Table Of Contents

    Peru's tropical glaciers are disappearing due to global warming, threatening key sources of water for the country's population. Photo courtesy of


    Federal Court Overturns EPA Regulation to Phase-Out HFCs

    On August 8, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ruled against an EPA regulation that would have partially phased out hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). The 2015 rule banned 38 different HFCs or HFC blends for 25 uses across four industries—foam blowing, retail food refrigeration, air conditioning units in new vehicles, and aerosols. HFCs have a global warming potential thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide. Writing for the majority, Judge Brett Kavanaugh stated, “EPA may act only within the boundaries of its statutory authority. Here, EPA exceeded that authority.” According to the decision, EPA is only allowed to require companies to replace an “ozone-depleting substance” with a “non-ozone depleting substance,” meaning a replacement based solely upon climate change factors would not be eligible under the Clean Air Act. The panel noted EPA still possesses other statutory authorities to phase out HFCs, including through the Toxic Substances Control Act. The rule was sent back to EPA for revision. EPA had been sued by the companies Mexichem Fluor of Mexico and Arkema SA of France to have the rule overturned, with HFC manufacturers and environmental organizations supporting the rule. Under the Trump administration, the Justice Department defended the rule during oral arguments in February 2017.

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    E&E News


    Scientists Fear Trump Administration May Suppress Findings of Prominent Climate Change Report

    A draft section of the National Climate Assessment concludes that “many lines of evidence demonstrate that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse (heat-trapping) gases, are primarily responsible for recent observed climate change." The congressionally-mandated quadrennial report is the product of numerous federal agencies and cites evidence from thousands of past studies indicating the causes and impacts of climate change. These findings are in direct conflict with the Trump administration's public views on climate science, resulting in a heightened level of scrutiny towards how the White House decides to handle the report. Scientists have expressed concerns that the administration may alter or suppress the report. The draft has already received approval from the National Academy of Sciences, but will also require sign-off from 13 federal agencies, including the EPA. The report is regarded as one of the most comprehensive and rigorous summaries of climate science available. The draft version includes findings attributing some extreme weather to climate change, as well as an overview of how climate change has affected the entire United States.

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    New York Times


    Trump Administration Restates Desire to Exit Paris Agreement; Will Continue to Attend Climate Talks

    On August 4, the Trump administration delivered a letter to the United Nations declaring the government's intent to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. However, the document is merely a political statement and does not carry any legal authority. According to the terms of the Paris Agreement, the United States will not be able to officially begin the withdrawal process until November 4, 2019. A statement issued by the U.S. State Department said, “[The President] … is open to re-engaging in the Paris Agreement if the U.S. can identify terms that are more favorable to the United States." It remains unclear what new terms the Trump administration may be seeking, as each country is free to adjust their individual emission reduction goals under the accord. The statement also advocates for providing developing nations with increased access to fossil fuel technologies. Despite its aim to exit the agreement, the United States will continue to send a delegation to future climate negotiations, including the next Conference of Parties in Bonn, Germany.

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    New York Times


    Climate Science Terms Are Quietly Being Phased Out of USDA's Research

    A series of emails obtained by The Guardian revealed climate change terms are being censored out of work performed by U.S. Department of Agriculture staff. In a message from a top department official, the terms "climate change," "climate change adaptation," "reduce greenhouse gases," and "sequester carbon" were to be replaced by alternative language, such as "weather extremes," "resilience to weather," "increase nutrient use efficiency," and "build soil organic matter." The February 2017 email from Bianca Moebius-Clune, director of soil health at USDA, said the agency will change how it talks about climate change. Emails from other senior agency staff suggested the Trump administration would not be prioritizing climate change and that staff should be "[made] aware of this shift in perspective." Messaging indicated some staff were confused as to what scientific terms would be acceptable in publications, while others expressed a desire to keep the existing language to maintain the "scientific integrity of the work." The administration's nominee to be USDA's chief scientist, Sam Clovis, has no scientific background and has previously declared climate research to be "junk science."

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    Massachusetts Proposal Would Make Woody Biomass Eligible for Renewable Energy Benefits

    The governor of Massachusetts is proposing a set of rules that would classify wood taken from fallen trees and forest brush as a renewable energy source. The rules are connected to a 2014 law that provides financial incentives for the use of woody biomass for energy. The biomass consists of wood chips and pellets formed from tree and plant matter. Advocates for the proposal say the inclusion of woody biomass would help diversify the state's energy portfolio and that companies receiving subsidies would be required to implement emission-control systems. Supporters also argue that the proposal would mandate "sustainable forestry practices." A state-backed study from 2010 found that electricity generated by utility-scale biomass would likely produce more emissions than comparable coal and natural gas projects in the long-run. Caitlin Peale of the Conservation Law Foundation said, "The language in the regulations is too vague to be enforceable to ensure we’re getting benefits from reducing greenhouse gas emissions."

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    Boston Globe


    Louisiana Still Trying to Recover from One of the Worst Storms in State History

    Louisiana residents are struggling to cope with the aftermath of the worst rainstorm in the state's history, which led to 13 deaths and damaged nearly 100,000 homes. Flooding from the August 2016 storm resulted in $10.3 billion in damages, with $110 million in agricultural losses, making it one of the worst floods in the country's history. However, the storm did not garner a lot of media coverage and Congress authorized aid totaling just 13 cents for every dollar of damage, whereas Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina were granted 65-70 cents on the dollar. Jeffrey Schlegelmilch of Columbia University cautioned Congress is "getting a little frustrated with [funding] these emergency supplementals" that have provided relief from recent disasters, noting "they’ve gotten more difficult to pass." Scientific analysis concluded that climate change made the occurrence of Louisiana's extreme rainfall event twice as likely compared to a century ago. Study author and climatologist Robert Gillies said, “We found that the background climate — the circulation pattern — had changed in such a way that it has increased the odds for such weather."

    For more information see:

    Climate Central


    Climate Change Is Causing Peru's Highland Glaciers to Disappear

    Peru is grappling with the steady loss and degradation of its mountain glaciers, which supply water for drinking, agriculture, and hydroelectricity for millions of people. The country is home to 70 percent of the world's tropical glaciers, but has seen those glaciers lose 90 percent of their mass. A lack of glacial runoff will force government officials to reevaluate the irrigation and electricity infrastructure that relies upon those water sources. According to Nelson Santillán at Peru's national water authority, “For countries like Peru that are trying to climb out of poverty, there are major social, cultural, and economic obstacles to adaptation. Identifying risks is one thing, but doing something about them is another." Flooding from swollen glacial lakes is another danger. If the dam defending the city of Huaraz's 200,000 residents failed, it would result in $2.5 billion in damage and thousands of deaths. However, government action is paralyzed by a history of corruption and a lack of buy-in from local communities for proposed solutions.

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    Washington Post


    Climate Change and Unpredictable Weather Threaten Madagascar's Subsistence Farmers

    Disruptions to the weather cycles in Madagascar are putting entire communities of subsistence farmers at risk. Rice is a staple food for the island nation, but erratic precipitation and severe storms have threatened the crop's production. According to long-time farmers, a major cyclone used to occur about every five years, but now five such storms may hit in a given year. The island's 1,000-mile-long east coast leaves it particularly vulnerable to cyclones. Droughts, abnormal cold, and other factors have harmed the growth of crops. A 2014 study verified the anecdotal evidence, finding that Madagascar's weather has indeed become more extreme over the past 20 years. Researcher Celia Harvey of Conservation International said, "We found that farmers are experiencing very variable rainfall and very variable crop production. Anything that affects their rice production ultimately very quickly undermines their livelihood." Many farmers are poor and financially anchored to their land, making it virtually impossible for them to move if the environment drastically changes.

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    Study: Greenhouse Gas Regulations Could Produce $300 Billion in Annual Benefits by 2030

    According to a new report from the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University, regulations issued under the Obama administration to reduce greenhouse gas emissions could yield $300 billion in net benefits per year by 2030. Whether these benefits will be fully realized is in question, as the Trump administration has been actively working to roll back many of these rules. The study's author, Jessica Wentz, said her team wanted to examine the impact of the rules as a "complete package" and assess the narrative presented by those opposed to the regulations that "these rules impose undue costs on industry and society as a whole." The study compared cost-benefit analyses conducted by federal agencies, as well as independent research done outside the government. The $370 billion in benefits included the impact of reducing carbon dioxide levels and the health benefits of cutting other pollutants, but did not factor in jobs created. Meanwhile, the total cost of implementing the rules was projected to be $84 billion.

    For more information see:

    E&E News


    Scientists Continue to Study the Potential Risks and Rewards of Solar Geoengineering

    Interest in solar geoengineering is beginning to rise as researchers work to better understand its potential benefits and drawbacks. The method is designed to reduce the amount of heat that is able to enter the Earth's atmosphere by reflecting sunlight back into space. This can be achieved through a variety of ways, including cloud brightening, deploying reflective gas at high altitudes, and encouraging cloud formation high in the atmosphere. The organized study of the moral, political, and technological merits of solar geoengineering arose over the past decade. Scientists have also begun to examine potential risks, such as impacts on the water cycle and ecosystems. Researchers are careful to point out that geoengineering is intended as a stopgap for climate mitigation. Prof. Alan Robock of Rutgers University said, "The Paris Agreement was a good start, but those pledges aren’t enough. So what we’re looking at is: If global warming is so dangerous, could we shave off a little warming while we continue to mitigate greenhouse gases?"

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    The Atlantic



    Federal Court Upholds Delay in Litigation of Clean Power Plan; Presses EPA for a Replacement

    Interior Department Ends the Collection of Royalties from Companies Mining Coal on Federal and Tribal Lands

    U.S. Diplomats Ordered to Avoid Engaging with Foreign Officials on Climate Policy

    South Carolina Mayors Work Together to Prepare Their Cities for Climate Change

    Nebraska’s Public Service Commission to Decide Fate of Keystone Pipeline

    Study: Deaths from Severe Weather in Europe Could Increase 50-Fold by 2100


    Writer and Editor: Brian La Shier