Table Of Contents

    In 2015, Ohio experienced a 21 percent increase in employment in its solar power industry, stimulating growth in other sectors of the regional economy. Photo courtesy of Alex Snyder via


    Trump Signs Executive Order to Further Dismantle the Obama Administration's Climate Policies

    On March 28, President Trump signed an executive order directing his administration to begin undoing several more of the Obama administration's climate change policies. The order’s most prominent target is the Clean Power Plan, which required states to meet individual carbon emission reduction goals and is a key policy in the U.S. effort to meet its obligations under the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. “My administration is putting an end to the war on coal,” said Trump at the signing of the order at EPA headquarters, at one point turning to a group of coal miners in attendance and declaring, "You're going back to work." The order instructs federal regulators to stop using the “social cost of carbon” in their economic analyses of future environmental rules. Trump's signature also lifted a ban on coal leasing on federal lands, halted rules limiting methane leaks from oil and gas facilities, and rescinded multiple presidential memos meant to integrate climate action across numerous federal agencies. The EPA's underlying endangerment finding naming greenhouse gas emissions a threat to public health and U.S. involvement in the Paris Agreement both went unaddressed in the order, but are viewed as major targets by the administration.

    For more information see:

    Politico, Reuters, New York Times

    Rescinding Clean Power Plan Will Not Halt Ascent of Renewables over Coal

    On March 28, President Trump signed an executive order eliminating the Clean Power Plan (CPP), claiming the regulatory repeal would revitalize the dying domestic coal industry. Yet, regulations imposed by the CPP are not the primary reason behind the coal industry's decline. Rather, the rise of natural gas and cost competitive renewable energy are at the root of this trend. While rescinding the CPP may slow the decline of coal in the short term, it will neither protect coal miners from further job losses, nor reverse the long term recession of the coal industry. Workforce automation poses a major threat to coal miners, and even if the industry rebounds, employment opportunities may not follow. Many American corporations have publicly pledged to power their operations entirely with renewable resources, while investors remain bullish on clean energy despite the administration's position. State laws and federal tax credits for wind and solar, extended in 2015 with Republican support, will also contribute to the "solid growth of renewables over the next three to four years," according to analyst Ethan Zindler of Energy Finance.

    For more information see:

    Bloomberg, Utility Dive, Five Thirty Eight

    State-Level Governments Continue to Pursue Clean Energy Policies

    While the federal government has begun to shift its attention away from clean energy development, states have taken the opposite tack. Within the last year, there have been hundreds of clean energy bills introduced into state legislatures, revealing a bipartisan push for an increase in renewable energy that will benefit both the environment and state economies. State approaches vary, with some pledging to run entirely on renewable energy by mid-century, while others have pursued smaller, short-term goals. Most of the proposed bills are aimed at growing the clean energy sector, and while some of the proposals were in opposition to renewables, those have already begun to fizzle out. Many of the proposed bills call for increasing renewable portfolio standards (RPS), which involves mandating electricity to come from clean energy sources. So far, 29 states have an RPS and eight additional states have voluntary energy targets in place. Legislation emphasizing energy efficiency improvements through utilities, home improvements, and building codes have also gained favorability.

    For more information see:

    Inside Climate News

    Phoenix Faces a Hotter Future Due to Urban Sprawl and Climate Change

    The city of Phoenix has undergone substantial growth, resulting in its neighborhoods becoming more paved with heat trapping asphalt and more reliant on air conditioning. The city receives only eight inches of rain a year and already features temperatures that routinely exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Phoenix's development choices have amplified the problem through the creation of a local “urban heat island effect,” as only 11 percent of the city is covered by trees. Climate change has the potential to exacerbate these factors further, with temperatures potentially reaching 130 degrees F in the latter half of the century. “My colleagues and I wonder about the future habitability of Phoenix all the time,” said David Hondula, a climatologist who researches the effect of heat on health at Arizona State University. Phoenix has taken steps toward climate mitigation by expanding the public transit systems, replacing fleets of vehicles with electric cars, and setting goals for reducing carbon emissions. However, the Republican-led state legislature has opposed local-level actions to combat climate change.

    For more information see: Los Angeles Times

    Architects of Paris Climate Agreement See a Path Forward Under a Potential U.S. Pullout

    After months of consternation about the future of the Paris Agreement from which the Trump administration is considering a withdrawal, the treaty's supporters have adopted a more positive perspective on its successful implementation independent of the U.S. decision. Although President Trump’s rebuff of climate action could cause other countries to waiver on their commitment to the agreement, some key proponents argue that no U.S involvement would be a better alternative to constant interference from an administration fundamentally opposed to the deal. The agreement requires a consensus for decision-making and Christiana Figueres, the UNFCCC's Executive Secretary during the Paris negotiations, asserts that a U.S.-free Paris Agreement could provide a clearer path toward consensus. China and the European Union are two parties who could assert greater influence over future negotiations and implementation of the treaty if the United States pulls back. The best scenario would be for the United States to remain fully committed to the accord, but its success, says Johan Rockstrom of Stockholm University, may be more likely without “a negative giant in the room."

    For more information see:


    As the U.S. Reverses Course on Climate Policy, China Moves to Fill the Void

    As the Trump administration continues to remove key cogs in the Obama administration's climate action plan, China is moving ahead with its transition toward cleaner energy resources, setting in motion a role reversal on international climate leadership. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said, "All sides should move with the times … and earnestly take proactive steps to jointly push the enforcement of [the Paris Agreement]." Meanwhile, China's government has prioritized climate mitigation by moving to improve air quality, integrating more renewable electricity into the grid, and setting up a national cap and trade system. China currently consumes as much coal as the rest of the world combined. Law professor Alex L. Wang of the University of California-Los Angeles, observed, "Trump’s rejection of regulatory action on climate change creates a vacuum in global climate leadership that China can now seize," adding America's actions do not affect the "underlying drivers" motivating China to act.

    For more information see:

    NY Times, Reuters

    Tensions Mount in Conservative Circles Over EPA Chief’s Regulatory Strategy

    At the urging of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and some White House officials, President Trump’s March 28 executive order on climate change did not include directives to retract the EPA’s greenhouse gas endangerment finding. Pruitt has asserted that revoking the finding, which holds the agency legally responsible for regulating carbon dioxide, would impede Trump’s agenda by entangling the agency in prolonged legal battles. Conservative groups and other administration officials are deeply critical of this decision, demanding a more aggressive tact. Despite their initial praise for Pruitt’s appointment, some conservative voices question if he is “up to that task.” Myron Ebell, who led the EPA transition team that helped select Pruitt, characterized him as being “more interested in building his political career than he is taking on the Green Blob.” The White House has not categorically rejected the idea of repealing the endangerment finding in the future.

    For more information see:

    Politico, CNN

    Solar Jobs Rise While Coal Jobs Fall in Northeast Ohio

    Solar industry jobs have doubled in Cleveland, Ohio over the past year, driving around half of the entire state’s total job growth in solar. “Ohio is the heavyweight among its neighboring states,” said Andrea Luecke, president and executive director of the Solar Foundation in Washington, DC. Solar jobs in Cuyahoga County rose to 1,043 within the last year, more than doubling the previous year’s count. Around 60 households will be installing rooftop solar panels as part of a local solar cooperative for the county. “In 10 years a rooftop that doesn’t have solar will look out of place," said Mike Foley, head of Cuyahoga County's Department of Sustainability. This growth in the solar industry has beneficial effects on other sectors of the economy as well. “One solar-related job supports 1.31 jobs elsewhere in the Ohio economy, while every $1 spent on solar generates an additional $0.87 in spending throughout the state,” Luecke stated. In 2015, Ohio experienced a 21 percent increase in solar industry employment, as the state's coal mining sector saw a matching decline over the same period.

    For more information see:

    Midwest Energy News

    Erosion of Jamaican Shoreline Shows Inextricable Link Between Reef and Beach Health

    Corals reefs are not only diverse ecosystems, but they also play a crucial role in buffering beaches from storms and erosion. This has been the case for years at Jamaica's iconic Hellshire Beach. However, as water pollution and ocean temperatures have increased, Hellshire’s reefs have suffered a severe decline. According to Moana Webber, a marine ecologist at the University of the West Indies’ Centre for Marine Sciences, “Once you lose your reef, the seagrass gets exposed to too much high wave action and then the beach itself is also compromised. All those systems help to hold the sand in place.” This has led to massive erosion of the beach, which impacts local businesses, which have already seen a reduction in tourists. What’s more, it is possible that people will have to fully evacuate the area in order to allow the beach to recover. As climate change continues to be a major stressor on reefs around the world, this fate may become increasingly common for the planet’s beaches.

    For more information see:


    Trump's South Florida Estate Under Severe Threat from Climate Change Impacts

    Palm Beach, FL, home of Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate, is expected to be overtaken by nearly seven feet of sea level rise by the end of the century. Current residents of the 16-mile strip of real estate say they are already witnessing the effects of rising waters and have turned to pumping stations, higher sea walls, and a $100 million project to halt beach erosion. In addition, the town has commissioned a study to assess its vulnerability to future climate impacts. Scientists have described South Florida as "ground zero for climate change impacts" in the United States. One group of scientists wrote to the President, "Many of Florida’s waterfront properties (including yours) are vulnerable to even minor increases in sea level, because of erosion and storm surge." Regarding the projected increase in sea level, Harold Wanless, chairman of the geological sciences department at the University of Miami, said, "I can’t imagine that Donald Trump’s properties will be viable for more than 30 years."

    For more information see:

    Boston Globe


    An Alternative Approach to Climate Adaptation: “Managed Retreat”

    As climate change leads to increased storm severity and rising oceans, it has become clear that coastal residents will need to take action in the near future. Historically, this has included the construction of sea walls, levees, and elevated infrastructure, but a "managed retreat" presents another option. At its core, managed retreat is a well-coordinated relocation of people and assets away from danger zones, which works both to protect coastal inhabitants and also allow for the restoration of coastal habitats to their natural state. A new study, published in Nature Climate Change, examined 27 cases of managed retreat around the world and estimated that 1.3 million people have had to relocate due to storms, flooding, earthquakes, and tsunamis over the past 30 years. However, this pales in comparison to the 70-190 million people expected to be displaced by sea level rise alone by the end of the century. The study also provided a framework for assessing whether a retreat may succeed based on the balance of various factors, including who initiates the action and whether it benefits the broader society.

    For more information see:

    Carbon Brief


    Scientists Are Studying Soil Microbes to Unlock Climate Solutions

    Scientists are making important discoveries about the complex role of microbes in shaping soil ecosystems and ultimately the earth’s climate. A better understanding of the way microbes, soils, and plants interact with natural systems will improve climate modeling and inform solutions. Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that nearly one-fifth of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere at one study site came from soil microbes. This discovery fills a hole in the current climate models and helps officials make better land management decisions. Other research teams have been developing techniques to actively use root-colonizing bacteria to increase crop yields, a critical need as the world becomes more arid. Scientists were able to boost grain and vegetable yields by 20-45 percent in drought conditions, compared to well-watered crops without the bacterial agent. These studies can lead to innovations in agricultural science to help farmers meet the growing demand for food.

    For more information see:

    Climate News Network



    Justice Department Asks Federal Court to Pause Consideration of Clean Power Plan Case

    Bipartisan Congressional Climate Caucus Expands to 34 Members

    Mayors from 75 American Cities Publicly Object to Trump's Climate Policy Repeals

    Worsening Drought and Conflict May Spark Simultaneous Famine Across Four African Nations

    Florida Fails to Nurture Its Vast Solar Potential, as New York's Industry Booms

    Remote Alaskan Community Uses Renewable Energy to Cut Electricity Costs and Break Diesel Dependence

    New Climate Research Reveals How "Planetary Waves" Can Prolong Periods of Extreme Weather


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