Table Of Contents

    A depiction of wind and ocean currents off the coast of Florida. Funding for NASA's Earth sciences division is reportedly at risk of severe budget cuts under President-elect Trump. Image courtesy of NASA via


    Proposal to Eliminate NASA's Climate Change Programs Draws Sharp Rebuke from Scientists

    A senior adviser to President-elect Trump’s transition team indicated that the new administration plans to pull all funding for climate programs within NASA’s Earth science division. The incoming administration has characterized NASA's climate work as "politicized science," arguing the agency should focus on space exploration. The comments and accompanying plan have drawn widespread criticism from the scientific community, citing the importance NASA's data collection activities hold for global climate research and policymaking. Kevin Trenberth, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, emphasized the importance of satellite data in transforming how society understands climate change issues: “It could put us back into the ‘dark ages’ of almost the pre-satellite era. It would be extremely short sighted.” NASA’s satellite-collected data has been essential to the work of climate scientists. Officially, NASA remains "committed to doing whatever [it] can to assist in making the executive branch transition a smooth one."

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    States Take Up Climate Action in Federal Government's Stead

    In the wake of campaign promises from President-elect Trump to rescind federal environmental regulations, uncertainty about the future of climate change mitigation efforts has spurred local-level activists to take the fight to their state governments. Communities across the nation already feeling the effects of climate change are unwilling to wait on the federal government to take action. In response, state governments, including California, New York, and Massachusetts, are moving forward with their own initiatives. These states have passed legislation to cut greenhouse gas emissions and encourage utilities to adopt renewable energy technologies. However, tackling emissions at the state level can create compliance issues, as parties seeking to participate in inter-state electricity markets will be forced to consider multiple individual regulatory schemes instead of a unified set of federal rules. Meanwhile, the lack of a federal standard is clouding the path forward for states like Virginia, where the pro-climate action governor is stymied by the state legislature and utility sector.

    For more information see:

    Center for Public Integrity

    Mayors from 37 U.S. Cities Ask President-elect to Embrace Climate Action

    On November 22, the mayors of 37 major American cities submitted an open letter to President-elect Trump urging him to partner with municipal governments to address the threat of climate change. The cities are part of the "Mayors' National Climate Action Agenda" (MNCAA), which advocates for climate mitigation and adaptation measures and shares best practices for achieving those goals. The letter states that climate change impacts could cost the U.S. economy $500 billion annually by 2050. The letter frames climate action in cost-benefit terms for the President-elect, declaring, "The cost of prevention pales in comparison to cost of inaction, in terms of dollars, property and human life." The signatories request that the federal government assist cities in achieving the "transit, energy, infrastructure, and real estate development necessary" for them to succeed in the future, as well as support renewable energy, extend tax credits for electric vehicles and clean energy, and stand by the Paris climate agreement.

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    China Unlikely to Stray from Climate Mitigation Commitments if United States Waivers

    While the U.S. leadership and involvement in climate policy has been thrown into doubt, it is unlikely that China will follow a similar path. China’s national policy on environmental standards and renewable energy has faced pressure to include emission reduction measures due to anger and resentment from citizens living in cities with chronic air pollution problems. In response to the pollution, since 2012 China has become the largest investor in clean energy, spending over $380 billion on clean energy technologies. Already in 2016, China has invested $48 billion in new clean energy projects while the U.S. has spent just $32 billion. Since 2015, China has led the world in installed solar capacity and possesses twice the installed wind capacity of the United States. According to Sophie Lu, head of China research for BNEF, China has more reasons than not to continue supporting international climate policy: "If China stays green, it maintains both moral leadership abroad and helps to support green industries, which it dominates.”

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    Countries Vow to Stay on Track as the Climate Conference Concludes

    The United Nations' 22nd annual Conference of Parties (COP22), involving 196 nations, concluded on November 18 in Marrakech amid optimism about the future of the Paris Agreement. The goal of COP22 was to create a detailed implementation plan for the Paris Agreement. In order to decide on the final details for achieving the treaty's goals, a mandatory progress review was established for 2017, with actions to be completed by 2018. The question of how wealthier nations would help finance climate actions in vulnerable developing nations saw little progress. A major discussion surrounded the creation of a “rulebook” to assist countries in evaluating other nations' climate pledges, but definitive decisions were put off until 2018. A five-year work plan for the contentious topic of "loss and damage" was approved with a start-date of 2017. The plan will allow participants to begin addressing sticky issues such as population displacement and cultural losses due to climate change. Other notable initiatives included a pledge from 47 impoverished countries to achieve 100 percent renewable energy use as soon as possible and the issuance of the "Marrakech Action Proclamation," reaffirming the commitment of the international community to climate action.

    For more information see:

    Carbon Brief


    Luxembourg Unveils National Sustainability Plan in Partnership with the European Investment Bank

    The government of Luxembourg has unveiled a new sustainability "roadmap" as part of a national effort to transition to a clean energy economy and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. The plan, titled the "Third Industrial Revolution," was commissioned by Luxembourg's government and led by Jeremy Rifkin, an American economist. Rifkin presented the plan at the Luxembourg Sustainability Forum, where he emphasized the advantages of leveraging renewable energy sources, stating, "What happens when your business plugs into [solar and wind resources] and everything is marginal cost? It changes the business model. That's the revolution." Luxembourg's plan is based around nine pillars of sustainability, including energy, transportation, finance, food, and industry. Luxembourg is the first European Union member state to receive European Investment Bank funds for the specific purpose of implementing a nationwide sustainability plan. Other European governments are monitoring the initiative closely to gauge its success.

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    Delano, Paperjam


    Businesses Plan to Boost Sustainability and Reduce Emissions, Despite Federal Government Signals

    American companies have reaffirmed their commitment to implementing sustainable, environmentally-friendly business practices in the weeks following the presidential election. Wisconsin is one state where this sentiment runs deep, as over 160 companies have enrolled in the state-run Green Masters Program to improve their sustainability efforts. According to Tom Eggert, executive director of the Wisconsin Sustainable Building Council, business are pursuing sustainability programs to "save money [and] reduce risk” and "because [customers and investors] are asking about what they’re doing to be green." Companies are pursuing sustainable initiatives that cut carbon emissions from supply chains and are implementing sustainable building practices. Jack Wilson, a businessman based in Milwaukee, said, "Too often domestic companies remain caught up in the misconception that if something's sustainable it's going to cost more, [but] it may be more economical than what they're doing right now." In addition, 200 multinational corporations have adopted "science-based targets" to reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated by their operations.

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    Journal Sentinel

    Women Combating Climate Change in Developing World to Gain Greater Role in Future Treaty Negotiations

    Women in developing nations are increasingly leading the fight against climate change while breaking down long-standing gender barriers to political activism and equality. However, women's rights have been mostly overlooked in Article II of the Paris Agreement, which outlines the primary objectives of the treaty. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the international agency that guides the climate treaty negotiations, is now taking steps to recognize the role of these women in climate action and utilize their knowledge in generating solutions. A proposal from the 2016 Conference of Parties in Morocco would compel the parties to include traditional knowledge in climate policy planning and encourage the participation of women in grassroots level climate activities. According to Mary Robinson, president of the Foundation for Climate Justice, female grassroots activists stand to gain roles in national climate delegations and additional resources to facilitate their engagement in global dialogues. Robinson added, "We must ensure that these examples of the expertise and experience of women living on the front lines of climate change inform the decisions taken [during climate talks].”

    For more information see:

    Pacific Standard


    Study: 71 Percent of Americans Support U.S. Participation in Paris Climate Agreement

    Although President-elect Trump had expressed a desire to withdraw from the Paris Agreement during the campaign, a new survey conducted by the Chicago Council for Global Affairs has revealed 71 percent of Americans support U.S. participation in the agreement. While respondents self-identifying as Democrats overwhelmingly supported the climate deal, 57 percent of Republicans were also in favor. A more severe split existed over whether the United States should take immediate climate actions, even if they may involve "significant costs," with 62 percent of Democrats and 19 percent of Republicans answering affirmatively. Republican support for climate action jumped to 46 percent when faced with "gradual" and "low in cost" steps. Dina Smeltz, lead author of the study, shared, “When we ask about agreements in general, especially in our wording, Americans do seem to support a lot of international agreements which are collective agreements.”

    For more information see:

    Washington Post, Study


    Worrying Trend Sees Arctic and Antarctic Sea Ice Levels Reach Record-Lows for November

    November is typically a month in which Arctic sea ice expands as temperatures decrease, but the latest data indicates the sea ice extent is nearly one million square kilometers less than the previous record-low experienced in November 2012. This trend is not just confined to the Arctic, as Antarctica's November sea ice levels also hit a record low based on data dating back to 1979. Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, attributes the decline in ice cover to increasing average global temperatures. “I think that it’s fair to say that the very slow ice growth is a response to the extreme warmth (still ongoing as of today),” Serreze said. The decline in sea ice has a dangerous compounding effect, as lower amounts of light-colored ice allow the more darkly colored ocean to absorb more solar radiation, further increasing ocean temperatures. In turn, warmer ocean and air temperatures during winter months hinder sea ice formation and further accelerate the rate of melting in the polar regions.

    For more information see:

    Washington Post


    Climate Change Is Bringing Major Changes to the Arctic's Food Web

    Researchers have confirmed that climate change is drastically altering the state of the Arctic's food web. In 2016, the Arctic region has seen temperatures as high as 36 degrees Fahrenheit above average in November, while October sea ice levels were at their lowest since 1979. These changes are impacting the production of algae, which is integral to the Arctic's food web. Algae production has increased 47 percent between 1997 and 2015, leading to a significant spike in growth in the Arctic Ocean. Researchers found that algae blooms are occurring up to two months earlier due to the warming conditions. The algae feed many other organisms, such as krill, which then support fish, mammals, and birds. However, the rapid changes to algae production may be happening too swiftly for many organisms to adapt, leading to disruptions in their life cycles. For example, migrating whales and birds may arrive too late and fish larvae may not develop fast enough to take advantage of the algae before it descends to the sea floor.

    For more information see:

    New York Times


    Scientists Work to Scale Up "Artificial Leaf" Technology for Carbon Removal, Fuel Production, and More

    Scientists are pushing the limits of artificial photosynthesis to try and replicate the ability of plants to remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. Teams at the California Institute of Technology, Stanford University, the private sector, and elsewhere are working to advance "artificial leaf" technology toward future commercialization. One futuristic application of the technology would allow CO2 to be used as a feedstock for the production of useful fuels and chemicals, rather than relying upon petrochemicals. To date, catalysts and reactors for converting sunlight, water, and CO2 into hydrogen and other outputs have been developed and tested in laboratories. However, scaling up the technology and proving it can be applied economically remains a significant challenge. Today's research stems from a 1972 discovery that specially treated electrodes could split water when exposed to light, a process called photoelectrocatalysis that mimics photosynthesis. The U.S. Department of Energy has been a prominent supporter of this technology, establishing the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis in 2010 and applying artificial photosynthesis toward research on hydrogen production for fuel cells.

    For more information see:

    Chemical and Engineering News



    EPA Chief: "Train to a Global Clean Energy Future Has Already Left the Station"

    Judge Grants Exxon "Unprecedented" Opportunity to Question State Law-Enforcement Official in Climate Case

    Increasingly Risky Waterfront Properties Threaten U.S. Real Estate Industry and Homeowners

    Abandoned Oil and Gas Wells Contribute 5-8 Percent of Pennsylvania's Methane Emissions

    Study: Climate Change Is Outpacing Ability of Plants and Animals to Adapt



    District Energy, CHP, Microgrids: Resilient, Efficient Energy Infrastructure

    Tuesday, December 6

    9:30 am - 11:00 am

    Room G50 Dirksen Senate Office Building

    Constitution Avenue and 1st Street, NE

    Cities, communities and campuses throughout the nation are actively seeking more resilient, sustainable energy infrastructure to support economic growth and achieve environmental objectives. District energy microgrids incorporate combined heat and power (CHP) to deliver greater energy efficiency and optimize the use of local resources while strengthening the local and regional power grids.

    The International District Energy Association (IDEA), the Microgrid Resources Coalition (MRC), and the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) are pleased to invite you to a briefing providing policy guidance and showcasing proven technologies and exemplary cases that illuminate the potential for more robust U.S. investment in district energy microgrids.

    The panel of speakers includes Ted Borer, Energy Plant Manager at Princeton University; Jim Lodge, Vice President at NRG Energy; Grant Ervin, Chief Resilience Officer with the City of Pittsburgh; Michael Rooney, Manager of District Energy Initiatives at the University of Pittsburgh Center for Energy; and Rob Thornton, President & CEO of the International District Energy Association.

    A live webcast will be streamed at 9:30 AM EST at (wireless connection permitting)

    RSVP requested


    Writers: Tyler Smith and Brian La Shier

    Editor: Brian La Shier