Table Of Contents

    The Republic of Fiji is the official host of the United Nations' 23rd Conference of the Parties to discuss the Framework Convention on Climate Change. The session began on November 6 and is being held in Bonn, Germany. Photo courtesy of the United Nations via


    Pruitt Selects 66 New Scientific Advisors from Regulated Industries and Republican-Controlled States

    On November 3, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt appointed 66 new scientific advisors to the agency. Pruitt’s choices reflect his purported interest in “diversifying” the EPA by bringing in more advisors from industry and states that have opposed EPA regulations in the past. Pruitt appointed Michael Honeycutt, formerly the top toxicologist for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, to chair the Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) and Tony Cox, an independent consultant, to chair the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Board. Both Honeycutt and Cox have a history of fighting EPA regulations. Many of Pruitt’s picks come from companies in regulated industries, such as Dow Chemical and Procter and Gamble, and will replace scientists and academics. Pruitt’s new rule banning EPA advisors from receiving agency funding for research forced seven members to resign. Among them was Robert Johnston, an economics professor at Clark University, who gave up his advisory role to be able to continue his research. Johnston worries about the changing makeup of the SAB. “It’s supposed to be guiding on the science. Not providing policy advice, not offering our own opinions,” he said.

    For more information see:

    Washington Post

    America’s Subnational Actors Make Their Voices Heard at COP23

    The United States pavilion at the United Nations’ climate conference in Bonn, Germany features a robust coalition of climate action advocates. A banner reading “We Are Still In” hangs over the pavilion, in reference to the alliance of 2,500 government, business, academic, tribal, and faith-based organizations that have vowed to implement the emission reduction goals of the Paris Agreement. Other groups, such as Local Governments for Sustainability and the Under2 Coalition, have also worked to amplify subnational voices at the conference. Reed Schuler, a policy advisor for the state of Washington, observed, “The subnational voices at the climate talks have been getting louder for a long time, but a lot of the biggest growth has happened over the past two years.” Considering the current crop of nationally determined contributions (NDCs, the commitments of individual countries) would only cover a third of the cuts necessary to hold global average temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius, subnational organizations are becoming increasingly valued in international climate action.

    For more information see:

    Scientific American

    City of Miami Passes Bond Measure to Help Finance Climate Resilience Projects

    Miami voters approved a new bond measure to provide $400 million in funding for public infrastructure investment. The bond endorsement will allow the city government to borrow from the municipal bond market and use a new property tax to finance storm drain upgrades, flood pumps, and sea walls at a cost of $192 million. The bond measure would also cover housing, recreation, transportation, and public safety initiatives. Miami’s outgoing mayor, Tomás Regalado, pitched the bond as a means to combat climate change. About 55 percent of Miami’s electorate voted in favor of the bonds during November 7th's election, despite strong opposition from labor unions and a majority of candidates for public office. Bond advocates cite the four inches of sea level rise and a 400 percent increase in flooding the city has experienced within the past decade. Miami joins other American cities, including Seattle and San Francisco, in passing bond sales to finance climate resilience projects.

    For more information see:

    Miami Herald, Bloomberg


    City of Jacksonville to Offer Buy-Outs of Floodplain Homes

    Officials in Jacksonville, Florida have proposed voluntary buy-outs of homes in low-lying neighborhoods that were most recently flooded during Hurricane Irma. The plan would focus on the historically flood-prone neighborhood of South Shores and allow owners of 73 properties to sell their land to the city. The reaction from residents has been mixed. The proposed plan would clear several blocks of homes and convert the area back to a natural wetland. A cost has not yet been assessed, but city officials are relying on a FEMA flood-mitigation grant to cover three-quarters of the cost. The use of federal funds bars the city from condemning the property, leaving the decision to move up to residents. Sea level rise is expected to worsen flooding in neighborhoods adjacent to the St. Johns River and its drainage system. City Councilwoman Lori Boyer said, “This is an opportunity for these property owners to be made whole … and put [their investment] someplace else where they’re not going to have this problem.”

    For more information see:

    Florida Times Union

    International Climate Conference Begins With Fiji at the Helm

    The island nation of Fiji is already facing the tangible effects of climate change, even as it hosts this year’s United Nations Conference of the Parties in Bonn, Germany. In 2014, the entire Fijian village of Vunidogoloa was forced to move inland to escape the effects of rising sea levels. This experience underscores Fiji’s goal of promoting additional climate resilience actions during COP23. The conference will explore how to specifically finance developing countries’ resilient action plans. COP23 will also seek to determine the “ratchet mechanism” that will be used to determine how, and by how much, countries will ramp up their carbon emission reductions in the future. This goal will prove to be difficult as many countries are intent on creating their own method for adjusting their emission pledges. However, close coordination would be necessary to reach a global goal of limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius. The need to gather and interpret reliable data on each nation’s emissions presents an additional challenge.

    For more information see:

    Associated Press, Guardian


    Syria Plans to Ratify Paris Agreement, Isolating the United States on Climate Change

    Syria announced its intention to ratify the Paris Climate Accord on November 7 at the United Nations climate talks in Bonn, Germany. Syria is the final signatory, following Nicaragua, who joined in October. Syria was unable to sign the agreement at its inception due to European and American sanctions imposed in response to the country’s civil war. Syria has not yet submitted emissions reductions targets, as all members of the agreement are required to do. Roua Shurbaji, a spokeswoman for the Syrian delegation, said that leaders are in the process of developing targets. She explained the country’s decision to join as part of an effort “to be effective in all international areas including climate change.” Syria’s addition makes the United States the only country openly opposed to the Paris Agreement. In June 2017, President Trump announced his decision to withdraw from the treaty, but the country cannot officially exit the agreement until 2020.

    For more information see:

    New York Times


    On Climate Change, India’s Development Creates Challenges and Opportunities

    An estimated 240 million people in India still lack access to electricity, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promised electricity for the country’s entire population by the end of 2018. As India continues to develop, energy consumption is expected to at least double by 2030, and how that energy is produced will have a significant impact on global climate change. Although India’s emissions per person are below the global average, it is the only major polluting nation with rising emissions (emissions from the United States, China, and the European Union are in decline). Half of the world’s most polluted cities are in India, and air quality could get worse as urban populations grow by 200 million people between now and 2030. Despite many challenges, India’s development also creates opportunities. Wind and solar energy are blossoming in India and the government has no plans for new coal-fired power plants in the near-term. India also has an ambitious proposal to ban the sale of new fossil fuel-powered vehicles by 2030.

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    Report: Climate Change Can Contribute to Regional Conflicts

    The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute's (SIPRI) released a new report describing the effects climate change has on regional conflicts. The report states that climate-driven events, such as droughts and food insecurity, can contribute to potentially violent conflict. Rob van Riet of the World Future Council said, "Existing threats – like resource shortages, poverty, famine, terrorism or extreme ideology – are only amplified by climate change." Those most heavily hit are North Africa and the Middle East where increased temperatures have dried up agriculture and grazing land. One region of Nigeria has lost 60,000 lives over the last 15 years due to a conflict between grazers and farmers. Climate impacts have also increased the amount of refugees moving to new countries, which can sometimes overwhelm regional institutions and place a strain on resources. This sudden influx can worsen the relationship between refugees and a country’s citizens, such as the mass migration Germany recently experienced. SIPRI director Dan Smith has advocated for a collaborative effort between agencies at the United Nations to address the issue of climate migration.

    For more information see:

    Deutsche Welle


    No Simple Solutions for Flood Insurance Problems

    By December 8, Congress must decide if it will reauthorize the troubled National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), the primary provider of flood insurance in the United States, administered by FEMA. NFIP has been in the red since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In October 2017, following Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, NFIP drained its $30 billion borrowing capacity and Congress agreed to a bailout including $16 billion in debt forgiveness. Both environmental advocates and fiscal conservatives agree that the program is in dire need of reform. NFIP uses problematic methods for setting rates, resulting in low premiums that are insufficient to cover claims and encourage high-risk coastal development. Although there is broad support for reforming the NFIP, there is no consensus on how to accomplish reform. Re-privatizing the flood insurance market would address many issues, but private insurers are unlikely to serve the tens of thousands of “severe repetitive risk properties,” that is, homes that have a history of recurrent flooding.

    For more information see:

    New York Times


    Wildfire Emissions Further Endanger Public Health

    Park Williams, a climate and ecology researcher points to the clear connection between the global temperature increase of 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the late 1800s and the severity of today’s wildfires. Williams noted, “Climate change was not the cause but it’s definitely an ingredient.” The increase in wildfires are also related to detrimental health effects. The smoke and ash they produce can cause coughing, lung infections, and possibly cancer. Within the soot are small particles, designated as PM2.5, which can infiltrate the lungs and bloodstream and may contribute to heart attacks. The health effects of the smoke and ash exposure are hard to gauge, since the effects of the poor air quality may not manifest until weeks or months later. The wildfires are also proving to be environmentally destructive. Trees destroyed by fires release carbon dioxide and black carbon when burned and can no longer serve as a carbon sink. State and federal officials are investigating the use of prescribed burns, managed by firefighters and foresters, to clear out excessive undergrowth and better preserve mature trees.

    For more information see:

    Climate Central



    Final Defense Funding Bill Retains Mandate for Climate Vulnerability Study

    Senators Ask GAO to Investigate EPA’s Displacement of Neutral Science Advisors

    GOP Lawmakers Deprive Polar Monitoring Program of Funds; Order Destruction of Vital Backup Satellite

    Democratic Gubernatorial Victories Could Lead to More State Carbon Trading

    World Meteorological Organization: Past Three Years Likely to be Hottest Ever

    Black Carbon Contributing to Degradation of Pakistan’s Mountain Glaciers


    Writers: Beatrix Scolari and Kiara Ryan
    Editor: Brian La Shier