The Environment Section of IR Insider publishes breaking news reports and analysis regarding developments relating to the environment and their broader social, political, and economic implications. Topics covered in the Environment Section include climate change, energy and conservation, pollution, endangered species and beyond. Articles may feature research on environmental sustainability and the effects of climate change on global warming and the frequency and scale of natural disasters. Our writers Claire Beutter and Ken Yokokawa produce weekly. Our section editor is Emmanuel Ruiz.
Wildfires continued to spread across California over the weekend, killing at least 31 people and destroying 6,453 homes by Nov. 12. Two of the largest wildfires remain mostly uncontained, after burning more than 100,000 acres in the past few days.
On Monday, the World Meteorological Organization presented a report titled “Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion: 2018”– the latest in the series of studies published every four years –which revealed a significant recovery of the ozone layer from anthropogenic damage. It is estimated that at the current rate of recovery of 1 to 3 percent, the ozone layer will be healed by 2030 in the Northern Hemisphere, with the Antarctic hole completely disappearing in 2060.
A study published on Nov. 1 has found that the world’s oceans absorbed 60% more heat per year than was previously thought. The study, which was published in the journal Nature and funded by the Climate Program Office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Princeton Environmental Institute, stated that ocean warming “is at the high end of previous estimates, with implications for policy- relevant measurements of the Earth response to climate change, such as climate sensitivity to greenhouse gases and the thermal component of sea-level rise.”
Monday, China's State Council authorized the use of the rhino horns and tiger bones in medical purposes, putting an end to a 25-year ban on the international trade of these animals’ parts, established in 1993 in Beijing. The decision was met by a wave of negative responses from environmental activists, concerned with the potential detrimental effect on the numbers of the endangered species.
On Oct. 23, Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, announced a nationwide carbon tax to be implemented at the start of 2019. The federal carbon tax will be a backstop tax to affect provinces which haven’t yet enacted carbon tax laws.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recently released a report advising the United States government to devote more resources to researching carbon dioxide removal technologies. This comes following the publication of a United Nations study earlier this month, which states that removing significant amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere may be essential in reducing future global warming.
Peter Mauer, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said that climate change is already exacerbating world conflicts. On Oct. 21, Mauer told The Guardian that humanitarian organizations already had to factor in the effects of climate change.
Three environmental groups have sued the Trump administration this Thursday over a waiver issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that would allow it to ignore major environmental regulations in the construction of the wall on Mexico’s border. The lawsuit filed by the coalition of Center for Biological Diversity, Animal Legal Defense Fund and Defenders of Wildlife declares the waiver to be unlawful on 28 environmental laws and exceeding the department’s authoritative limits.
On Oct. 14, President Donald Trump accused climate change scientists of having a “political agenda” on CBS’s 60 minutes. Although Trump walked back years of assertions that climate change was a hoax, he still held reservations on whether it was caused by human activity.
On Thursday, Oct. 11, Jeffrey Bossert Clark was confirmed as Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD). The Senate voted 52 to 45 to confirm him, with Democratic Senators Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Claire McCaskill of Missouri voting to confirm Clark, along with all Republicans present.
Exxon Mobil Corp, the largest oil group in the US, has pledged to donate $1 million to a carbon tax lobbying campaign. The move made Exxon the first American oil and gas producing company to financially back a revenue-neutral carbon tax.
On Oct. 5, the Ukrainian government unveiled a solar power plant at the site of the now defunct Chernobyl nuclear plant. The opening ceremony came 32 years after a nuclear meltdown, which led to the immediate deaths of 31 plant workers and firemen, and the displacement of 300,000 residents in the surrounding area.
A study published on Oct. 4 by Harvard University researchers has found that a national transition to large-scale wind power would result in an increase in surface temperature over the continental United States. The two papers, which were published in the journals Joule and Environmental Research Letters, examine the environmental impact of wind power within the context of a global transition towards low-carbon energy sources.
Representatives of 195 countries meet this week at the 48th session of the International Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) in South Korea to vet and validate the Special Report on the expected temperature rise of 1.5°C (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. The report is expected to provide guidance for policymakers worldwide in keeping carbon emissions at the level necessary to avoid crossing the 1.5°C boundary.
The U.S. Department of the Interior has announced its decision to ease Obama-era regulations on methane leaks established in 2016. The move, intended to remove “burdensome on the private sector” restrictions on oil and gas industry, resulted in a wave of negative backlash from environmentalists.
A Dubai-based architecture firm named Znera has unveiled a proposal entitled “The Smog Project.” The project outlines a plan to clean the air in Delhi using a series of filtration towers.
Hurricane Florence made landfall at Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, on Friday, September 14. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been monitoring over nine hazardous waste sites that are in the hurricane’s path.
Record-breaking temperatures may have exacerbated a dust storm that ravaged Northern India last Wednesday, killing about 125 people and injuring hundreds more.
Susan Combs, the acting assistant secretary responsible for overseeing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was revealed to have cited the Endangered Species Act to argue against a steel transmission line from being built on her property despite frequently attacking the law during her time as a public official.
A new proposal announced by the E.P.A. last Tuesday would re-standardize the kinds of scientific research the agency can use when developing and issuing environmental policies.
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is donating $4.5 million to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the UN organization that governs the Paris Agreement.
A third of the Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral reef in the world, experienced irreversible damage after record-breaking heat waves caused by global warming, according to a study published last Wednesday.
The European Court of Justice has ruled that Poland violated European Union regulations regarding logging and environmental protection when the country allowed an increase of logging activities in the Bialowieza Forest.
A United Nations agency set a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions produced from shipping by 50% by 2050, an ambitious initial goal that recognizes the maritime industry’s role in fighting climate change.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt received a Twitter endorsement from President Trump this past Saturday despite an onslaught of allegations of corruption and ethics violation due to his connections with a pair of energy lobbyists.
The study, published in the scientific journal Nature on Wednesday, posits that technology aimed at flood mitigation, power generation, and commercial purposes has deepened the flooding crisis of the Mississippi River, the second largest river in North America that spans over 3,000 kilometers.
The Trump Administration is expected to announce plans to cut back on Obama-era automobile regulations that aimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by increasing the fuel economy of vehicles.
A new report published in Nature Magazine’s Scientific Report suggests that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, originally studied in 2015, has rapidly increased in size and now consists of up to 16 times the amount of trash compared to previous estimates.