There’s a major gap in the new methane pledge: Agriculture
Large-scale livestock operations have been increasing the U.S. methane emissions. Nearly 100,000 head of cattle is spread over 800 acres at The Harris Cattle Ranch (pictured, a former family-run cattle company in California. George Rose / Getty Images
The Global Methane Pledge gives farmers and ranchers a ‘free pass,’ environmental groups say.
Last week, the United States and European Union launched the most ambitious plan to date to slash global methane emissions. The Global Methane Pledge, which reportedly already has the support of at least six of the world’s 15 largest producers of the greenhouse gas, aims to slash methane emissions 30 percent by 2030. But despite it being lauded as a major success, some environmental justice groups are pointing out that the pledge is vague on one key issue: How it will enforce cutting emissions from the largest source of methane globally — agriculture.
Food production is responsible for 25 percent of global methane emissions every year. In the U.S., the sector accounts for 36 percent of the country’s methane, surpassing the coal and gas industry, which generates 30 percent. Yet, the global reduction pledge launched last week only mentions voluntary programs to reduce agriculture’s climate impacts.
“They’re giving agriculture a free pass,” said Brent Newell, a senior attorney at the environmental justice advocacy group Public Justice Food Project. In a joint statement with 24 other groups, the Public Justice Food Project called the pledge a “positive if insufficient step.” 09-27-21
US north-east faces rapid warming amid global climate crisis
Coast has already heated up by 2C over the past century, thanks in part to warming Atlantic Ocean
Guardian graphic. Source: Karmalkar, et al., 2021, “Drivers of exceptional coastal warming in the northeastern United States”
The coastal US north–east is one of the fastest warming areas in the northern hemisphere, having heated up rapidly by 2C (3.6F) already over the past century due in part to the soaring temperature of the nearby Atlantic Ocean, new research has found.
The coastline that stretches from Maine down to Delaware hosts urban areas such as New York City and Boston and draws millions of tourists each year to beaches and other attractions. But the region is rapidly changing due to the climate crisis, having heated up by 2C on average since the start of the 20th century, driven largely by much warmer summers.
This is one of the fastest temperature increases in the northern hemisphere, researchers found, and is double the level of heating that has taken place further inland in the same region.
The Biden administration has an opportunity to address an important but often overlooked aspect of the climate crisis: dams and hydropower. They contribute to climate change, send species to extinction, and displace communities. Dams are destructive relics of the past and have no place in an America vying to be a leader in clean energy, water sustainability, and environmental protection while creating the jobs of the future.
“As global temperatures rise, dams and their stagnant reservoirs become more harmful and less efficient … dams are proving to be an unreliable and unsustainable water supply and energy solution.”
Reality Check: Climate Action and Commitments of the Fortune Global 500
There’s been a three-fold increase in climate targets by Fortune Global 500companies over the past three years, but more than 60% still don’t have any commitments on the books. That’s according to numbers from Natural Capital Partners, who led a discussion with leaders from some of the companies out front on those pledges as part of New York’s Climate Week. The panel highlighted actions beyond carbon pledges including:
HP touted their end-of-decade goal to hit 75% circularity (a loop of reusing and recycling instead of creating then trashing) for their products and packaging.
Aviva, the British insurance company, brought up the importance of making sure pensions and investments aren’t generating profit for climate-damaging organizations.
Why This Matters: Large companies have the opportunity to set standards for smaller companies that are part of their production process. The Fortune Global 500 combined have $33 trillion in revenues and employ 70 million people around the world. They can also be a part of more systemic change. For example, a study done by Aviva found it was 21 times more effective for organizations to switch pensions to sustainable funds than to do every other individual lifestyle change, like not driving a car with a combustion engine or switching to a vegetarian diet. 09-21-21
Biden may be the first president to take the risks of extreme heat seriously
The White House moves to create first-ever heat standards for workers.
Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images
After a historically hot summer with extreme heat events that killed hundreds of people in the Pacific Northwest, New Orleans, and elsewhere, the Biden administration is taking action to protect Americans from extreme heat at work and at home. On Monday, the White House announced that it will start the process of creating a first-of-its-kind national heat standard for workers and promoted several other initiatives to increase access to cooling for the most vulnerable members of society.
“Rising temperatures pose an imminent threat to millions of American workers exposed to the elements, to kids in schools without air conditioning, to seniors in nursing homes without cooling resources, and particularly to disadvantaged communities,” President Joe Biden said in a statement.
Extreme heat kills more than 600 people in the United States every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC. Outdoor workers, such as those in construction and agriculture, are particularly at risk, although the plight of overheated warehouse workers has also been well documented. But heat-related deaths are widely understood to be undercounted, since heat can exacerbate underlying health conditions and is not always listed as a cause of death. 09-21-21
Why This Matters: Disinformation has been in the news more than ever, but the oil industry has been pulling the strings of public opinion for decades. Employing big tobacco’s playbook, fossil fuel companies have fought to prevent policy and public opinion from embracing climate science and clean energy. Now, the world is facing the consequences — this summer’s wildfires and hurricanes have broken records, and the International Panel on Climate Change reports that the world has even less time than previously thought to reach net zero. To make net-zero emissions by 2050 a reality, the Biden administration will not only have to replace fossil fuels with renewable power, but hold Big Oil accountable for decades of gas-lighting and harm. 09-17-21
The climate costs of keeping Line 5 open would be very high
Scientists estimate the pipeline could generate $41 billion in climate damages between 2027 and 2070.
For the last four months, the Line 5 pipeline running under the Great Lakes has been carrying 23 million gallons of oil and gas each day, defying orders from Michigan’s Governor, Gretchen Whitmer, that the line be shut down. Protests have ensued. The Bay Mills Indian Community has banned the pipeline’s owner, Enbridge Energy, from its land. And Enbridge and Whitmer have been ordered into mediation by the court. The saga has grabbed national headlines, serving as the latest example of the fight over the future of fossil fuel infrastructure in the United States.
Now, new testimony from scientists has revealed the implications of future plans for Line 5, including the construction of a tunnel over part of the pipeline and the continued flow of oil through the system. According to the analysis, the tunnel project and pipeline could contribute an additional 27 million metric tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere annually, and generate $41 billion in climate damages between 2027 and 2070.
The testimony was provided by Peter Erickson, a senior scientist and climate policy director for the Stockholm Environment Institute, as well as by Peter Howard, an economic policy expert at New York University’s School of Law. The findings were submitted in a case before the Michigan Public Service Commission, which is deciding whether to grant Enbridge Energy a permit to encase a portion of Line 5 that runs through the Straits of Mackinac, an environmentally sensitive channel connecting Lake Michigan to Lake Huron. It’s the first time any Michigan agency has agreed to consider greenhouse gas emissions in its analysis under the Michigan Environmental Protection Act. 09-17-21
Why this Matters: In order for Biden to meet his 2030 goal, the US needs to cut 1.7 billion to 2.3 billion tons of GHGs. For perspective, the reductions would be the equivalent of removing all US passenger vehicles from the road, or the combined annual emissions of Texas and Florida combined.
This new set of provisions could be a big help in accomplishing this. Rhodium Group President John Larsen told CNN, “We estimate that this could close about half the gap between where the US is likely to be and where it needs to be to hit the target.”
“This is a really big deal,” Larsen continued, “It would be the single largest action the federal government’s ever taken to deal with climate change.” 09-15-21
Global action on harmful PFAS chemicals is long overdue: Study
“We already know enough about the harm being caused by these very persistent substances to take action to stop all non-essential uses and to limit exposure from legacy contamination.”
The scientific community has known for decades that a group of widely-used chemicals is causing health harms across the globe, but effective policies aimed at curbing those impacts lag far behind the research, according to a new study.
The class of chemicals, known as PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances), includes more than 5,000 individual chemicals with similar properties. PFAS don’t readily break down once they’re in the environment, so they can accumulate in animal and human tissues, earning them the nickname “forever chemicals.”
The study, published Tuesday in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science & Technology, involved researchers from the U.S., Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium, Norway, the Czech Republic, and Denmark.
The researchers are calling for global changes to the way PFAS are manufactured and regulated including:
Scientific collaboration to better understand the extent of PFAS contamination and its health impacts around the world;
Bolstered data sharing between industries manufacturing PFAS, and scientists and policymakers;
Consistency in PFAS measuring techniques;
Improved PFAS waste management strategies;
Better communication strategies related to the health harms of PFAS;
And clear policy guidelines related to the manufacturing and cleanup of PFAS. 09-15-21
House Ways and Means Committee Unveils Clean Energy Tax Credits
Image: ANeely2020 via Wikimedia Commons
The House Ways and Means Committee has released their portion of the reconciliation for the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion spending package. The plan follows through on many promises made by the Biden administration, including clean energy tax credits and credits for electric vehicle owners. The plan, announced on the heels of the Biden administration’s solar roadmap, aims to raise climate ambition and empower clean energy infrastructure across the nation.
Why This Matters: The world is running out of time to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and has failed to take advantage of the emissions dip caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The fastest route to net-zero emissions is a complete switch to clean energy, a task that will take all of the country’s infrastructure resources to complete. Despite roadmaps, pledges, and plans to revamp power grids and build sprawling infrastructure, boosting climate ambition from the private sector and the public will be critical to their success. Clean energy tax credits (CES) in particular, could be one of the most effective tools in the nations climate tool belt, and National Climate adviser Gina McCarthy has gone so far as to call them “non-negotiables.” 09-13-21
Corporations tried to blame you for the plastic crisis. Now states are turning the tables.
Workers sort paper and plastic waste, some of it likely headed to landfills, in Hillsboro, Oregon, in 2017. Natalie Behring / Getty Images
As recycling heads to the dump, Maine and Oregon have a new strategy: Make companies pay.
If you’ve ever tossed a plastic water bottle in a trash can and felt a wave of guilt wash over you, well, judging by its marketing campaigns, that’s exactly how the packaging industry planned it.
Consider this recent public service announcement, where two uncanny squirrel puppets sit in a tree, watching passerby on the sidewalk and cheering when they put plastic bottles in the recycling bin. A man nearly throws a bottle in the trash (gasp!), but at the last moment, puts it away in his bag to “recycle later.” “Way to go, Mr. Brown Shoes!” one squirrel says. Then a message pops up on the screen: “Recycle your bottles like everyone’s watching.”
This ad is from Keep America Beautiful, a nonprofit backed by big corporations (think Coca-Cola, Pepsi, McDonald’s, Nestlé) that’s been delivering versions of that message for more than half a century. The focus has been on the litterbugs who tossed garbage on the ground, rather than on the companies manufacturing all that trash-to-be to begin with. 09-13-21
Harvard Will Move to Divest its Endowment from Fossil Fuels
Students held signs advocating for Harvard’s divestment from fossil fuels in front of University Hall Tuesday afternoon. By Pei Chao Zhuo
Following years of public pressure, Harvard said Thursday it would allow its remaining investments in the fossil fuel industry to expire, paving the way for it to eventually divest from the sector. The move marks a stark twist in a decade-long saga that has pitted student activists against University administrators and dominated campus politics for years.
In an email to Harvard affiliates Thursday afternoon, University President Lawrence S. Bacow — who has for years publicly opposed divestment — stopped short of using the word divest, but said that “legacy investments” through third-party firms “are in runoff mode,” and called financial exposure to the fossil fuel industry imprudent.
Fossil Fuel Divest Harvard, which has been pushing the University to pull its investments in the fossil fuel industry since it was founded in 2012, declared victory.
“So long as Harvard follows through, this is divestment,” Connor Chung ’23, a Divest Harvard organizer, said. “This is what they told us for a decade they couldn’t do, and today, the students, faculty, and alumni have been vindicated.” 09-09-21
Inside the Ohio factory that could make or break Biden’s big solar energy push
First Solar manufacturing operator Dacey Weller works on a solar panel on Sept. 8. (Elaine Cromie/For The Washington Post)
Toledo-area plant faces pressure to boost output as U.S. blocks some solar-panel imports over concerns about forced labor in China
WALBRIDGE, Ohio — On the outskirts of Toledo, a short drive from Interstate 90, thousands of glass panels rumble along assembly lines at a factory that will help determine whether the Biden administration can meet two of its biggest goals — dramatically reducing carbon emissions and lessening reliance on China.
First Solar is one of the few U.S. solar-panel manufacturers in an industry dominated by Chinese factories, some of which the Biden administration has accused of employing forced labor. Lately, that has made First Solar particularly popular with panel buyers, which have snapped up the company’s entire production run through 2022.
Posters in the factory’s lobby proudly declare that the company is “countering China’s state-subsidized dominance of solar supply chains” while churning out products that are “uniquely American” and “Ohio-made.”
The question now: Can First Solar and its smaller counterparts in the U.S. solar industry crank up enough manufacturing capacity to meet the administration’s renewable energy goals or will U.S. power companies remain dependent on the massive Chinese solar industry, despite concerns about how it operates? 09-08-21
Editors of Over 230 Medical Journals Urge Governments to Take Drastic Climate Action for Public Health
Image: Alberto Giuliani via Wikimedia Commons
The editors of more than 230 medical journals said in a statement on Monday that human health is being harmed by climate change, and that the effects could become catastrophic if governments don’t do more to address it. The unprecedented joint editorial cites climate change’s proven links to “heat deaths, dehydration and kidney function loss, skin cancer, tropical infections, mental health issues, pregnancy complications, allergies, and heart and lung disease.”
Why This Matters: Human health is already suffering the consequences of climate change across the globe, and notably, to the disproportionate detriment of low-income communities and people of color.
Wildfire smoke has been linked to an increase in positive COVID-19 cases and more severe cases.
Additionally, as humans collide with wildlife over habitat destruction and deforestation, zoonotic diseases will only increase. As global temperatures rise, health threats will become more common and more widespread, and the world is running out of time to save lives. 09-07-21
‘No point in anything else’: Gen Z members flock to climate careers
Colleges offer support as young people aim to devote their lives to battling the crisis
Hundreds of protesters march to the White House calling for climate action, including a Civilian Climate Corps. Photograph: Allison Bailey/Rex/Shutterstock
California is facing a drought so devastating, some publications call it “biblical”. Colorado now has “fire years” instead of “fire seasons”. Miami, which sees more dramatic hurricanes each year, is contemplating building a huge seawall in one of the city’s most scenic tourist districts to protect it from storm surges.
“Once you learn how damaged the world’s ecosystems are, it’s not really something you can unsee,” says Rachel Larrivee, 23, a sustainability consultant based in Boston. “To me, there’s no point in pursuing a career – or life for that matter – in any other area.”
Larrivee is one of countless members of Gen Z, a generation that roughly encompasses young people under 25, who are responding to the planet’s rapidly changing climate by committing their lives to finding a solution. Survey after survey shows young people are not just incorporating new climate-conscious behaviors into their day-to-day lives – they’re in it for the long haul. College administrators say surging numbers of students are pursuing environmental-related degrees and careers that were once considered irresponsible, romantic flights of fancy compared to more “stable” paths like business, medicine, or law. 09-06-21
Biden to Visit Northeast Flood Zones as Demand Grows for Climate Action
The president will visit hard-hit areas in New York and New Jersey, as residents call for more serious action on climate change.
Residents in Queens placed their belongings on the curb while cleaning homes and apartments damaged by floodwaters.Credit…Benjamin Norman for The New York Times
As residents scrambled to clean up and assess damage from catastrophic flash floods that swept the Northeast last week, President Biden prepared to visit hard-hit areas in New York and New Jersey, where he will confront political ferment that is growing over the climate-driven disaster.
The lethal deluge from the remnants of Hurricane Ida, which killed more than 45 people in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut, has amped up battles that began in 2012 with Hurricane Sandy over how to slow climate change and protect communities. The floods are already sharpening debate over whether city, state and national leaders are doing enough — even those who, like Mr. Biden, publicly champion strong measures.
Mr. Biden’s trip comes as he and Democratic leaders struggle to get Congress to include measures to curb planet-warming emissions in a $1 trillion infrastructure bill and to increase funding to protect communities from disasters like the one last week.
Within hours of the New York-area downpours, Mr. Biden had directly linked them to his climate agenda. In a speech, he described the floods as “yet another reminder that these extreme storms and the climate crisis are here,” and called for more spending on modernizing electrical grids, sewers, water systems, bridges and roads.
But some climate groups are faulting his administration for including major new funding to build and widen highways in the measure. 09-05-21
Commuters walk into a flooded 3rd Avenue / 149th st subway station and disrupted service due to extremely heavy rainfall from the remnants of Hurricane Ida on September 2, 2021, in New York City. David Dee Delgado / Getty Images
The storm showed the region is not prepared for climate change.
New York City was quiet early on Wednesday evening as the remnants of Hurricane Ida barreled toward the Tri-State Area. At 7 p.m., wind and rain had descended on the city, soaking pedestrians and sending rivulets down sidewalks. But the subway system was running, people were out drinking at bars and walking their dogs, and traffic was moving through city streets.
Just two hours later, walking outside meant putting your life in immediate danger. The torrential rain prompted the National Weather Service to issue a flash flood emergency for New York City, its first such warning for NYC ever. Service on every subway line was suspended, and videos from stations across the city showed waterfalls pouring from ceilings and flowing down subway steps. Geysers churned in the middle of subway platforms as cars bobbed like buoys in the streets above.
How sea-level rise is making hurricanes like Ida more destructive
The Gulf Coast has some of the highest sea-level rise in the country, in part due to climate change.
Brandon Bell / Getty Images
When Hurricane Ida made landfall on Sunday in Port Fourchon, Louisiana, the Category 4 storm’s wind speeds clocked in at 150 miles per hour. The gales ripped roofs off structures, toppled transmission lines, caused mass power outages, and pushed an over 12-foot storm surge onto land, flooding wide swaths of coastal Mississippi and Louisiana. Preliminary data suggests it was the fifth strongest hurricane on record to hit the continental U.S., based on wind speed.
But there is another factor that made Ida particularly devastating: Sea levels in parts of the Gulf Coast have risen nearly two feet since 1950, due to both climate change and land subsidence. And scientists note the higher the water level, the more is pushed onto land and the further inland it reaches during a hurricane.
“Ida is an unnatural disaster, at least in part,” Jason West, a professor of environmental engineering at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health tweeted on Sunday. “Climate change makes it stronger, sea level rise makes it more damaging.” 09-01-21
EXCLUSIVE-Biden administration aims to cut costs for solar, wind projects on public land
The clean power industry has argued land lease rates and fees are too high to draw investment and could torpedo the president’s climate change agenda
Solar panels are seen at the Desert Stateline project near Nipton, California, U.S. August 16, 2021. REUTERS/Bridget Bennett
LOS ANGELES/WASHINGTON, Aug 31 (Reuters) – The Biden administration plans to make federal lands cheaper to access for solar and wind power developers after the clean power industry argued in a lobbying push this year that lease rates and fees are too high to draw investment and could torpedo the president’s climate change agenda.
Washington’s decision to review the federal land policy for renewable power projects is part of a broader effort by President Joe Biden’s government to fight global warming by boosting clean energy development and discouraging drilling and coal mining.
“We recognize the world has changed since the last time we looked at this and updates need to be made,” Janea Scott, senior counselor to the U.S. Interior Department’s assistant secretary for land and minerals, told Reuters.
On Tuesday, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced it has initiated a process to revise regulations related to renewable energy permitting and rights-of-way on public lands starting with four public listening sessions in September and a separate consultation with Native American tribes.
The sessions will focus on rent lease schedules and fees for wind and solar rights-of-way, application processing times and environmental justice considerations.
The push for easier access to vast federal lands also underscores the renewable energy industry’s voracious need for new acreage: Biden has a goal to decarbonize the power sector by 2035, a target that would require an area bigger than the Netherlands for the solar industry alone, according to research firm Rystad Energy. 08-31-21
Seven years ago, Florida’s corals started dying. The mysterious illness, called stony coral tissue loss disease, quickly decimated almost half of the state’s hard coral.Florida’s reefs are the only coral reef system in the continental US, running up the state’s Atlantic coast from the Keys to West Palm Beach. In 2018, “it became clear that without drastic intervention, these corals would face imminent localized extinction,” the Washington Post reports. To save the corals, aquariums, zoos, and universities across the country adopted rescued corals. Divers took samples of healthy coral with the hope that one day the reef will be propagated with coral that can survive the disease.
Why This Matters: While the exact cause of the disease outbreak is unknown, climate change has made coral survival more difficult worldwide. Even without the disease, Florida’s corals were under threat from poor water quality, destructive fishing practices. The level of intervention involved to save the reef shows the immense efforts needed to preserve wild systems in the face of human-caused ocean impacts.
“Anytime you’ve got warm temperatures and increases in nutrients, it kind of creates this environment that can breed bacteria and increase things like viruses in the water,” Stephanie Schopmeyer, a coral ecologist from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, told the Post. 08-30-21
Hurricane Ida Batters Southeast Louisiana on 16th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina
Image: NASA (Website) NOAA (Satellite), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Yesterday, on the 16th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana as a Category 4 storm. Packing winds of up to 150 mph, Ida touched down early Sunday afternoon, bringing with it shelter in place orders, flash flood warnings, and leaving 750,000 people (and counting) without power. As officials and first responders stood by to face the damage, residents hope that new disaster mitigation infrastructure implemented since Katrina will save their homes and potentially their lives.
Why This Matters: Hurricane Ida is not only set to be one of the strongest storms to hit Louisiana since the 1850s, but it’s also the third major hurricane to make landfall there since last August. Ida shows behaviors that climate scientists say are caused by global warming, including slower movement and more endurance inland. Meanwhile, as President Biden’s infrastructure bill moves toward a final House vote, this storm will test some of the nation’s most updated climate mitigation infrastructure. Although officials say the updates have placed Louisiana in a much better position than in 2005, there are still concerns that it may not be enough to fully protect residents from stronger and more frequent storms. 08-29-21
Does rural Illinois really need a new gas pipeline?
In this historic Black farming community, some want renewables instead.
Fred Carter, his wife, and his son stand with a farm apprentice in front of solar panels on their farm. Courtsey of Fred Carter.
Pembroke Township, population less than 2,000, is the lasthistoric Black farming community left in Illinois. And at one time, it was the largest such community in the northern United States. Founded in the 1860s by runaway slaves, it soon became an agricultural hub, producing tons of hemp during World War II and later feeding Chicago, Detroit, and Cleveland during the Great Migration from the South to the North.
And now Nicor Gas wants to run a natural gas pipeline to it.
Earlier this summer the Democrat-controlled Illinois General Assembly passed HB 3404 — a bill that will help fund the proposed gas line, in part by allowing for a 250-percent increaseto customers’ gas bills statewide. It would cap a years-long push to bring cheaper natural gas heat to an area, an hour’s drive south of Chicago, that now gets its heat from a mix of propane, wood-burning stoves, and electric space heaters. Governor J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, has until August 29 to sign the bill into law.
But many local farmers and environmentalists are pleading with Pritzker to veto the bill, arguing that the pipeline would threaten agricultural land and rare black oak savanna habitat, and that the time has passed for new fossil fuel infrastructure.
“The community wants renewable energy,” said Fred Carter, a co-founder of the Black Oaks Center for Sustainable Renewable Living in Pembroke who also grows swiss chard, eggplant, cantaloupes, okra, and other crops on his farm. “This pipeline is a direct assault to the agricultural potential of this community.” 08-27-21
How to avoid greenwashing and harmful pesticides in lawn care
Credit: Kyle Richard/flickr
Organic? Natural? Companies are looking to cash in on consumers’ desire for environmentally friendly options.
Natural. Holistic. Eco-friendly. What do these terms mean when it comes to landscaping and lawn care?
Those looking to reduce their use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers are facing an increase in greenwashing. In 2012, Scott Miracle-Gro paid criminal fines and civil penalties for pesticide law violations, including affixing misleading labels to pesticides. In 2020, the non-profit organization Beyond Pesticides sued TruGreen over its claim to offer “environmentally friendly, sustainable lawn care services that use no chemicals that may cause cancer, allergic reactions, or other health or environmental harms”—statements that Beyond Pesticides asserts are false and deceptive. TruGreen uses glyphosate, classified as probably carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, as well as a weedkiller with a label warning of “irreversible eye damage” and “allergic reactions,” and a neurotoxic insecticide, according to Beyond Pesticides. This past July, California’s pesticide agency issued a warning that products marketed by EcoMIGHT as organic and natural contained potentially hazardous pesticides.
“It can get pretty confusing, because there’s not really a certification for organic landscaping,” Ryan Anderson, Community Integrated Pest Management Manager for Midwest Grows Green, a program of the non-profit IPM Institute of North America, told EHN. “Organic” claims are regulated by the federal government only in regard to food—so claims of “organic” for any other products are not regulated. 08-26-21
These Maps Tell the Story of Two Americas: One Parched, One Soaked
The country, like most of the world, is becoming both drier and wetter in the era of climate change. It depends where you live.
Source: NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information
In New York City, a tropical storm delivered record-breaking rainsthis weekend. Heavy downpours caused devastating flash floods in central Tennessee, tearing apart houses and killing more than 20 people. Yet, California and much of the West remained in the deepest drought in at least two decades, the product of a long-term precipitation shortfall and temperatures that are much hotter than usual.
This divide, a wetter East and a drier West, reflects a broader pattern observed in the United States in recent decades.
The map above, created using data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, shows the Eastern half of the country has gotten more rain, on average, over the last 30 years than it did during the 20th century, while precipitation has decreased in the West. (Thirty-year averages are often used by scientists to glean big-picture climate trends from temperature and precipitation data that varies substantially year-to-year.)
It’s not yet clear whether these changes in precipitation are a permanent feature of our warming climate, or whether they reflect long-term weather variability. But they are largely consistent with predictions from climate models, which expect to see more precipitation overall as the world warms, with big regional differences. Broadly: Wet places get wetter and dry places get drier.
“There’s variability from year to year,” and even decade to decade, said Andreas Prein, a project scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. “But climate change is slowly pushing this variability” toward wetter and drier extremes, he said. 08-24-21
How Can I Convince Doomers That It’s Not Too Late to Fight Climate Change?
NRDC senior scientist Kim Knowlton explains how to stay in the fight—not throw up your hands.
Q: “How do you answer the doomers when it comes to the pace, intensity, and quality of climate change? It’s hard to work on change if people think, ‘What’s the point? It won’t make a difference anyway.’”—CHRISTOPHER HOLLY
A: Some of the loudest voices on the climate crisis exist at the fringes—the deniers on one side, the doomers on the other. Convincing either to take action can feel like a losing battle, but remember that you, fellow climate change warrior, are not alone. There is tremendous progress happening in the middle, where all of us hoping to reduce the worst effects of climate change exist.
Engaging with someone who’s convinced there’s nothing to be done is a laudable goal. Show them past successes that have been meaningful to you and describe the role that each of us can play. NRDC senior scientist Kim Knowlton reminds us, “There is a great deal each of us can do, and little things add up to big things.” Billions of individual decisions are shaping our planet’s future every day. 08-13-21
A new scorecard ranked companies on environmental racism. Guess who came in last?
ExxonMobil and other oil companies got negative scores for polluting nonwhite communities.
ExxonMobil got last place on As You Sow’s racial justice scorecard, in large part due to its pollution of nonwhite communities in Beaumont, Texas. John Nacion / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images
ExxonMobil isn’t exactly known for being an environmental justice champion. But according to a scorecard published last week, the oil major is dead last among the S&P 500 companies when it comes to racial equity and environmental racism.
The scorecard was compiled by the shareholder advocacy group As You Sow, whose racial justice initiative aims to hold large corporations responsible for their contributions to systemic racism. It released an earlier version of the scorecard in March, evaluating the 500 largest publicly traded companies on 26 racial justice performance indicators — things like workplace diversity, promotion rates of employees of color, and donations to organizations fighting for racial justice.
But following criticism that the scorecard failed to capture big polluters’ impact on nonwhite communities, an update from As You Sow puts environmental justice front and center. One new criterion rewards companies for acknowledging environmental justice issues, and three others dock points from firms that have violated environmental regulations, incurred pollution penalties, or harmed nonwhite communities. This update, said Olivia Knight, manager of As You Sow’s Racial Justice Initiative, has helped paint a more complete racial justice profile for each company. “We see the environmental and racial justice as completely linked,” Knight said. “You can’t have racial justice without acknowledging and remedying environmental justice.” 08-23-21
Court axes permits for massive Alaska oil project backed by Biden
This 2016 photo shows ice forming on pipelines built near a drilling site on Alaska’s North Slope. A federal judge yesterday dealt a blow to ConocoPhillips’ Willow oil project in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. AP Photo/Mark Thiessen
A federal judge yesterday scrapped key approvals for a major Alaska drilling project that had drawn the support of the Biden administration.
In her order, Judge Sharon Gleason of the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska sided with arguments by Indigenous and environmental groups that the federal government had failed to consider the climate and wildlife impacts of the Willow oil and gas project in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.
“[A]s to the errors found by the Court, they are serious,” Gleason said.
ConocoPhillips Alaska Inc.’s Willow project would be a significant expansion of oil and gas operations in the reserve and was one of the biggest oil discoveries in recent years for Alaska’s declining North Slope industry. The $6 billion project would produce up to 100,000 barrels a day at peak production, and it is one of a limited set of oil and gas projects backed in court by the Biden administration.
While Gleason’s move doesn’t kill the project, the order wipes out a Trump-era approval that’s needed for construction to advance.
Asked whether the court decision would affect Willow’s viability, Rebecca Boys, a spokesperson for ConocoPhillips Alaska, said the company would “review the decision and evaluate the options available regarding this project.”
At issue in the Alaska district court lawsuit was a National Environmental Policy Act review conducted during the Trump administration by the Bureau of Land Management and a biological opinion issued by the Fish and Wildlife Service underpinning the Willow Master Development Plan. 08-19-21
Print Media Reports on Climate Change with 90% Accuracy, Study Finds
Image: Digital Buggu via Pexels
According to an international study from the University of Colorado Boulder and Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), major print media in five countries have covered climate change with a 90% accuracy rate over the last 15 years. The study found that coverage of man-made climate change is less frequently framed controversially and is becoming less biased. However, the study also found that conservative media has continued to report inaccurately on climate change and has adopted new, more subtle methods of undermining public support for climate action.
Why This Matters: Climate change science and policy can be intimidating for the average person. Many don’t have the time or resources to delve into peer-reviewed reports, science journals, and more to inform their votes and behaviors. Many people rely on news media for their climate change knowledge. According to Pew Research, in 2017, 43% of U.S. adults got their news primarily from online sources and 18% from print newspapers. About 50% received their news from broadcast media. The frequency and accuracy of climate change coverage on these platforms can determine how the public, and their elected officials, prioritize climate action. 08-18-21
Health care workers join the fight to stop the Line 3 pipeline
Migizi (Red Lake Nation) stands in front of a police line during a ceremony and demonstration for the water at an Enbridge drill site on the Red Lake River. August 3, 2021. Chris Trinh / Indigenous Environmental Network
Standing with Indigenous groups, physicians call on Biden to revoke Enbridge’s permit.
Medical professionals around the country rallied on Tuesday against the expansion of Enbridge’s Line 3 crude oil pipeline, calling it a threat to human and planetary health.
“The health of Minnesotans is at risk,” said Teddie Potter, director of planetary health at the University of Minnesota School of Nursing, addressing a crowd in St. Paul, Minnesota. “Tar sands oil threatens the health and wellness of future generations; we must stop the line.”
Enbridge has said the upgrade is needed for safety reasons, to reduce maintenance needs, and to “create fewer disruptions to landowners and the environment.” But opponents from the medical community disagree. According to Health Professionals for a Healthy Climate, or HPHC — the advocacy group that organized Tuesday’s nationwide protests — the project poses both immediate and long-term threats to Minnesota communities and Indigenous peoples, whether from an oil spill or from the pipeline’s contribution to climate change. 08-18-21
Government Declares Unprecedented Colorado River Water Shortage
Image: Adrille (edit by Aqwis) via Wikimedia Commons
For the first time in history, the federal government has declared a water shortage on the Colorado River after drought pushed the Lake Mead reservoir to all-time lows. The declaration triggers mandatory water consumption cuts for several Southwestern states. The reservoir and the Colorado river supply drinking water to over 40 million people. As drought becomes a permanent fixture across the Southwest, experts and officials are preparing not for temporary cuts but a long haul of water use regulation.
The Bureau of Reclamation within the Interior Department declared the shortage as it released a 24-month outlook for the Colorado River. The prognosis: by the end of 2021, Lake Mead will be at only 34% capacity, lower than it’s been since the reservoir was filled in the 1930s. In response, the government will institute Tier 1 cuts to lower basin states, including California, Nevada, and Arizona, but may institute cuts to the upper basin as the situation continues. These cuts are a part of a contingency plan developed and approved by California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming, along with input from Indigenous communities and Mexican officials. 08-16-21
Why This Matters: Experts say that this isn’t an anomaly, it’s a trend and one that will continue as climate change rages across the world. In the U.S., this trend has led to some of the largest wildfires on record, surges of heat-related deaths, and water resources plummeting. The U.S. and other signatories of the Paris Agreement countries have pledged to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, but experts say it’s becoming clear that we don’t have that long. Scientists now say that these record-breaking temperatures and the IPCC’s recent report should push all nations to increase their climate commitments before the COP26 conference in Glasgow this November.
California Panel Backs Solar Mandate for New Buildings
A state agency voted to require many new commercial structures, along with high-rise residential projects, to have solar power and battery storage.
Workers installing solar panels on the roof of Van Nuys Airport in Los Angeles in 2019.Credit…Richard Vogel/Associated Press
LOS ANGELES — California regulators voted Wednesday to require builders to include solar power and battery storage in many new commercial structures as well as high-rise residential projects. It is the latest initiative in the state’s vigorous efforts to hasten a transition from fossil fuels to alternative energy sources.
The five-member California Energy Commission approved the proposal unanimously. It will now be taken up by the state’s Building Standards Commission, which is expected to include it in an overall revision of the building code in December.
The energy plan, which would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2023, also calls for new homes to be wired in ways that ease and even encourage conversion of natural-gas heating and appliances to electric sources.
“The future we’re trying to build together is a future beyond fossil fuels,” David Hochschild, the chair of the Energy Commission, said ahead of the agency’s vote. “Big changes require everyone to play a role. We all have a role in building this future.”
The commercial buildings that would be affected by the plan include hotels, offices, medical offices and clinics, retail and grocery stores, restaurants, schools, and civic spaces like theaters, auditoriums and convention centers. 08-11-21
The UN report is scaring people. But what if fear isn’t enough?
“If you’re trying to get people to act on climate change, then fear is not going to do it.”
It had the feeling of a scheduled fire drill. The release of a long-awaited report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on Monday was met with appropriate alarm. The BBC warned that this was “code red for humanity.” The New York Times wrote, “A Hotter Future Is Certain.” A Guardian headlinestated that major changes to the climate were “inevitable” and “irreversible.”
Compared to previous versions, the latest U.N. report was unique in its emphasis on climate “tipping points” and used the most conclusive language about the state of climate science to date. The report’s first line was stark: “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land.” Many advocates hoped that the report would serve as a “final wake-up call” that would inspire “quick and decisive action.”
Underlying most efforts to push for action on climate change is the belief that some combination of awareness, concern, and worry will be enough to inspire people. But what if that premise is flawed? The field of climate communication has devoted countless studies to the question of what emotion — fear, hope, or some other state of mind — will prompt people to call up their elected officials, eat less meat, or do any other number of things to help stabilize the climate. The results have been largely conflicting and inconclusive. 08-12-21
Approval of the blueprint followed a marathon session of rapid-fire votes in which Republicans pelted Democrats with politically freighted amendments. Credit…Tom Brenner for The New York Times
The blueprint, which would expand Medicaid, provide free preschool and community college, and fund climate change programs, passed along party lines and faces an arduous path ahead.
WASHINGTON — The Senate took a major step early on Wednesday toward enacting a sweeping expansion of the nation’s social safety net, approving a $3.5 trillion budget blueprint along party lines that would allow Democrats to fund climate change, health care and education measures while increasing taxes on wealthy people and corporations.
After an unusual bipartisan approval of a $1 trillion infrastructure package aday earlier, the vote over unanimous Republican opposition allows Senate Democrats to create an expansive package that will carry the remainder of President Biden’s $4 trillion economic agenda. The Senate adopted the measure 50 to 49, with one lawmaker, Senator Mike Rounds, Republican of South Dakota, absent.
The blueprint, which could set in motion the largest expansion of the federal safety net in nearly six decades, faces a difficult road ahead as Democrats seek to flesh it out and turn it into law, one that will require their progressive and moderate wings to hold together with virtually no votes to spare.
Its passage came after a marathon session of rapid-fire votes in which Republicans, powerless to stop the measure in a Senate that Democrats control by Vice President Kamala Harris’s tiebreaking vote, instead pelted Democrats with politically freighted amendments. The votes dragged deep into the night for more than 14 hours before Democrats muscled through the measure minutes before 4 a.m. Wednesday, breaking into scattered applause. 08-11-21
From 1992 to 2017, heat killed 815 workers and seriously injured 70,000 in the United States.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is responsible for protecting workers, but it has ignored recommendations from the CDC and calls from occupational and environmental groups to set a threshold for temperatures that are dangerous to work in. A POLITICO and E&E News investigation found that across the past nine administrations, “bureaucracy and lack of political will combining to continually kick the can down the road.”
Why This Matters: Extreme heat is the top weather-related killer in the U.S yet no national standard exists to protect workers. OSHA protections would hold employers responsible for ensuring basic work conditions help mitigate heat hazards for workers. 08-09-21
A Hotter Future Is Certain, Climate Panel Warns. But How Hot Is Up to Us.
Water levels on Aug. 7 at Lake Oroville in Butte County, Calif. (top); and in 2020, before a megadrought made worse by climate change had reduced water levels at lakes and major reservoirs serving the American West.Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Some devastating impacts of global warming are now unavoidable, a major new scientific report finds. But there is still a short window to stop things from getting even worse.
Nations have delayed curbing their fossil-fuel emissions for so long that they can no longer stop global warming from intensifying over the next 30 years, though there is still a short window to prevent the most harrowing future, a major new United Nations scientific report has concluded.
Humans have already heated the planet by roughly 1.1 degrees Celsius, or 2 degrees Fahrenheit, since the 19th century, largely by burning coal, oil and gas for energy. And the consequences can be felt across the globe: This summer alone, blistering heat waveshave killed hundreds of people in the United States and Canada, floods have devastated Germany and China, and wildfires have raged out of control in Siberia, Turkey and Greece.
But that’s only the beginning, according to the report, issued on Monday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a body of scientists convened by the United Nations. Even if nations started sharply cutting emissions today, total global warming is likely to rise around 1.5 degrees Celsius within the next two decades, a hotter future that is now essentially locked in.
At 1.5 degrees of warming, scientists have found, the dangers grow considerably. Nearly 1 billion people worldwide could swelter in more frequent life-threatening heat waves. Hundreds of millions more would struggle for water because of severe droughts. Some animal and plant species alive today will be gone. Coral reefs, which sustain fisheries for large swaths of the globe, will suffer more frequent mass die-offs.
“We can expect a significant jump in extreme weather over the next 20 or 30 years,” said Piers Forster, a climate scientist at the University of Leeds and one of hundreds of international experts who helped write the report. “Things are unfortunately likely to get worse than they are today.” 08-09-21
‘Big Three’ automakers join Biden in electric car promises
Ford, GM, and Stellantis have vowed that up to 50% of their car sales will be electric by 2030.
Jim WATSON / AFP / Getty Images
The future of the auto industry is electric,” President Joe Biden said in a voiceover to a video posted on Twitter Wednesday night. “There’s no turning back.”
Automakers seem to agree with him. On Thursday, the “Big Three” American carmakers — Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler (now part of the Dutch auto giant Stellantis) — announced a goal of having 40 to 50 percent of their new vehicle sales by 2030 be electric, in line with a new Biden executive orderannounced the same day. That would represent a giant step forward for the electrification of transport: Current EV sales in the United States have hovered around a paltry 2 to 3 percent of the total car market over the past several years.
The commitments are indicative of a larger change in the automotive industry’s mindset toward electric vehicles, led by the president’s strategic support. Biden has boosted EVs at every opportunity, driving around a racetrack in the electric F-150 Lightning and promising to build 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations. Encouraging American-made EV sales allows the president to tackle multiple objectives at once: fighting climate change, creating “good-paying, union jobs,” and outcompeting China. Labor groups appear to be getting on board as well: The United Auto Workers Union, which represents more than 400,000 workers in North America, released a statementsupporting the 40 to 50 percent goal. 08-06-21
Big Oil spent $10 million on Facebook ads last year — to sell what, exactly?
Courtesy of InfluenceMap
A report found that the ads peaked when politicians were poised to act on climate.
Online advertisers are always trying to sell you something, and in the case of slip-on sneakers or leather handbags, that something is pretty clear. But other times, the motive behind a sponsored post is less transparent. Why, for instance, are oil companies buying prime space in your social media feed to prattle on about “innovative” climate solutions and visions of a “lower-carbon future”?
A new report makes the case that the oil and gas industry is trying to sell you a story — one that casts these companies as paragons of sustainability and seeks to delay policies that would address climate change. Last year, the oil and gas industry spent at least $9.6 million on ads on Facebook’s U.S. platform, according to an analysis by the think tank InfluenceMap. Just over half of this spending came from one company, ExxonMobil.
“The oil and gas industry is engaging in this really strategic campaign using social media and the tools available, particularly these targeting tools on Facebook, to reach a really broad audience pretty easily,” said Faye Holder, program manager at InfluenceMap. 08-05-21
Ford Announces It Will Spend More on EVs Than Gas-Powered Cars by 2023
Image: elisfkc2 via Wikimedia Commons
The Ford Motor Company has announced that it will be spending more on electric vehicles (EVs) than on internal combustion models in 2023. The news comes as the Biden administration continues negotiations with the nation’s automakers to ensure that 40% or more of all vehicles sold will be electric by the end of the decade. Ford says that the company and its customers are excited to see what the future holds as it unveils its first big wave of EVs.
Why This Matters: The Biden administration has pledged $174 billion to help Americans and automakers make the shift toward electric vehicles, and many automakers have responded with significant investments of their own. U.S. automakers have pledged about $65 billion to the EV race, but many have yet to pledge volumes or proportion of sales.
Ford’s vision isn’t a pipe dream; their smaller steps toward EVs have proven to be a huge success. Their Mach-E and the F-150 Lightning models have proven popular with the public, and Ford announced that these vehicles were very effective at attracting new customers. The company’s recent announcement should send a message to other, more hesitant automakers that a profitable, sustainable future is possible within this decade. 08-03-21
IPCC aims to elevate women’s voices in climate science
For too long, the world’s foremost scientific body on global warming has overlooked the contributions of female scientists and the unique impact of climate change on the planet’s roughly 3.8 billion women, advocates say.
Now the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is looking to change that way of thinking. The U.N. group has vowed to diversify its pool of scientists and sources of information, which could bring greater understanding of how global warming is affecting women — particularly those in frontline communities.
“In the beginning, we were just putting climate change on the map and letting people know there is this phenomenon, and we have some confidence this is happening,” said Ko Barrett, a vice chair of the IPCC and co-chair of its gender action team. “Now people are asking, ‘What does that mean for me and my country?’”
As the IPCC has delved into solutions and responses to today’s climate challenges, people like Barrett have championed the need for more diverse perspectives. That’s likely to be reflected in its next round of reports, she said.
“We’ve been producing IPCC reports for over 30 years, and it’s kind of a voluntary effort that is hugely successful because it draws from across the globe and the reports are accepted and approved by governments, so super influential,” Barrett explained. “But really there are aspects of the organization that we need to do a better job of formalizing.” 08-02-21
On Friday, endangered killer whales received new habitat protections from the federal government. As ABC News reported,
The National Marine Fisheries Service finalized rules to expand the Southern Resident orca’s critical habitat from the Canadian border down to Point Sur, California, adding 15,910 square miles (41,207 square kilometers) of foraging areas, river mouths and migratory pathways.
“These critically endangered orcas are finally getting the federal habitat protections they desperately need,” Julie Teel Simmonds, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, told the Associated Press.
“Resident” killer whales are fish eaters found along the coasts on both sides of the North Pacific. Southern Residents are the smallest of the ‘resident’ populations, are found mostly off British Columbia, Washington and Oregon, but also travel to forage widely along the outer coast. Their preferred food is Chinook salmon, thus conservation groups are also urging the increased protection of salmon in order to protect the orcas’ food source. 08-01-21