Table Of Contents

    The Trump administration has begun the process for rolling back EPA's latest fleet-wide automobile emission regulations, raising concerns for California's authority to adopt emission regulations stricter than the federal standard. Photo courtesy of Tatiane Santos via


    Trump's Budget Outline Slashes Agency Funding for Climate, Energy, and Environment Programs

    On March 16, the Trump administration released its so-called “skinny budget," previewing the slew of cuts it will formally propose to Congress in the full-length version. The largest agency-wide cuts were at the EPA (31 percent), the Department of State (29 percent), Agriculture (21 percent), Labor (21 percent), Health and Human Services (18 percent), and Commerce (16 percent). NASA would experience a one-percent cut overall, but would see virtually all of its funding for Earth science research, climate change programs, and education shut down. The only agencies to see an increase in spending were the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs. Many individual programs, including Energy Star, the Weatherization Assistance Program, ARPA-E, and the State Energy Program, would be eliminated entirely. When questioned by the press about the numerous climate change cuts in the budget, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney replied, "We're not spending money on [climate] anymore. We consider that to be a waste of your money to go out and do that."

    For more information see:

    Washington Post, The Hill, CNN

    Seventeen House Republicans Break Away from Party, Push for Climate Action

    On March 15, a group of 17 House Republicans broke from the majority position of their party and introduced a resolution calling for climate change solutions. Spearheaded by Rep. Elise Stefanik (NY), Rep. Carlos Curbelo (FL), and Rep. Ryan Costello (PA), H. Res. 195 acknowledges humanity's role in causing climate change and calls for a commitment to “mitigation efforts and efforts to balance human activities that have been found to have an impact.” The resolution suggests that the United States should seek economically viable solutions that include both private and public sector solutions. It also states that clean energy investment and innovation are critical to both job creation and addressing climate change. This resolution is similar to one introduced in 2015 by former Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY). While the new resolution has the momentum of the Paris Agreement on its side, it will likely face resistance from the White House. The other signatories include Representatives Amodei (NV), Bacon (NE), Comstock (VA), Faso (NY), Fitzpatrick (PA), Katko (NY), Love (UT), Ros-Lehtinen (FL), LoBiondo (NJ), Mast (FL), Meehan (PA), Reed (NY), Reichert (WA), and Sanford (SC).

    For more information see:

    The Hill, Bloomberg

    Defense Secretary Mattis Declares Climate Change a Threat to National Security

    In newly-released written testimony taken during his confirmation hearing with the Senate Armed Services Committee, Secretary of Defense James Mattis explained that climate change is an imminent and significant threat to national security. He stated that “climate change is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today,” and that “it is appropriate for the Combatant Commands to incorporate drivers of instability that impact the security environment in their areas into their planning.” Mattis’s longstanding view is that the military should reduce fossil fuel use and employ more renewable energy due to various strategic and operational factors, including climate change. During other parts of the testimony, Mattis made clear that “increased maritime access to the Arctic, rising sea levels, desertification” and other climate impacts play a role in U.S. security. “I will ensure that the department continues to be prepared to conduct operations today and in the future, and that we are prepared to address the effects of a changing climate on our threat assessments, resources, and readiness.”

    For more information see:

    ProPublica, The Hill

    Scientists and Organizations Refute Pruitt's Denial of Greenhouse Gas Effects

    During a televised interview on March 9, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said, “I would not agree that [carbon dioxide is] a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.” The scientific community has refuted this statement with vigor, with multiple groups responding directly to Pruitt. One group of 30 prominent climate scientists sent him a letter, stating, “Just as there is no escaping gravity when one steps off a cliff, there is no escaping the warming that follows when we add extra carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.” The American Meteorological Society (AMS) also sent Pruitt a letter, stating that they are ready to help him understand climate science data because “mischaracterizing the science is not the best starting point for a constructive dialogue” on climate policy. AMS' letter noted the scientific community's position on climate change is "based on multiple independent lines of evidence that have been affirmed by thousands of independent scientists," adding, "We are not familiar with any scientific institution with relevant subject matter expertise that has reached a different conclusion."

    For more information see:

    Inside Climate News, The Hill, American Meteorological Society

    Trump Administration Has Yet to Fill Nearly All Key Federal Science and Technology Posts

    The Trump administration has filled only one of the 46 key science and technology positions within the federal government. Among the posts that still stand vacant are the administrators of NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). Trump’s pace of filling positions is well behind that of his predecessor, and while other administrations have been slow to fill senior science positions, experts say that “Trump’s stands out because of its combination of thin science staffing with sharp proposed budget cuts to government science programs.” It remains unclear whether Trump intends to fill all of the vacant posts, after telling Fox News he views many political positions as "unnecessary.” Meanwhile, Trump signed an executive order on March 13 that outlined a strategy to reshape the executive branch. The order directs the Office of Management and Budget to work on a plan that may include “recommendations to eliminate unnecessary agencies, components of agencies, and agency programs.”

    For more information see:

    Washington Post


    Secretary of State Tillerson Used an Alias Email for Internal Climate Change Discussions at Exxon

    During his time as CEO of Exxon Mobil, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson used an email alias to discuss the topic of climate change and the risks it posed to his company, says New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. In a court filing about New York’s investigation into Exxon Mobil over concerns of fraud, Schneiderman said Tillerson worked from an email account under the name "Wayne Tracker" from at least 2008 to 2015. Exxon spokesman Alan Jeffers said via email, “Tillerson used the account for secure and expedited communications between select senior company officials and the former chairman for a broad range of business-related topics." Tillerson’s secondary email account was found when Schneiderman’s team was reviewing Exxon documents for a claim that the company had failed to turn over relevant files for New York's investigation. Exxon is currently under investigation by multiple states over whether the company misled investors on how climate change could impact its business.

    For more information see:

    Bloomberg, Reuter, Inside Climate News

    Federal Report Provides Strong Evidence for Climate Change, Draws Praise in Independent Review

    The Obama administration’s final draft submission of the Climate Science Special Report, a national evaluation of the climate published every four years, has received high marks after undergoing an independent review by the National Academes of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The committee declared the draft "impressive" and "timely," while praising its "breadth, accuracy, and rigor." The report is produced by the U.S. Global Change Research Program and originated in 1990 when the National Climate Assessment process was first mandated by Congress. The latest report asserts that, "Many lines of evidence demonstrate that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are primarily responsible for the observed climate changes in the industrial era. There are no alternative explanations, and no natural cycles are found in the observational record that can explain the observed changes in climate. (Very high confidence)." This is a sharp contrast to the recent statements made by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who claimed that he did not believe carbon dioxide to be a primary driver of climate change.

    For more information see:

    Washington Post, The Hill


    Republicans Reconsider Natural Gas Rule Amid Public Backlash

    Republican members in Congress are facing widespread criticism after the House voted to repeal a rule that mandated natural gas companies capture escaping methane emissions and use it to generate electricity. The rule also required royalty payments from energy sales to local governments. Citizens opposed to repealing the rule were concerned about exposure to the poisonous compounds that leak out alongside the methane at industrial sites. The vote coincides with the release of a new study finding that the methane emissions from natural gas-fired power plants are between two and 120 times higher than the EPA had originally estimated. The public outcry is particularly evident in western states, where more than 80 percent of people support the provision, putting pressure on Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) and others to oppose the roll-back. While Gardner stated that he “is continuing to meet with (his) constituents on this topic and will continue to do so until the vote,” Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) have already committed to voting no.

    For more information see:

    Los Angeles Times, The Hill


    Repeal of Vehicle Emissions Rule Would Spark a Standoff between California and the Trump Administration

    The Trump administration is preparing to repeal the fleet-wide vehicle emissions standard of 54.5 MPG finalized by President Obama’s EPA, echoing auto industry arguments that the stricter standard is too costly to achieve. The standards would apply to model years 2022-2025 and were installed as part of the government's 2009 bailout of the auto industry. If the rule is indeed rolled back, California will likely invoke its waiver under the Clean Air Act to maintain the state's current emission standards. The application of the waiver has broad implications because more than a dozen other states, collectively comprising one-third of the U.S. auto market, have adopted the same strict standards as California. Although EPA has the legal authority to deny new waivers, its ability to revoke California's existing waiver, which has effectively been in place since 1970, is much weaker. “If the administration loses on this, California’s power is then absolutely clear, and it can use that power to issue standards that are stronger, and it can get other states to join in,” said Ann Carlson, a professor of environmental law at UCLA.

    For more information see:

    San Francisco Chronicle, Politico


    American Medical Societies Issue Report Warning of Impact of Climate Change on Public Health

    On March 15, the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health released a report titled, “Medical Alert! Climate Change is Harming Our Health.” The report presents scientific evidence that climate change is aggravating health issues, such as heart and lung disease, the spread of infectious diseases, and extreme weather-related health problems. “It’s not only hurting polar bears, it’s hurting us,” said Dr. Mona Sarfaty, the director of the new organization and a professor at George Mason University. The Consortium consists of 11 major American medical societies. Climate change has the ability to worsen air quality, by increasing smog through warmer surface temperatures. These warmer temperatures have also lengthened the growing seasons of pollen and ragweed, increasing their levels and aggravating allergies. "I see the effects of climate change on children here already," said Dr. Aparna Bole, a pediatrician at the University Hospitals system in Cleveland. "Here in Ohio we have high rates of pediatric asthma, so the poor air quality days that we see more and more of are a direct risk to children."

    For more information see:

    CBS News, Plain Dealer, Consortium Report



    Cuts to American Climate Research Would Have Profound Effects on British Efforts

    Old "Spinning Sail" Technology Could Help Modern Ships Reduce Fuel Consumption

    NOAA: Earth Experienced the Second Warmest Winter Ever in 2017-18

    Great Barrier Reef Afflicted with Large-Scale Coral Bleaching for Second Consecutive Year

    Study: Middle East May Become "Uninhabitable" Due to Climate-Driven Factors


    Briefings and Events

    Briefing Recap: Can the United States Achieve a Low Carbon Economy by 2050?

    On March 9, the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) held a briefing showcasing two new reports on how to transition the United States toward a low carbon economy. The reports, From Risk to Return: Investing in a Clean Energy Economy and the United States Mid-Century Strategy for Deep Decarbonization, present a range of pathways that can achieve deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions between now and 2050. These pathways involve mixtures of: energy efficiency, renewable energy, nuclear power, carbon capture and storage, increased carbon sequestration in U.S. lands, and reductions in non-CO2 emissions. The speakers were Dr. Karl Hausker and Dr. Noah Kaufman, both with the World Resources Institute.

    Dr. Hausker highlighted four potential pathways for the United States to achieve its 80 percent emissions reduction goal by 2050, with each pathway featuring fuel switching, decarbonization of electricity, and energy efficiency. The pathways would all require significant capital investment, but would gradually be offset by cost savings on fossil fuels while creating one million net jobs by 2050. Dr. Kaufman delved into the shortcomings of the country's current emissions reduction trajectory and ways the United States could pursue more ambitious actions in the future. He discussed the need for an economy-wide plan to reduce emissions and illustrated the difference between the near-term and long-term pathways, suggesting strong early action would ultimately be the most cost-effective.


    A full video recording, copies of the reports, and presentation slides are available at this link.


    Writers: Emma Dietz, Ben Topiel, and Andrew Wollenberg
    Editor: Brian La Shier