Table Of Contents

    The latest research found that algae blooms, such as this one in Lake Erie, may carry harmful climate impacts, in addition to endangering public health. Image courtesy of NOAA via


    EPA to Revise Fuel Efficiency Rules and California’s Waiver

    On April 2, EPA announced it would revise the national Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards that regulate vehicle emissions. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has argued that the current standards are too strict and that there should be a unified national standard. Consequently, EPA intends to "reexamine" a long-standing waiver that allows California to set vehicle emission standards stricter than the rest of the country. Twelve other states have voluntarily adopted California's standards. Automakers had applauded the EPA's intention to revising the CAFE standards, claiming that a flexible and single national standard was critical to improving fuel efficiency and lowering production costs. However, Ford and Honda have expressed a preference for more flexible standards without an outright decrease in overall stringency. California is girding itself for a fight and has threatened legal action against EPA, sparking concerns about a wider gap between the state and federal standards. Mary Nichols, California's Air Resources Board Chair said her state "will not weaken its nationally accepted clean car standards," while the state's attorney general has said they will sue the Trump administration.

    For more information see:

    ABC News, Bloomberg

    Water-Scarcity Management in Cape Town Exceeds Even California's Practices

    Cape Town has managed to reach high levels of water conservation during its ongoing water crisis. The unprecedented drought was originally projected to leave the city with no running water by April 22. Yet, through the enforcement of very strict water usage measures, Cape Town has succeeded in postponing the so-called “Day Zero." At the start of 2018, about 40 percent of Cape Town residents were meeting conservation targets, but authorities state that the average water usage for individuals has now been reduced by half. High-income families succeeded in cutting their average water use by 80 percent, while low-income families achieved 40 percent reductions. Any household caught exceeding the daily 13 gallon per person limit would have a water restriction device attached to its pipes. Cape Towns' water conservation far exceeded California's average daily water usage of 109 gallons per person during its 2016 drought. Strategies such as using grey water for flushing toilets, purifying recycled water for drinking, and banning certain outdoor water practices have offered cheaper alternatives to desalination for Cape Town.

    For more information see:

    Los Angeles Times


    Mentions of Human-Caused Climate Change Stripped from Report

    The National Park Service has removed all mentions of human-caused climate change in drafts of a new report on sea level rise and storm surge. The report, not yet released, is meant to inform the public and officials about how to protect park resources and visitors from climate change. Jonathan Overpeck of the University of Michigan said, “To remove a very critical part of the scientific understanding [from the report] is nothing short of political censorship.” Some scientists have said that this editing violates a National Park Service policy meant to prevent science from being influenced by politics. The press reviewed more than 2,000 pages of report drafts showing changes dating back to August 2016 obtained as part of a public records request. Watchdog groups hypothesize that career officials may have "self-censored" to avoid drawing negative attention from the administration or were acting on verbal orders from their superiors. Joel Clement, a former top climate change official in the Obama administration, said he believes this editing is unlikely to have happened without direction from a top supervisor.

    For more information see:



    Congressional Members Ponder Whether the Select Committee on Global Warming Should Return

    Some Democrats are considering whether there could be a renewed version of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, if the party regains the House majority after the 2018 midterm elections. The original committee existed from 2007 to 2011 and covered issues including the investigation of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the development of the Waxman-Markey climate bill, and holding 80 hearings and briefings on the Hill. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) said, “There’s great merit in considering” bringing the Select Committee back, since it was regarded as a valuable resource for researching energy and climate change issues. However, for former Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ), the Select Committee was dominated by Democrats and did not leave much room for bipartisan discussions. The emergence of another bipartisan group in the House, the Climate Solutions Caucus, also casts uncertainty on the fate of a new Select Committee. Steve Valk, whose organization Citizens Climate Lobby helped establish the Caucus, said the Caucus “could ultimately produce greater legislative results" than a Select Committee.

    For more information see:

    Scientific American


    Report: IEA's Investment Prescriptions Clash with Paris Agreement Goals

    An analysis of the International Energy Agency's (IEA) New Policy Scenario claims that the report's recommendations are not compatible with the emission reduction goals outlined in the Paris Climate Agreement. The analysis by Oil Change International and the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis said that IEA's baseline scenario for the maximum quantity of CO2 humanity can afford to emit, while keeping the global temperature increase within 1.5 degrees Celsius, would actually be exceeded as early as 2022. The report's authors counter that IEA's scenario would actually lead to 2.7-3.3 degrees C in warming. IEA's Sustainable Development Scenario is also deemed inconsistent with the Paris goals, despite the Scenario's 2017 update. Overall, Oil Change International asserts that 78-96 percent of IEA's suggested energy investments would be incompatible with Paris. Critics have previously noted that IEA has a practice of overestimating the significance of fossil fuels in its annual World Energy Outlook, while underestimating the growth of renewable energy.

    For more information see:



    European Countries Push Shipping Industry to Reduce Emissions

    The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) will meet in London during the week of April 9 to discuss whether the shipping industry can drastically reduce its carbon dioxide emissions. The United Kingdom and a coalition of European nations are pushing for a proposal to reduce shipping emissions by 70-100 percent of their 2008 levels by 2050. The plan has been opposed by a group of developing countries that includes Saudi Arabia, Brazil, India, Panama, and Argentina. These nations contend the plan would restrict world trade. In particular, developing countries fear that emission restrictions would affect them the most, since they depend heavily on the maritime sector for economic advancement and are geographically remote from key markets. Thus far, the international shipping industry has managed to avoid carbon reduction standards raised during United Nations climate negotiations, which are conducted on a national basis. Although the IMO agreed in 2011 that new ships should be 30 percent more efficient by 2025, it did not address emission reductions from existing vessels. If industry practices do not improve, the shipping sector could contribute nearly a fifth of global CO2 emissions by 2050.

    For more information see:



    Report: Shell Oil Knew of Greenhouse Gas Risks for Decades, Per Internal Documents

    Journalists have found evidence that Shell Oil had a strong comprehension and elevated awareness of the relationship between global warming and fossil fuel emissions dating back to the 1980s. The documents show that Shell's scientists and managers understood the risks and causes of climate change and the ways greenhouse gas emissions could ultimately affect their business. A 1988 Shell report based on research from 1986 said, "The potential implications [of global warming] for the world are, however, so large that policy options need to be considered much earlier. And the energy industry needs to consider how it should play its part." Yet, the company publicly emphasized the uncertainties associated with climate science and the expense of acting upon them. The findings are of interest to those pursuing litigation against oil and gas companies for their role in potentially circulating misleading information on climate science and the liability they may hold in contributing to global warming.

    For more information see:

    InsideClimate News


    Warm Ocean Water Causes Glaciers to Recede at Five Times the Historical Average

    Satellite data has revealed that warm water slipping under Antarctic ice shelves is accelerating the rate of glacial melting, greatly affecting sea level rise. The water is hitting the grounding line (the point where the ice last touches bedrock) causing some glaciers emptying into the Amundson Sea to recede as much as 600 feet per year. Between 2010 and 2016 warm ocean water melted 564 square miles of ice from this area. These events reinforce beliefs in a worst-case meltdown scenario, with global sea levels rising 10 feet by 2100 globally. Furthermore, surface melting, which allows water to travel deep into the ice and fracture the ice when it refreezes, is also greatly contributing to glacier loss. Climate models suggest that, at the current rate, Antarctic ice sheets and glaciers far from ocean could collapse within the next century. Although data shows that ice shelves are being severely affected, “the record is short and the region has one of the most naturally variable climates on Earth,” so there is hope of avoiding the worst fears of sea level rise.

    For more information see:

    InsideClimate News


    Great Lakes Algae Blooms May Carry More Climate Impacts Than Previously Thought

    Seasonal algae blooms occurring in the Great Lakes were already known to generate toxins called microcystins, which when ingested can cause diarrhea, severe headaches, fever, and liver damage in humans, as well as death in pets and livestock. The blooms have affected regional water supplies, such as when residents of Toledo, OH could not use their tap water for bathing or drinking days after a 2012 contamination event. The blooms are fueled by excess phosphorus from fertilizers that runs off of farmland. Now, a new study has found that these algae blooms are also much larger emitters of methane gas than previously known. Lead author Tonya DelSontro of the University of Geneva said, "The greener or more eutrophic these water bodies become, the more methane is emitted, which exacerbates climate warming.” This creates a feedback loop, where phosphorus runoff provides the nutrients the algae need to gain a foothold, but the warmer water allows them to thrive.

    For more information see:

    Mother Jones



    California Moves to Limit HFC Use for Air Conditioning and Refrigeration

    U.S. Fuel Economy Standards Are Strict, but Still Trail Europe

    Report: Global Solar Capacity Grew Faster Than All Fossil Fuel Power Combined in 2017

    Fiji Battered by Increasingly Severe Storms

    Researchers in Developing Nations Encourage Greater Understanding of Geoengineering


    Writers: Jieyi Lu, Pietro Morabito, and Joanne Zulinski
    Editor: Brian La Shier