Table Of Contents

    Delegates struck a deal to ban HFCs during the 28th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol in Kigali, Rwanda. Image courtesy of the U.S. Department of State via


    Landmark Deal to Ban HFCs Agreed to by 197 Nations

    On October 15, representatives from 197 nations agreed upon a legally binding deal to phase out the use of HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons), a potent greenhouse gas commonly used in air-conditioners and refrigerators. The legally binding deal, finalized in Kigali, Rwanda, was a result of seven years of negotiations and will solely target HFCs. Unlike the Paris climate accord, the Kigali deal features enforcement mechanisms in the form of trade sanctions to punish non-compliant countries and includes financial assistance to ease the transition for poorer nations. Scientists predict the resulting ban on HFCs will prevent an increase of atmospheric temperatures of almost one degree Fahrenheit, since the chemical is 1,000 times more effective at trapping heat than CO2. To accommodate concerns from less-developed countries, the deal will be implemented along three tracks. The richest nations will halt production and consumption of HFCs by 2018, while most other countries will end usage by 2024. A special subset (India, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait) will not have to phase-out HFCs until 2028. Though given the option to join the most lenient timetable, the entire African delegation chose to join the mid-level group instead. Vincent Biruta, Rwanda's minister of natural resources, said, "Africa is a continent that is deeply vulnerable to climate change. We need to address climate change if we are to address poverty." Heading into the negotiations, Senator Al Franken (D-MN) and 10 additional senators submitted a letter to the Department of State and EPA, urging the U.S. negotiators to press for a strong agreement to aggressively reduce HFCs.

    For more information see:

    New York Times, Guardian, Hindustan Times, Senate Letter


    India Resists Rapid HFC Phase-Out as Domestic Air Conditioner Market Revs Up

    International negotiations over the phase-out of HFCs though the Montreal Protocol have created tensions between developed and developing nations. India opposes the current proposal, saying it would raise the cost of air conditioning (AC) units and place them out of reach for millions of its citizens. An HFC phase-out by 2050 could cost India $13-38 billion, according to a study by the India-based Council on Energy, Environment, and Water. An improving Indian economy is creating wage increases that give consumers confidence to pay higher energy bills in exchange for increased comfort. The purchase of a home AC unit is also viewed as a sign of social mobility and personal pride. Nihar Shah, an engineer at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, explained the motivation behind a quick phase-out is to "get the best air-conditioner technology in place" before India's AC market reaches a tipping point between 2020 and 2023. "Otherwise, you’ll have these HFC air-conditioners locked in place for another decade.”

    For more information see:

    New York Times


    Clinton and Gore Stump on Climate Change in Miami

    Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore made climate change a major theme of their campaign stop in Miami, Florida, on October 11. Forgoing her usual stump speech, Clinton focused on climate change, an important issue to Florida as sea level rise threatens the state's coastal communities. Clinton promised to combat climate change and partner with global leaders to implement and enforce international agreements. Clinton also hinted at a potential role for Gore in her prospective administration, stating, "I can't wait to have Al Gore advising me [on climate change]." Citing the views of the Republican nominee Donald Trump, Clinton said voters "cannot risk putting a climate denier in the White House." Gore framed the election as an opportunity for the United States to continue addressing climate change, saying, “The world is on the cusp of either building on the progress and solving the climate crisis, or stepping back.”

    For more information see:

    Miami Herald, CNN


    Colorado Counties Follow Divergent Paths toward Addressing Climate Change

    In 2001, the divide between Republicans and Democrats on whether global warming is human-caused stood at 17 percentage points. In 2016, the gap has spiked to 41 points. This increasing divide can be observed in Colorado, where two counties have become a microcosm of American politics. Fort Collins, the largest city in Larimer County, has developed a plan to become carbon neutral by 2050. In contrast, the city of Greeley in Weld County, a heavily-fracked area deeply rooted in the oil and gas industry, is much more resistant to climate action. Greeley Mayor Tom Norton, who also served in the Colorado state legislature, recognizes that climate change is “something we need to deal with [but], … we have to pay a lot more attention to the cost to the general public.” Elsewhere in Weld, candidate for county commissioner, Carl Erickson, observes, “There are the polarized groups that are going further away, but there’s a vast majority in the center that are starting to actually listen and think [about climate] and that’s the group we really have to [engage]."

    For more information see:

    Christian Science Monitor


    Major Investment Group Urges Auto Industry to Better Prepare for Low-Carbon Economy

    A new report from the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC) is placing pressure on the automotive industry to accelerate its preparations for a low-carbon economy. The report calls for automotive companies to appoint climate change specialists to their boards, extend cooperation with policymakers on sustainability initiatives, and invest heavily in the development of low-emission vehicles. IIGCC also cites the recent Volkswagen emissions testing evasion scandal and "the gap between real world and emissions testing” as motivation to reform the industry's reputation as a climate action hold-out. IIGCC, a group of 250 investors controlling assets worth over $24 trillion, also pointed to a growing number of emissions regulations and government incentives for electric vehicles as cause for the industry to improve its market resiliency. According to Chris Davis, a program director at the Ceres Investor Network on Climate Risk, “a growing number of institutional investors recognize that climate change will impact their holdings, portfolios, and asset values in the short and long-term.”

    For more information see:



    Climate Change Casts Doubt on Future of Brazilian Coffee Belt

    A new report from the Climate Institute reveals a troubling trend for the future of global coffee production. The Australian Institute's projection shows that by 2050 there will be a 50 percent reduction in areas suitable for coffee cultivation worldwide. Coffee beans are a water intensive and temperature sensitive plant that is highly vulnerable to climate disruptions. These trends can already be seen in Espírito Santo, a major coffee-producing state in eastern Brazil. Farmers there are experiencing a three-year drought that has shrunk the state's coffee crop by 30 percent in 2016. Farmer Eliezer Jacob adapted to the dryer conditions by transitioning from coffee to a diverse crop rotation to improve resilience and provide steady harvests year-round. Perseu Perdoná, a local agronomist, says the lack of water in the historic coffee-producing region is due to a combination of climate change and a lack of water retention capacity from deforestation. Perdoná predicts coffee could disappear from the region entirely if conditions do not change.

    For more information see:

    NPR, Report


    NOAA: Global Rogue Methane Emissions Have Been Significantly Undercounted

    A two-year study recently published in Nature revealed that the amount of global methane resulting from fossil fuel production is 20-60 percent higher than originally thought. The study also found that livestock and waste disposal sites are a leading cause behind previously-observed methane spikes. Methane, a potent greenhouse gas, is difficult to track. Rogue emissions from the fossil fuel industry account for 20-25 percent of global methane emissions, according to the study. The study's methane emissions assessment is one-fifth higher than existing IPCC estimates and 60 percent higher than those of Europe's Global Atmospheric Research center. Scientists used data from 7,500 natural gas, oil, and coal extraction facilities in 45 different countries to obtain accurate measurements of the emissions. The findings show that methane leaks have decreased over the past 30 years due to technological advancements and improved oversight, but an increase in fossil fuel extraction activities has prevented an overall decrease in global methane emissions.

    For more information see:

    InsideClimate News


    Research Uncovers Feedback Loop Accelerating Loss of Greenland Ice Sheet

    Two novel papers in Geophysical Research Letters investigate the relationship between "supraglacial lakes" and meltwater "plumes" in glaciers. As ice sheets melt, accumulating water forms glacial lakes, which can then penetrate the glacier and flow to a discharge point in the ocean. Some of the resulting plumes occur at a submerged portion of the glacier, allowing warm ocean water into the base and further destabilizing the ice sheet. According to Dustin Carroll, a scientist at the University of Oregon, the largest and deepest glaciers suffer the most degradation from the interaction between glacial lakes and underwater plumes. Carroll said, “The more melt we have on the Greenland ice sheet, the more water drains down to the bed, the plumes are more vigorous, and they’re going to draw in more ocean water and transport heat to the ice. This is a direct ocean feedback that’s really going to amplify as there’s more melting on the ice sheet.”

    For more information see:

    Washington Post


    Study: Climate Change Adds Fuel to Wildfires in Western United States.

    A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that climate change has exacerbated both the effects and causes of wildfires in the western United States. An increase in temperature and changes in precipitation have resulted in drier vegetation more prone to burning. The study connected these factors to a doubling of lands marred by forest fires since 1984. Through their research, authors Park Williams and John Abatzoglou determined that over half of the vegetative dryness recorded since 1979 can be attributed to human-caused climate change. These climate-driven effects are expected to grow over time, resulting in more severe wildfires. “The fact is that this relationship between fuel aridity and forest fire area is exponential,” said Williams, “that means that every degree of warming has a bigger impact on forest fire area than the previous degree of warming. …That explains to me why every year we hear career-long firefighters saying they’ve never seen fires burning the way that they’re burning.”

    For more information see:

    Washington Post, Study


    New York City Faces Elevated Risk of "Sandy-Like" Flooding Events This Century

    A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences predicts a significantly greater risk of Hurricane Sandy-like flooding for New York City during the next century. The study used two factors to model future storm surge events: sea level rise and the size and severity of storms. The model integrates historical data and projections, while accounting for the influence of climate change. Based off a moderate emissions scenario, the likelihood of a flood as severe as that experienced during Hurricane Sandy is 3-17 times more likely over the next 100 years compared to the present day. The scenario predicts a major flooding event could hit New York City every 23 years. Study author Ning Lin, a professor at Princeton University, expressed the value of such research for cities: “New York has started the planning of building coastal protection defense. Our analysis can help determine what magnitude of such defense – e.g., height of levees – is needed to protect the city from future increasing surge inundation.”

    For more information see:

    Carbon Brief


    EIA: Energy-Related CO2 Emissions for 2016 are Lowest Since 1991

    EPA to Re-evaluate 33-Year Old Formula for Measuring Air Pollution from Oil and Gas Flaring

    Washington State Agency Overstated Cost of Carbon Tax by Nearly 15 Percent, Proposal Up for Vote

    World Bank President: Construction of Planned Coal-Fired Power Plants Will Doom Global Climate Goals

    Enviros and Journalists Lament the Lack of Climate Talk in 2016 Election



    EESI Briefing Recap: Public Attitudes about Climate Change and Clean Energy

    On October 6, EESI held a public briefing to inform members of Congress and concerned stakeholders about public attitudes toward climate change and clean energy. Professor Edward Maibach, Director of the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University, presented findings on how the American public perceives the issue of climate change across a wide range of demographics and scenarios. Climate change is slowly becoming a key issue in deciding local, state, and federal elections as a greater number of voters take notice of its importance. A sampling of the latest polling data covered at the briefing shows 7 out of 10 people believe in climate change, but misinformation abounds, as only a tenth of Americans know that an overwhelming majority of climate scientists have concluded that global warming is happening and is human-caused.

    For a full video of the event and informational materials, including the slides, connect to the link below:



    Writers: Sasha Galbreath, Tyler Smith, and Brian La Shier

    Editor: Brian La Shier