Table Of Contents

    Antarctica's Larsen C ice sheet is in danger of breaking away from the continent. A crack in the ice sheet, depicted above, has grown to be over 100 miles long and up to 2 miles wide. Image courtesy of NASA/John Sonntag via


    Veteran Republican Officials Seek to Make Climate Change a Bipartisan Issue with Carbon Fee and Dividend

    A coalition of veteran Republican officials have formed a new Climate Leadership Council (CLC) and proposed implementing a carbon fee and dividend system in an attempt to reduce fossil fuel consumption. The tax would begin at $40 per ton of carbon dioxide produced and would be collected where the fossil fuel enters the economy, like mines, wells or ports. At the end of each year, consumers would receive a dividend of the total money raised: around $2,000 for an average family of four. The idea of a carbon tax has been widely supported by economists, Democrats, and major oil companies alike. However, views differ about what to do with money raised by the carbon tax, with many Democrats and environmental activists suggesting that the money should go towards further environmental cleanup, while conservatives prefer the idea of the proposed dividend. Additionally, CLC's proposal would roll back the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan, leaving Republicans and Democrats divided on this component. The proposal is the first major show of support for climate change action by the Republican establishment.

    For more information see:

    Washington Post, New York Times

    Army Corps Grants Easement for Dakota Access Pipeline, Foregoes Promised Environmental Assessment

    On February 8, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officially granted an easement allowing for the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline. This measure will allow the final 1.5 miles to be built under the Missouri River, just north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. The project entails drilling a horizontal path under a section of the river, which requires no additional construction licenses, and therefore can commence almost immediately. The Army Corps canceled an environmental impact review ordered under President Obama and suspended the rules that would require them to wait 14 days to grant the easement after they had notified Congress. As a result, the pipeline's opponents have little time to prepare a legal challenge, but protestors are not giving up. Tom Goldtooth, director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, said, “The granting of an easement, without any environmental review or tribal consultation, is not the end of this fight — it is the new beginning."

    For more information see:

    Inside Climate News, NPR, The Hill

    Florida Gag Order on Climate Communication Hampers Local Planning Efforts

    Florida’s gag order on using the terms "global warming," "climate change," or "sea level rise" has affected efforts to plan for worsening flooding and extreme weather. The gag order on climate communication was implemented by Governor Rick Scott in 2014. Scott, who questioned the scientific consensus on climate change, did not ban studies on climate impacts entirely, but set priorities causing the government to “[disengage] from active statewide policy making and planning on sea level rise.” Leonard Berry, a climate scientist at Florida Atlantic University, cautioned that without coordinated leadership at the state level, it will be difficult to protect Florida's coastline. Florida’s issues represent a microcosm of what could occur at the federal level, if the Trump administration takes steps to curtail discussions on climate change. Furthermore, state and local government officials, scientists, and non-governmental organizations all rely on federal resources to deal with coastal climate impacts, making such capabilities vulnerable to federal budget cuts.

    For more information see:

    Scientific American


    Bangladesh Weighs Consequences of Coal Use against Demand for Cheap Electricity

    The Bangladeshi government hopes coal-fired power plants can feed the country's growing appetite for electricity, despite protests by its citizens against such projects. Bangladesh's energy minister, Nasrul Hamid, outlined a plan to install 23,000 megawatts of new coal power by 2022, representing a 48 percent increase in coal use for the developing nation. Over half of Bangladesh's current electricity needs are met by natural gas, but with gas reserves declining, the government is turning to coal. Critics say the government has not accounted for health, environmental, and climate costs in its assessment of the coal plants. Solar power holds promise, but a shortage of unused land has made increasing capacity difficult. Shahidul Islam Khan, a professor at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, said the government should do more, observing, "Renewable sources can bring power to inaccessible areas. We have some excellent achievements on popularizing the solar home systems in the rural areas." Currently, 80 percent of the country's population of 180 million has access to electricity, compared to 47 percent in 2009.

    For more information see:

    Climate Change News


    China Pursuing an Elevated Leadership Role on Climate Change to Foster International Relations

    A series of recent actions by Chinese government officials suggest the nation is working to position itself as a global leader on climate change. Xie Zhenhua, the special envoy to the UN Climate Change Conference, has stated, “China is capable of taking a leadership role in combating global climate change.” After the election of Donald Trump, President Xi Jinping called on the United States to preserve the “hard won” Paris Climate Agreement. Experts assert that China's climate stance is partly driven by a desire to improve foreign relations. “Due to its nature, addressing climate-change issues inherently entails cooperation among nations. Climate change concerns create a room for dialogues,” said Margareth Sembiring, senior analyst with the Centre for Non-traditional Security Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. China has created a multi-billion dollar fund to help developing countries finance climate mitigation and adaptation projects. However, China continues to maintain a stake in the coal industry, having funded several coal projects in Asian countries, including Vietnam, Indonesia, and Bangladesh.

    For more information see:

    South China Morning Post


    Renewable Energy Made Up Nearly 90 Percent of New Installed Capacity for European Union in 2016

    The vast majority of all new electricity generating capacity added to the European Union (EU) in 2016 consisted of renewable energy sources. The EU installed 24.5 gigawatts (GW) last year, with 86 percent coming from wind, solar, biomass, or hydro power. Wind farms accounted for more than half of the EU's installed capacity for the first time, surpassing coal as the EU's second largest source of electricity generation behind natural gas. Germany led wind installations in 2016, with France, the Netherlands, Finland, Ireland, and Lithuania all setting individual wind installation records. Despite support to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, there are concerns that political support for renewables may waiver after the EU's renewable energy targets expire in 2020. Europe's current installed wind capacity is 153.7 GW, but makes up less than 17 percent of the overall electric generating capacity of 918.8 GW. Industry watchers hope more government-forced coal plant closures, such as the United Kingdom's 2025 commitment, provide an opportunity for future renewable energy development.

    For more information see:



    Scientists Fear Science Will Take a Back Seat in the New EPA

    During a February 7 hearing by the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, the focus was on examining the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) “process for evaluating and using science during its regulatory decision-making activities.” Committee chair Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) said, "Over the last eight years the EPA has pursued a political agenda, not a scientific one.” Such statements have some Democrats and scientists concerned about what is to come for the EPA under the new administration. “I'm disappointed but not really surprised our very first hearing in this congress will be focused on attacking the EPA,” said Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), the committee's ranking member. During the hearing, hints emerged that the Republican's probe may go beyond EPA, with Rep. Smith accusing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of playing “fast and loose with data” and "falsifying the data to exaggerate global warming.”

    For more information see:

    Washington Post, Dallas Morning News, Associated Press


    Conservative Group Files Suit Pressuring NOAA to Release Unpublished Documents from Climate Study

    Judicial Watch, a conservative think tank, has pressured the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to release 8,000 pages of researchers’ communications after filing a suit alleging that the agency manipulated data in a June 2015 Science study to exaggerate global warming. The suit claims the study caused world leaders to be “duped into investing billions over manipulated global warming data.” The requested communications include correspondence between researchers’ private emails, and discussions of preliminary drafts of a peer-reviewed paper. In response to Judicial Watch’s calls for release of the unpublished work, three scientific advocacy groups have filed a legal brief defending the scientists, stating that such an act would deter scientists from practicing in the United States and stifle research in fields such as climate change. Though the pressure from Judicial Watch is not the first time a group has attempted to discredit findings they do not agree with by using scientists' preliminary work against them, many climate scientists fear that this trend will only increase under the new administration.

    For more information see:

    Inside Climate News, Carbon Brief


    Climate Change Could Open Up Russia's Northeast Passage for Half the Year by 2100

    According to a new study in Environmental Research Letters, the Northern Sea Route (also known as the Northeast Passage) could become navigable for more than half the year by the end of the century due to the warming climate. Since the 16th and 17th centuries, merchants have sought to navigate a Northeast Passage that would connect the waters of Russia and Scandinavia to those of North America, but were blocked by thick sea ice. However, the route running along Russia's Arctic coast has become increasingly accessible to shipping over the last two decades. Climate models indicated that a global average temperature increase of 2 degrees Celsius would make the route available for four months of the year, but an increase of 4- 5 degrees Celsius could open the route for six months annually. The study authors expect less ice in the Arctic to lead to larger waves and extreme winds, meaning traversing the Northeast Passage would remain a treacherous proposition.

    For more information see:

    Pacific Standard


    Antarctic Ice Shelf Is Ready to Break Apart, Setting in Motion a Severe Rise in Sea Levels

    Scientists monitoring the fourth-largest Antarctic ice shelf, Larsen C, predict that a major crack will soon span the entire length of the shelf. When that happens, the massive ice sheet will fully break off, producing one of the biggest icebergs ever to be recorded. The crack formed in an area particularly prone to warming and has grown at an increasingly fast pace in recent months. Since the end of 2016, it has expanded by the length of around five football fields every day. The researchers are even more worried, however, about the impact Larsen C’s degradation will have on the larger ice shelves behind it. “If the ice shelf breaks apart, it will remove a buttressing force on the glaciers that flow into it. The glaciers will feel less resistance to flow, effectively removing a cork in front of them.” The melting of these larger ice shelves will result in substantially higher sea level rise.

    For more information see:

    New York Times, Christian Science Monitor


    "Extreme" Changes Continue to Reshape the Arctic Environment

    Scientists have said during this past year the Arctic is “beyond even the extreme” as global climate change has altered the region. Arctic sea ice is sitting at a record low for this time of year and a new North Atlantic storm is about to bring more warm air in from the lower latitudes, bringing the Arctic temperatures near the freezing point. This shift in temperatures could magnify warming trends and begin to scramble weather patterns around the globe. The Arctic's four million residents will be directly impacted by these growing trends, with mid-latitude populations expected to experience more extreme weather events in the future. Models have consistently underestimated the level of ice loss in the past, leaving scientists concerned that the ice declines will beat current projections. Even the best-case scenario has the Arctic warming 4-5 degrees Celsius, with NOAA oceanographer James Overland, stating, "We really don’t have any clue about how disruptive that’s going to be."

    For more information see:

    Nature, Climate Central, National Snow and Ice Data Center



    Watchdog Organizations Sue Trump Administration Over "1-In-2-Out" Executive Order

    South Dakota Legislation Would Give Equal Billing to Climate Science and Skepticism in the Classroom

    Study: U.S. Coastal Cities Could Experience "High-Tide" Floods 120 Times a Year by 2045

    Over 400 Former EPA Staffers Ask Senate to Reject Scott Pruitt for Administrator Post

    Study: Kelp Forests May Help Reduce Oceanic Carbon Levels and Improve Fishery Health


    Events and Briefings

    2017 Energy Efficiency Global Forum (EE Global 2017)

    May 8-9, 2017

    Walter E. Washington Convention Center

    801 Mt. Vernon Place, NW, Washington, DC

    EE Global Forum 2017 is the leading international energy efficiency event, drawing hundreds of energy efficiency influencers for two days of discussion at its Plenary and Executive Dialogue sessions, and networking sessions aimed at driving actionable plans for the next generation of energy efficiency. EE Global features high caliber industry professionals, academics, and policymakers looking to create partnerships, discuss the latest technology and information and develop “best practices” policies and strategies for global implementation of energy efficiency. More information on this year’s EE Global can be found at

    EESI is a strong proponent of energy efficiency and has pledged its support for EE Global as an endorsing organization.

    The EE Global forum is an invitation-only event—energy efficiency professionals, academics, and policymakers are encouraged to apply for an invitation.


    The High-Voltage Grid: Its Operations, Challenges, and Benefits
    Thursday, February 16 
    2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
    Room 385 Russell Senate Office Building
    Constitution Avenue and 1st Street, NE

    WIRES, the House Grid Innovation Caucus, the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), and the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) invite you to an important briefing on the modernization of the nation's critical network of high-voltage transmission. Designed and built well before the digital age to serve more localized customer loads, the "grid" is struggling to support active and increasingly competitive wholesale power markets that now operate regionally. It is often congested or inadequate to deliver domestic energy resources that are not close to customers. Modern transmission infrastructure is the fundamental enabler of competition, new technologies, and our high standard of living. Upgrading and expanding the system is a priority.

    2:00 pm - Introductory remarks - Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA) and Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH)
    2:30 pm - Transmission 101: How The Grid Works - Adriann McCoy, Smart Wires Inc
    3:00 pm - The State of the Grid and the Challenges of Regional Transmission Planning with Clair Moeller, Midcontinent ISO; Mike Ross, Southwest Power Pool; and Craig Glazer, PJM Interconnection

    Moderator: James Hoecker, WIRES Counsel, former Chair, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

    A live webcast will be streamed at 2:00 PM EST at

    Free and open to the public. Please RSVP to expedite check-in.


    Writers: Andrew Wollenberg, Emma Dietz, and Ben Topiel

    Editor: Brian La Shier