was aimed at reducing the stringency of federal standards. Dourson, who is on EPA's Science Advisory Board (SAB), was asked to recuse himself from the Board's 2013 meeting to review EPA's work to develop a drinking water standard for perchlorate. Immediately upon doing so, Dourson provided "public" comments to the Board based on the work he had done for PSG.
  • In 2012, Dourson and TERA, with funding from the American Chemistry Council (ACC), set up and ran a website called " Kids + Chemical Safety ." (This website is now inactive and TERA itself has been migrated to be a center at the University of Cincinnati.) The site was designed to look like a neutral source of advice for parents concerned about chemical safety, but instead mirrored industry talking points about its chemicals and sought to shift responsibility for ensuring safety to the consumer or parent and away from the industry.

"It is not even subtle," Sheldon Krimsky, a Tufts University professor who studies ethics in science and medicine and has reviewed Dourson's work, told the AP. "He has chosen to be the voice of the chemical industry. His role as a scientist is simply the role of an industry-hired lawyer—only to give the best case for their client."

Unsurprisingly, the chemical industry and trade associations have cheered the choice.

"His knowledge, experience and leadership will strengthen EPA's processes for evaluating and incorporating high quality science into regulatory decision making," said Jon Corley, the American Chemistry Council's spokesman.

CropLife America—the main trade and lobbying group for the pesticide industry—called Dourson "a perfect fit."

"We welcome Dr. Dourson's nomination," CropLife America said on its website . "His extensive experience in risk assessment and science, both in government and private sector make him a valuable addition to the office."

20 September 2017. New Study: Global Warming Limit Can Still Be Achieved

By Tim Radford

Scientists in the UK have good news for the 195 nations that pledged to limit global warming to well below 2°C: it can be done. The ideal limit of no more than 1.5°C above the average temperatures for most of human history is possible .

All it requires is an immediate reduction in the combustion of fossil fuels—a reduction that will continue for the next 40 years, until the world is driven only by renewable energy .


This optimistic assessment is possible because of new information, coupled with another look at the challenge ahead, according to scientists from Exeter, London, Leeds and Oxford, backed up by colleagues from Norway, Austria, Switzerland, Canada and New Zealand.

They reported in Nature Geoscience journal that they have a new estimate for the mass of fossil fuels it would be safe to burn, consistent with achieving the target agreed at the Paris climate conference in 2015.

Pre-industrial levels

Industry has a bit more room to maneuver as it adjusts, and researchers now have a more up-to-date estimate of how much extra carbon dioxide may be released into the atmosphere before the global thermometer starts to reach potentially dangerous temperatures.

"Limiting total CO2 emissions from the start of 2015 to beneath 240 billion tonnes of carbon—880 billion tonnes of CO2–or about 20 years of current emissions would likely achieve the Paris goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels," said study leader Richard Millar, a climate system scientist at the University of Oxford .

And his colleague, Pierre Friedlingstein, the University of Exeter's chair in mathematical modelling of climate systems , who advises the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on carbon budgets, said, "Previous estimates of the remaining 1.5°C carbon budget based on the IPCC Fifth Assessment were around four times lower, so this is very good news for the achievability of the Paris targets."

The problem can be put simply—even if the solution remains a global headache. For 200 years, humans have been exploiting coal , oil and natural gas on a massive scale, destroying forests and converting wilderness to crops and pasture.

To burn fossil fuel is to release a greenhouse gas into the atmosphere—and the more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the warmer the world. What had once been a stable ratio of around 280 parts per million of carbon dioxide has crept up to around 400 ppm in 2016, and global average temperatures are about 0.9°C higher than the pre-industrial average.

The big question is how much more carbon dioxide can the factories, power stations and car exhausts of the world emit before the temperature goes up another 0.6°C, but no higher?

Almost as soon as the world's nations settled on the Paris target, there were doubts about whether the temperature limit is achievable , and these doubts have been expressed by distinguished scientists at the forefront of climate change research .

The latest study indicates that it can be done. But parallel research published in Nature Geoscience suggests there is no time to lose.

Norwegian scientists reported that the global greenhouse effect caused by human increases in carbon dioxide concentrations is now halfway to doubling. That is not the same as twice the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere: what is being measured here is the extra heat that double the carbon dioxide will guarantee.

'Dangerous' global warming

"The doubling of CO2 now has an iconic role in climate research," the Norwegian report said. "In terms of radiative forcing, we are still likely to have come more than halfway to a doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere."

And a third study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , spells out the importance of the Paris agreement when it comes to global risk.

Researchers in Texas and California said the "well below 2°C target" set in Paris commits the world to "dangerous" global warming, and a rise of 3°C on average for the whole globe would rate as "catastrophic."

But a rise of 5°C would, the researchers say, deliver risks that are "unknown, implying beyond catastrophic." And if emissions are not checked, the world will reach the dangerous level in three decades.

So the overall message is that a 1.5°C limit is possible, but the world had better start working towards that goal now.

"The sooner global emissions start to fall, the lower the risk not only of major climate disruption, but also of economic disruption that could otherwise arise from the need for subsequent reductions at historically unprecedented rates, should near-term action remain inadequate," said another of the report's authors, Michael Grubb , professor of international energy and climate change policy at University College London's Institute of Sustainable Resources.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Climate News Network .

20 September 2017. Devastated Island Leaders: Climate Change 'A Truth Which Hits Us'

As residents in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands prepared to take cover from Hurricane Maria, representatives of island nations devastated by hurricanes made a plea to the UN for recovery funding.

In a hastily-convened special session, leaders of Barbuda, the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas and other nations detailed the billions of dollars needed to rebuild after Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and argued that the increasing impacts of climate change on island nations required a rethinking of how the UN provides humanitarian aid.


The intense hurricane season and climate change were top talking points for several officials at the UN yesterday. While criticizing President Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris agreement , French President Emmanuel Macron said the hurricanes were "the direct result of carbon dioxide emissions," while UN Secretary-General António Guterres said reducing emissions "must clearly be part" of responding to the hurricanes.

"There are lives being destroyed," Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina said . "Irma is not a phenomenon in isolation, but an extreme symptom of a greater problem ... Climate change and its consequences should not be the subject of speculation or debate. It's a truth which hits us and which causes great uncertainty."

As reported by the New York Times :

"The issue of whether countries should be assured of some aid to rebuild from storms or droughts, or to relocate citizens if need be, is known in United Nations parlance as 'loss and damage.' The question of wealthy nations' responsibility for providing this compensation has never been fully resolved. Industrialized nations have consistently rejected being held legally liable for their decades of carbon pollution.

After a protracted debate, the Obama administration allowed the Paris agreement in 2015 to acknowledge the special needs of vulnerable countries, but American negotiators supported a provision saying that doing so 'does not involve or provide a basis for any liability or compensation.'"

For a deeper dive:

Island session: New York Times , Climate Home . Macron: CNN , LA Times . Commentary: The Guardian, Guy Hewitt op-ed

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook , and sign up for daily Hot News .

20 September 2017. National Guard Chief Highlights Climate Change as Pruitt Touts Denial on TV

Climate change could be causing storms to become "bigger, larger, more violent," underlining the need to have a robust military response to disasters across the country, the top officer of the National Guard Bureau said Tuesday.

"I do think that the climate is changing, and I do think that it is becoming more severe," Gen. Joseph Lengyel told reporters, noting the number of severe storms that have hit the U.S. in the past month. The general might want to take U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA ) Administrator Scott Pruitt aside for a chat on climate change and disasters : Pruitt sat down for two friendly interviews on Fox yesterday to tout his idea for a red team/blue team "debate" on climate.


Speaking on Fox and Friends over a chyron reading "Climate Change's Impact on Hurricanes," Pruitt said he acknowledges humans contribute to climate change but questioned how much.

As reported by the Washington Post :

"The Pentagon has called climate change a global security threat, saying it could degrade living conditions, jeopardize human safety and undermine nations' ability to meet the basic needs of their citizens.

'A changing climate will have real impacts on our military and the way it executes its missions,' according to a 2014 assessment conducted by defense officials in the Obama administration. 'The military could be called upon more often to support civil authorities, and provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in the face of more frequent and more intense natural disasters.'"

For a deeper dive:

National Guard: The Hill , Washington Post . Pruitt: Huffington Post , The Hill . Strength of 2017 hurricane season: Washington Post , New York Times , WSJ , USA Today . Commentary: Washington Post, Kerry Emmanuel op-ed

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook , and sign up for daily Hot News .

19 September 2017. The Hazards of EIA Energy Forecasts

Accepting the conclusions of the latest energy outlook , released last week by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) means also accepting certain climate catastrophe.

As we have noted before, the EIA has made a routine out of releasing unrealistic, distorted and dangerous outlooks on the future of global energy demand. These projections should come with a warning label.


Assuming this scenario will become reality also means accepting the consequences: total failure to stop dangerous climate change . It's important to read the fine print.

The EIA's reference case suggests that fossil fuels will still account for 77 percent of energy use in 2040 alongside rising energy demand. Climate science however, shows that global greenhouse gas emissions must be cut in half well before 2040 in order to have a good chance of avoiding the worst expected climate impacts (and eventually cut to zero mid-century). You can't accept one without the other.

No one can credibly claim to predict the future. However, energy modelers can test specific assumptions to gain insight into what's possible. So what assumptions were used to create the EIA's latest base-case scenario? Here's a sample:

  • Current laws and regulations, including those related to climate change, will not change from today beyond 2040.
  • Contrary to clear trends already underway, electric vehicles fail to meaningfully replace internal combustion engines (only 3 percent of global transportation projected to be electrically powered by 2040).
  • In spite of low and rapidly falling costs, renewable energy fails to meaningfully displace coal and natural gas-fired electricity.

What is the intended value of creating energy outlooks using dangerous assumptions like these? It's no wonder that the EIA reached this absurd conclusion:

'Through 2040, the IEO2017 projects increased world consumption of marketed energy from all fuel sources, except for coal demand, which is projected to remain essentially flat.'

It can be useful of course to contrast existing policy with the future we are trying to achieve to reveal the size of the gap, but that doesn't seem to be the EIA's goal here. If it was, such a comparison would feature prominently. Instead, the EIA appears to cherry-pick assumptions that would protect the fossil fuel industry from difficult questions about its viability in a low-carbon world, while failing to include a scenario which considers what reaching climate success would look like.

Of course, the EIA isn't alone in creating questionable energy outlooks seemingly designed to protect the fossil fuel industry from the difficult realities of the required energy transition. The world's largest oil companies have long been putting out self-serving outlooks to distort our view of the future to their interest. Even the highly influential International Energy Agency has repeatedly failed to put a model that centers climate safety at the heart of its World Energy Outlook.

It's no secret that our perception of the future shapes our decision-making today. The fossil fuel industry needs investors and government to believe it will continue to grow. Flawed energy scenarios make that fiction possible. This works for the fossil fuel companies, but what about the rest of us?

For anyone who actually want to use energy forecasts as a tool to inform sound decision-making, for directing investment wisely, and for meeting the obvious goal of achieving climate safety—we need outlooks with credible assumptions. It's a shame we can't trust the EIA to provide them.