Environment

Trump advisers to discuss whether U.S. stays in Paris climate pact: official

27 Apr 2017   Climate, USA

White House advisers and Trump administration officials will meet on Thursday to discuss whether the United States should remain in the Paris climate agreement, a White House official said on Wednesday. The meeting, which will include member of the National Economic Council and cabinet officials such as Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt and Energy Secretary Rick Perry, was scheduled for 1:30 P.M. EDT (1730 GMT) after being postponed earlier this month. The administration is expected to make a decision on whether to remain a party to the deal by the time leaders of the Group of Seven wealthy nations meet in late May. The accord, agreed by nearly 200 countries in Paris in 2015, […]

Perry Says Trump Should Keep Paris Climate Deal and Renegotiate

26 Apr 2017   Climate, USA

Energy secretary says he won’t advise Trump to abandon UN deal Perry criticizes Germany for allowing emissions to rise U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry said the U.S. should renegotiate the Paris accord on climate change instead of abandoning it, criticizing Germany for allowing its fossil-fuel emissions to rise. “I’m not going to tell the president of the United States to walk away from Paris accord,” Perry said at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance conference in New York on Tuesday. “I will say that we need to renegotiate it.” US @SecretaryPerry will recommend @POTUS renegotiate the Paris agreement; asks EU countries for fewer words, more action. #BNEFSummit pic.twitter.com/3XmDLApkwr — BloombergNEF (@BloombergNEF) April 25, 2017 The remark puts Perry among a group of advisers urging President Donald Trump to stick with the United Nations accord that he vowed to scrap during his campaign last year. The White House has said it […]

Converting Coal Would Help China’s Smog At Climate’s Expense

25 Apr 2017   China, Climate

China’s conversion of coal into natural gas could prevent tens of thousands of premature deaths each year. But there’s a catch: As the country shifts its use of vast coal reserves to send less smog-inducing chemicals into the air, the move threatens to undermine efforts to rein in greenhouse gas emissions, researchers said Tuesday. The environmental trade-off points to the difficult choices confronting leaders of the world’s second largest economy as they struggle to balance public health and financial growth with international climate change commitments. Between 20,000 and 41,000 premature deaths annually could be prevented by converting low-quality coal in the country’s western provinces into synthetic natural gas for residential use, according to the findings of researchers from the United States and China published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. If the gas were used for industrial purposes, fewer deaths would be averted […]

Trump’s EPA To Reconsider Oil And Gas Emissions Rule

20 Apr 2017   Climate, USA

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will reconsider a rule on greenhouse gas emissions from oil and gas operations and delay its compliance date, the agency said on Wednesday in the Trump administration’s latest move to reduce regulations. Oil interest groups, including the American Petroleum Institute and the Texas Oil and Gas Association, had petitioned the EPA a year ago to reconsider the rule limiting emissions of methane and other pollutants from new and revamped oil and gas wells and systems. The EPA said in a statement that it would delay the rule’s June 3 compliance date by 90 days and take public comments during that period. Under Democratic President Barack Obama, the EPA released the first methane limits on the facilities in May 2016, […]

EPA moves to undo tougher pollution limits on coal plants

15 Apr 2017   Climate

The Trump administration is moving to rewrite Obama-era rules limiting water pollution from coal-fired power plants. Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, sent a letter announcing his decision to a coalition of energy companies that lobbied against the 2015 water pollution regulations. The rule would have required utilities by next year to cut the amounts of toxic heavy metals in the wastewater piped from their plants into rivers and lakes often used as sources of drinking water. Arsenic, lead and mercury and other potentially harmful contaminates leach from massive pits of waterlogged ash left behind after burning coal to generate electricity. The Utility Water Act Group petitioned Pruitt last month to reverse course on the regulations, which they claim would result in plant closures and job losses. Pruitt responded Wednesday, saying he would delay compliance with the rule while […]

Lawmakers Confuse Themselves on Climate Change

7 Apr 2017   Climate, USA

Last week, the day after President Trump signed an executive order to undo his predecessor’s efforts to fight climate change, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology held a hearing that encapsulated everything that’s wrong with the way U.S. lawmakers handle science. Global warming is a time-sensitive threat; greenhouse gases are accumulating in the atmosphere, threatening a sharp increase in heat waves, droughts, and floods by mid-century (and eventually, the melting and collapse of the ice sheets at the Earth’s poles). But last week’s hearing, titled “Climate Science: Assumptions, Policy Implications, and the Scientific Method” and chaired by Texas Republican Lamar Smith, meandered from one tangent after another. A good chunk of time was spent questioning whether Penn State University climatologist Michael Mann called a colleague who disagreed with him “a carnival barker” and “a denier pundit.” Some evidence was presented that he had. But does this diminish […]

Global Shipping Fleet Braces for Chaos of $60 Billion Fuel Shock

Little more than 2 1/2 years from now, the global fleet of merchant ships will have to reduce drastically how much sulfur their engines belch into the atmosphere. While that will do good things — like diminishing the threat of acid rain and helping asthma sufferers — there’s a $60 billion sting in the tail. That’s how much more seaborne vessels may be forced to spend each year on higher-quality fuel to comply with new emission rules that start in 2020, consultant Wood Mackenzie Ltd. estimates. For an industry that hauls everything from oil to steel to coal, higher operating costs will compound the financial strain on cash-strapped ship owners, whose vessels earn an average of 70 percent less than they did just before the 2008-09 recession. The consequences may reach beyond the 90,000-ship merchant fleet, which handles about 90 percent of global trade. Possible confusion over which carriers […]

Beijing issues air pollution orange alert

4 Apr 2017   China, Climate

Beijing upgraded its alert for air pollution to orange Monday afternoon, the second highest warning. The smog, affecting Beijing and adjacent Tianjin and Hebei, is forecast to last until Friday. Beijing had issued the yellow alert early Monday morning, but the density of hazardous fine particle matter PM2.5 continued to grow. “The wind is not strong enough and the air quality is likely to get worse,” said the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau. The Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center forecasts that PM2.5 readings will be between 200 and 220 micrograms per cubic meter Tuesday. Under the orange alert, outdoor paint and construction is suspended; trucks carrying garbage, sand and soil are taken off roads; and outdoor activities in kindergartens, middle schools and primary schools are stopped. Beijing has a four-tier color alert system for pollution, with red being the highest, followed by orange, yellow […]

New York, other states challenge Trump over energy efficiency

4 Apr 2017   Climate

A coalition of U.S. states and municipalities has begun legal action against President Donald Trump’s administration, accusing it of violating federal law by delaying energy efficiency standards for several consumer and commercial products. The legal action was announced on Monday by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York)

Climate change becomes unavoidable for investors

3 Apr 2017   Climate

To Jeremy Grantham, co-founder and chief investment strategist of the Boston asset manager GMO, the earth’s changing temperature is an investment imperative as well as a question of ethics.  “The climate is moving much faster than people think, and the responses are going to move much faster as well”, he says, arguing that measures to help polluters announced last week by the administration of Donald Trump may ultimately prove helpful.  “Doing his absolute worst will galvanise the response”, says Mr Grantham, a veteran investor whose current ideas include buying unloved copper miners for a world where cars are filled with electrical wiring, instead of combustion engines.  Such an approach might strike some as premature, and the veteran investor has form in being right, but too early, refusing to buy internet stocks long before the crash, for instance. Yet a US executive order designed to unwind efforts by the previous president to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants makes the question of timing unavoidable, even if it suggests policy may move slowly in the US highlights questions facing investors around the world: when, and how, should investors take climate change into account when deciding what to buy and sell?  For many asset managers and pension funds such long-term issues used to be shunted to teams responsible for developing policies on environmental, social and governance issues. Worthy, but perhaps peripheral for those paid according to investment profits.

Nations Renew Climate Vows, Press Trump to Do Same

30 Mar 2017   Climate

European officials issued rebukes and officials around Asia said they would continue their drive toward cleaner fuels after President Donald Trump laid the groundwork to reverse his predecessor’s climate-change policies. Mr. Trump, citing the need to revive the U.S. coal industry and ease the regulatory burden, began Tuesday​to repeal the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan of stricter carbon-dioxide limits on utilities. …

Exxon Dealt a Blow as Texas Judge Sends Climate Suit to NY

30 Mar 2017   Climate

Exxon Mobil Corp.’s attempt to derail a multistate fraud probe into whether the company fully disclosed to investors the financial risks of climate change was dealt a major blow after a Texas judge moved the case from its home turf to a federal court in Manhattan. Texas isn’t the right venue for Exxon’s lawsuit against New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and his Massachusetts counterpart, Maura Healey, because the claims revolve around events in Manhattan, a judge in Dallas ruled Wednesday. Exxon argues that the joint investigation into possible consumer and securities fraud was started in “bad faith.” The Exxon case involves “important issues,” U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade said in his ruling. But it belongs in New York because the alleged collusion at the center of the lawsuit took place at a “United for Clean Power” press conference on March 29, 2016, in Manhattan, he said. […]

Exxon urges Trump to keep US in Paris climate accord

29 Mar 2017   Climate

ExxonMobil, the largest American oil group, has written to the Trump administration urging it to keep the US in the Paris climate accord agreed at the end of 2015. In a letter to President Donald Trump’s special assistant for international energy and the environment, Exxon argues that the Paris accord is “an effective framework for addressing the risks of climate change”.  The letter was sent last week, but has emerged as Mr Trump is preparing to announce executive orders beginning a rollback several of Barack Obama’s climate policies, while leaving the question of Paris open. Trump administration officials have said a decision on participation in Paris is still “under discussion”, and have been soliciting views from US energy companies.  Exxon argues in its letter that there are several reasons for the US to stay in the Paris accord, including the opportunity to support greater use of natural gas, which creates lower carbon dioxide emissions than coal when burnt for power generation.  Several other large international oil companies, particularly in Europe, have also backed action to address climate change that could benefit them by boosting demand for gas.

Trump Signs Executive Order Unwinding Obama Climate Policies

29 Mar 2017   Environment

President Trump, flanked by company executives and miners, signed a long-promised executive order on Tuesday to nullify President Barack Obama’s climate change efforts and revive the coal industry, effectively ceding American leadership in the international campaign to curb the dangerous heating of the planet. Mr. Trump made clear that the United States had no intention of meeting the commitments that his predecessor had made to curb planet-warming carbon dioxide pollution, turning denials of climate change into national policy.

Trump’s Executive Order Pushes the U.S. Climate Pledge Further Out of Reach

29 Mar 2017   Climate

During his first two months in office, President Donald J. Trump has rolled back key Obama-era greenhouse gas regulations. Without these rules in place, the United States is set to fall far short of its 2015 Paris Agreement pledge: to lower emissions by at least 26 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. Here is how some of President Barack Obama’s signature policies have fared so far under the Trump administration: Obama-era policies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions In an executive order released Tuesday, Mr. Trump instructed the Environmental Protection Agency to reverse course on the Obama administration’s biggest climate change policy, the Clean Power Plan, which aimed to cut emissions from existing coal- and gas-fired power plants. If implemented to its fullest extent, the plan would have reduced carbon emissions by nearly 650 megatons by 2025 – just under halfway to the Paris pledge, according to an analysis by […]

Trump to Sign Executive Order to Roll Back Obama Climate-Change Policies

28 Mar 2017   Climate, USA

President Donald Trump will sign an executive order Tuesday taking steps to unravel the most contentious climate-change policies of his predecessor, the White House said. The Trump administration will formally review President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which requires utilities to reduce power plant carbon-dioxide emissions 32% below 2005 levels by 2030, a senior White House official said Monday night. Officials will…

Trump poised to undo Obama actions on climate change

28 Mar 2017   Climate, USA

Donald Trump is to launch a far-reaching effort to undo Barack Obama’s environmental legacy by signing an executive order to roll back the former president’s action against climate change and boost fossil fuel power. By seeking to abolish Mr Obama’s effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants — an executive order known as the Clean Power Plan — Mr Trump’s order strikes at the heart of the US commitments made in the landmark 2015 Paris climate deal. The order has limited immediate effects but it shows that Mr Trump is not backing down from the climate change scepticism of his campaign and sets out a blueprint for dismantling a central part of Mr Obama’s legacy. Mr Trump’s directive will reverse half a dozen Obama executive orders on climate change, including lifting a moratorium of new coal mining on US federal land.  “When it comes to climate change we want to take our own course,” a senior White House official told reporters on Monday evening. The official called the executive order “the beginning framework” for the administration’s “new strategy” on energy policy.  “The policy is in keeping with the president’s desire to make the United States energy-independent,” the official said.

Planned Rollback of Climate Rules Unlikely to Achieve All Trump’s Goals

28 Mar 2017   Climate, USA

President Trump is expected to sign an executive order on Tuesday to roll back most of President Barack Obama’s climate change legacy, celebrating the move as a way to increase the nation’s “energy independence” and to restore thousands of lost coal mining jobs. But energy economists say the expected order falls short of both of those goals — in part because the United States already largely relies on domestic sources for the coal and natural gas that fires most of the nation’s power plants. “We don’t import coal,” said Robert Stavins, an energy economist at Harvard University. “So in terms of the Clean Power Plan, this has nothing to do with so-called energy independence whatsoever.” Administration officials said the new order would direct the Environmental Protection Agency to start the legal process of withdrawing and rewriting the Clean Power Plan, Mr. Obama’s climate change policy . Scott Pruitt, the […]

How Do We Know That Humans Are Causing Climate Change? These Nine Lines of Evidence

28 Mar 2017   Climate, USA

While most Americans acknowledge that climate change is happening, some are still unsure about the causes. They are often labeled “climate skeptics,” but that label can cause confusion or even anger. Isn’t the nature of science to be skeptical? Isn’t it good to question everything? Yes, but — Here’s what is getting lost in the conversation: Scientists have been asking these questions for nearly 200 years . The scientific community has been studying these questions for so long that collectively they have amassed an overwhelming amount of evidence pointing to a clear conclusion. A similar situation is smoking and cancer. Nowadays, no one questions the link between smoking and cancer, because the science was settled in the 1960s after more than 50 years of research. The questions have been asked and answered with indisputable evidence. We can think of the state of human activities and climate change as no […]

California Upholds Auto Emissions Standards, Setting Up Face-Off With Trump

25 Mar 2017   Air Quality

California’s clean-air agency voted on Friday to push ahead with stricter emissions standards for cars and trucks, setting up a potential legal battle with the Trump administration over the state’s plan to reduce planet-warming gases. The vote, by the California Air Resources Board, is the boldest indication yet of California’s plan to stand up to President Trump’s agenda. Leading politicians in the state, from the governor down to many mayors, have promised to lead the resistance to Mr. Trump’s policies. Mr. Trump, backing industry over environmental concerns, said easing emissions rules would help stimulate auto manufacturing. He vowed last week to loosen the regulations. Automakers are aggressively pursuing those changes after years of supporting stricter standards. But California can write its own standards because of a longstanding waiver granted under the Clean Air Act , giving the state — the country’s biggest auto market — major sway over the […]

ExxonMobil Just Got Hit By This Fast-Rising New Energy Problem

25 Mar 2017   Climate

Big developments this week on a new challenge quickly rising for the energy industry… and beyond. Climate change reporting. ExxonMobil lost a key decision in an ongoing climate change battle Wednesday. When a New York judge ordered the oil giant to turn over correspondence from its executives on potential impacts of changing temperatures on the company’s business. That all comes out of an investigation launched by New York ‘s Attorney General. To determine if oil companies like Exxon have been misleading investors with regards to material business risks posed by climate change. If the courts find Exxon has been reticent in reporting climate risks, it opens the firm to significant regulatory fines and investor lawsuits. It would also allow regulators and prosecutors to go after other companies across the energy space. And it isn’t just in the U.S. where climate change reporting is becoming a big issue. Canadian securities […]

Climate Change May Be Intensifying China’s Smog Crisis

24 Mar 2017   China, Climate

Chinese leaders, grappling with some of the world’s worst air pollution, have long assumed the answer to their woes was gradually reducing the level of smog-forming chemicals emitted from power plants, steel factories and cars. But new research suggests another factor may be hindering China ’s efforts to take control of its devastating smog crisis: climate change . Changing weather patterns linked to rising global temperatures have resulted in a dearth of wind across northern China, according to several recent studies, exacerbating a wave of severe pollution that has been blamed for millions of premature deaths. Wind usually helps blow away smog, but changes in weather patterns in recent decades have left many of China’s most populous cities poorly ventilated, scientists say. The findings, some of the first to link climate change to smog, may escalate pressure on Chinese leaders to move more swiftly to shutter steel […]

Record precipitation, snowpack in California expected to increase hydro generation in 2017

24 Mar 2017   Climate, USA

Drought Monitor Republished March 23, 2017, 11:30 a.m. to correct the percentage of California still in D1 status. For the first time since 2011, California’s drought is significantly weakening—a result of one of the wettest winters on record. California has experienced record levels of precipitation this winter, and unlike last winter, cooler temperatures over the 2016–2017 winter season have enabled the precipitation to build up snowpack (the total accumulated snow and ice on the ground). High precipitation and snowpack levels, both of which supply hydroelectric generators throughout the year, suggest that hydroelectric generation in California in 2017 will significantly exceed 2016 levels. Although the drought state of emergency declared by California authorities in January 2014 is still in place, drought conditions have noticeably improved, and the northern half of the state is no longer classified in any stage of drought severity. The area of […]

Gulf of Mexico waters are freakishly warm, which could mean explosive springtime storms

23 Mar 2017   Climate

Sea surface temperature difference from average. (WeatherBell.com) Water temperatures at the surface of the Gulf of Mexico and near South Florida are on fire. They spurred a historically warm winter from Houston to Miami and could fuel intense thunderstorms in the spring from the South to the Plains. In the Gulf, the average sea surface temperature never fell below 73 degrees over the winter for the first time on record, reported Eric Berger of Ars Technica . Galveston, Tex., has tied or broken an astonishing 33 record highs since Nov. 1, while neighboring Houston had its warmest winter on record. Both cities have witnessed precious few days with below-normal temperatures since late fall. Average temperature rankings along the coast of the western Gulf of Mexico this winter. (Southeast Regional Climate Center) More often than not, temperatures have averaged at least 10 degrees warmer than normal. “The consistency and persistence […]

Thousands of underground gas bulges, formed by thawing permafrost, set to ‘explode’ in Siberia

23 Mar 2017   Climate

Local Siberian media has reported that the very ground that people stand on is moving under their feet in the arctic regions of Siberia. Scientists have discovered 7000 gas filled bubbles according to the Siberian Times.  These, bulges or ‘bulgunyakh’ in the local Yakut language, were originally discovered last year by researchers in Siberia’s remote Bely Island. At that time only 15 of these bubbles had been identified, but a survey in the wider region of the Yamal and Gydan peninsulas has revealed the massive number of 7000 which some scientists fear may explode at any time.  There is startling photo evidence in the Siberian Times article that is worth your time to see.

From the article:

The region has seen several recent examples of sudden ‘craters’ or funnels forming from pingos after what scientists believe are caused by eruptions from methane gas  released by the thawing of permafrost which is triggered by climate change. ‘We need to know which bumps are dangerous and which are not,’ said Titovsky. ‘Scientists are working on detecting and structuring signs of potential threat, like the maximum height of a bump and pressure that the earth can withstand.’

Trump Lays Plans to Reverse Obama’s Climate Change Legacy

22 Mar 2017   Climate, USA

President Trump is poised in the coming days to announce his plans to dismantle the centerpiece of President Barack Obama ’s climate change legacy, while also gutting several smaller but significant policies aimed at curbing global warming. The moves are intended to send an unmistakable signal to the nation and the world that Mr. Trump intends to follow through on his campaign vows to rip apart every element of what the president has called Mr. Obama’s “stupid” policies to address climate change. The timing and exact form of the announcement remain unsettled, however.

Trump’s Budget: Valuing Military Over Energy

22 Mar 2017   Climate, USA

Last week President Trump unveiled his budget blueprint , which detailed savage cuts to most areas of discretionary spending while boosting defense outlays by a whopping $54 billion. Nearly all government agencies were major losers under the President’s budget, except for those dealing with defense and border security. The Department of Energy would see a 5.6 percent cut, or a reduction of $1.7 billion. But digging into those numbers, certain areas of DOE were winners while others were losers. Areas of DOE dealing with clean energy, smart grid technologies, and electric vehicles are either entirely eliminated or suffer steep cuts. Meanwhile, DOE’s nuclear weapons programs, where the bulk of the agency’s funding is allocated, would see an 11 percent increase. The blueprint also includes $120 million to restart the licensing for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage facility in Nevada, which has been on ice for years. One item […]

Sea change needed for low-carbon economy

21 Mar 2017   Climate

Nearly 70 percent of all new cars need to be electric and $3.5 trillion in annual investments are needed to keep global warming at bay, a new report found. The International Energy Agency last week said energy-related emissions were flat for the third year in a row as world economies move away from coal to cleaner-burning resources like natural gas. A new report , however, finds more work is needed to limit the rise of the global mean temperature. A report published by the IEA and the International Renewable Energy Agency found the share of fossil fuels used to satisfy energy demand would need to be cut in half by 2050 and emissions would need to fall more than 70 percent to keep the mean […]

Clean Energy Can Bring $10 Trillion Annual Benefits By 2050

21 Mar 2017   Climate

A dramatically increased share of renewables and higher energy efficiency have the potential to create benefits of up to $10 trillion annually by 2050, compared to estimated incremental system costs of decarbonization of $1.8 trillion annually, according to a new report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the International Energy Agency (IEA). Global GDP could be boosted by around 0.8 percent in 2050, or $1.6 trillion, while the cumulative gain through increased GDP from now to 2050 will amount to $19 trillion, the two agencies said in their joint report ‘Perspectives for the Energy Transition – Investment Needs for a Low-Carbon Energy System’, which was prepared at the request of the German government to provide input for the G20 presidency. However, the IEA noted that limiting the global mean temperature increase to below 2°C with a probability of 66% would “require an energy transition of exceptional scope, […]

How Americans Think About Climate Change, in Six Maps

21 Mar 2017   Climate

Americans want to restrict carbon emissions from coal power plants. The White House and Congress may do the opposite. Percentage of adults per congressional district who support strict CO2 limits on existing coal-fired power plants A majority of adults in every congressional district in the nation support limiting carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal-fired power plants. But many Republicans in Congress (and some Democrats) agree with President Trump, who this week may move to kill an Obama administration plan that would have scaled back the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. Nationally, about seven in 10 Americans support regulating carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants – and 75 percent support regulating CO2 as a pollutant more generally. But lawmakers are unlikely to change direction soon. Bob Inglis, a former Republican congressman from South Carolina, warned that committed activists — like the Tea Party — can shape politicians’ approaches to issues like […]

IRENA, IEA study concludes meeting 2˚C scenario possible with net positive economics

20 Mar 2017   Climate

Global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions can be reduced by 70% by 2050 and completely phased-out by 2060 with a net positive economic outlook, according to new findings released by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the International Energy Agency (IEA). Perspectives for the Energy Transition: Investment Needs for a Low-Carbon Energy Transition —a joint study by IRENA and the IEA—launched on the occasion of the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue, presents the case that increased deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency in G20 countries and globally can achieve the emissions reductions needed to keep global temperature rise to no more than two-degrees Celsius, avoiding the most severe impacts of climate change. The Paris Agreement reflected an unprecedented international determination to act on […]

Sierra Club says EPA’s Pruitt flouting integrity rules

17 Mar 2017   Climate

Following a review of fuel economy standards from the White House, the Sierra Club said it filed a complaint against the EPA for violating integrity rules. President Donald Trump vowed during a visit to the American Center for Mobility near Detroit to review, or possibly revoke , guidelines submitted by his predecessor that were aimed at putting more clean vehicles on the road. Former President Barack Obama during his second term in office issued a mandate that called for an increase in fuel economy to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The Obama administration said the goal of the mandate was to curb greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector, the economic sector […]

Sharp drop in US emissions keeps global levels flat

17 Mar 2017   Climate

Climate-warming emissions from burning fossil fuels have remained flat for a third year in a row in a development that suggests a shift to a greener global economy is happening faster than previously thought. A striking drop in carbon pollution in the US, where emissions fell back to what they were in 1992, helped to keep global CO2 levels in 2016 virtually unchanged from the two previous years, the International Energy Agency said. “This is a very welcome development,” said Fatih Birol, IEA executive director. “It appears we now have the first signs of an established trend of flat emissions as a result of natural gas replacing coal in major markets and renewables becoming more and more affordable.” Mr Birol said it was especially significant that emissions stayed flat during a period of sustained global economic growth, currently about 3 per cent per annum.

Trump reopens review of US fuel efficiency standards

Donald Trump on Wednesday ordered the reopening of a review of future fuel economy and emissions standards for US cars, in a move that could slow down development of electric vehicles and new efficiency technologies. Regulations confirming standards for vehicle emissions in 2022-25, which were hurried through in the final fortnight of Barack Obama’s administration, will instead be reviewed next year. The Obama administration estimated that the rules would cost car manufacturers in the US $33bn. The new administration’s move, which had been sought by the large car manufacturers, coincided with a visit by the president to Michigan to meet industry executives and workers. Addressing autoworkers bussed to a disused factory outside Detroit which the President said had been used during the second world war to build B-24 bombers, Mr Trump promised to “make Detroit the car capital of the world again” adding: “we are going to restore the originally scheduled midterm review and ensure that any regulations we have protect your jobs.” Jessica Caldwell, analyst at Edmunds, said the emissions targets had forced manufacturers to shift research and development budgets from the trucks and SUVs consumers most wanted towards electric vehicles and hybrids, whose sales are shrinking. “Trump is likely scoring points with the auto executives by promising to rethink these regulations, but he’s making it clear he expects the automakers to return the favor by ramping up investments here in the US,” she said.

EPA re-opens Mid-Term Evaluation Process for light-duty vehicle greenhouse gas standards 2022-2025

Administrator Scott Pruitt and Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced that EPA intends to reconsider its final determination issued on 12 January 2017 which recommended no change to the greenhouse gas standards for light duty vehicles for model years 2022- 2025. ( Earlier post .) EPA will reconsider that determination in coordination with NHTSA as part of a renewed Mid-Term Evaluation process. This process was established as a part of the 2012 final greenhouse gas emissions standards for model years 2017-2025, requiring EPA to determine no later than 1 April 2018 whether the greenhouse gas standards for model years 2022-2025 established are appropriate. In coordination with EPA, the DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is evaluating its fuel economy standards for that period. In accord with this schedule, […]

Trump to Drop Climate Change From Environmental Reviews, Source Says

15 Mar 2017   Climate

President Donald Trump is set to sign a sweeping directive to dramatically shrink the role climate change plays in decisions across the government, ranging from appliance standards to pipeline approvals, according to a person familiar with the administration’s plan. The order, which could be signed this week, goes far beyond a targeted assault on Obama-era measures blocking coal leasing and throttling greenhouse gas emissions from power plants that has been discussed for weeks. Some of the changes could happen immediately; others could take years to implement. It aims to reverse President Barack Obama’s broad approach for addressing climate change. One Obama-era policy instructed government agencies to factor climate change into formal environmental reviews, such as that for the Keystone XL pipeline. Trump’s order also will compel a reconsideration of the government’s use of a metric known as the “social cost of carbon” that reflects the potential economic damage from […]

How James Inhofe is upending the nation’s energy and environmental policies

15 Mar 2017   Climate

For more than a decade, Sen. James M. Inhofe has raged against the scientific consensus that humans are fueling climate change, calling it “the greatest hoax” ever perpetrated on Americans. The Oklahoma Republican has blasted the Environmental Protection Agency as an “activist organization” that has unfairly burdened everyone from farmers to fossil-fuel companies. Now the man critics once dismissed as a political outlier has an unprecedented opportunity to shape the nation’s energy and environmental policies. And he has helped populate the upper ranks of the agency he has derided with several of his closest confidants. At least half a dozen former aides to Inhofe — and counting — have been hired into top positions at the EPA and the White House. The chief of staff and deputy chief of staff to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, a fellow Oklahoman and longtime friend of Inhofe, spent years working for the senator. […]

EPA Administrator Pruitt says rules must give market certainty

10 Mar 2017   Climate, USA

US Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt extended a hand of friendship to the energy industry Thursday, expressing his desire to reshape the office he heads into one that cooperates with stakeholders instead of one that creates economic uncertainty through its rulemaking. During a speech to global oil, gas and power leaders at the CERAWeek by IHS Markit conference in Houston, the former Oklahoma attorney general, who began his new job last month after a bruising confirmation process, said he wants to be a partner, not a foe, of the sectors EPA regulates. “I want the states to see the EPA as a friend, as a partner, and not an adversary,” Pruitt said. “Regulators ought not to use their authority to pick winners and losers.” Pruitt rushed out of the conference after his remarks without taking questions from reporters. Related CERAWeek story: FERC’s independent approach won’t change after Trump […]

On climate change, Scott Pruitt causes an uproar — and contradicts the EPA’s own website

10 Mar 2017   Climate

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt does a television interview in Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol before President Donald Trump delivers a speech to a joint session of Congress on February 28, 2017 in Washington, DC. Trump’s first address to Congress is expected to focus on national security, tax and regulatory reform, the economy, and healthcare. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images) This story has been updated. Scott Pruitt, the nation’s top environmental official, strongly rejected the established science of climate change on Thursday, outraging scientists, environmentalists, and even his immediate predecessor at the Environmental Protection Agency. “I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see,” Pruitt, the newly installed EPA […]

Rains Expose a New Water Problem in California: Storage

7 Mar 2017   Water

Since the beginning of the year, enough water has spilled out of California’s rain-swollen Lake Oroville to meet the demands of roughly 14 million people for a year. With no place to store the excess, much of it ended up flowing out to sea. It wasn’t just last month’s dramatic near-disaster at Lake Oroville’s dam that is to blame for the water loss. After years of drought, months of rains are exposing a major weakness…

Trump To Undo Fuel Efficiency Standards

7 Mar 2017   Climate, USA

The Trump administration is set to undo one of former President Obama’s signature achievements. On Tuesday, the EPA and the Transportation Department are expected to jointly announce the rollback of fuel efficiency requirements for the nation’s auto fleet, a move that will not require the approval of Congress. In the wake of the financial crisis and the crumbling of top U.S. automakers, the federal government bailed out General Motors and Chrysler, while other companies were severely damaged and barely survived the downturn. With their backs against the wall, the Obama administration was able to push through historic fuel efficiency requirements, known as corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards, the most stringent in decades. For cars made between 2012 and 2016, car companies had to achieve an average fuel economy of 35.5 miles per gallon, up from 25 mpg previously. For model years 2017-2025, fuel efficiency had to jump to […]

WHO attributes more than 1 in 4 deaths annually of children under 5 years to unhealthy environment

6 Mar 2017   Air Quality

In 2015, 5.9 million children under age five died. The major causes of child deaths globally are pneumonia, prematurity, intrapartum-related complications, neonatal sepsis, congenital anomalies, diarrhea, injuries and malaria. Most of these diseases and conditions are at least partially caused by the environment, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports . WHO estimated in 2012 that 26% of childhood deaths and 25% of the total disease burden in children under five could be prevented through the reduction of environmental risks such as air pollution, unsafe water, sanitation and inadequate hygiene or chemicals. Children are especially vulnerable to environmental threats due to their developing organs and immune systems, smaller bodies and airways. Harmful exposures can start as early as in utero. Furthermore, breastfeeding can be an important source of exposure to certain chemicals in infants; this should, however, not discourage breastfeeding which carries numerous positive health and developmental effects. Proportionate to […]

Oil and gas industry notches win with EPA emissions ruling

4 Mar 2017   Climate

An oil and trade group said steps by the Trump administration to ease regulatory burdens on emissions would help ensure American leadership on the energy stage. The Environmental Protection Agency said it was abandoning measures that called for the disclosure of methane emissions from oil and natural gas wells. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, though a handful of states argued the measure would inhibit the economic benefits of the oil and gas industry. Texas Attorney Gen. Ken Paxton said the measures, imposed in November, would have “dubious” environmental benefits. The American Petroleum Institute, which has challenged the EPA in court, said the steps taken by President Donald Trump eased what it considered unnecessary rules that impede […]

EPA Withdraws Obama-Era Requirement for Companies to Provide Methane Data

4 Mar 2017   Climate

The Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday it is withdrawing an Obama-era request that oil and natural gas companies provide information on methane emissions at their operations. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said the withdrawal is effective immediately, adding he wants to assess the need for the information the agency has…

Trump to Undo Vehicle Rules That Curb Global Warming

4 Mar 2017   Climate

 The Trump administration is expected to begin rolling back stringent federal regulations on vehicle pollution that contributes to global warming, according to people familiar with the matter, essentially marking a U-turn to efforts to force the American auto industry to produce more electric cars . The announcement — which is expected as soon as Tuesday and will be made jointly by the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Scott Pruitt, and the transportation secretary, Elaine L. Chao — will immediately start to undo one of former President Barack Obama’s most significant environmental legacies.

White House proposes steep budget cut to leading climate science agency

4 Mar 2017   Climate

The Trump administration is seeking to slash the budget of one of the government’s premier climate science agencies by 17 percent, delivering steep cuts to research funding and satellite programs, according to a four-page budget memo obtained by The Washington Post. The proposed cuts to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would also eliminate funding for a variety of smaller programs, including external research, coastal management, estuary reserves and “coastal resilience,” which seeks to bolster the ability of coastal areas to withstand major storms and rising seas. NOAA is part of the Commerce Department, which would be hit by an overall 18 percent budget reduction from its current funding level. The Office of Management and Budget also asked the Commerce Department to provide information about how much it would cost to lay off employees, while saying those employees who do remain with […]

EPA Withdraws Obama-Era Requirement for Companies to Provide Methane Data

The Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday it is withdrawing an Obama-era request that oil and natural gas companies provide information on methane emissions at their operations. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said the withdrawal is effective immediately, adding he wants to assess the need for the information the agency has…

Oil-Rich Oklahoma Still at Highest Risk of Man-Made Earthquakes

2 Mar 2017   Earthquakes

The number of tremors afflicting oil-rich Oklahoma has fallen since regulators began cracking down on the injection of wastewater from oil and natural gas wells, but the state still faces the highest risk of induced earthquakes in the nation. New seismicity maps released Wednesday by the U.S. Geological Survey show that a swath of Oklahoma and Southern Kansas are likely to experience high-magnitude earthquakes this year. USGS also identified the Raton Basin, straddling Colorado and New Mexico, as a high-hazard area. Oklahoma in recent years has seen a steep rise in the number of earthquakes clocking in at magnitude of 2.7 or higher. Geologists, including the USGS, attribute that spike to increased wastewater injection deep underground. The state more than doubled its crude output from 2011 through 2015 […]

UN Climate Chief’s Request to Meet Tillerson Goes Unanswered

2 Mar 2017   Climate

The top United Nations climate change official continues to wait for a response to her request to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson over whether the U.S. will remain in the landmark Paris environmental accord. Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, asked for a sitdown with Tillerson before leaving for a visit to the U.S. this week. In an interview Wednesday, she said she’d heard nothing from the State Department in return. Patricia Espinosa Photographer: Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg “I have not heard back. It is understandable at the beginning of an administration,’’ Espinosa said after speaking at a climate change conference in Chicago “They are a very important partner to us, and I’m looking forward to working together.’’ A State Department spokesman didn’t respond to a request for comment. Urging Action During her remarks in Chicago, Espinosa urged an audience of business […]

Federal 2017 quake forecast highlights Oklahoma, California

2 Mar 2017   Earthquakes

Federal scientists forecast that Oklahoma will continue to have the nation’s biggest man-made earthquake problem this year but it probably won’t be as shaky as recent years. In its annual national earthquake outlook , the U.S. Geological Survey reported Wednesday that a large portion of Oklahoma and parts of central California have the highest risk for a damaging quake this year: between 5 and 12 percent. The outlook is published in the journal Seismological Research Letters . Natural elevated quake risks exist through much of California, Seattle and the area where Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky and Illinois come together, known as New Madrid. Seismologists say Oklahoma’s problem is triggered by underground injections of huge volumes of wastewater from oil and gas drilling. USGS seismic hazard chief Mark Petersen says Oklahoma’s recent regulation wastewater injection is starting to work, so scientists slightly reduced Oklahoma’s […]