Table Of Contents

    Critics question GOP plans to lease the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for drilling in order to raise government revenue, given the relatively sparse fiscal benefits such leases may produce. Photo courtesy of USFWS via


    Federal Government Releases Benchmark Report on Climate Science

    On November 3, the U.S. government issued the fourth edition of its authoritative report on climate science, the National Climate Assessment (NCA4). The publication represents the first of two volumes to be issued for the NCA4. The second volume of the NCA4, as well as the State of the Carbon Cycle Report, are currently going through a public review period. The NCA4 was authored by scientists from across the federal government and academia, including NOAA, NASA, and the Department of Energy, and drew from more than 1,500 scientific studies. The report found that it is "extremely likely" that human activities are the "dominant cause" of global warming, and that greenhouse gas emissions from industry and agriculture are the largest contributors. The report stated that the past 115 years have been the warmest in modern history, with global average temperatures increasing by 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit during that time. Without emission mitigation efforts, this mark could soar to 9 degrees F relative to the pre-industrial baseline. The NCA4 also noted that sea levels have risen 3 inches since 1993, a rate faster than during any century over the past 2,800 years. The NCA4's findings directly contradict the positions of many high-ranking Trump administration officials.

    For more information see:

    NPR, NCA4 Report

    GOP Tax-Reform Bill Targets Credits for Electric Vehicles and Renewable Energy

    The proposed Republican tax-reform bill would end a credit for electric vehicles, while altering some renewable energy tax provisions. The bill would repeal a $7,500 credit for the purchase of an electric vehicle. Although the credit is limited to the first 200,000 electric vehicles sold by each automotive manufacturer, no single company has reached their cap yet. Advocates have argued the credit has helped spur the adoption of zero-emission vehicles in the United States and promoted the industry's growth. Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) said, "Electrification for vehicles is extremely important for the future of the auto industry. That tax credit is really important for moving this technology forward." The bill left the solar energy tax credit largely intact, but would significantly reduce the value of the wind energy tax credit. The bill would also repeal an inflation adjustment for renewable energy tax credits, affecting the value of tax-credits on solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal.

    For more information see:

    The Hill, Reuters


    Scientists Who Receive EPA Grants Barred from Advisory Positions

    EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has made an unprecedented move to alter the composition of the agency’s Science Advisory Board (SAB). Under the new guidelines, scientists who receive funding from EPA for their research would no longer be allowed to serve on the SAB. Current members have pointed out that they already follow a rigorous conflict-of-interest procedure before accessing agency funds. Appointees representing private sector industries, state environmental regulators, and academics are expected to replace the deposed scientists. The SAB serves as a key source of scientific and technical guidance for EPA personnel as they develop environmental regulations. Terry F. Yosie, director of the SAB under the Reagan administration, said that the new policy represents “a major purge of independent scientists and a decision to sideline the SAB from major EPA decision-making in the future.” On September 13, current SAB members requested a meeting with Pruitt to discuss the future role of the board, but the meeting never took place.

    For more information see:

    Washington Post


    Alaska Governor Issues Administrative Order on Climate Change

    On October 31, Alaska Governor Bill Walker signed an administrative order establishing an Alaska Climate Change Strategy and a leadership team for addressing climate change in the state. The leadership team is responsible for developing a plan of action by September 1, 2018. The team will be headed by Lt. Gov. Byron Mallot and will include 15 “diverse stakeholders” from the public. In announcing the administrative order, Gov. Walker expressed hope that Alaska will transition toward renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, and hydro. Walker emphasized the need for community and economic resilience, while "mitigating environmental harm." The order comes days after 16 Alaskan youth joined to sue the state for failing to act on climate change. The group claimed that the state is violating their constitutional rights by valuing their long-term safety and well-being less than fossil fuel production. The plaintiffs in the case were unimpressed by Walker’s administrative order, which doesn’t include any actionable rules for limiting fossil fuels.

    For more information see:

    Fairbanks Daily News-Miner


    United States to Participate in Upcoming Climate Negotiations, Despite Withdrawal from Treaty

    Despite declaring its intent to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, the United States plans on being an active participant in the upcoming Conference of the Parties (COP), taking place in Bonn, Germany, November 6-17. Thomas Shannon, Under Secretary for Political Affairs at the State Department, will lead the U.S. delegation. The primary goal of this year’s COP is to develop a “rule book” for implementing the treaty language and developing mechanisms to ensure nations are held accountable for their pledged emission reductions. The United States is expected to push for greater transparency, particularly from developing economies like China and India. The United States has indicated it will contribute positively to the COP, but many nations remain skeptical. Allies of the United States such as Britain, France, and Canada remain hopeful the United States will alter course and remain party to the treaty. Although Trump announced in June 2017 that the United States would be leaving the treaty, the withdrawal cannot be finalized until 2020.

    For more information see:


    New Zealand Considering Creation of Special Visa Designation for Climate Change Refugees

    New Zealand’s newly elected Labour-led governing coalition is actively exploring the creation of a visa category for people displaced by climate change. The proposal for the special visa was part of the Green party’s campaign platform, which promised to issue 100 such visas and increase the country’s overall refugee quota. Recently, two families were rejected by New Zealand immigration authorities after trying to seek asylum from climate impacts on the island of Tuvalu. Despite Tuvalu’s lack of clean water and rising sea levels, a tribunal ruled the family was not being persecuted, making them ineligible for refugee status under the 1951 international convention. A 2014 case saw a resident of the Pacific island of Kiribati apply to become the world’s first climate refugee, but the case was dismissed by New Zealand’s supreme court. Professor Alberto Costi of Victoria University noted, “The conditions are pretty strict. These people who arrive here hoping to seek asylum on environmental grounds are bound to be sent back to their home countries.”

    For more information see:



    Nominated NASA Leader, Bridenstine, Faces Extensive Criticism at Hill Hearing

    On November 1, the Trump administration's pick to lead NASA, Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) faced stiff criticism from members of the Senate Commerce Committee. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) expressed his concern about Bridenstine's skepticism toward the role humans have played in causing climate change, and that the nominee thought the global temperature had not risen in ten years. Schatz explained, “What concerns me the most … is that this is a science agency. I get that you don’t have a science-centric background, … but you know what I do: I defer to scientists.” Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) spoke out against Bridenstine’s opposition to LGBT laws and his opinion that the Supreme Court's same-sex marriage decision was a “disappointment.” Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) fought back for Bridenstine by arguing that many scientific findings have been challenged in their day. Republicans on the committee chastised their Democratic counterparts for drawing climate change issues into the proceedings.

    For more information see:



    Proponents of Drilling May Be Overestimating Profitability of ANWR

    Analysis shows that congressional Republicans’ claim that oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) will raise $1 billion is based on several questionable assumptions. In order for drilling to earn any profit, the price of crude oil would have to rise to at least $70/barrel, which is $15 above current prices. The $1 billion projection also expects that oil companies will pay premiums for extraction rights in ANWR, but this may not hold true either. Given the controversy of the site, oil companies would have to consider the price of litigation, and adjust their bids accordingly. Furthermore, the economic viability of extracting from ANWR is uncertain. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that ANWR holds between 4.3 billion and 11.8 billion barrels of oil, but rock formations in the region will make recovering oil costly and difficult. Altogether, the data suggests that auctioning off drilling leases for ANWR would only earn about $145.5 million for the federal government, a fraction of the Republican estimate.

    For more information see:



    ITC Proposes Trade Policies with Intent of Boosting Domestic Solar Panel Manufacturing

    On October 31, the United States International Trade Commission (ITC) proposed three “remedies” in response to complaints by domestic solar panel manufacturers under pressure from less expensive imports. The trade case has divided the solar industry, with downstream industries, represented by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), strongly opposed to trade restrictions. Two of the three remedies proposed by the ITC involve an import quota and tariff. GTM Research, a firm that specializes in solar market research, estimates that a tariff of $0.10/watt would cut demand for utility-scale solar installations by nine percent. The other proposed remedy would implement a quota and import-licensing fee in lieu of a tariff. The licensing fee could generate $89 million in government revenue in its first year. All the proposed remedies are milder than the tariffs demanded by the companies that brought the case, SolarWorld and Suniva. The ITC has until November 13 to submit its recommendations to the President, who can choose to follow them, implement his own policy, or do nothing at all.

    For more information see:

    Utility Dive


    Report: Climate Change Poses Major Threat to Public Health Worldwide

    A new report published in the Lancet has found that hundreds of millions of people around the world are experiencing detrimental health impacts from climate change. The report draws its findings from research conducted at 26 different institutions, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and World Meteorological Organization. Heatwaves, air pollution from burning fossil fuels, crop losses due to extreme weather, and the increasing prevalence of deadly diseases are among the threats documented. Temperature increases have placed the greatest number of people at risk. Outdoor laborers and the elderly are two groups that are particularly vulnerable to the surge in heat and humidity. Research also showed that warmer temperatures have facilitated the spread of dengue fever, since mosquitoes that carry the disease are able to breed more quickly. Professor Anthony Costello of WHO said, “The outlook is challenging, but we still have an opportunity to turn a looming medical emergency into the most significant advance for public health this century.”

    For more information see:




    CBO: Tens of Millions of Americans to Be Impacted by Climate Change, Raising Federal Disaster Spending

    FEMA Administrator: Government Is Spending $200 Million per Day on Disaster Recovery

    Army Corps Releases $1.8 Billion Climate Adaptation Plan for City of Norfolk, VA

    UN Climate Report Cites Significant Emission Gap between Stated Ambition and Reality

    Report: Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Concentrations Hit Record High in 2016


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