Table Of Contents

    The governments of California and several other states and cities are challenging the Trump administration's effort to freeze federal vehicle fuel efficiency standards after 2020. Image courtesy of


    Coalition of States and Cities Challenges Trump Vehicle Efficiency Proposal

    A coalition of states and cities has formed to oppose the Trump administration’s plan to freeze vehicle fuel efficiency standards after 2020 and remove California’s historic freedom to enforce standards above those established at the federal level. The coalition includes several of the country's most populous states and cities and plans to challenge the proposal in court should the administration move forward as planned. Automakers, fearful of a legal battle and the resultant uncertainty for the industry, are instead arguing for standards that consider technological and logistical feasibility and evolve over time. California Governor Jerry Brown echoed these considerations and voiced concern for air quality, public health, and the competitiveness of American vehicles on the global market. Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler expressed a desire to work with California “and reach one national standard,” but the federal government has not budged, according to California Air Resources Board Chief Mary Nichols. The administration’s plan would also block California from requiring automakers to sell more electric vehicles.

    For more information see:



    Administration Report on Fuel Efficiency Standard Rollback Rife with Errors

    The Trump administration’s proposal to freeze fuel efficiency standards after 2020 is riddled with logical and mathematical errors, rendering it vulnerable to legal challenges, experts say. Some of these errors are numerical, whereas others are the result of flawed logic that ignores basic economic principles like supply and demand. The errors seem to favor the administration’s proposed changes, according to Yale economics professor, Kenneth Gillingham. “We have not yet found any mistakes that work in the other direction,” Gillingham said. The Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation will be tasked with correcting these errors, which constitute the foundation of the proposed freeze. Loss of support from automakers like Honda, which called one of the computer models used in calculations sufficiently “flawed that it should not be considered in the cost-benefit analysis at this time,” is not the biggest threat the proposed rule faces: glaring errors are likely to give a judge pause when the rule is challenged.

    For more information see:

    The Atlantic


    As Environmental Regulations Decrease, Fracking Surges in the West

    In the last fiscal year, more than 12 million acres of federally controlled oil and gas parcels were offered for lease under the Trump Administration’s ongoing deregulation efforts. Protecting industry interests, the U.S. Department of the Interior has been handing out scores of drilling leases on previously protected land in states like Wyoming, where rural areas are now littered with methane-spewing fracking sites. While proponents of the rollbacks revel in state lease revenues and increased employment, others worry about what the drilling will do to surrounding habitats and threatened species, such as Wyoming’s revered sage grouse. Industry officials, backed by powerful lobbies, have worked with the administration to deregulate methane releases, relax laws that require fracking chemical disclosure, weaken actions available to environmental groups, and dismantle habitat protection laws. Despite huge pushback from conservationists and concerned citizens, the Interior Department insists that, “Developing our resources and protecting the environment are not mutually exclusive.”

    For more information see:

    New York Times


    North Carolina Sets Statewide 40 Percent Emission Reduction Goal for 2025

    North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper (D) signed an executive order last week which commits his state to the Paris Climate Agreement and sets an ambitious goal of reducing statewide emissions by 40 percent by the year 2025. North Carolina is the 17th member of the U.S. Climate Alliance. Cooper is determined to create the state’s first ever climate change committee, declaring, “It is important for the states to take action.” Cooper's administration hopes to reduce emissions in the transportation, building, and power sectors by implementing targets such as having 80,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2025, but has chosen not to implement drastic changes to state legislation or environmental bans. The baseline year for emissions levels has been set at 2005, after which many environmental regulations were put into effect. Prior policies had already helped to reduce the state's emissions relative to 2005 levels, meaning North Carolina is already more than halfway to its 40 percent reduction goal.

    For more information see:

    Charlotte Observer


    Climate Change Is Driving Central American Migrants Northward

    Thousands of members of a migrant caravan are traveling to the United States from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador to escape not only violence and poverty, but also the effects of climate change. Crop failures are plaguing agricultural industries, which provide nearly one-third of all jobs in Central America. The coffee growing region of western Honduras is especially affected, as low crop prices, greedy bosses, and a harmful fungus called leaf rust worsen already limited economic opportunities. Such problems often cause migration from rural areas to cities, where gang violence can then trigger migrants to move north to places like the United States. American University researcher Robert Albro explained, “The focus on violence is eclipsing the big picture—which is that people are saying they are moving because of some version of food insecurity.” Criteria established at the 1951 United Nations refugee convention offers no legal protection to refugees fleeing climate change-related hardship, but the influence of nationalistic leaders in countries around the world would likely hinder any attempts to expand protections.

    For more information see:



    Brazil’s New President Promises Amazon Exploitation, Fewer Rights for Indigenous Groups

    On October 28, Jair Bolsonaro was declared the winner of Brazil’s presidential election after soundly defeating his opponent in the second round of voting. The far-right president-elect campaigned on a platform that included exploiting the Amazon rainforest, withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement, and stripping away indigenous rights. Many fear that Bolsonaro’s policies will result in violence against indigenous communities. Christian Poirier, program director of the nonprofit Amazon Watch, called the election results “an utter catastrophe for the Brazilian Amazon rainforests and its indigenous and traditional peoples,” with “drastic implications” for the people of the Amazon Basin and the global fight against climate change. Bolsonaro has suggested transferring regulatory and enforcement control of environmental issues to the Ministry of Agriculture, a department criticized for bowing to powerful multinational corporate interests. Although he has indicated a possible reversal on plans to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, Brazil remaining may be contingent on whether or not he feels the accord will constrain policies on indigenous rights. As the Brazilian Amazon constitutes a massive carbon sink, its deforestation would threaten to accelerate global climate change.

    For more information see:

    Scientific American


    Global Demand, Climate Change Threaten West African Fisheries

    Communities in Mauritania, Senegal, and Gambia face an uncertain future as climate change and global demand for fishmeal imperil stocks of sardinella, a small, sardine-like fish common off the coast of northwest Africa. These fish are converted to a fishmeal powder that is used to feed farmed salmon, shrimp, and other marketable species. Globally, this aquaculture industry is worth $160 billion, and high demand for fishmeal has spurred foreign investors to build more processing plants in African countries. This trend worries Abdou Karim Sall, president of an association of small-scale fishermen in Senegal. “In four or five years, there won’t be any fish stocks left; the factories will close, and the foreigners will leave. We’ll be left here without any fish.” Decades of measurements show an additional threat from climate change, as warming conditions push fish populations north toward cooler waters. As processing plants pay high prices for harvested fish, local operations have dried up, and fish once sold to other African countries are being shipped off the continent to meet global demand.

    For more information see:



    Report: Heat Risks for Florida Workers to Worsen as Temperatures Rise

    A report released last week reveals the extremely high threat of heat-related illness among outdoor laborers in Florida. The advocacy organization Public Citizen and the Farmworker Association of Florida analyzed the health and safety of laborers in all 67 Florida counties and found “for workers engaged in very heavy labor, it was dangerously hot at least 75 percent of the day time, this past May to September.” According to the Center for Disease Control, Florida is already one of the highest-ranking states for heat-related hospitalizations, and climate change will only worsen the problem. For farmworkers and construction crews, this means increased heat stress, heat stroke, exhaustion, and even mental illness. Workers currently lack any state or federal protection against heat stress afflictions. WeCount! Executive Director Jonathan Fried stated, “We need stronger protection for workers, or workers will be in ever greater danger as the heat increases in Florida and around the country.” Labor unions have acknowledged how rising temperatures are impacting outdoor labor and are in the process of organizing petitions for heat protection laws.

    For more information see:

    WLRN and Miami Herald


    Cape Codders Are Staying and Bracing for Climate Change

    Despite facing more frequent and severe flooding over the past few years, many residents refuse to move away from communities along the shores of Massachusetts’ Cape Cod. Recently updated flood maps from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) highlight increasing risks for the low-lying coastal area. Lifelong Blish Point resident Matt Teague called the flooding a "new normal, unfortunately.” Teague is rebuilding his flood-damaged home on a foundation three feet above the high-water mark. Others hope to use $1.3 million in state-allocated climate change adaptation funding to restore nearby protective marshes, and still others are pushing for coordinated government buyouts before their property values fall too low. Losing residential homes would be disastrous for the local economy, which relies heavily on tourism. Frustration is mounting among some community members, who feel that politicians from both sides of the aisle are not addressing the effects of climate change. Cape Codder Jack Hill noted, “There is a climate problem, and what are they doing about it? Nothing.”

    For more information see:

    InsideClimate News


    Municipal Bond Ratings Hold Steady, Despite Climate Threats

    Bond companies, including Moody's and Fitch, have not followed through on earlier threats to downgrade the ratings of cities that inadequately addressed climate change threats. Rating industry representatives claim that downgrades have not been necessary, since cities have been investing in resilience measures. Policy experts dispute the industry's view that cities are succeeding in protecting themselves from extreme weather events. Among the cities that have continued to receive a top triple-A rating are Wilmington, NC, which suffered severe flooding from 2016's Hurricane Matthew and $250 million in damage from 2018's Hurricane Florence. A credit rating downgrade for a city in the $3.9 trillion municipal bond market would make it more costly for that locality to borrow money. Roy Wright, head of the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, said, “I don’t know how anyone can look at the last two years of catastrophic damage from severe weather in communities…and suggest with a straight face that we have our risks under control.”

    For more information see:



    Disruptions to Jet Stream Likely to Cause More Frequent Extreme Weather

    According to a new study published in Science Advances, temperature increases in the Arctic will affect the pattern of the jet stream, a west-to-east wind that blows at high altitudes between the subtropics and the Arctic. Melting Arctic ice is accelerating heat absorption by exposing the darker surface of the ocean, which diminishes the temperature differential between the different latitudes and allows the jet stream to fluctuate more sharply. UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain said that the research offers “compelling new evidence on the link between amplified Arctic warming and extreme mid-latitude weather during the summer months.” The extreme weather experienced during the summer of 2018—wildfire conditions in California, flooding along the east coast of the United States, heat waves in Scandinavia, and droughts in Central Europe—are the results of the jet stream’s stagnant high pressure centers. The new study reveals that such weather will be 50 percent more frequent by century’s end if climate pollutants continue to enter and warm the atmosphere but also acknowledges that the effects of aerosols, small particles in the atmosphere, may counteract this warming.

    For more information see:

    InsideClimate News



    Federal Agencies Advance Designation of Biomass as a "Carbon-Neutral" Energy Source

    Fourteen States File Comments Opposing Trump's Clean Power Plan Replacement

    Study: Climate Change Leaving Mountain-Habitat Birds with Nowhere to Go

    Study: World's Oceans Warming at Significantly Faster Rate than Previously Thought

    Report: More Than 90 Percent of World's Children Breathe Toxic Air Daily


    Writers: Clayton Coleman, Meryl McBroom, and Patrick Teese
    Editor: Brian La Shier