Table Of Contents

    Kuwait City is facing numerous challenges due to soaring temperatures, including how to safeguard outdoor laborers facilitating the region's construction boom. Photo courtesy of Samira via


    Trump's Executive Order Will Leave Federally-Funded Projects More Vulnerable to Flood Risks

    On August 15, President Trump signed an executive order to roll back the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard, which was created through an earlier executive order by President Obama. The 2015 standard required projects built with federal aid to account for the risks posed by sea level rise. Several building trade groups, including the National Association of Home Builders, lobbied for the repeal of the flood planning guidelines, arguing that they would increase construction costs and raise rents. However, a significant coalition of city planners and engineers supported the existing policy. Jessica Grannis of the Georgetown Climate Center said, “What [Trump's] order will do is ensure that we will waste more taxpayer money because federal agencies will no longer have to consider long-term flood risks to federally-funded infrastructure projects." Trump's order would also purportedly streamline the federal permitting process for infrastructure projects, but watchdogs fear it could potentially lead to a stifling of public comment opportunities central to federal environmental reviews.

    For more information see:

    Associated Press, Washington Post


    Interior Department's Climate Advisory Committee Put on Hiatus

    Signs indicate the Interior Department's Advisory Committee on Climate Change and Natural Resource Science has been quietly shelved. The committee was created in 2013 to advise the Secretary of the Interior on climate change. It featured 25 members from scientific, policy, and economic disciplines. The committee's charter was allowed to lapse in June 2017, while a meeting scheduled for April was cancelled. An Interior spokesperson said the committee is not currently active, as its future is being reviewed. Members were told the department would like to see "[a redeveloped] charter with slightly different tasks and a reduced membership that brings more professional societies onto the committee." Given the minimal cost of convening the committee, former members suspect the reorganization is tied to the Trump administration's view of climate science. Prior recommendations from the committee covered ways to improve communication on climate change across Interior's agencies and how to assist tribes in developing adaptation strategies.

    For more information see:

    E&E News


    President Trump Has Final Say in Publication of Prominent Government Climate Report

    A draft of the U.S. Global Change Research Program's (USGCRP) Climate Science Special Report was leaked in early August 2017 as a means of hindering efforts to suppress or water down its findings. Some of those involved in the report's creation were opposed to this action, stating it could encourage the administration to bring in a "red team" of analysts to vet and criticize the very science upon which the study is based. The quadrennial report is required by law and is generated by USGCRP, which coordinates climate research across more than a dozen federal agencies. The climate science portion is under the jurisdiction of the National Science and Technology Council, which is chaired by the president or a proxy. Former USGCRP communications manager Nicky Sundt said this structure "opens up the possibility of all sorts of delays and changes." Sundt described the administration's track record on transparency surrounding the report as "troubled and opaque."

    For more information see:



    California May Invest Hundreds of Millions in Climate Research Programs

    A coalition of researchers is crafting a proposal to establish a California Climate Science and Solutions Institute, which would focus on basic- and applied-research projects for dealing with climate change. The initiative would invest hundreds of millions of dollars per year and could potentially draw funds from the state's cap-and-trade program. While the governor's office has expressed support, any proposal would have to pass the state legislature. Daniel Kammen of UC-Berkley said, "The goal is to develop the research we need, and then put climate solutions into practice." Thus far, the idea has gained the backing of all 10 University of California campuses, as well as Stanford and the California Institute of Technology. Researchers from any institution would be eligible for grants, with a priority given to projects that "engage communities, businesses, and policymakers." The coalition hopes to submit a plan to the state legislature before the end of 2017, with the institute up and running by September 2018.

    For more information see:



    Drought in Sri Lanka Drives Displacement of Young People from Rural Communities

    Sri Lanka's agricultural industry is struggling to adapt to increasingly unpredictable and extreme weather patterns. A 10-month-long drought has impacted 19 of the island nation's 25 districts. A report by the World Food Program and United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization declared the drought the region's worst in 40 years, warning Sri Lanka "is highly susceptible to climate change, and therefore the frequency of the weather hazards will likely increase as the Earth warms." Sri Lanka's production is expected to be 35 percent less in 2017 than its five-year average. More than a quarter of the country's workforce is employed in agriculture, accounting for eight percent of its GDP. The hardships have led to a migration of young people from rural villages to urban areas in search of a steadier source of income. Sisira Kumara, a government administrator for the village of Adigama, said, "If they get the lowest paying job overseas, or in a garment factory, they will not return. There is no income here. All the crops have failed in the last four seasons."

    For more information see:



    Bangladesh's Cities Grapple with a Steady Influx of Displaced Peoples

    Environmental and economic changes in Bangladesh are pushing large swaths of the population to migrate. Coastal flooding in Bangladesh destroys property, leaves farmland too salty to grow crops, and contaminates ground water. Tropical cyclones are expected to become more frequent and severe due to climate change, elevating the risk of storm surges. Over the past 20 years, rural residents have been moving to cities, with the city of Dhaka alone seeing its population double to 19 million. City planners have not been able to keep up with the region's growth spurt, leading to crowded slums and flooding due to new construction interfering with natural drainage systems. An additional 20 million Bangladeshis are believed to have crossed illegally into neighboring India, resulting in the construction of a guarded fence along the border. Efforts to address South Asia's migrations are in the early stages. One challenge is that climate migrants are difficult to differentiate from economic migrants, since both essentially move in search of work.

    For more information see:

    Climate Change News


    As Kuwait's Temperatures Soar, Sustainable Practices and Labor Safeguards Lag Behind

    Kuwait's climate has continued to grow warmer, stoking concerns that some residents may not be able to protect themselves from the intense heat. During the summer, temperatures in Kuwait frequently reach 50 degrees Celsius (122 F). Kuwait City's more affluent residents can afford to avoid the heat by seeking shelter in air-conditioned buildings and cars, but most of the population is vulnerable. Roughly 70 percent of the country's population consists of migrant workers, who drive the region's many construction projects. The national government has banned outdoor labor during the hottest hours of noon-4pm, but workers can still be seen outdoors during these restricted periods due to lax enforcement. According to an anonymous company manager, "In Kuwait or in the Gulf, you can see that most of the laborers are not citizens. [If they refuse to work], they won’t get any money and will be forced to return to their home countries." Kuwait's average annual temperature is projected to increase by 1.6 percent to 28.7 C (83.6 F) by 2035.

    For more information see:



    Tariff Case Could Lead to Steep Price Hike for Solar Panels, Slowing Development

    On August 15, the U.S. International Trade Commission heard from dozens of representatives from across the solar industry, the U.S. government, and foreign governments on a tariff case that many fear could upend the international solar energy market. Two solar equipment manufacturers, Suniva and SolarWorld Americas, filed a petition to introduce significant tariffs and minimum price guarantees on solar equipment imports. The petitioners claim that Chinese companies receiving government subsidies and benefitting from unfair business practices have made it too difficult for American companies to compete. However, inexpensive imported solar panels have also played a large role in growing the industry as a whole. Nearly the entire U.S. solar industry is against the petition, alongside multiple conservative-leaning policy groups opposed to trade restrictions. Opponents state that tariffs would lead to higher solar panel prices and hinder future solar energy development, particularly at the utility-scale. If the Commission rules in favor of the petitioners, the President would have the final say in issuing any trade restrictions.

    For more information see:

    Los Angeles Times, New York Times


    North Dakota Regulations Fall Short in Corralling Gas Flaring

    Limitations with North Dakota's regulation of the oil and gas industry have led to an increase in gas flaring across the state. The current amount of gas flared is far less than 2014's peak levels, but North Dakota has seen a 31 percent increase in flaring over a one-year period. Residents living near the gas fields worry about potential health issues stemming from gas flare emissions. The Bakken Shale oil field does not have the infrastructure to ensure gas is processed and delivered to market, leading companies to burn off the gas instead. The majority of oil-producing states do not allow long-term flaring. A state commission had set a goal of lowering flaring to nine percent of total gas production, but an increase in oil production increased the amount of gas being flared. Don Morrison of the Dakota Resource Council said, "What we can do about it is not issue a permit to drill until there is some place for the gas to go. Other states have figured it out."

    For more information see:

    E&E News


    Innovative Public-Private Collaboration Helps Norway Reduce Food Waste

    At the urging of the Norwegian government, supermarket chain Lentusgruppen developed a new business model to help combat food waste. The company's offshoot, Best Før, opened up shop in Oslo in October of 2016 and specializes in selling goods that have been overproduced or have exceeded their listed "best before date" but are still perfectly safe to consume. The products are sold at a steep discount due to their age. Operations manager Naeeh Ahmed explained, "Most supermarkets won’t buy products that are within 10 days or so of their expiry date – it often has to be wasted." Collaboration between Norway's government and the food industry has led to other innovative programs that ensure such food reaches consumers. Norway began pursuing these efforts in 2010 upon realizing its food waste translated to 978,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually (equivalent to about one-quarter of its vehicle emissions). As of 2015, food waste had been reduced by 12 percent per person, still short of the country's goal of 25 percent per person.

    For more information see:




    Studies: Ohio Could Lose Millions in Property Values and Fishing Revenue Due to Algal Blooms

    Climate Change Could Cost India $10 Billion Annually and Decrease Crop Productivity by 40 Percent, Per Ministry Report

    Study: Renewable Energy Subsidies Save Lives and Tens of Billions of Dollars Due to Avoided Fossil Fuel Use

    LNG Tanker Becomes First Solo Commercial Vessel to Traverse Bering Strait Route to Asia

    Walruses Gather on Alaskan Shores Earlier Than Ever Due to Melting Sea Ice

    NASA: July 2017 Was the Hottest Month on Record


    Writer and Editor: Brian La Shier