Table Of Contents

    A report on climate change vulnerabilities facing Department of Defense facilities saw mentions of climate change impacts stripped out of the final draft. Photo courtesy of

    Trump Administration Ends NASA's Carbon Monitoring System

    The Trump administration has quietly eliminated funding for a crucial tool used by climate change researchers. NASA's Carbon Monitoring System (CMS) is a $10-million-a-year research line that helps tie together data collected from satellite and aircraft instruments into high-resolution models for tracking the flow of carbon sinks and sources worldwide. The loss of the program would also make it more difficult to verify whether countries are complying with the Paris Climate Agreement. Kelly Sims Gallagher, director of Tufts University's Center for International Environment and Resource Policy, called the cancellation of CMS "a grave mistake," adding, "If you cannot measure emissions reductions, you cannot be confident that countries are adhering to the agreement." The White House has previously targeted NASA's earth science budget for cuts, but the last congressional spending deal in March 2018 preserved those programs. However, the deal did not mention CMS, thus providing the administration with an opening. Current grants under CMS will be completed, but no new research will be supported going forward. Experts expect European agencies to take on some of the duties NASA previously executed under CMS.

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    EPA Administrator Moves to Broaden Evaluation Criteria for National Ambient Air Quality Standards

    An agency-wide memo issued on May 9 by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt lays out plans to significantly alter how National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) are set under the Clean Air Act (CAA). Periodic, legally-mandated reviews of NAAQS typically focus on whether they are stringent enough to protect the health of vulnerable populations, per the best available science. NAAQS regulate six widespread pollutants, including particulate matter, lead, ground-level ozone, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide, while prioritizing public health in evaluating the standards' effectiveness. Pruitt's memo expands the agency's evaluation criteria to now include "any adverse public health, welfare, social, economic, or energy effects." Clean air watchdogs fear that Pruitt's proposal would weaken the NAAQS criteria for determining what pollution levels are deemed "safe to breathe." Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) replied, "Congress's clear intent was for the NAAQS requirements to use the best science available to protect public health and Mr. Pruitt's decision today to undermine that science-based process fails to live up to the letter of the law."

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    InsideClimate News


    Report on Environmental Threats to DOD Facilities Had Climate References Scrubbed Out

    A review of a draft version of a Pentagon report on climate-related risks to defense infrastructure revealed that explicit references to climate change were removed or altered for the final version. The 32-page report delivered to Congress in January 2018 stated that out of the 3,500 Defense Department facilities located around the world, 782 were affected by drought, 763 by severe wind events, and 706 by flooding, in addition to other challenges. However, the report was far less direct in making references to "climate change," "extreme weather," or even "climate" when discussing these threats. The phrase "climate change" appeared 23 times in the December 2016 draft, but only once in the final document. A map detailing facilities that may be vulnerable to the effects of mean sea level rise between 0-3 feet, as well as references to the decline in Arctic sea ice and the National Climate Assessment were also removed. The report was built around a survey of military installation managers asking how present and future climate impacts may affect those sites.

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    Washington Post


    Bonn Climate Talks Wrap with Little Progress Evident

    The latest round of United Nations climate negotiations concluded in Bonn, Germany on May 10 with many key issues still unresolved. The attendees made little progress on the development of a "rule book" for implementing the Paris Climate Agreement, but did agree to an additional round of negotiations in Bangkok, Thailand from September 3-8 to break the logjam. The December 2018 deadline for the rulebook to be finalized coincides with the 24th Conference of the Parties, where high-level environment ministers will meet in Poland. The completion of the rule book is viewed as a central component dictating the success of the Paris Agreement. The conference co-chairs will be tasked with paring down the copious notes recorded at Bonn and transforming them into neutral language for future debate. A persistent sticking point was how wealthy nations will finance the $100 billion per year promised by 2020 to help developing nations deal with climate impacts. The question of "bifurcation," or the separation of responsibility for dealing with emissions between rich and poor countries is also part of an ongoing debate.

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    Climate Home, Reuters


    Island of Dominica Embraces Resiliency for Post-Hurricane Rebuild

    The Caribbean island nation of Dominica is integrating climate resiliency into its rebuild after Hurricane Maria. The Category 5 hurricane caused 90 percent of the country's buildings to lose a roof and caused $1.3 billion in damage (224 percent of the national GDP). After the storm, the government proposed the Climate Resilient Execution Agency for Dominica (Cread) to "hurricane-proof" the island. The agency's mission will be to identify and eventually enforce best practices for strengthening roads, building codes, energy infrastructure, and water management. Dominica’s foreign minister, Francine Baron, said, “This is a survivability issue for us. We need to incorporate resilience in everything that we do moving forward, from infrastructure to our economy to our social sectors.” International building standards, such as those published by the United Nations Development Programme, are already being used in roof reconstruction, while the government has chosen to bury utility cables, elevate structures, and begin transitioning to solar power. The pan-regional agency Caricom has also been active in attracting financial assistance for Dominica's recovery.

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    King County, WA Sues Petroleum Companies Over Climate Change

    On May 9, the government of King County, Washington filed a lawsuit in the state's Superior Court against five major oil companies over their alleged role in suppressing awareness of and action on global warming. The suit is seeking financial compensation to assist the county in dealing with sea level rise, extreme weather events, and other effects of climate change. Exxon Mobil, Shell, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, and BP are named as defendants in the suit. The suit names the companies liable for the production and marketing of fossil fuels known to drive global warming, alleging the consequences of their actions equate to "a continuing trespass onto county property.” Nine other cities and counties have also filed separate suits against fossil-fuel companies over climate change issues. King County hired the law firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro to pursue the case. The firm was previously involved in the 1990s case brought against American tobacco companies that resulted in a $206 billion settlement.

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    Seattle Times


    EPA Administrator Prefers Outside Advisors Over Agency's Own Climate Scientists

    A Freedom of Information Act request has shed additional light on EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's plans for a "red team, blue team" debate on climate science. The documents show a deep advisory relationship between Pruitt's EPA and the Heartland Institute, which is known for its extreme positions disavowing climate change and its causes. The CO2 Coalition, an organization that claims excess carbon dioxide is "beneficial" to humans, has also been assisting Pruitt after calling the idea to hold climate science debates "superb." Meanwhile, the EPA's own scientists are reportedly being shut out of internal discussions and are removed from any planning going into the exercise. Climate researcher Benjamin Santer of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory observed, "[These organizations] do not have scientific expertise." The idea for a series of potentially televised debates was originally proposed by Pruitt to a group of coal executives in June 2017, with EPA staff working to further develop the concept alongside groups that actively oppose mainstream climate science.

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    New York Times


    Study Examines Carbon Footprint of Global Tourism

    According to a new study appearing in the journal Nature Climate Change, the global tourism industry generates three times more greenhouse gas emissions than previously thought. The booming $1.2 billion industry's carbon footprint had previously been estimated at 2.5-3 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. However, prior estimates did not account for emissions generated by the supply chain of goods and services that keep tourism operations running, such as food, beverages, and retail items. The study examined emissions across a billion supply chains for tourism-related goods and services. Lead author Arunima Malik of the University of Sydney said, "It was eye-opening to see that the carbon footprint represents eight percent of global greenhouse gas emissions." The researchers looked at two categories of emissions: residence-based (those credited to a tourist's home-country) and destination-based to allow tourist sites to better understand what their actual role is in generating emissions. The United States had the highest emissions for both categories, followed by China in a distant second, and Germany.

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    Pacific Standard


    Report: Climate Change Increasingly Disruptive to California's Environment

    According to a new report by the California Environmental Protection Agency, climate change is expected to cause significant environmental issues across the state. The report covers 36 indicators of climate change divided into four categories: those driving climate change (emissions, acidification, etc.); actual changes in the climate (temperature, precipitation); climate impacts on physical systems (snowmelt runoff, sea level rise); and climate impacts on biological systems (vector-borne diseases, migratory bird arrivals). Although California has made gains in reducing its own emissions, including a 90 percent reduction in black carbon from tailpipe emissions over the past 50 years, global CO2 levels have continued to rise. California's warmest years on record all took place during a span from 2014 to 2017. In addition, the state's five largest fire seasons since 1950 have all taken place after 2006. Christopher Field, director of the Stanford Woods Institute, said, “The risks are coming into sharper focus, the range of impacts are coming into sharper focus. [The report] reinforces and amplifies the messages we’ve already seen.”

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    San Francisco Chronicle



    Federal Agencies Prepare to Leave Puerto Rico, Despite 23,000 Residents Still Without Power

    Washington State Regulators Order Utility Companies to Consider Social Cost of Carbon in Planning Documents

    White House Nominee for United Nations Migration Agency Has History of Climate Denial

    IRENA Report: Global Renewable Energy Jobs Booming, as Gap between China and U.S. Widens

    Scientists Observe Spike in Seasonal Allergy Sufferers, Cite Climate Change as Contributing Factor


    Writer and Editor: Brian La Shier