Climate 411

Year in Review: 18 numbers that tell 2018’s story of the environment, health, and climate

2018 brought with it a torrent of stories that now shape the world we live in and will shape 2019 and years to come.

From a disgraced EPA Administrator, to urgent reports on climate change, the year showed how far we’ve come and how much work remains—especially as President Trump and his administration continue to assault safeguards and deny the reality of a warming world.

Here, we recap the 18 numbers that encapsulate the year that was, and what we’ll be keeping a close eye on in the year to come.

  1. Public Health Threat #1: Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. Former coal lobbyist Wheeler took the reins after the end of Scott Pruitt’s destructive tenure, and picked up right where Pruitt left off. Since then, Wheeler has targeted several foundational health and environmental safeguards. It’s now expected that Wheeler will be nominated for the post permanently. Keep reading to see how dangerous that could be to the American people and our planet.
  2. Two mothers who lost their sons because of exposure to methylene chloride, a dangerous chemical in common paint strippers, met with Pruitt and members of Congress from both parties. These moms asked EPA to support a ban on consumer and most commercial uses of methylene chloride. Over 6 months ago, Pruitt said he’d do so, but no action has been taken since.
  3. As for other chemicals the Trump EPA is flouting 2016’s Toxic Substance Control Act amendments, allowing potentially dangerous chemicals into the marketplace and consumers’ homes. Here are three examples.
  4. Wheeler is proposing to gut the EPA methane rules, a move that could result in more than 400,000 tons of additional potent methane, even though some leading companies have asked EPA to regulate methane emissions from oil and gas.
  5. Check out this list of five states that took bold action on climate change this year, showing the kinds of common-sense, economic solutions that can be implemented at scale while protecting people, our economy and our environment.
  6. According to the World Health Organization air pollution kills an estimated 600,000 children every year under the age of 15 and accounts for almost 1 in 10 deaths in children under five. The report found links between air pollution and childhood cancers, asthma, pneumonia and other respiratory infections, making it one of the leading threats to child health.
  7. It’s not all doom and gloom. Prompted by the urgency to act on climate and the advancement of affordable, renewable energy technologies, we’ve seen seven signs that the global energy economy is in transition.
  8. Eight hurricanes formed in Atlantic waters this year, two of which—Hurricanes Florence and Michael—devastated states across the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast. These kinds of super storms are becoming more powerful—and more destructive—due to warmer water, higher seas, shifting weather patterns and increased moisture in the air.
  9. On the other side of the country, California saw wildfires ravage the state, destroying entire towns and killing scores. In total, the fires are expected to cost insurers more than $9 billion and signal the kind of climate dangers the world could face more regularly if greenhouse gases are allowed to pollute our air unchecked.
  10. Might that have something to do with the fact that fossil fuel industries outspent clean energy advocates on climate lobbying by a startling 10 to 1?
  11. By EPA’s own calculations, the Mercury and Air Toxic Standards prevent as many as 11,000 deaths per year, yet the Administration reportedly wants to undercut the rule anyway, with a proposal expected imminently.
  12. A concentrated effort by the oil industry to fight back against clean car standards resulted in more than a quarter of the 12,000 “public” comments submitted to the federal register reflecting the language written by a pro-industry group. Marathon Petroleum, the country’s largest refiner, lobbyists for Exxon Mobil, Chevron, and Phillips 66, joined a network funded by the Koch Brothers network in a massive effort to fight standards that would reduce pollution from vehicles and save Americans money at the gas pump.
  13. The National Climate Assessment, issued by 13 federal agencies, sounded the alarm on the impacts America stands to suffer from climate change, yet went largely ignored by the Trump Administration, which has chosen to side with special interests and industry allies.
  14. 414 investors across the globe—with $31 trillion under management—called for governments to take serious steps to curb climate pollution, citing the “ambition gap” between government commitments and what is needed to sufficiently prevent the world from reaching warming of 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
  15. 2015 saw the adoption of the landmark Paris Agreement, setting nations on a hopeful path toward emissions reduction. Since then, the leadership once shown by America in critical climate talks has been abdicated, left vacant by an administration that chooses to cover its ears and place the world’s children and grandchildren at risk. This year’s climate summit, COP24, saw the creation of a “rule book” to implement the Paris agreement, but also showed that much more needs to be done.
  16. A letter sent by coal baron Robert E. Murray to Vice President Mike Pence listed 16 wishes that the administration has largely taken up as policy. Several among them have led the administration to foolishly attempt to prop up the coal industry despite economic signals diminishing coal’s viability, not to mention its severe health and environmental effects.
  17. After 17 months of countless scandals and reckless attempts to assault bedrock environmental protections, Scott Pruitt resigned his post as EPA Administrator. This list could extend dozens of items longer if we were to count Pruitt’s many offenses. American families and children will not miss him.
  18. A cheery and hopeful note as we head toward the new year: 2018’s midterms saw a wave of pro-environment and climate candidates elected to office across the country. Those candidates-elect—ranging from governors and representatives, to mayors and councilwomen—are leading a charge toward ambitious climate action.

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Posted in Basic Science of Global Warming, Cars and Pollution, Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, Energy, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Health, Policy, Science / Comments are closed

The deceptive safety claims being used to justify the proposed rollback of the Clean Car Standards

By Jeff Alson, Former EPA engineer who helped develop the Clean Car Standards, current consultant for EDF

The Trump administration is trying to justify its decision to roll back America’s Clean Car Standards — an action that will result in more pollution and greater costs for American families — by claiming that dirtier, more expensive cars will somehow be safer.

Yet the administration’s projection that the rollback will save lives has nothing to do with actual vehicle safety. It relies instead on unsupported assumptions about Americans’ driving habits.

Here are the reasons why the administration’s claim is extremely deceptive and deeply flawed:

The Department of Transportation’s own analysis demonstrates that clean cars are safe

The Trump administration implies that dirtier and less efficient vehicles are safer than cleaner and more efficient vehicles. Nothing could be further from the truth. Read More »

Posted in Clean Air Act, Policy / Comments are closed

The science is clear: We need a stronger smog standard

By Ananya Roy

A mom rubs her sons back as she murmurs softly “It’s going to be OK. You are going to feel better soon.”“Mom, am I going to miss baseball practice again?” Frustration lacing every word, as the young boy looked longingly at the sunshine streaming through the emergency department waiting area window. The sound of his wheezing carried across the room.

In the U.S. more than 26 million people are known to have asthma, of which 6 million are children. These are the Americans who may face situations like this one. The CDC estimates that asthma costs the U.S. economy more than $80 billion annually in medical expenses, missed work and school days and deaths.

We can and must do better.

Ground level ozone (also known as smog) is an air pollutant with well-established adverse effects on health including worsening of asthma. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required by law to set national air quality standards that protect public health with an adequate margin of safety. Read More »

Posted in Clean Air Act, Health, Policy, Setting the Facts Straight / Comments are closed

Why accurate reporting of air pollution after Hurricane Harvey matters

By Matt Tresaugue. This post originally appeared in Texas Clean Air Matters.

Hartmann Park, Valero Refinery, Manchester County, Houston Texas.

In addition to dumping historic amounts of rain across southeast Texas, Hurricane Harvey triggered a wave of air pollution, with petrochemical plants and oil refineries releasing 8.3 million pounds of harmful chemicals that exceeded state limits. At least, that is what they told state officials.

Companies, however, reduced those estimates by 1.7 million pounds in later filings with the state, a new Environmental Defense Fund analysis found.

The steep drop suggests that some companies may not have accounted accurately for all Harvey-related pollution increases in their reporting to the state. As a result, people’s exposure to hazardous air pollutants, such as cancer-causing benzene and 1,3-butadiene, may be substantially underestimated.

Industry frequently justified the changes in emissions estimates by arguing that flexible state-issued permits, as well as Gov. Greg Abbott’s suspension of several environmental rules in advance of Harvey, made the pollution legal. Read More »

Posted in Extreme Weather, Health, News, Science / Read 1 Response

Administration Cooks the Books to Justify Rollback of the Clean Car Standards

This post was written by EDF consultant Chester France, who served as a Senior Executive at EPA and led the development of vehicle standards at the agency

 

The Trump administration is now trying to roll back the Clean Car Standards – a proven American success story created with a mountain of evidence to support it.

From 2009 through 2016, the U.S. government published 10,000 pages of information proving that the Clean Car standards are feasible and cost effective. That’s the most comprehensive and rigorous U.S. automotive technology analysis ever conducted.

Rather than building on that massive technical record, the proposal released on Thursday indicates that the Trump administration has embraced shoddy and biased analysis to support its desired eight-year freeze of the Clean Car Standards at essentially 2018 levels through 2026.

The analysis attempting to justify the proposed rollback is a stunning 180-degree reversal of what the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) had found over the last decade. For instance:

  • As recently as 2016, EPA and DOT found that the standards through 2025 would have net societal benefits of almost $100 billion.
  • Now, the administration wants us to believe the same standards will have net societal costs of $200 billion.

That’s a change of almost $300 billion.

The only way to achieve such a massive analytical flip-flop is to “cook the books” – by manipulating design elements and input assumptions in the modeling tool – until the Trump administration arrived at the answers that it wants.

And it’s clear the Trump administration had answers it wanted from the beginning. EDF uncovered an email proving that a long-standing climate denier within the Trump administration had – at the urging of the White House – directed EPA staff to immediately roll back the Clean Car Standards on February 7, 2017. That email reflects a purely political decision within weeks of the President’s inauguration in 2017 – before anyone could have conducted any analysis of the benefits of the program. The facts had no bearing then, and clearly still do not now.

Our experts have identified scores of changes improperly biased in the direction of weakening the standards and making them appear less cost effective. Here are just a few of the most egregious examples:

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Posted in News / Read 2 Responses

Clean Cars Are Safer and Cheaper to Drive

This post was written by EDF consultant Chester France, who served as a Senior Executive at EPA and led the development of vehicle standards at the agency

 

Very soon, the Trump administration is expected to propose dramatically weakening America’s Clean Car Standards under the Orwellian title “The Safer and More Affordable Fuel Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule.”

Actually, a decade-long record shows lower-polluting cars are safe and can contribute to a continuing reduction in traffic deaths. Strong Clean Car Standards also save Americans money at the gas pump.

The misleading title of the expected proposal — and the findings it insinuates — is just the latest example of the Trump administration manipulating analyses to achieve its desired result. A February 2017 email from Trump transition team member and professional climate denier David Schnare describes a White House order to set these rollbacks into motion, underscoring that this decision was preordained and not based on any analysis of facts or law.

Here are some facts you should know about clean cars, savings, and safety.

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Posted in Cars and Pollution, Clean Air Act, Economics, News, Policy / Comments are closed