Climate 411

Coming Soon: Trump EPA is Expected to Sign a Final “Air Toxics Loophole” That Will Increase Public Health Risk

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler is expected to soon sign a final rule creating an “Air Toxics Loophole” in the Clean Air Act. That loophole would allow large industrial facilities nationwide to avoid complying with rigorous limits on hazardous air pollutants such as benzene and mercury.

EPA’s own analysis indicates that this radical new policy would affect thousands of major pollution sources, such as refineries and chemical plants, located in almost every state. EPA’s analysis also shows this policy risks increasing harmful air pollution by millions of pounds each year.  Many of the facilities that could take advantage of the Air Toxics Loophole are located in low-income communities and communities of color that are already suffering disproportionate burdens from air pollution and are most vulnerable to the health impacts of poor air quality.

The signing of the final Air Toxics Loophole will be only the latest in a series of outrageous Trump administration attacks on fundamental climate, clean air, and health protections that have taken place just since the coronavirus pandemic began – and one of at least 100 attempted rollbacks of environmental and public health protections that have taken place since 2017. EDF will forcefully oppose any final rule that weakens our nation’s bedrock safeguards against hazardous air pollution from industrial facilities. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Health / 1 Response

COVID-19, protecciones ambientales debilitadas y violaciones a los derechos amenazan los territorios indígenas y las áreas protegidas de la Amazonía

Esta publicación fue corredactada por Bärbel Henneberger.

English version.

Hombre Kichwa cruzando el Río Arajuno, Amazonia Ecuatoriana. Bärbel Henneberger

Los Pueblos Indígenas que habitan en la Amazonía son conocidos como “guardianes de los bosques” debido a su eficacia para mantenerlos intactos. Los territorios indígenas y las áreas protegidas conjuntamente cubren el 52% de la Amazonía y almacenan el 58% del carbono, superando así a las tierras circundantes en términos de almacenamiento de carbono y limitando las emisiones netas de carbono, según un estudio publicado en la revista Proceedings of the National Academy of Science a principios de año.

Aun así, los territorios indígenas y las áreas protegidas se enfrentan a nuevas amenazas. Los líderes indígenas de la Amazonía informan del incremento de casos de violación de sus derechos. Las invasiones por parte de los mineros, ganaderos y madereros ilegales que invaden las tierras indígenas protegidas quedan en la impunidad y, al parecer, todos ellos se sienten alentados por las declaraciones de los líderes políticos y los esfuerzos legislativos para permitir en los territorios indígenas nuevas concesiones mineras.

Las concesiones para la extracción de petróleo y minería otorgados por los gobiernos se superponen a cerca de una cuarta parte de los territorios indígenas reconocidos, lo que aumenta sustancialmente su vulnerabilidad a los impactos adversos.

Al momento el COVID-19 agrava estas amenazas en un escenario en que las autoridades nacionales no han podido patrullar las reservas naturales y territorios indígenas con la frecuencia requerida; situación que las organizaciones criminales y madereros ilegales han estado usando a su favor.

Read More »

Also posted in Forest protection, Indigenous People, International / Comments are closed

Our new report shows the importance of “accelerating to 100% clean” vehicles

Drone photo of busy highways over Denver’s Elyria-Swansea and Globeville neighborhoods and schools. Credit: Chance Multimedia

Air pollution is the largest environmental cause of disease and death in the world. In the U.S. almost half of all people live in communities with unhealthy levels of air pollution. More than 20,000 Americans die prematurely every year as a result of the motor vehicle pollution on our roads and highways, according to a new peer reviewed study by EPA  experts. Pollution from our roadways disproportionately harms people of color and lower income communities. Transportation sector pollution is now also the largest source of climate pollution in the U.S.

A new EDF report includes these facts and other comprehensive information about the dangers of transportation sector pollution and about strategies to address it. The report, Accelerating to 100% Clean: Zero Emitting Vehicles Save Lives, Advance Justice, Create Jobs, compiles the best and most recent information on the issue.

Here are a few key findings. Read More »

Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Green Jobs, Health, Jobs, News / Comments are closed

As Amazon deforestation rises, so does the need for urgent action

Deforestation in the Amazon. iStock.

The year 2020 was expected to be a “super year” for global action on climate change. Instead, it’s become an “extraordinary year” for a global community trying to cope with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amidst this backdrop, deforestation throughout the Amazon has been rising steadily, jumping 55% in the first four months of 2020 compared to the same period last year. This is no coincidence. Loggers, miners, land-grabbers and individuals clearing land for soy and livestock are taking advantage of the COVID-19 crisis to illegally clear the forest.

Enforcement of forest protection was already severely weakened across the Amazon, due in part to anti-environmental leadership and rhetoric, such as that of President Bolsonaro in Brazil. The virus has forced many of the field agents responsible for keeping forest invaders out to retreat, making it virtually impossible to enforce environmental laws and leaving these areas open to destruction. As we enter fire season, deforestation could get much worse due to warmer than average sea surface temperatures which could exacerbate the spread of fires. It all makes for a “perfect storm” that is threatening the Amazon forest and is already having disastrous impacts on the Indigenous communities who depend on forests.

Increased deforestation will jeopardize the rainforest’s rich biodiversity and extensive carbon stocks. It’s pushing the Amazon closer to the tipping point where deforestation will be irreversible. And it’s hindering global climate change mitigation efforts.

If the global community is going to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, Convention on Biological Diversity, the New York Declaration on Forests and other frameworks, then countries and companies need to prioritize forest protection.

Read More »

Also posted in Brazil, Forest protection, Indigenous People, International, Jobs, REDD+ / Comments are closed

Seven Senate Republicans join growing momentum to support struggling clean energy industry

Last week, a group of Republican Senators pushed Congress to support relief for the clean energy industry, even as several of their colleagues from fossil fuel producing states pushed back against these efforts.

The clean energy sector has been hit especially hard during the COVID-19 crisis. According to an analysis of Department of Labor data, more than 620,000 workers in these occupations have been laid off since March, with most of those continuing to seek unemployment. Those numbers account for 15% of the clean energy workforce and are more than double the number of clean energy jobs created since 2017. This loss is a significant change from the pre-COVID economy where clean energy was one of the nation’s strongest sectors, growing 70% faster than the economy as a whole.

The clean energy sector plays a critical role in U.S. energy independence,is a powerful economic tool to reduce climate pollution, and has wide bipartisan support. Read More »

Also posted in Cities and states, Green Jobs, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Jobs / Comments are closed

More confirmation that the Trump administration has been disregarding the true costs of climate pollution

A new report highlights the Trump administration’s dangerous efforts to obscure the real costs of climate change, while a major court decision firmly rejects the administration’s approach.

Costly flooding in a Houston area neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

A new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), an independent agency tasked with providing objective nonpartisan information to policymakers, confirms what we’ve known for years: that the Trump administration has been ignoring the enormous costs of climate change. By ignoring these damages, the administration is turning its back on communities across the nation who are footing the bill for those impacts today.

In addition, a federal court recently issued a clear-cut rejection of the administration’s deceptive math on the cost of methane pollution, another greenhouse gas that is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20 year time period. This ruling reinforces the fact that the administration has been blatantly disregarding widely accepted science and economics when it comes to the costs of climate change.

All of this comes amid a raging and widespread pandemic that underscores the absolute necessity of relying on experts and scientific data when crafting policy. With unchecked climate change fueling more devastating storms, droughts, and other public health impacts — all of which hit vulnerable communities the hardest — incorporating accurate costs of climate change in policy decision-making matters now more than ever.

Here is what this new report and court decision reveal about the administration’s backwards and harmful approach to decisions on climate change — and how experts and the courts are wholly rejecting it.

Why undervaluing the cost of climate change is dangerous

To justify its own political agenda, the Trump administration has manipulated the calculations behind the estimated impact of emissions to allow for more climate pollution from major sources like power plants and cars. The new GAO report outlines the steps the administration has taken to drastically underestimate the “Social Cost of Carbon” — a measure of the economic harm from climate impacts that is used to inform policy and government decision-making. These impacts include extreme weather events like flooding and deadly storms, the spread of disease, and sea level rise, increased food insecurity, and more.

After a 2008 court decision requiring the federal government to account for the economic effects of climate change in regulatory benefit-cost analysis, an Interagency Working Group (IWG) comprised of experts across a dozen federal agencies began in 2009 to develop robust estimates of the social costs of carbon that could be used consistently by agencies across the government. These estimates were developed through a transparent and rigorous process based on peer-reviewed science and economics that included input from the National Academy of Sciences and the public — and were periodically updated over time to account for the latest science. More recently, the NAS conducted a thorough assessment to provide guidance on updating the social cost of carbon estimates and suggestions for continuing to build on and strengthen it.

The GAO report underscores the importance of implementing those recommendations, while pointing to the fact that the federal government has done absolutely nothing to follow through. In fact, in 2017 the Trump administration recklessly disbanded the IWG — the very federal entity that already had the mandate to take on this task.

Since then, federal agencies like the EPA have been relying on an “interim cost” to inform important regulatory decisions that is seven times lower than the IWG’s estimate — a move that dramatically underestimates the profound impacts climate change has on families, businesses, taxpayers and local governments. To make matters worse, the administration is dramatically reducing the IWG figure even though it is widely recognized to be an underestimate of the true costs. There is wide consensus that the true costs are much likely significantly higher.

The Trump administration substantially reduces estimates through two key flaws in its calculations, both of which fly in the face of established science and economic principles. First, the reduced estimates ignore that carbon emissions are a global pollutant, omitting important categories of climate change impacts on the United States. Second, they undervalue the harm to our children and future generations by significantly over-discounting future climate impacts.

By vastly undervaluing the costs of climate change — and thus, the benefits of acting on climate — the administration has been able to justify rolling back critical protections such as the landmark federal Clean Car Standards. These important rules offer critical public health benefits and fuel savings for consumers.

A court ruling refutes the administration’s deceptive math on pollution costs

In encouraging news, a recent court decision outright rejected the administration’s deceptive math on a similar metric, the ‘Social Cost of Methane,’ used to estimate the impacts of methane pollution. The Bureau of Land Management, under former Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, has been using an interim social cost of methane that is more than 25 times less than the estimate from the IWG. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California recently overturned the BLM’s attempt to ease protections from dangerous methane leaking, venting and discharging from oil and gas activities on public and tribal lands, where it used a distorted social cost of methane as justification. EDF joined the states of California and New Mexico and a broad coalition of health, environmental, tribal citizen and Western groups to challenge in court the rescission of these vital safeguards.

In the opinion, the judge ruled that the BLM’s decision to rely on a lower interim estimate for the social cost of methane was “arbitrary” and “capricious,” and therefore, “failed to quantify accurately the forgone methane emissions and the resulting environmental impacts.” In addition, the court underscored that “the President did not alter by fiat what constitutes the best available science” on the social cost of greenhouse gas emissions. This is a major win for not only the broad coalition involved in the case, but for the basic principle of science-based decision-making on climate change. The court’s meticulous critique of the flaws in the interim social cost of methane — and the process used to develop it — could be influential in future cases involving the social cost of greenhouse gas emissions. Such a critical ruling like this opens the possibility that the Trump administration and future administrations could be required to properly account for the costs of climate change.

The Trump administration’s unwavering, politically motivated attempts at twisting facts and discrediting experts is putting Americans’ lives, health and financial well-being at risk. Unfortunately, its effort to skew the costs of climate change is far more than a political game. It is already causing real harm to communities across the country suffering from climate impacts — and it will only add to the mounting costs our children and grandchildren will pay. That is why ongoing efforts to uncover and overturn unjust climate decisions are all the more essential.

Also posted in Economics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions / Comments are closed