Climate Nexus

Damning New Harvard Study Confirms Exxon Knew It Was Destroying the Planet All Along

ExxonMobil misled the public on what it knew about climate change and its link to fossil fuels, according to a groundbreaking new analysis of the company's internal and external communications.

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Huge Victory: Court Finds Approval of Dakota Access Pipeline Violated the Law

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that the Trump administration must conduct additional environmental review of the Dakota Access Pipeline, handing a limited victory to Native American tribes fighting the administration's decision to move forward with the project.

"This decision marks an important turning point," said Earthjustice attorney Jan Hasselman. "Until now, the rights of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe have been disregarded by the builders of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Trump administration—prompting a well-deserved global outcry. The federal courts have stepped in where our political systems have failed to protect the rights of Native communities."

Boasberg did not order a shutdown of operations on the pipeline, which began pumping oil early this month. The tribes and pipeline owner Energy Transfer Partners are ordered to appear in court next week to decide next legal steps, and the tribes are expected to argue for a full shutdown of pipeline operations.

Dallas Goldtooth, national Keep It In the Ground organizer for Indigenous Environmental Network, had this to say about the ruling:

"This is a huge victory for the tribal nations of the Oceti Sakowin, Water Protectors around the world and for the Indigenous leaders who led organizing efforts to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline.

"We're ecstatic with the court's decision, and applaud the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and Cheyenne Sioux for continuing to hold the line and take the fight against the Trump administration and the Dakota Access Pipeline to the nation's courts. We hope this decision leads to the stoppage of oil flowing in the Bakken crude oil pipeline as a permanent remedy to protecting the drinking water of the Cheyenne River and Standing Rock Sioux Nations.

"Since the 1990s, our organization has been working to ensure the United States recognizes the need for environmental justice and for meaningful participation by Indigenous communities in permitting processes that will affect our sacred lands, inherent rights and access to clean water. We're seeing those efforts bear fruit, and now our movement has dealt a major blow to big oil.

"Despite underhanded, brutal tactics by Energy Transfer Partners to suppress Indigenous peoples, our movement will not be stopped. We will continue to support any and all efforts to divest from fossil fuels and stop the Dakota Access Pipeline once and for all."

For a deeper dive:

Washington PostReutersThe GuardianThe HillCNBCThe AtlanticSeattle TimesInsideClimate NewsGreenwireBuzzfeedHuffington Post

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White House Postpones Paris Climate Agreement Meeting - Again

A Tuesday White House meeting on the Paris agreement has been postponed to an as-yet-unspecified later date, the White House confirmed Monday evening.

As the administration inches towards a final decision on the accord, retired senior military officers sent a letter to Sec. of State Rex Tillerson and Sec. of Defense James Mattis Monday urging them to support the deal in White House negotiations.

"Climate change poses strategically significant risks to U.S. national security, directly impacting our critical infrastructure and increasing the likelihood of humanitarian disasters, state failure and conflict," former officers and security officials wrote in the letter to Tillerson.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Condoleeza Rice also made a case for the agreement in a recent Oval Office meeting.

The business world is also mobilizing to voice their support for the agreement, which GOP heavyweights and Climate Leadership Council leaders George Shultz and Ted Halstead summarized in a New York Times op-ed.

They said:

The president's Paris verdict will ultimately be about more than climate. It also carries major implications for America's place in the geoeconomic order. Staying in Paris would advance the president's priorities not only by creating jobs, but also by leveling the playing field in trade. American companies are well positioned to benefit from growing global markets in clean technologies, generating domestic jobs and growth.

Several denier-led groups also sent a letter on Monday to Trump in favor of exiting the deal.

For a deeper dive:

Meeting: APPoliticoWashington Examiner Military: Bloomberg DC support:WSJPolitico Pro Conservative groups: Washington ExaminerThe Hill

Commentary: New York Times, George Shultz and Ted Halstead op-edWashington Post, Todd Stern op-edThe Hill, Harry Alford op-ed

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Democrats Boycott Committee Vote on Trump's EPA Pick Scott Pruitt

All 10 Democratic members of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee boycotted a vote on Scott Pruitt's nomination for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Wednesday, citing serious concerns over his stances on climate change and pollution regulation, and demanding more complete answers from the nominee on various hot-button issues.

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Trump Nominees Ryan Zinke and Scott Pruitt Would Be Disastrous for the Environment

Montana Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke's confirmation hearings today kick off a busy week on the Hill for environment and climate hawks facing three crucial back-to-back cabinet hearings.

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Rising Temperatures Increase Risk of Megadrought

As the American Southwest grows hotter, the risk of severe, long-lasting megadroughts rises, passing 90 percent likelihood by the end of the century if greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current pace, a new study says. If we aggressively reduce emissions, however, we can cut that risk substantially, the authors write.

The higher temperatures affect moisture balance, taking moisture out of the soil and creating more arid landscapes in a process called evapotranspiration. With higher heat, native plants and trees require more water to keep up.

“A widespread and prolonged drought could really challenge resiliency and the supply practices that water managers have refined over the last century,” said co-author Justin Mankin, a postdoctoral research scientist at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. “Given business-as-usual emissions, our results suggest a need to soberly evaluate existing policies for managing Southwestern water demand and its supply to both mitigate the risks of megadroughts and position effective adaptations to their likely occurrence.”

Reducing emissions substantially lowers risk

To assess future megadrought risk, the scientists used computer simulations of the Southwest’s climate, soil moisture content, and relative dryness based on temperature and precipitation. They tested what would happen under a wide range of precipitation levels and temperatures that could occur through the second half this century.

The scientists looked specifically at the impact if the world continues burning fossil fuels on a high-emissions trajectory compared to the impact if we instead shift to more-sustainable, low-emissions growth:

  • Under a business-as-usual, high-emissions scenario (RCP8.5 in the models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), the Southwest will be about 4.5°C (8°F) warmer in the second half of the century compared to the second half of the 20th century, climate models show. Megadroughts will become very likely by the end of the century, above 90 percent probability with no change in precipitation, the study found. Even a 30 percent increase in precipitation would not be enough to overcome the effects of higher temperatures.
  • If the world instead cuts its emissions to levels close to those agreed to by international leaders at the Paris climate talks last December, meeting the IPCC’s RCP2.6 trajectory, the Southwest will be about 1.9°C (3.4°F) warmer in the second half of the century compared to the second half of the 20th century. Megadroughts will still be more likely than today, but the probability is less than 66 percent with no change in precipitation, falling below 50 percent with a modest increase in rainfall, the study found.
  • If the temperature increase is held to 1°C, the megadrought risk across most of the region falls to 20 percent with no change in precipitation, the study says.

Without global warming, the risk of a megadrought lasting 35 years or more would be less than 10 percent, the scientists say. The last long-running megadroughts in the Southwest were in the 12th and 13th centuries and coincided with the collapse of great Pueblo communities; Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde were abandoned during those times.

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Rising temperatures drive up the risk of a megadrought in the Southwestern United States this century, a new study finds. (image: Cynthia Mendoza/USDA)

Managing water resources for the future

The Southwest has experienced severe droughts in recent years and the water shortages they create, but those droughts have so far been relatively short-lived. A 35-year megadrought would put unprecedented stress on the region’s water resources, the authors write.

Communities can take adaptation measures, such as shifting to more efficient irrigation techniques, increasing water use efficiency, planning water transfers, or implementing measures to reduce demand. But to know how to manage water resources for the future and prepare, they need to understand each region’s drought risk.

“The trends in the Southwest are disconcerting. By all measures, it is becoming a more arid region, and that is expected to continue. At the same time, we’re putting more agriculture pressures on the region, and it’s one of the most quickly developing regions. Those are competing trends with regard to water supply and demand,” Smerdon said. “It’s probably safe to say that the Southwest, by necessity, will look different because of these trends.”

“I wouldn’t ever bet against our ability to, under pressure, come up with solutions and ideas for surmounting these challenges,” Smerdon said, “but the sooner we take this seriously and start planning for it, the more options we will have and the fewer serious risks we’ll face.”

Toby Ault, the paper’s lead author and a professor at Cornell University, noted that parts of the normally verdant Northeast are also in drought right now. “This should serve as a cautionary note for areas like the Northeast expecting to see a more-average moisture supply,” he said.

This article is made available by Nexus Media, a syndicated newswire covering climate, energy, politics, art and culture.

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Scientists Fear That Earth May Have Just Passed Climate Threshold Permanently (Video)

Carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere stayed above 400 parts per million (ppm) during September—a time when CO2 levels typically hit the yearly low—raising fears that the planet has reached a point of no return.

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Heat and Carbon Pollution Are Hampering Students' Academic Performance

It’s fall, and all across America, kids are heading back to school. Gone are the carefree days of summer. Returned are the exams that shape students’ futures—from next year’s course load to college graduation.

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U.S. and China Formally Join Historic Paris Climate Agreement

The United States and China formally joined the Paris Agreement on climate change Saturday, committing the world’s two biggest emitters to keep warming below 2ËšC, with best efforts to limit warming to 1.5ËšC.

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82,000 Evacuated as 'Once in a Lifetime' Wildfire Shocks California

With more than 25,000 acres still burning, firefighters managed to achieve four percent containment of the Blue Cut fire in California late Wednesday night.

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Only 8 of 600 Cities Outside Western Europe Would be Cool Enough to Hold Summer Olympic Games in 70 Years

Heat and humidity fueled by global warming could make it impossible for most cities in the Northern Hemisphere to host Summer Olympic Games within just 70 years, according to a comment published in The Lancet.

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Clean Energy Is Booming in Historically Red States - and It's Splitting Conservatives Apart

The Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas just became the new home of the country’s largest rooftop solar installation, a sprawling 26,000-panel array smack dab in the middle of Sin City. The project is just the latest jewel in the crown for Nevada solar energy geeks. Just down the road on Interstate 15 sits the Ivanpah solar power station, the world’s largest solar thermal plant.

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