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    Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee are requesting the Department of Defense provide a more thorough accounting of its most climate-vulnerable facilities in a congressional report. Image courtesy of


    New Mexico to Join 18 Other States in Climate Alliance Coalition

    On January 29, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) issued an executive order making her state a member of the Climate Alliance Coalition. The coalition was created in 2017 by states that wanted to continue reducing emissions according to the tenets of the Paris Climate Agreement. New Mexico has committed to reduce its emissions by 45 percent below 2005 levels over the next 12 years and 80 percent by 2040. These reductions would be achieved by integrating additional renewable energy sources and transmission lines into the grid, updating building codes, and adopting stricter emission standards for light-duty vehicles sold in the state. Lujan Grisham also ordered two state agencies to develop statewide regulations to reduce methane emissions from oil and natural gas operations. The Governor's ambitious plan drew praise from environmental organizations and encouragement from natural gas interests. Ryan Flynn, executive director of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, supported Lujan Grisham’s decision, but added, "We want to make sure there’s a clear understanding of our operations and that policy goals are realistic and regulations reasonable so we can work with them."

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    Albuquerque Journal


    Pentagon Fails to Deliver Clarity in Infrastructure Report, Democrats Request a Do-Over

    In January 2019, the Department of Defense released a Congressionally-mandated climate risk assessment for military facilities. However, in the 22-page report, the Pentagon failed to acknowledge all that Congress asked for, and now that the House is under a Democratic majority, the Armed Services Committee is asking for a new report by April 1, 2019. In the months preceding the release of the report, the Washington Post reported that DOD had removed many mentions of climate change from the report. That, along with the exclusion of cost estimates and a list of the ten most climate-vulnerable bases for each service branch, left policymakers disappointed. For instance, the Marine Corps' Camp Lejeune had an estimated $3 billion in damages after Hurricane Florence struck, but it was not included in the report. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) deemed the report held "about as much value as a phonebook." Democrats on the committee are giving the Pentagon two months to release a revised report before they begin to call in DOD staff for testimony or potentially subpoena documents.

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    Mother Jones


    Germany Plans to End All Coal Use by 2038

    After the 2011 Fukushima nuclear meltdown, the nation of Germany decided that it would phase out all of its nuclear power generating capacity by 2022. On January 26, after a 21-hour deliberation, a government-appointed commission decided to phase out all coal-fired power plants in Germany by 2038 as well. The announcement arrives after Germany failed to meet the emission limits it set under the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. Currently, 40 percent of Germany’s power comes from coal plants. Over the next four years, the country will begin to eliminate 12 gigawatts of coal powered energy, the equivalent of 24 large power plants. Coal-producing regions in Germany are concerned about what the phase-out will do to their local economies. The plan still requires backing from the German federal and state governments, but around three-fourths of the population backs the decision to transition to more clean energy sources. The commission estimates that the phaseout plan would require €40 billion ($45.65 billion) for implementation.

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    Deutsche Welle


    UN Security Council Takes Closer Look at Climate-Security Threat

    Currently, the United Nations (UN) Security Council has shifted its focus to climate change, describing it as a major global security threat. The UN has cited that not only are areas being hit by extreme weather events, but they are also experiencing crop failures and an increase in violence, particularly in parts of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Permanent council members France and the United Kingdom were joined by Germany, Peru, Poland, and Belgium in leading the charge on addressing climate change as a serious global security threat. They have suggested the creation of a "clearing house" for data that could help nations better understand and combat current climate security threats. France has also requested that the UN Secretary General publish an annual report to the council on these topics. Although this has been the fourth debate at the UN about how climate change can affect global security, representatives from countries such as Russia and the United States were critical about the Security Council's prioritization of climate change.

    For more information see:

    Climate Home News


    Worker Shortages Threaten Growth of Renewable Power Sector in Africa

    Off-grid renewable energy is viewed as one of the fastest ways to connect the more than 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa without electricity to the grid. While renewable energy has been readily embraced as a solution to energy shortages, the biggest challenge today is trying to find workers that are trained to install and maintain these additions to the grid. Aside from the lack of training and education in the workforce, a lot of the demand for renewable energy technology expertise is in remote locations, making it difficult to attract and retain professionals. Skilled workers also command higher salaries, leading to competition among employers to attract recruits. Excluding the nation of South Africa, sub-Saharan Africa has just 0.1 percent of the global renewable energy workforce – fewer than the total number of people employed in Illinois' wind energy industry. Kenya and Rwanda are among the countries working to improve access to clean energy job training through partnerships between public and private entities.

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    New Democrat Caucus Announces Policy Task Forces for 116th Congress

    The 101 member-strong New Democrat Coalition is poised to play a major role in helping to shape the policy agenda for the 116th Congress. As the largest ideological caucus within the broader 240-member House Democratic Caucus, the centrist-leaning group plans to create eight issue-based task forces to draft legislative priorities on a range of topics, including climate change and infrastructure. The task forces strategically nominated their co-chairs from across different committees and caucuses, including the freshman class and the House diversity caucuses. Most of the policy areas suggested by New Democrat members were previously studied by a task force, but climate change was a new addition in 2019. Reps. Don Beyer (VA), Elaine Luria (VA), Sean Casten (IL), and Susan Wild (PA) will serve on the climate task force. Infrastructure will feature Del. Stacey Plaskett (USVI) and Reps. Jason Crow (CO), Elissa Slotkin (MI), and Salud Carbajal (CA). Del. Plaskett expressed optimism that an infrastructure bill could advance out of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee at some point this year.

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    Roll Call


    Study: Republican House Districts at Greatest Risk of Future Climate Change Damages

    In a new study released by the Brookings Institution, districts that supported Republican candidates for the House of Representatives during the 2018 midterm elections could be among the most severely affected by climate change. The results, which strongly align with similar studies of districts who supported Trump’s presidential run, show that Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Florida, and Mississippi could suffer the most economically due to a decrease in agricultural yields, coastal damage, and increased mortality rates following future natural disasters and heat waves. The projected economic losses in red districts was 4.4 percent of 2012 incomes versus 2.7 percent for blue districts. Over the past decade, there has already been up to $200 billion in climate change-related damages and this amount is expected to increase. Due to the fact that at-risk residents are still slow to accept that climate change is a major threat, public officials intend to frame the issue around economic development and energy security in order to appeal to such individuals.

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    Fossil Fuel Industries Reap Profits from Policy Rollbacks, but Overlook Social Costs

    In 2019, the Trump administration continued its efforts to either repeal or loosen environmental rules and regulations, including regulations on mercury emissions, oil refinery pollution, and the coal industry. In a study conducted by the Associated Press, researchers found that fossil fuel industries could potentially save up to $11.6 billion if the administration continues with its plan for deregulation. The private sector could reap billions more if federal vehicle efficiency standards are frozen. The study assessed 11 major rules targeted by the administration using the government's own cost-benefit estimates. However, the social costs of the rollbacks are steep, according to the federal agencies themselves. Among the potential damages are thousands of premature deaths due to pollution from coal plants, an increase of a billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles (equivalent to the annual emissions of nearly 200 million vehicles), and an increased risk of water contamination from natural gas extraction activities. Despite the potential harms, the Trump administration has remained adamant that the purported economic benefits outweigh potential hazards to public safety and the environment.

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    Associated Press


    Oklahoma's Meteorological Network Supplies Valuable Data to Public Officials and Scientists

    Oklahoma is home to 120 advanced meteorological stations that have proven highly valuable to researchers. The stations are mounted on 30-foot towers and collect a steady stream of observations on more than a dozen factors, including wind and air pressure, temperature, and even soil moisture. The state's sophisticated "mesonet" helps keep track of where storms and other atmospheric events are occurring. Over time, the data collected by the network will provide resources for climate science, agriculture, industry, and government. The network was cited in the latest National Climate Assessment as an example for other states to follow in setting up their own early warning systems for natural disasters. Meteorological technician Kirk Wilson said, "People come here from all over the world to see what we've done with this." The Oklahoma Climatological Survey manages the state's mesonet. Chris Fiebrich, associate director of the Survey, said, "We're not only collecting the data every five minutes, but we're trying to get it out to the decision-makers within five minutes."

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    Grade School Students Give Scientists Clues on Mass Sea Star Die-Offs

    In 2013, a group of school kids in Arkansas who had never been to the Pacific Ocean began to fundraise for sea stars after they heard about a wasting disease that was killing them. The disease has affected 20 species of sea stars, but most prominently the sunflower sea star. When Dr. Drew Harvell, a Cornell ecology professor, received the $400 donation, he decided to match it, and other larger private donations came in as well. The donations led to a study, released on January 30 in the journal Science Advances. The study found a correlation between rising ocean temperatures and the wasting disease. It is thought that the elevated temperatures trigger the appearance of the wasting disease, and since the world’s oceans absorb 90 percent of the atmosphere's excess heat, the disease is appearing in more locations along North America's west coast. Despite the disappearance of many sub-populations of the sea stars in the lower 48 states, scientists have discovered a small sunflower star population in Alaska's Prince William Sound that shows promise.

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    New York Times



    NASA Reports "Several Disturbing Discoveries" about the Massive Thwaites Glacier

    Innovative Program to Help Peruvian Coffee Farmers Adapt to Climate Change

    Green New Deal Faces a Rocky Political Path in Legislature

    What Motivates People to Stay Put in the Face of Dire Climate Impacts?

    Scientists and Meteorologists Try to Excise Politics from Climate Change Topics

    Writers: Cameron Bechtold and Nicolette Santos
    Editor: Brian La Shier