Climate Central

Court Rules That EPA Isn't Permitted to Regulate One of the Planet's Most Powerful Climate Pollutants

One of the most powerful climate pollutants on earth, hydrofluorocarbons or HFCs, account for a small portion of U.S. climate pollution, but scientists say it’s important for countries to urgently cut them just because they’re so potent—and growing.

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Global Warming Is Fueling Arizona's Monstrous Monsoons

Summer in Arizona and throughout the Southwest is monsoon season, which means a daily pattern of afternoon thunderstorms, flash floods, dramatic dust clouds and spectacular displays of lightning over the desert.

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A New Law in New Jersey Is Combating Climate and Hunger - at the Same Time

new law in New Jersey aims to shrink the state’s climate footprint and feed the hungry by drastically reducing the amount of wasted food that ends up in landfills.

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Today's Extreme Heat May Become Norm Within a Decade

When 2015 blew the record for hottest year out of the water, it made headlines around the world. But a heat record that was so remarkable only two years ago will be just another year by 2040 at the latest, and possibly as early as 2020, regardless of whether the greenhouse gas emissions warming the planet are curtailed.

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The West Is on Fire as Heat Records Fall

From Phoenix to Boise, high temperature records fell like dominoes last weekend as an impressive heat wave engulfed the western U.S., helping to fuel several wildfires.

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Climate Change Will Hit Poorest the Hardest in U.S.

Union County is tucked in northern Florida, half an hour north of Gainesville and an hour west of Jacksonville. It’s Florida’s smallest county, a mostly unremarkable landlocked stretch of pine forest interspersed with lakes.

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Trump’s Base Is the Big Winner From Paris Climate Withdrawal

President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement provides no clear benefits to American workers or industries. His announcement on Thursday merely hands a symbolic victory to his political base — nationalists who resent internationalism and global cooperation.

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White House Budget Aims to Kill 'Crazy' Climate Science

As The White House released its budget request for the 2018 fiscal year on Tuesday, the Trump administration made good on its promise to target deep cuts to federal spending on climate, energy, science, research and other programs widely seen as critical to America’s ability to adapt to a warming world and reduce its impact on the climate.

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A Swath of States Is Experiencing the Hottest Year to Date

or a swath of states from New Mexico over to Florida and up to Ohio, 2017 has been the hottest year on record through April.

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Trump Moves to Open Offshore Drilling in Areas That Obama Wanted to Protect From Fossil Fuel Development

President Trump on Friday called for the review of a five-year plan for offshore oil and gas leasing that the Obama administration put in place to keep large swaths of the Atlantic and Arctic off-limits to fossil fuel development.

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How Political Theater in Congress Is Threatening Science and the Climate

As the Trump administration embarks on a deregulatory frenzy aimed at weakening federal climate action, Congress is matching his enthusiasm. Dozens of GOP-sponsored bills have been introduced that seek to hamstring the government’s ability to protect the environment, cut greenhouse gas emissions and consider peer-reviewed science in its decisions.

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Long Legal Battles Ahead Over Trump's Climate Order

Environmental groups and progressive states are vowing to battle President Trump in court over his push to repeal federal climate protections, and experts are warning that the battles ahead will be slow and protracted.

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Trump's Planned Cuts to Leading Climate Science Agency Would Put Lives at Risk (Video)

On Friday, the meteorology community was riding a major high as stunningly high-definition images came in from the nation’s newest and much-anticipated earth observation satellite. The high came crashing down that evening, though, as the first hints of significant cuts to the budget of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration began to emerge.

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EPA to Big Oil and Gas: No Need to Report Methane Pollution

The Environmental Protection Agency has withdrawn an Obama-era request for methane emissions information from 15,000 oil and gas companies nationwide — a decision the Trump administration made after 11 states said the request amounted to “harassment.”

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Coastal Cities Could Flood Three Times a Week by 2045

The lawns of homes purchased this year in vast swaths of coastal America could regularly be underwater before the mortgage has even been paid off, with new research showing high tide flooding could become nearly incessant in places within 30 years.

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Antarctica Just Shed a Manhattan-Sized Chunk of Ice

The growing crack in the Larsen C ice shelf is the most dramatic example of change in Antarctica right now. But it isn’t the continent’s only frozen feature changing in a warming world.

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To Address Climate Crisis, Conservatives Push Carbon Tax Instead of Democrat-Backed Cap-and-Trade System

With President Trump and Republicans in Congress moving swiftly to repeal regulations that slow global warming, a group of prominent conservatives on February 8 touted a different potential solution — a carbon tax that pays cash dividends to Americans.

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Trump's Interior Nominee Ryan Zinke Doubles Down on Coal

During his confirmation hearing Tuesday, Interior secretary nominee Ryan Zinke emphasized the incoming Trump administration’s vow to recommit America to fossil fuels development while disregarding renewables and the need to act on climate change.

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Exxon’s $180 Million Deal With Trump’s Pick for State

ExxonMobil has agreed to provide an investment package worth about $180 million to its outgoing chief executive, Rex Tillerson, letting him cash in on benefits that he would have been required to give up in order to serve as President-elect Trump’s top diplomat.

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The Destructive Power of Preemption: How It Will Be Used by Congress to Halt State Action on Climate

This article originally appeared on Climate Central.

The head of the city department that drafts many of San Francisco’s greenest rules and regulations uses one word to explain her greatest fear for the environment during Donald Trump’s presidency: “preemption.”

If some of the deepest concerns of climate-focused bureaucrats from San Francisco to Massachusetts and New York come true, the Trump administration will preemptively prevent them from acting to slow global warming.

With Trump and Republicans in Congress widely expected to unite to undermine federal environmental protections, progressive states and cities are making plans to fight global warming within their borders without being helped or required to do so by the U.S. government.

“Preemption is probably the progressive cities’ worst nightmare,” said Deborah Raphael, director of San Francisco’s environment department, which has helped city lawmakers craft rules mandating everything from greener buildings to composting and recycling by residents. “It’s also the state of California’s worst nightmare.”

The term “preemption” doesn’t describe a single legislative or regulatory tool. The word describes a concept, in which the federal government or a state imposes restrictions on the rules and programs that governments operating beneath it are allowed to implement.

Conservative lawmakers in North Carolina used a preemption law last year to outlaw transgender protections in Charlotte. In Michigan, cities and counties were barred from banning plastic bags. Colorado prevents local governments from banning fracking.

With Republicans about to control both houses of Congress and the White House, environmental experts are warning of battles ahead over potential federal preemptions.

“There really is virtually no aspect of federal regulation of the natural environment or health that’s not at risk of preemption now,” said Mark Pertschuk, a lawyer and activist with the nonprofit Grassroots Change, which tracks state preemptions of local rules affecting gun safety, paid sick days, factory farming and other issues. “Federal laws almost always trump state and local laws.”

It’s difficult to predict when, how or whether the federal government will wield any tools of preemption to bar cities and states from enforcing their own environmental rules. Nonetheless, governments across the country are bracing for new restrictions. California’s decision to hire Obama’s attorney general, Eric Holder Jr., showed it’s preparing to fight for state rights in court.

“Everything is speculative right now,” said Cooper Martin, a sustainability official at the National League of Cities, which represents cities in state capitols and on Capitol Hill. Based on Trump’s anti-environmental cabinet nominees and his rhetoric on climate change, which he has falsely called a hoax, Martin said fears of federal preemption are “certainly well founded.”

“It’s just the nature of the political landscape that this hasn’t been an issue on climate, at least in the last eight years,” Martin said, referring to the length of Obama’s presidency. “It was certainly an issue prior to that.”

Clean car rules in California, which are unpopular with oil companies and auto manufacturers, offer what may be the clearest opportunity for federal preemption. Other rules that could be blocked relate to appliance efficiency standards, power plant pollution, fossil fuel exports and safe disposal of pharmaceuticals. Local governments that have spent federal transportation funds on cycling and transit initiatives could be prevented from doing so in the future.

“Programs that allow cities to invest in bike and pedestrian infrastructure, or that allow cities to invest in transit, have all become more popular, particularly in the larger cities,” Martin said. “We want to make sure that there’s flexibility for the cities that do choose to go down this path.”

The Clean Air Act allows California to enforce stricter standards on car pollution than the federal government. It also allows other states to adopt California’s rules. But to do so, California needs a waiver from the EPA. When George W. Bush was president, the EPA refused to issue such a waiver, which was eventually granted after Obama became president.

Trump’s nominee to lead the EPA, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, has repeatedly sued the agency, arguing that federal pollution rules violate state rights. Now he might lead a charge to limit the rights of states to enforce their own pollution rules to slow climate change.

Within days of Trump’s election, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers sent the president-elect a letter arguing that the “regulatory friction” caused by two sets of car pollution standards is “driving up vehicle costs.” The automakers implored Trump to eliminate California’s far-reaching clean car rules through what they call “harmonization” with federal regulations.

“We could see the U.S. EPA refuse to grant future waivers; there’s even been some talk that they could try to strip away existing waivers,” said Bill Magavern, the policy director at the Coalition for Clean Air, a California nonprofit. “It’s safe to say California would sue in either instance.”

Michael Wara, an energy and environment expert at Stanford Law School, said the federal government could go further than car standards and try to revoke the rights of states to limit heat-trapping carbon dioxide pollution billowed by power plants. It could also jeopardize “anything that smells like foreign policy” by states, Wara said, including linkages between a carbon pricing system operated jointly by California and Quebec.

“Anything that looks and feels like a treaty — that creates binding obligations on both sides — is going to face increased judicial scrutiny,” Wara said. “Here, if there is any conflict, the state loses.”

Not all talk of federal preemption is hypothetical. Rep. Michael Burgess, a Republican from Texas, introduced a bill last week that would repeal federal efficiency standards affecting washing machines, dryers, ceiling fans, fridges and other appliances. It would also prevent states from adopting any product standards governing “energy conservation or water efficiency.”

The Heritage Foundation, an influential conservative think tank, supports Burgess’s anti-regulatory drive on appliances, but it’s worried that his bill would curtail state rights.

“We don’t believe the federal government should mandate energy conservation,” said Nicolas Loris, a Heritage Foundation energy and environmental policy fellow who has analyzed Burgess’s bill. “But we don’t think the federal government should prohibit the states from doing so.”

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4 Critical Energy Issues to Watch in 2017

The U.S. may be on the cusp of a stark turning point in energy and climate policy with the election of Donald Trump, who has stocked his cabinet with a majority of people who doubt or reject established climate science.

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Solar Farms Expected to Outpace Natural Gas in U.S.

2016 is shaping up to be a milestone year for energy, and when the final accounting is done, one of the biggest winners is likely to be solar power.

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These Are the 10 Most Important Climate Stories of 2016

This year is likely to remembered as a turning point for climate change. It’s the year the impacts of rising carbon pollution became impossible to ignore. The world is overheating and vast swaths of the planet have suffered the consequences. At the same time, it’s also a year where world leaders crafted and agreed on a number of plans to try to turn the tide of carbon pollution and move toward a clean energy future. It’s clear 2016 was a year where planetary peril and human hope stood out in stark contrast. Here are the 10 most important climate milestones of the year.

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2016 Is About to Become the Hottest Year on Record

In less than two weeks, 2016 will officially be the hottest year on the books in more than 120 years of record keeping by U.S. agencies.

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Trump's Interior Secretary Pick Is a Climate Denier Who Could Open Public Lands for Drilling

U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a sixth-term Republican from Washington State who is a climate change denier and an ardent opponent of regulations for greenhouse gas emissions, has been nominated by President-elect Donald Trump for Secretary of Interior.

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Tennessee Wildfire Is 'Unlike Anything We've Ever Seen' (Video)

Crews have been battling the Southeast’s spate of freakish fall fires since late Monday night. Tinderbox conditions and powerful winds whipped up a firestorm in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, forcing the evacuation of at least 14,000 residents from the gateway communities of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tenn.

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Fears Rise of Trump Ditching Paris Climate Deal - as 2016 Stays on Target to Be Hottest on Record

Global temperatures have begun to retreat from their El Niño-fueled peak earlier in the year, but the excess heat trapped by greenhouse gases is keeping them well above average and 2016 is likely to become the hottest year on record.

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The Agonizing Wait for Trump to Speak on Climate Policy

Scientists, analysts, activists and world leaders on Monday were anxiously waiting to learn how President-elect Donald Trump plans to reshape climate policy following a campaign in which he dismissed the global warming crisis — with America’s own climate negotiators being left in the dark.

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After Years of Negotiations, the World's Largest Marine Protected Area Has Been Created

The creatures of the Southern Ocean just got a lot more space to roam freely. On Thursday, 24 countries and the European Union agreed to set aside a 600,000-square-mile swath of ocean—roughly twice the size of Texas—off the coast of Antarctica as a marine protected area.

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Superstorm Sandy’s Surge Was Extreme, but It Could Become the New Normal

The destructive force of storm surge was on clear display this weekend as Hurricane Matthew ripped across the Caribbean, Florida and the Carolinas. For some in New York, it may have brought back memories of Sandy, another destructive October storm that broke flood records and upended the metropolitan area.

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Connecting Climate Change to Terrorism: President Obama Tells Federal Agencies to Plan for Global Warming Impact on National Security

Last week, President Obama took another step toward securing his climate legacy. This time his focus wasn’t on energypublic lands or international diplomacy. It was on national security and making sure the U.S. military is prepared for a more unstable future.

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