Table Of Contents

    The United Kingdom announced it will ban the sale of diesel and gasoline-fueled vehicles by the year 2040. Photo courtesy of Garry Knight via


    Senators Request Answers from Interior Department Following Forced Transfer of Top Climate Official

    On July 24, eight Democratic members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee delivered a letter to the Interior Department's Deputy Inspector General requesting the agency investigate and report on the reassignment of dozens of senior employees. The inquiry was sparked by allegations that Joel Clement, a top climate change official at Interior and a manager with the Senior Executive Service (SES), was removed from his post and reassigned to a department unrelated to his expertise. In an op-ed, Mr. Clement revealed, “I believe I was retaliated against for speaking out publicly about the dangers that climate change poses to Alaska Native communities.” Up to 50 other SES officials at Interior have also been moved to different divisions, departments, or states. While the SES program was designed with some flexibility toward assignments, the law states such changes must be made to "to best accomplish the agency's mission." Sen. Maria Cantwell said the sudden moves have caused "a lot of confusion and … a lot of undermining of science."

    For more information see:

    Washington Post, Inside Climate News

    Agencies Seek to Undercut Environmental Regulations by Delaying Enforcement

    A recent analysis by Scientific American has revealed that under the Trump administration, federal agencies have “suspended enforcement of at least 39” rules as a means of limiting regulations while avoiding the involved process of repealing or altering them. While agencies must follow specific procedures for changing existing rules that can result in a drawn-out legal process, simply suspending these rules requires much less formal justification and, according to EPA officials, is perfectly legal. However, these delays, which primarily target environmental regulations, have become subject to numerous lawsuits by groups seeking to prove the agencies’ justifications are based on misinformation and ulterior motives. Such efforts have already begun to have an impact, with a federal appeals court overturning the EPA’s delay on restricting emissions from oil and gas wells earlier in July. David Baron, an attorney with EarthJustice, believes that this and other recent court decisions will pave the way for additional legal challenges as efforts to ensure regulation enforcement continue.

    For more information see:

    Scientific American

    Melting Arctic Ice Reveals Emergency Infrastructure Gaps

    As melting ice leads to increased access to Arctic waters, experts caution that existing emergency infrastructure will be unable to adequately respond to a host of potential issues arising from more frequent ship traffic. Arctic sea ice, which melts over the spring and summer months, has seen its minimum extent decline by around 13 percent per decade since 1981, and some scientists warn that the sea could be completely ice-free as soon as the 2030s. This has enabled more ships to enter the region for longer periods of time, increasing the likelihood of a maritime disaster. However, should a major incident such as an oil spill, medical emergency, or shipwreck occur, a lack of investment to update infrastructure in the region could severely limit response capabilities. The United States, for example, has only two working heavy icebreakers, each of which are over 40 years old, with funding for additional ships hard to come by. Given these challenges and limited resources, experts are advocating for a greater emphasis on training to prevent accidents rather than simply reacting to them.

    For more information see:

    New York Times

    United Kingdom Plans to Ban Sale of Fossil-Fuel Vehicles by 2040

    The United Kingdom (U.K.) currently has the largest number of diesel vehicles in Europe, but the government will now ban the sale of diesel and gasoline-fueled vehicles by 2040. The U.K. plans to invest more than $1 billion in driverless and zero-emission vehicle technologies, in addition to over $300 million in battery technology research. Mike Hawes, chief executive officer of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, is concerned that “outright bans risk undermining the current market for new cars and our sector, which supports over 800,000 jobs.” However, many automotive companies like Volvo and BMW are already shifting production to electric vehicles. Bloomberg predicts that with lower battery prices, one in 12 cars sold in the U.K. will be fully electric by 2030, up from one in 200 today. Energy Secretary Michael Gove said, “It’s important we all gear up for a significant change which deals not just with the problems to health caused by emissions but the broader problems caused in terms of accelerating climate change.”

    For more information see:


    Trump Administration Officials Sow Public Doubt by Questioning Veracity of Climate Science

    During their confirmation hearings in January 2017, several of President Trump’s top officials told senators they generally agree with the scientific consensus that human activity is driving climate change. However, many have drastically changed their public views since taking over their respective agencies. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke have all argued that climate science is not “settled,” with Pruitt stating in a television interview that humans are not a "primary contributor" to climate change. Pruitt and Perry are now moving to set up a so-called "red team, blue team" exercise to give climate deniers a government-backed voice in debating the established science. Edward Maibach, director of the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University, called Pruitt's efforts to question science a "communication tactic to reinforce what he wants Americans to believe [about climate change].” Maibach added, “Things like this can have a very powerful unsettling effect on people who are already uncertain to begin with."

    For more information see:

    E&E News


    Environmental Justice Likely an Uphill Battle Under Trump Administration

    The Trump administration’s proposed budget seeks to eliminate the Office of Environmental Justice under the Environmental Protection Agency. The office was created to protect minorities and the poor, who are most vulnerable to the effects of pollution, and seeks to secure grants and policy changes to address environmental inequities. The proposed budget would also reduce funding for the enforcement of environmental laws. An EPA statement said environmental justice is “a requirement in all rules EPA issues,” suggesting there is no need for an office specifically devoted to this work. However, the Flint water crisis is just one example of why a robust federal oversight office remains vital. Democratic members of the House and Senate are introducing legislation to protect environmental justice, but advocates are not optimistic given the current political climate. Former EPA advisory council member Vernice Miller-Travis said, “Is this a moment when I think we can get something passed that expands civil rights and equal protection? I don’t think this is that moment. That doesn’t mean we won’t try.”

    For more information see:



    More Republicans Support Renewable Energy, but Not Climate Action

    Recent Republican actions have climate groups hopeful that the United States will eventually re-establish itself as a world leader in the fight against climate change. With 25 Republican and 25 Democratic members, the House Climate Solutions Caucus has doubled its membership since President Trump took office. The Caucus requires members join in bipartisan pairs. However, only a quarter of the Caucus' Republican members signed a letter in April urging the president not to abandon the Paris Climate Agreement. This was likely due to pressure from wealthy investors who oppose climate action. Now, climate groups are finding that if they want legislation to pass, they have to present clean energy in a way Republicans will embrace. For many Republicans, support for clean energy is more about free-market ideology and supporting business than climate action. Rep. John Szoka (R-NC) says, “You'll never hear 'climate change as a reason for renewable energy' come past my lips." Instead, Szoka is “about finding the lowest-cost source of energy.”

    For more information see:

    Inside Climate News


    Report Finds U.S. Utilities Have Known About Climate Threat for Decades

    According to a study issued by the Energy and Policy Institute, the U.S. utility industry has known about the threat of climate change since the 1960s. In 1968, then-President Lyndon Johnson’s administration warned the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) that carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels could have “catastrophic effects” on the climate. The industry-affiliated Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) published its own research in the 1970s showing similar warnings of rising sea levels and warming temperatures. An additional 1988 EPRI report determined “there is a growing consensus in the scientific community that the greenhouse gas effect is real.” Despite these findings, the industry began lobbying against climate regulations and making long-term investments in coal-fired power plants. In response to the recent findings, an EEI spokesperson stated, “The electric power industry has reduced carbon emissions by 25 percent below 2005 levels as of the end of 2016.” Although many utilities plan to move toward natural gas, solar, and wind, some continue to cast doubt over whether CO2 is driving climate change.

    For more information see:

    Inside Climate News, Reuters


    Algae Growing on Greenland’s Ice Sheet Could Lead to Three Feet of Sea Level Rise

    Melting of the Greenland ice sheet, the largest mass of ice in the northern hemisphere, is causing up to 1 millimeter in sea level rise each year. Warmer temperatures allow algae to grow on the ice, darkening the ice and causing it to absorb more solar radiation. A 15 percent reduction in Greenland’s cloud cover over the last 20 years during the summer months has further accelerated melting. People have known about the ice sheet’s algae for more than a century, but its potential impact was not considered in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2013 estimates for global sea level rise. Researchers studying the algae predict a sea level increase of up to 98 centimeters (3.2 feet) by the end of the century. However, microbiologist Joe Cook warns that the ice sheet “doesn’t all have to melt for more people to be in danger—only a small amount has to melt to threaten millions in coastal communities around the world.”

    For more information see:

    BBC News


    Climate Change and Invasive Species—an Expensive and "Deadly" Duo

    International trade and travel have introduced thousands of species to new regions, causing over a trillion dollars in damage worldwide each year. Invasive species threaten wildlife and human wellbeing, and climate change could make the problem worse—a “deadly duo” scientists say. According to Professor Helen Roy with the U.K. Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, “Changing climate might facilitate the establishment of some species that otherwise might not have been able to establish.” The Argentine ant, for example, is attracted to warm climates, but scientists are now seeing populations in London. The United Kingdom is no stranger to invasive species. Since its arrival in 2004, the harlequin ladybird has caused a decline in all but one native ladybird species. Harlequin ladybirds eat aphids and many thought this would be beneficial for farmers, but the decline in native species reduces the ecosystem’s resiliency. Roy encourages people to report sightings of invasive species and makes clear that preventing species introductions “is not about stopping people moving or trading.”

    For more information see:




    House Energy Budget Would Eliminate ARPA-E, Halve Funding for EERE

    Senators Propose Legislation to Implement a $49 per Ton Carbon Fee

    Report: Renewable Electricity Generation Must Increase 50 Percent by 2030 to Meet State Goals

    Study: Occurrence of "Extreme" El Niño Events to Double Under a 1.5 Degree Celsius Increase

    Increasing Prevalence of Avian Diseases Due to Global Warming Decimates Hawaiian Birds


    Writers: Sara Tanigawa and James Stanish

    Editor: Brian La Shier