Fossil fuel development companies have abandoned their leases on more than 1 million hectares of oil sands in northern Alberta. The areas have become less desirable (and less profitable) following the worldwide plunge in crude oil prices. Even the infamous Keystone XL pipeline — which President Trump approved almost as soon as he took office — now seems to lack the necessary support for its construction. What could replace it? Oh, maybe a little thing called solar power.
Just two weeks after France said it will no longer allow the sale of gas- and diesel-powered autos after 2040, the United Kingdom has followed suit. In addition, the UK announced it is also exploring ways to tax the dirtiest vehicles on the road as a way to lower current air pollution levels in the most-affected local areas. About half of all cars registered in the UK each year are diesel-powered; electric and hybrid vehicles, although a growing market, still represent a tiny fraction of all new cars sold there. Experts predict that should start to shift in the mid-2020s as prices become more competitive.
A stunning new report reveals that utilities knew about the potential dangers of climate change nearly 50 years ago. Scientists first warned the electric utility industry about CO2 emissions back in 1968, according to a report from the watchdog Energy & Policy Institute. Then, during the 1970s and 1980s, utilities actually sponsored what the watchdog agency calls “cutting edge” climate-change research. Knowing that this could cause a shift away from fossil fuels, some utilities started a disinformation campaign against climate change, something that some industry players continue to do today.
The herbicide glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, has been added to California’s list of chemicals known to cause cancer. The listing, which goes into effect on July 7, will require manufacturers to add package warning labels and similar warnings to be places around certain sites where large quantities of the weed killer have been applied. The World Health Organization had previous labeled glyphosate as a “probable” human carcinogen. The chemical is the most widely used pesticide in California – and in the entire world. Monsanto has said it will fight California’s designation in court.
Today marks World Giraffe Day, an occasion to recognize Africa’s rapidly disappearing giants. Fewer than 100,000 giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis) remain today, down from 140,000 just 15 years ago. Last year the IUCN declared the species vulnerable to extinction, but that doesn’t grant them any additional protection. That could come in 2019, when the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species will take up the issue, or if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agrees to protect giraffes under the Endangered Species Act. For now, giraffes continue to suffer from poaching, hunting, habitat loss and other threats.
The deadly wildfires raging through Portugal have killed more than 60 people and created smoke clouds big enough to be seen from space. Is this the wave of the future? A new study finds that wildfires have tripled over the past 30 years in the Great Plains, putting a strain on local agencies. Meanwhile, California’s wildfires have doubled this year, where drought is over but a wetter season has just produced more grasses to burn. On top of that, another recent study found that the smoke from wildfires can, itself, have an effect on the climate, extending the vicious cycle even further.
Less than three weeks after crude oil started flowing through the Dakota Access Pipeline, a judge has ruled that the pipeline’s environmental review was inadequate and did not address potential impacts to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s fishing and hunting rights, or on environmental justice. President Trump ordered an expedited approval process for the Dakota and Keystone XL pipelines this past January, following years of protests by environmental groups.
An expedition to study how climate change is affecting Arctic ecosystems has been cancelled — because of climate change. According to the University of Manitoba, warm weather has thinned the ice around the Strait of Belle Isle, where the expedition was to take place. This actually makes traveling in the region — even on an icebreaker — more dangerous because the ice is now more mobile and unpredictable. The university says this revelation “clearly illustrates that Canada is ill-prepared to deal with the realities of climate change.”
Citizens of the Silver State may soon be able to go solar once again. A bill going to Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval’s desk next week would restore net metering, which the state’s utility regulators phased out in 2015. Net metering allows households to sell their excess solar energy back to utilities, making solar panels more affordable. Several solar companies stopped adding new Nevada customers after net metering was shut down. Now Tesla and Sunrun say they plan to come back if the bill is signed.
An Obama-era rule to reduce ground-level ozone has been delayed by one year, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced Tuesday. The National Ambient Air Quality Standards were supposed to identify cities that currently have ozone levels above 70 parts per billion. The EPA itself calls ground-level ozone “bad ozone” and says it has been linked to numerous environmental and health effects, including “chest pain, coughing, throat irritation, and airway inflammation,” which can lead the asthma or other problems. The announcement about this delay, however, claims the EPA does not “fully understand the role of background ozone levels.”