Table Of Contents

    Shifting seasonal temperatures have caused grizzly bears to alter their eating habits as the availability of favored foods changes. Photo courtesy of U.S. National Park Service via


    Trump Administration Dismisses Federal Climate Advisory Committee

    The Trump administration chose to disband the Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment, rather than renew the panel's charter. The 15-member panel is responsible for assisting policymakers and private-sector entities by translating analysis from the National Climate Assessment into actionable guidance. The panel was in the process of writing a report for federal officials on how to best use climate data in their work. Panel chair Richard Moss says the group will seek to complete its report, but said, "It won’t have the same weight as if we were issuing it as a federal advisory committee." Many state and local officials have looked to the federal government for additional guidance and resources to deal with climate change, but the Trump administration has rolled back these efforts. The next edition of the quadrennial National Climate Assessment is scheduled for publication in 2018. Scientists have expressed concern that the Trump administration may interfere with the Climate Science Special Report contained within the Assessment.

    For more information see:

    Washington Post


    Trump Administration's Grid Study Blames Natural Gas for Coal Plant Closures

    On August 23, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released the final version of its study on the status of the electric power grid. The study was commissioned by DOE Secretary Rick Perry in April 2017 to assess the role regulations, commercial trends, and newer energy technologies have had on American electricity infrastructure. The DOE study states that the closure of baseload coal and nuclear plants due to inexpensive natural gas, as well as the growing renewable energy sector, could lead to an elevated risk of power outages. The study included a list of suggested policy actions, including implementing power pricing schemes advantageous to existing baseload plants and accelerating the permitting process for new baseload and transmission projects. The final study's conclusions differ from those seen in a previously reported on draft, which had declared that renewable energy did not pose a threat to grid reliability and had room to grow further. That earlier draft subsequently underwent review by Trump administration officials before final publication.

    For more information see:

    Reuters, Bloomberg, NPR


    FEMA May Transfer Greater Share of Disaster Relief Costs to State and Local Governments

    Brock Long, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), is reportedly pursuing an overhaul of how disaster relief costs are allocated. In a press interview, the Trump appointee expressed a desire to have state and local governments, as well as homeowners, pay more of the costs stemming from disaster relief, thus shifting financial risk away from the federal government. Long suggested that the threshold for triggering federal disaster relief may be too low and that taxpayers should not have to pay for homes that present recurring flood risks. Environmental advocates for the move hope that higher financial stakes would encourage local officials to adopt policies to aid in climate adaptation. However, state and local officials are opposed to the proposal. The federal government spent its second-highest annual amount on disaster relief ever in 2016 (adjusted for inflation), while the U.S. Government Accountability Office has declared climate change to be “one of the greatest financial risks facing the federal government.”

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    California's Transportation Sector Holding Back State's Potential to Reduce Carbon Emissions

    According to a new report issued by Next 10 and Beacon Economics, emissions from California's transportation sector rose in 2015, despite improvements to fuel efficiency and the adoption of more electric vehicles. Lower gas prices and longer commutes led Californians to spend more time on the road, limiting the state's overall emission reductions to 0.34 percent that year. California is largely on track to meet its goal of lowering emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. However, with the transportation sector producing almost 40 percent of the state's total emissions, additional reforms will be needed to reach this goal. California is a prominent example of a region decoupling its emissions from its economy. After creating a cap-and-trade market in 2006, the state's gross domestic product grew by nearly $5,000 per capita and emissions decreased by 12 percent through 2015. State officials have set a goal of deploying 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles in California by 2025 in an effort to address transportation's drag on emission reductions.

    For more information see:

    InsideClimate News


    A Growing Number of Republicans Are Standing Up for Climate Change in Congress

    The House Climate Solutions Caucus is part of a growing coalition of voices in Washington who are not afraid to run counter to the Republican Party on climate change. The bipartisan caucus currently has 52 members and is divided evenly between the two major political parties. A recent legislative victory saw 46 Republicans join with Democrats in the House to defeat an amendment that would have stripped a requirement from the defense authorization bill for the Department of Defense to assess the climate vulnerability of its facilities. Critics suggest the caucus is being used by Republicans to bolster their credentials, as the poor environmental track records of some members do not match the ambitions of the caucus. All but five of the caucus's 26 GOP members are being targeted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in the 2018 election cycle. Rep. Jon Faso (R-NY), citing infrastructure as one area where Republicans are considering climate change, stated, "If we concentrate on things that are economically viable and scientifically sustainable and approvable and achievable, then we can address this issue."

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    Study Closely Examines Exxon's Records, Finds Clear Practice of Sowing Climate Change Doubts

    A new peer-reviewed study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters corroborates earlier reporting that ExxonMobil intentionally misled the public about the dangers of climate change resulting from fossil fuel emissions. Study authors Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes of Harvard University wrote, "ExxonMobil contributed quietly to the science and loudly to raising doubts about it." Over the course of their research, the authors uncovered "a systematic discrepancy between what ExxonMobil's scientists and executives discussed about climate change privately and in academic circles and what it presented to the general public." In response to Exxon's claim that critics were "cherry picking" the company's record, the study authors reviewed 187 public and internal Exxon documents spanning four decades. The study concluded that 83 percent of peer-reviewed papers written by Exxon scientists and 80 percent of the company's internal communications acknowledge the existence of climate change and its causation by humans. By contrast, 81 percent of Exxon's advertisements in the editorial pages of The New York Times expressed doubt about climate change.

    For more information see:

    InsideClimate News


    Walmart Dives Deep into Its Vast Supply Chain to Try and Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

    Walmart is attempting to greatly reduce the carbon footprint of its supply chain, but found that a significant amount of emissions from their products originate in farming operations. According to a Deloitte study, nitrogen fertilizer accounts for the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions for nearly half of Walmart's best-selling items. The manufacturing of nitrogen fertilizer is highly energy intensive, while its use on fields causes bacteria in the soil to significantly increase their natural production of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas. Reaching the entities within Walmart's complex supply chain that actually use the fertilizer proved far more difficult than anticipated. Matt Carstens, a fertilizer dealer who has advised the non-profit Environmental Defense Fund on the issue, said, "Everybody wants to talk to the farmer, but the trusted adviser of the farmer is their ag retailer, in most cases. You can't go to the farm and just say, 'You have to do this, because.' You have to put it in a way that's economical or profitable for them."

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    Higher Temperatures Threaten Elderly Residents of New York City

    Dealing with extreme heat is a public health challenge for cities, where the elderly are among the most vulnerable. Elderly individuals tend to have greater difficulty regulating their body temperature, while medical conditions such as cardiovascular and respiratory disease and diabetes amplify the risks of heat exposure. Professor Christopher Uejio of Florida State University studied people receiving emergency medical care in New York and discovered, "Even at relatively moderate temperatures — so temperatures around the mid 80s — we are seeing that indoor heat exposures are associated with people making more respiratory distress calls." Uejio added that people may spend up to 90 percent of their time in their homes and some may not be able to afford to maintain air conditioning. A 2011 survey of New York residents found that 34 percent of senior citizens and adults in "fair or poor health" either did not own an air conditioner or rarely used one. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, heat waves kill more people on average than any other weather event in the United States.

    For more information see:

    Nexus Media


    Climate Change May Be Shaking Up the Habits of Bees

    Researchers are studying bees to better understand how climate change, poor nutrition, and vulnerability to pesticides and parasites may be affecting California's bee populations. Bees provide vital pollination services for ecosystems and the agricultural sector, but their numbers have been declining worldwide. Michelle Duennes of UC-Riverside is documenting how different environmental factors affect bees in a range of locations across California. She hopes to use this data to develop a tool for farmers to report on the health of their local bee populations. Duennes also collects bees at different altitudes to see how climate change may be affecting them. Changes to the length and intensity of the summer can lead to shortened hibernation periods for bees, though researchers are not yet certain how this may impact them. Climate change can also alter the growing seasons for the flowers bees prefer and the parasites that prey on the bees. Duennes said, "I would hope that lots of people would know how important (bumblebees) are to the food that they eat every day."

    For more information see:

    Sacramento Bee


    Potential Impacts of Melting Alaskan Permafrost Causes Alarm Among Climate Scientists

    Alaska has some of the most vulnerable permafrost in the world and could lose a significant amount of its permafrost by 2050. Max Holmes, deputy director of the Woods Hole Research Center, said the permafrost loss "has all kinds of consequences both locally for this region, for the animals and the people who live here, as well as globally." Melting Alaskan permafrost has caused roads and airport runways built on top of it to shift and crack. The world's permafrost is thought to contain roughly twice as much carbon as what is currently contained in the atmosphere. Permafrost consists of plants that captured carbon dioxide (CO2) when alive, but froze before they could release that CO2 through decomposition after dying. As the permafrost melts, microbes convert the organic material trapped within into CO2 and methane gas, which contribute to global warming processes. Scientists estimate that melting permafrost could increase the global average temperature by 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit over the next several centuries, regardless of other emission reduction activities.

    For more information see:

    New York Times



    Changes Anticipated for Federal Government's Social Cost of Carbon Metric

    Federal Court Withholds Approval for Southeast Pipeline, Citing Inadequate Assessment of Climate Impacts

    Study: Number of Environmental Migrants Could Reach 200 Million By 2050

    Green Climate Fund to Issue $150 Million in Loans for Development of Egyptian Renewable Energy

    Shifting Seasonal Temperatures Lead Grizzly Bears to Swap Salmon for Berries


    Writer and Editor: Brian La Shier