Briefly

Stuff that matters


Better state than never

States will be the places to watch on climate in 2017.

Especially because there will likely be a big, federal-sized hole in climate ambition.

California, which passed aggressive climate bills last year, is determined to continue leading the nation on climate action, despite the incoming Trump administration. The state, still reeling from lingering drought, is also working on a big Bay-Delta water plan, a compromise that aims to reconcile the interests of farmers, environmentalists, and others. It could spark another battle in the state’s notorious water wars.

Florida will need to work on shoring up its vulnerable coastline, which is threatened by increasing storms and sea-level rise. The legislature will consider a multi-million-dollar request from the Department of Environmental Protection to restore areas damaged by hurricanes.

Iowa spent last year developing a hefty energy plan to boost renewables and efficiency around the state. Now that the plan is in place, the state will set out to execute it by, among other things, increasing research and workforce training and modernizing the electrical grid.

Massachusetts has proposed new regulations to cut carbon emissions from sectors like transportation and power generation. Public hearings are set for February, and the rules are supposed to be finalized by August.


bad news travels fast

Lots of popular climate change articles aren’t totally credible, scientists say.

Some of these articles are sensationalized very nearly to the point of inaccuracy. Others are cases of “elaborate misinformation.”

A review from Climate Feedback, a group of scientists who survey climate change news to determine whether it’s scientifically sound, looked at the 25 most-shared stories last year that focused on the science of climate change or global warming.

Of those, only 11 were rated as credible, meaning they contained no major inaccuracies. Five were considered borderline inaccurate. The remaining nine, including New York Magazine’s viral “The Uninhabitable Earth,” were found to have low or very low credibility. However, even the top-rated articles were noted as somewhat misleading. (Read the reviews here.) 

“We see a lot of inaccurate stories,” Emmanuel Vincent, a research scientist at the University of California and the founder of Climate Feedback, told Grist. Each scientist at Climate Feedback holds a Ph.D. and has recently published articles in peer-reviewed journals.

Vincent says that the New York Times and Washington Post are the two main sources that Climate Feedback has found “consistently publish information that is accurate and influential.” (He notes that Grist’s “Ice Apocalypse” by Eric Holthaus also made the credibility cut.)

“You need to find the line between being catchy and interesting without overstepping what the science can support,” he says.


quitting time

Most members of the National Park Service Advisory Board got so frustrated they quit.

On Tuesday, 10 out of 12 advisory board members resigned, leaving the board crippled.

“We understand the complexity of transition but our requests to engage have been ignored and the matters on which we wanted to brief the new Department team are clearly not part of its agenda,” former Alaska Governor Tony Knowles wrote in a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Monday.

Zinke didn’t meet with the committee at all last year. The advisory board, which was established to help him designate historic or natural landmarks, has technically been suspended since May 2017.

In 1935, Congress chartered the advisory board to help the National Park Service preserve American heritage. Now, board members are worried that the Trump administration has set that original mission aside indefinitely. “I hope that future actions of the Department of Interior demonstrate that this is not the case,” board member Carolyn Hessler Radelet wrote in a separate resignation letter on Wednesday.

But Zinke’s recent decisions, like disbanding the Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council and the Advisory Committee on Climate Change and Natural Resource Science, indicate that expert input is pretty low on his list of priorities.


green light

The NAACP is bringing renewable energy to communities of color.

Over the next year, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People will install solar panels on 20 households and 10 community centers, train 100 people in solar job skills, and push for equitable solar access policies in at least five states across the U.S.

“Underserved communities cannot be left behind in a clean energy transition,” Derrick Johnson, NAACP President and CEO, said in a statement about the new Solar Equity Initiative. “Clean energy is a fundamental civil right which must be available to all, within the framework of a just transition.”

The initiative began on Martin Luther King Jr. Day by installing solar panels on the Jenesse Center, a transitional housing program in L.A. for survivors of domestic abuse. The NAACP estimated that solar energy could save the center nearly $49,000 over the course of a lifetime, leaving more resources to go toward services for women and families.

Aside from the financial benefits, the NAACP points out that a just transition to clean energy will improve health outcomes. Last year, a report by the Clean Air Task Force and the NAACP found that black Americans are exposed to air nearly 40 percent more polluted than their white counterparts. Pollution has led to 138,000 asthma attacks among black school children and over 100,000 missed school days each year.

It’s just a start, but this new initiative could help alleviate the disproportionate environmental burdens that black communities face.


follow suit

Los Angeles schemes to sue major oil companies over climate change.

California has had a hell of a year: droughts, wildfires, and now, mudslides. As taxpayers shoulder the brunt of the state’s enormous disaster relief tab, two L.A. lawmakers say fossil fuel companies should take financial responsibility for climate change-related damages.

In a written proposal, L.A. city council members Mike Bonin and Paul Koretz say fossil fuel companies did “nothing to stop their destructive ways” even though they knew their actions exacerbated climate change. They request a meeting with city attorney Mike Feuer to assess the feasibility of pursuing legal action against oil and gas companies.

In addition, the proposal suggests filing a motion to bolster New York City’s lawsuit against five major oil companies. That case, filed last Tuesday, also looks to shift the costs of climate change back on the companies responsible for causing the damage.

San Francisco and Oakland filed similar lawsuits in September 2017, arguing that oil and gas companies have failed to curtail emissions despite evidence that “global warming has become gravely dangerous.”


interiority complex

Hey — everyone can get into national parks for free on Monday.

The Department of Interior is doing something that isn’t the worst! Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Wait — the National Park Service had 16 free-entrance days in 2016. This year, there are just four. Plus, there are plans to nearly triple entrance fees at a bunch of the most popular national parks during peak season.

Let’s review what else the ol’ Interior Department has been up to lately.

A massive overhaul: On Wednesday, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke proposed the biggest reorganization in the department’s history. It would shuffle tens of thousands of workers to new locations, and divide up the department’s current state boundaries into 13 new regions, affecting more than 500 million acres of land and water.

A monumental change: President Donald Trump recently downsized two national monuments in Utah, and Zinke has recommended shrinking a bunch more. Cool.

A Christmas story: On Dec. 22, the Interior quietly rescinded a bunch of climate change policies issued by the Obama administration, Elizabeth Shogren reported. Apparently, the rules were “potential burdens” to energy development.

So, uh, between the proposed fee hikes and the concern that climate change is slowly taking away our parks’ namesake glaciers and forests, you might want to take advantage of those free-entrance days and visit America’s beautiful landscapes ASAP.


Polled move

Most Ohio conservatives want to pay for renewables and stop propping up coal.

A new poll from Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies surveyed Republican and independent voters in Ohio and found something surprising: A full 60 percent say they would support rules requiring more renewable energy production in Ohio. And 56 percent said they’d be willing to pay $5 or more per month for renewable energy. 

That’s not all! The poll shows that those same voters “definitely” or “totally” (which kind of sounds like the same thing …?) don’t want their money going toward keeping old coal plants operational. Two-thirds of conservatives polled oppose new fees to keep coal and nuclear plants online. Don’t believe me? Look at this chart!

Public Opinion Strategies

In sum: A majority of Ohio conservatives don’t want to fund coal and overwhelmingly support expanding renewable energy — and would be willing to pay more for it. So, why have state GOP lawmakers been trying to kill renewable energy standards and shore up old coal and nuclear plants in Ohio?

Contrary to what we’ve seen from the White House, clean energy is pretty popular with conservatives. Most Republicans have supported renewable energy development for years.