Table Of Contents

    Scientists sample melt ponds on sea ice in the Chukchi Sea. The White House hosted an Arctic Science Ministerial on September 28 to promote research and collaboration on Arctic issues. Photo courtesy of NASA via


    Federal Appeals Court Hears Key Oral Arguments for Clean Power Plan

    Oral arguments in the D.C. circuit court over the legality of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) were held on September 27. The hearing for West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency is the latest development for the CPP since the Supreme Court issued a stay on the plan in February 2016. The CPP mandates a 32 percent reduction in carbon emissions from the electricity generation sector by 2030 and is a critical tool in the United States' efforts to meet its obligations under the Paris climate agreement. Opponents of the CPP argued the rule is too "transformative" for the utility industry and that EPA lacks clear authority from Congress for implementation. Supporters cited the Supreme Court ruling that first declared carbon dioxide a pollutant, as well as precedent for the EPA's regulatory authority under the Clean Air Act. The 10-judge panel appeared to split largely along party lines, per the president who appointed them, but a healthy degree of skepticism was directed towards both sides of the argument.

    For more information see:

    The Hill, Washington Post, Bloomberg

    First-ever Arctic Science Ministerial Promotes Collaboration and Examines Climate Impacts

    On September 28, the White House convened the first Arctic Science Ministerial, comprised of top science policymakers from 25 other Arctic and non-Arctic nations, as well as representatives of indigenous communities. The ministerial's purpose was to discuss the impacts of substantial ice melt in the Arctic and coordinate future study efforts. The White House also released a new satellite-based data set that will allow researchers to observe Arctic elevations in unprecedented detail to track glacier and permafrost trends. Dr. John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, described the importance of these research partnerships: “The whole Arctic is under-instrumented. The observation networks are too sparse in geographic extent, they’re too discontinuous in time, they’re not measuring everywhere all the things they should be measuring. We know [CO2 and methane emissions] are going up but we don’t really have a good handle on how fast and from precisely where.”

    For more information see:

    Washington Post


    Prime Minister Modi Declares India Will Ratify Paris Treaty on October 2, 2016

    On September 25, Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged that India will ratify the Paris climate agreement on October 2. The symbolic date coincides with the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi. India accounts for about 4.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and is vulnerable to many impacts of climate change, such as coastal flooding. Modi said, “The world is now talking about how to stop global warming; to prevent the temperature of the earth to rise by another two degrees … and we know what it could mean for coastal cities and countries. We need to play a part." For the Paris agreement to enter into force, at least 55 countries must ratify the treaty and at least 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions must be accounted for among the signatories. The impending ratification by India would push the treaty's captured emissions to around 52 percent.

    For more information see:

    The Hindu


    European Union Leaders Discussing Fast-Track Ratification of Paris Treaty

    Member nations of the European Union (EU) are expected to officially ratify the Paris climate agreement through a deal that fast-tracks the ratification process. The EU has been facing renewed pressure to ratify the agreement after the United States and China did so on September 3. Slovakia, the current EU presidency holder, is reportedly seeking "a quick and consensual ratification." EU officials hope to finalize the ratification process by October 7 to ensure it will enter into force in time for the next United Nations climate conference in Morocco on November 7. While the proposed deal would expedite ratification, it may not leave enough time for member states to complete their domestic approval procedures. Some member states are worried about the legal and political precedent this may set. Poland is one such member concerned with the procedure, as Poland is seeking guarantees on future use and investment for coal-fired power plants.

    For more information see:


    Hundreds of Top Scientists Endorse U.S. Climate Action, Denounce GOP Presidential Nominee's Views

    On September 20, hundreds of the world's top scientists published an open letter addressing the perils of dismissing climate science and the risks associated with a U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement. The letter was signed by 375 members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, including 30 Nobel laureates, as a direct rebuttal to the views of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who has said he would remove the United States from the Paris agreement if elected. The letter states a U.S. exit "would send a clear signal to the rest of the world … 'You are on your own.' Such a decision would make it far more difficult to develop effective global strategies for mitigating and adapting to climate change. The consequences … would be severe and long-lasting – for our planet’s climate and for the international credibility of the United States." The signatories clarified that they were signing as individuals and not on behalf of the Academy or their institutions.

    For more information see:

    Reuters, Letter

    Airline Industry Backs International Aviation Emissions Standard

    A meeting of the United Nations International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in Montreal running from September 27 through October 7 will focus on a plan to mitigate international aviation emissions. Under the proposal, airlines would purchase emission offsets to fund renewable energy projects, conserve forests, and fund other environmental initiatives. The plan would be voluntary during its initial six years. Support for the plan has been built on a public-private partnership of over 60 nations and groups within the airline industry. Industry representatives, such as Michael Gill, executive director of Air Transport Action Group, have voiced support for a common international standard: “We recognize that as an industry, we have an impact on climate change. The industry is willing to pay its share … in the most economic way possible.” Developing nations opposed to the plan argue the proposed rule would bankrupt their airline industries and requested industrialized economies pay a greater share. International flights are responsible for two percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, but are not covered by the Paris climate treaty.

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    Dam Reservoirs Emit 25 Percent More Methane than Previously Thought

    An upcoming study in BioScience suggests the greenhouse gas contributions of the world's dams is much greater than previously thought. Dams already contribute 1.3 percent of all human-produced greenhouse gas emissions and this percentage stands to increase with the hundreds of proposed dams set to be built around the world. John Harrison, a biogeochemist at Washington State University, realized that previous studies failed to include one key characteristic of dam reservoirs -- methane bubbles. These bubbles are produced by microbes feeding off the organic debris that accumulates behind the dam. Harrison’s study discovered that each square meter of reservoir surface area produced 25 percent more methane than previously thought. The findings of this study may provide countries a better informed perspective when assessing the potential climate impacts of dam construction.

    For more information see:

    Science Magazine

    Study: United States Would Fail to Meet Its Emission Reduction Targets under Current Policy Plans

    With the Paris climate agreement's entry into force appearing imminent, attention has begun to shift toward whether countries are actually following through with their pledged emissions reductions. The United States vowed to cut its emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025 – an ambitious goal that has prompted critics to question its feasibility. In a new study published in Nature Climate Change, Jeffery Greenblatt and Max Wei of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory concluded that even with today's existing and proposed climate policies, the United States will likely fall short of its targets. Nonetheless, Greenblatt is hopeful, stating that “There is certainly need for further policy action, [but] I think the U.S. should be complimented. They set their own target and they set out a path to meet it as best they could. I think if they need to work a little harder, [meeting their goal is] not an unexpected outcome.”

    For more information see:

    Washington Post, Study


    Coastal Bangladesh Already Suffering from Climate-Induced Storms and Water Shortages

    A community in Bangladesh is quickly succumbing to the effects of climate change. Water scarcity has forced the impoverished residents of Koyra number 6 (named under colonial British rule) to travel to a town nine miles away to gather their daily water supply. After Cyclone Sidr hit in 2007, the entire fresh water supply turned saline. Dr. Saleemul Huq, Director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh, says climate change has made such cyclones more severe due to changing sea temperatures. Neighboring towns are experiencing the same fate as intensifying cyclones destroy their crops, cattle, and infrastructure. The flooding alone has caused irreparable damage to hundreds of small towns, causing many to live in makeshift housing on a permanent basis. According to Dr. Huq, "Inevitably over time millions of people in the coastal areas will lose their livelihoods and will have to move. They simply will not be able to continue living there."

    For more information see:

    Pulitzer Center


    Zimbabwean Farmers Turn to Indigenous Crops to Adapt to Climate Change

    A new farming practice may bring hope to communities suffering from the environmental effects of El Niño and La Niña. In recent years, Zimbabwe has experienced unrelenting drought and devastating flooding due to extreme seasonal weather fluctuations. Many living in the region have begun to adapt by farming small grains and indigenous crops resistant to the worsening conditions brought about by climate change. Machinda Marongwe, country director for Oxfam International, stressed that the government must invest in agricultural resilience programming and encourage the development of local seed banks. “Commercial seeds are not locally available or affordable, so smallholders rely on farmer seed system to access the varieties they need. Access is especially important in cases of drought, as farmers may be forced to replant several times." Food insecurity has become a mounting issue throughout the country, forcing communities to spend more money on food at the expense of funds that would normally be allocated elsewhere, such as education.

    For more information see:

    The Standard



    Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Settles in at 400 ppm, Unlikely to Decrease

    Study: Rising Temperatures in Sub-Saharan Africa Have Increased Risk of Conflict by 11 Percent

    Bipartisan Bill Would Reform Flood Insurance through Climate Adaptation Measures

    New Orleans Triples Regional Record for Number of 80 Degree Fahrenheit Nights in a Year

    Warming Ocean Waters Threaten New England Lobster Industry


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