Table Of Contents

    The Trump administration officially announced its intention to repeal the Clean Power Plan, which was designed to regulate carbon emissions from existing power plants. Photo courtesy of Tony Webster via

    EPA Reverses Climate Change Policy Measures with Repeal of Clean Power Plan

    On October 9, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced the agency’s intention to repeal the Clean Power Plan (CPP). The CPP would have led states to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants by transitioning away from coal-fired electricity to cleaner sources of electricity and improving existing plant efficiency. Power plants fueled by coal and natural gas produce one-third of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions. The CPP was expected to reduce power sector emissions by 32 percent, relative to 2005 levels, by the year 2030. The EPA now argues that the CPP was overreaching because it was not closely targeted at individual power plants. This is the same argument that Pruitt made when he challenged the CPP in court during his tenure as Oklahoma attorney general. The attorneys general of Massachusetts and New York say they will sue if the CPP repeal is finalized. Even without the CPP, states will continue to shift from coal to renewable energy generation for economic reasons. Many states are on track to meet the 32 percent emissions reductions through their own policies.

    For more information see:

    New York Times

    EPA Justification for Repealing Clean Power Plan Slashes Social Cost of Carbon

    On October 10, the U.S. EPA released a lengthy cost-benefit analysis as part of the Trump administration's justification for repealing the Clean Power Plan (CPP). The report lays out the impacts of the regulatory repeal, but uses vastly different calculations from the Obama administration in analyzing the consequences of greenhouse gas emissions. Trump's EPA estimated the cost of one ton of emissions of carbon dioxide between $1 and $6 for the year 2020, whereas the previous estimation (adjusted for inflation) was $45. One reason behind the decrease is that the Trump administration chose to only count the cost of carbon for impacts within the United States, rather than accounting for global impacts. By lowering the social cost of carbon in their revised assessment of the CPP, the administration hopes to diminish benefits calculated for the regulation, thus making it easier for lawmakers to dismiss the CPP. Critics accuse the Trump administration of manipulating these cost-benefit calculations to accommodate a predetermined conclusion.

    For more information see:

    Washington Post


    Energy Secretary Perry's FERC Order Faces Scrutiny from Congress

    During an October 12 hearing of the House Subcommittee on Energy, Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry faced intense pushback on DOE's notification of proposed rulemaking (NOPR) to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The NOPR essentially called for regional grid operators to deliver greater financial support to coal and nuclear power plants on the purported basis of preserving the grid's baseload generating capacity. Committee members noted that DOE's own grid reliability study concluded that "markets have evolved since their introduction [and] are currently functioning as designed to ensure reliability and minimize the short-term costs of wholesale electricity." Critics from both political parties and industry advocates have said the proposal wrongfully "picks winners and losers" in the market. When asked what data the NOPR was based on, Perry declined to name any specific sources, but suggested the proposal was informed by his “life experiences.” Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone (D-NJ) told Perry, “You are distorting the market, damaging the environment, and delivering preferential treatment to favored industries."

    For more information see:

    Power Magazine, The Hill

    California Wildfires Rage On; Among the Deadliest Natural Disasters in State History

    As of October 12, reports indicate the wildfires plaguing northern California have claimed at least 31 lives, destroyed more than 3,500 homes and businesses, and displaced thousands of people. The wildfires are among the most destructive in the state's history and are a continuation of a fire season that burned millions of acres across the American West during the summer of 2017. Local authorities have been working to locate some of the 400 people still reported missing amidst the chaos and identify remains. Findings suggest the elderly and individuals with disabilities were particularly vulnerable to the fast-moving fires and make up a significant portion of the fatalities thus far. Firefighters have been working to implement containment measures and prevent the flames from spreading, but high winds have made these efforts difficult. Scientists blame climate change for the extreme nature of the wildfires. University of California professor LeRoy Westerling said, "Climate change is kind of turning up the dial on everything. Dry periods become more extreme. Wet periods become more extreme." Those wetter seasons can lead to more vegetation growth, which then dries out during the summer and becomes fuel for longer-lasting wildfires.

    For more information see:

    LA Times, CBS News


    Hurricane Nate Adds to Record-Breaking Year for Natural Disaster Losses

    According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2017 has featured 15 "weather and climate disaster events" costing at least $1 billion each. Hurricane Nate made landfall on October 7 and could develop into yet another $1 billion-plus event. If so, Nate would tie 2011's record for such incidents within a 12-month period, with three months to go in 2017. NOAA reports that the United States averaged 5.5 $1 billion-plus events from 1980-2016, but from 2012-2016 that average jumped to 10.6 events per year. The spike in damages is blamed on a combination of climate change impacts and an increase in population along vulnerable coastlines and in floodplains. NOAA climatologist Adam Smith said, “Perhaps most concerning is that climate change is playing a role – amplifying the frequency and intensity – of some types of extreme weather that lead to billion-dollar disasters." The federal government has taken on a gradually larger share of disaster costs over time, with taxpayer dollars covering less than 10 percent of the cost of Hurricane Diane in 1955 versus 50 percent of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and 80 percent of superstorm Sandy in 2012.

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    Caribbean Leaders Hope to Rebuild with Greater Resilience to Climate Change

    Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit wants to rebuild his storm-battered country as a global model for climate resiliency. “Our devastation is so complete that our recovery has to be total,” he said, “We have a unique opportunity to be an example to the world, an example of how an entire nation rebounds from disaster and how an entire nation can be climate resilient for the future.” Dominica has a resiliency plan, created in 2015 after Tropical Storm Erika cost the island about half a billion dollars, but it will need financial support from the international community to implement it. The plan includes the replacement of fossil fuels with renewable energy, infrastructure built to accommodate the natural environment, and more climate-resistant crops. On October 8, U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres visited nearby Barbuda, Anguilla, and Turks and Caicos to express his solidarity with Caribbean nations and support for their resiliency goals. Guterres pointed out that these nations contribute the least to climate change, but are the first to feel its impacts.

    For more information see:

    Miami Herald


    United Nations Warns of Severe Climate Risks in the Asia-Pacific Region

    According to a new report published by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the Asia-Pacific region is the most disaster-prone part of the globe. The region is home to 60 percent of the world’s population, but the report warns that its inhabitants are five times more likely to be affected by natural disasters. ESCAP added that the region could also account for 40 percent of global economic losses tied to natural disasters between 2015 and 2030. Japan and China may face the greatest potential losses, but there is concern that the least-developed and small island nations could suffer a decline of 2.5-4 percent of their annual GDP. Anticipated regional climate impacts include deadly heatwaves, more severe floods and droughts, stronger and more frequent tropical cyclones, and heavier seasonal monsoons. ESCAP head Shamshad Akhtar said, “The absence of an institutionalized insurance culture and adequate post-disaster financing threaten our extraordinary economic and developmental achievements."

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    Coal’s Continued Decline May Be Inevitable, With or Without the Clean Power Plan

    In pro-coal Montana, the Colstrip plant, the second-biggest coal-fired electricity generator in the western United States, may be forced out of the market by 2030. Four of the plant’s six co-owners are utilities that serve Oregon and Washington, where consumers demand cleaner energy and state laws mandate it. Colstrip must also shut down two of its four generating units by 2022 as part of a settlement in a clean air lawsuit. Utilities had planned to use the other two units into the 2040s, but now they hope to give up ownership sooner. In New Mexico, the Four Corners Power Plant is scheduled to close by 2022. The Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) currently relies on coal for 60 percent of its electricity, but is on pace to reduce its share of coal generation to just 12 percent by 2025. The utility aims to be completely off coal by 2031. Coal plant closures in New Mexico and Montana reflect a national decline in coal generation. In April, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis found that 25 coal plants across 16 states will experience shutdowns or significant load reductions by 2018.

    For more information see:

    Santa Fe New Mexican, Billings Gazette

    Climate Change Threatens Rice Cultivation in Malaysia

    Rice is a staple food and a tradition in Malaysia, but rice farmers are struggling to cope with the effects of climate change. The International Rice Research Institute estimates that 35 percent of Malaysian rice farmers rely only on rainwater to irrigate their paddies. Rising temperatures and changing weather patterns are making traditional rice cultivation increasingly difficult. Many rice fields are passed down through generations, but aging farmers fear that the next generation will not be able to survive this way. This year, Malaysia’s rice yield was 30-50 percent below its potential. Now, the country is looking to diversify its agriculture with more climate-resilient crops. The government of Malaysia has provided funding to Crops for the Future, an independent, international organization that researches forgotten and underutilized crops. CEO of Crops for the Future, Sayed Azam-Ali, believes that alternative models of agriculture are needed to survive climate change, stating, “Agriculture needs disruptive innovation."

    For more information see:

    Vice News

    Climate Change Increases Risk from Icebergs, Tsunamis, and Erosion in the Arctic

    The seasonal melting and freezing have always made the Arctic region a perilous place to live, but climate change is exacerbating these conditions. Erosion, landslides, and tsunamis seem to be more frequent and intense, threatening coastal settlements in Greenland. Earlier this year, residents of the Danish village Uummannaq in Greenland had to relocate in the wake of a violent storm that killed four people. Icebergs are another major threat, with nearly 1,000 drifting below 48 degrees north in 2017, which is double the average. The Labrador Current carries icebergs into the Atlantic Ocean, threatening popular transatlantic shipping routes. In 2015, $66.9 billion worth of goods was shipped between the European Union and Canada through these waters. Melting ice creates more navigable waters, but also more dangerous icebergs. A single strike by an iceberg can cause tremendous damage to a container ship or oil platform. Swiss glaciologist Martin Luethi said, "There’s no commercial interest [in mapping the glaciers]. There’s no awareness of the danger in Greenland."

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    Trump Nominee for Top Environmental Council Considers Carbon Emissions "Harmless"

    EPA's Draft Four-Year Strategic Plan Makes No Mention of Climate Change

    Hurricane Nate Halts More Than 90 Percent of Crude Oil and Nearly 78 Percent of Natural Gas Production in the Gulf

    Study: Climate Change Impacts Threaten Midwestern Transportation and Grid Infrastructure

    Thousands of Houston Households Unaware They Lived Inside Man-Made Flood Drainage Reservoirs

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