Table Of Contents

    Researchers found vast stretches of permafrost in northwestern Canada are melting and subsequently releasing significant quantities of methane into the atmosphere. Photo courtesy of NASA.


    Climate Change Viewed as a "Threat Multiplier" to Department of Defense's Mission

    Former Department of Defense (DOD) officials are working with members of Congress to communicate the risks climate change poses to the military. Roundtables and hearings have been taking place on the Hill recently in an effort to illustrate the specific climate-driven "threat multipliers" that contribute to global instability. While DOD has been aware of climate change as a threat for over a decade and has taken action, Republicans in Congress have attempted to put an end to climate-related defense programs. Ann Phillips, a retired admiral and an advisor with the Center for Climate and Security, said, "This isn’t a political issue for the defense community. We in this community are pragmatic and mission-focused." Locales such as Syria, Egypt, Nigeria, and Guatemala have experienced a range of climate impacts, including severe drought, food insecurity, and displacement, which in turn feed social and political tensions in those regions. A lack of budgeting and preparation could limit the U.S. military's ability to aid in resolving future conflicts and humanitarian crises around the globe.

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    Trump Administration Proposes FEMA Cuts as States Face More Severe Natural Disasters

    Climate change will likely increase the frequency and intensity of natural disasters, and many places will have to deal with challenges they are not currently equipped to deal with. Ken Kunkel from the North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies says, “We have adapted to a certain kind of world. We’re not going to have exactly that kind of world in the future.” According to experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, global warming was likely the cause of wildfires in Alaska, drought in Washington state, and nuisance flooding in Miami in 2015. While the threat of natural disasters increases, the Trump administration has proposed an 11 percent cut to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s budget, targeting emergency preparedness funding for state governments. This is forcing cities and states to reconsider how they will prepare for and recover from these events. Though for most local officials, it’s difficult to set aside funds for a potential disaster when schools and roads need immediate attention.

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    Washington Post

    Bipartisan Support Extends California’s Cap-and-Trade Program

    On July 17, California’s landmark cap-and-trade program was extended to 2030 thanks to bipartisan support from lawmakers and a “broad consensus” in the state toward addressing climate change. The five-year-old initiative, in which companies are offered economic incentives for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, was backed by both environmental advocacy organizations and business groups. Despite concerns from conservatives about higher gas taxes and activists who felt the regulations did not go far enough, the bill was passed with the supermajority Governor Jerry Brown (D) had desired to protect the program from legal challenges. Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) said the bill shows "free market policies to clean up our environment" can co-exist alongside the "fight for a booming economy." Although many national Republicans opposed the program, Assembly Republican leader Chad Mayes remarked, “California Republicans are different than national Republicans. Many of us believe that climate change is real, and that it’s a responsibility we have to work to address it.”

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    Los Angeles Times

    Despite Paris Pledge, China, Japan, and South Korea Continue Financing Coal Plants Abroad

    Analysis by the Australian environmental finance firm, Market Forces, found that Japan, China, and South Korea have been behind the financing of many coal-fired power plants in Indonesia. This bankrolling activity is at odds with each nation’s pledge to reduce carbon emissions under the Paris Climate Agreement. According to the findings, state-run financiers from the three East Asian countries were involved in 18 out of 22 coal power plant deals completed in Indonesia since 2010. The Export-Import Bank of China, China Development Bank, Japan Bank for International Cooperation, Korea Development Bank, and Export-Import Bank of Korea were party to the various deals. These types of development banks tend to offer low-interest and long-term financing, allowing such projects to move forward. Julien Vincent, executive director at Market Forces, said the Indonesian coal plants “would not exist without external funding.” Overall, foreign commercial and state-owned banks provide 98 percent of the financing for the plants, while Indonesian banks provide just two percent.

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    Trump Administration Aims to Commandeer Climate Change Fund for Fossil Fuel Projects

    The Trump administration has signaled it will use its seat on the board of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) to lobby for spending on fossil fuel-based projects. The United Nations fund is meant to finance projects that would reduce carbon emissions and assist developing nations in adapting to climate change. The Obama administration donated $1 billion to the GCF, which grants the current administration its seat on the board for at least the next year. The board, consisting of a U.S. representative and 23 other members, approves projects by consensus. During the last G-20 meeting in Germany, the United States was able to include a commitment to "work closely with other countries to help them access and use fossil fuels more cleanly and efficiently" in the group’s closing declaration, despite opposition from the other 19 nations. The Trump administration hopes to have developing countries build new coal-fired power plants and natural gas infrastructure.

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    Chile’s Environment Minister Says There Is “No Space for Climate Denial”

    After seven years of severe drought, Chile’s Laguna de Aculeo, a lake four times larger than New York’s Central Park, has nearly dried out. The lake was once a center for recreation, farming, and a thriving housing market, but many have been forced to leave after waters receded. Unusually warm temperatures have also intensified algae blooms, reducing local salmon production by 20 percent. While no studies have looked at whether climate change is responsible for these events, Chile’s Environment Minister Marcelo Mena says most Chileans see climate change as their greatest external threat. According to Mena, there is “no space for climate denial because we see climate change threatening us in multiple shapes.” Chile’s government is working to mitigate climate change by increasing green spaces in urban areas and improving water conservation. Chile hopes to generate 80 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2050, and the country will require climate change classes be taught in schools starting next year.

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    California Counties Sue Oil and Coal Companies Over Climate Change Damages

    On July 17, Marin County, San Mateo County, and Imperial Beach, CA sued 37 of the world’s largest oil and coal companies, seeking reimbursement for climate change-related damages that could be in the billions of dollars over the next several decades. According to Marin County Supervisor Kate Sears, these areas, which lack the funds needed to increase the resilience of public transportation infrastructure and properties, are “standing up for [their] residents and businesses” in a case that is about “accountability.” In order for their case to have standing, lawyers must demonstrate that these companies’ actions have created a public nuisance and caused widespread harm, which they argue occurred because executives “knew about the damage their actions were causing, denied it, and sought to discredit scientific findings.” Although similar efforts in the past have had little success, they are confident that new, up-to-date research and greater knowledge about the activities of these companies will help them succeed in what is being referred to as “a long anticipated move in climate litigation” by Michael Burger, executive director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University.

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    San Francisco Chronicle


    Expansion of Natural Gas Pipelines Could Be a “Climate Disaster”

    In the past 30 years, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has only rejected two natural gas pipeline proposals out of the hundreds it has received. Under the Obama administration, however, the EPA repeatedly asked FERC to more closely consider the climate impacts of projects. Former FERC Chairman Norman Bay also raises concerns over the actual demand for the proposed pipelines, stating, “It is inefficient to build pipelines that may not be needed over the long term and that become stranded assets." Scientists warn that expanding natural gas pipelines would extend the country’s dependence on fossil fuels by 50 years, and Robert Howarth, an environmental biology professor at Cornell University, calls pipeline expansion “a true climate disaster.” Although the burning of natural gas emits about half the carbon dioxide of coal, the gas is predominantly made up of methane, another powerful greenhouse gas. FERC estimates that the combined greenhouse gas emissions for five pending pipelines is 170 million metric tons per year, the equivalent of 50 coal plants.

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    Center for Public Integrity


    Study: Arctic Permafrost Is Melting, Releasing Significant Quantities of Methane

    According to a new study, melting permafrost in northwestern Canada may be releasing vast quantities of methane into the atmosphere. Scientists used aerial sampling to examine a 10,000 square-kilometer stretch along the Mackenzie River Delta over a two-year period. The results show that the most deeply thawed sections of the permafrost are releasing 17 percent of all the methane found in the region, yet these hotspots represent only one percent of the total surface area under review. The study authors wrote that global warming will “increase emissions of geologic methane that is currently still trapped under thick, continuous permafrost, as new emission pathways open due to thawing permafrost.” This is problematic, as permafrost methane sources have not typically been accounted for in current climate change models. The Arctic as a whole is at risk of releasing methane emissions in the future. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that 16-24 percent of the permafrost in Alaska could melt by 2100.

    For more information see:

    Inside Climate News

    Urban Heat Island Effect Can Overwhelm a City’s Most Vulnerable Residents

    Researchers examined the impact of the urban heat island effect in Philadelphia as part of an effort to allow city officials to better adapt to extreme heat in the future. The study used data from weather stations and satellites to measure air and land surface temperatures in the city and its surrounding rural areas. Historical data showed the annual number of “extreme heat event” days in the city increased threefold between 1980 and 2013, while the number of events in rural areas stayed the same. Stephanie Weber, a principal scientist on the study, said, “It’s not the hottest temperature, but something that when it is sustained and without relief during the night [and] early morning [that] can pose serious health risks.” A lack of cooling at night can put serious stress on the elderly and other populations who may be without air conditioning. Using socioeconomic data, the researchers found that roughly 10 percent of Philadelphia’s population resided in neighborhoods that were most vulnerable to these heat event health impacts.

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    Scientific American


    Trump Nominates Climate Change Denier to Be USDA's Chief Scientist

    House Votes to Recognize Climate Change as a National Security Risk in Defense Budget

    Draft of Prominent DOE Report States Renewable Energy Has Not Harmed Grid Reliability

    Climate Change and Deforestation Worsen Conditions in War-Torn South Sudan

    Study: Climate Change to Widen Income Gaps, Disproportionately Affect Parts of America

    World's Northernmost Coral Reef Damaged by Bleaching


    Writers: Sara Tanigawa, James Stanish, and Brian La Shier
    Editor: Brian La Shier