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.”
And then there were two. One of Malaysia’s last three Sumatran rhinos (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) was euthanized this past weekend to relieve her suffering from untreatable cancer. Puntung, a 25-year-old female, survived a poacher’s trap as a calf, leaving her with just three feet for most of her life. Conservationists captured her from the wild in 2011 and she has spent her time since then living at Tabin Wildlife Reserve. The Borneo Rhino Alliance estimates that fewer than 100 rhinos from this critically endangered species still exist in all of Indonesia, where their remaining populations cling on in small, fragmented populations.
In a move that should surprise nobody, President Trump today announced that the United States would withdraw from the 2015 Paris climate accord, an agreement between 195 countries to reduce worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. Trump did not provide details about the withdrawal, a process that according to the original agreement will legally take about four years. The president did proclaim that the U.S. would immediately cease implementation of the accord’s non-binding elements, including withdrawing from the U.N. Green Climate Fund, and offered to rejoin the accord or some future agreement under different, to-be-negotiated terms.
Anyone who has ever spent a summer in a city knows the pain of the heat island effect. Buildings and roads absorb heat and sunlight and emit it as heat at night, causing temperatures to soar as much as 22 additional degrees. Well, according to new research, climate change will make this an economic hardship for most cities, costing them up to 10.9 percent of their gross domestic products. That’s compared to 5.6 percent for rural economies. The costs come from spending more on cooling plus worker health effects from decreased air and water quality. Installing “cool” pavements and roofs, the authors say, could help reduce those costs — not to mention the risks.
A planned $12.3 billion coal mine in Australia has been “deferred” for now, a major victory for climate activists and conservationists trying to protect the nearby Great Barrier Reef. The Carmichael coal mine would have reportedly created as many as 5,000 construction jobs, but a study published last week found that it would have doubled Australia’s carbon emissions. The Queensland government had offered Indian billionaire Gautam Adani a “royalties holiday” subsidy that would have saved his company hundreds of millions of dollars, making it a potentially lucrative endeavor, but growing resistance to that tax scheme seems to have paved the way for Adani to pull out—at least for now.
Yet another new study illustrates the potentially deadly impact that climate change will pose for many migrating bird species. This time around research into North American songbirds looked at how warmer springs will cause plants to grow either earlier or later than usual. It might be just a few days in either direction, but that’s enough to cause problems for nine out of 48 studied bird species, which researchers say will now have trouble finding the right insects to eat, impacting the birds’ ability to breed. This follows research published last year which found that similar effects could be felt by hundreds of bird species across five continents.