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The 2006 drought in Jowzjan province of northern Afghanistan made the land unfarmable. Photo credit: UNHCR/V.Tan

Climate change is helping terrorism and organized crime thrive in fragile states, boosting recruitment for groups like Boko Haram and ISIS, according to a new report.

The report, commissioned by the German Department for Foreign Affairs, looked at four case studies in Syria, Afghanistan, the Lake Chad region and Guatemala. The report found that terrorist groups in these regions are taking advantage of the changing climate, using increasingly scarce natural resources as a "weapon of war." The authors recommend that climate adaptation, humanitarian aid and counterterrorism efforts will help prevent conflict.

"The scarcer resources become, the more power is given to those who control them, especially in regions where people are particularly reliant on natural resources for their livelihoods," Lukas Rüttinger wrote in the Adelphi think tank report.

"As climate change affects food security and the availability of water and land, affected people will become more vulnerable not only to negative climate impacts but also to recruitment by terrorist groups offering alternative livelihoods and economic incentives."

For a deeper dive:

Reuters, The Guardian, Deutsche Welle, ThinkProgress, New York Post

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Exxon, Chevron and other fossil fuel interests wrote big checks to fund President Trump's inaugural festivities, according to Federal Election Commission filings released Wednesday.

Contributions from the energy industry totaled more than $7 million, with Hess Corp CEO John Hess donating $1 million, Exxon, Chevron, BP and Citgo Petroleum each chipping in $500k. Coal company Murray Energy, which gave enthusiastically to the Trump campaign while simultaneously laying off workers, threw in $300k.

For many of these donors, the early months of the Trump administration have been particularly fruitful: Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren, who donated $250k, saw the president sign an executive memo ordering the construction of the ETP-owned Dakota Access Pipeline merely four days after the inauguration.

More than 1,500 corporate and individual funders for the inauguration raised $107 million all together—twice as much as Barack Obama's inauguration raised in 2009, and more than any other inaugural event in history.

For a deeper dive:

New York Times, AP, InsideClimate News, The Hill, Politico

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Anholt offshore wind farm in Denmark. Photo credit: Siemens

Denmark offshore wind giant DONG Energy won the rights last week to build two new wind farms in the German North Sea without any government subsidies. The move represents a major milestone for the offshore wind industry, which has relied on support from European governments.

"The zero subsidy bid is a breakthrough for the cost competitiveness of offshore wind and it demonstrates the technology's massive global growth potential as a cornerstone in the economically viable shift to green energy systems," said Samuel Leupold, CEO of wind power at DONG.

As reported by the Financial Times:

Auctions or tenders that force companies to compete against each other have begun to replace earlier types of green subsidies, such as guaranteed fixed power prices, in many countries over the past decade, in a move that has led to much lower prices.

Nearly 70 countries now have such competitive bidding systems, up from a handful in 2005, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency.

For a deeper dive:

New York Times, Financial Times

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Despite the Trump administration's concerted effort to roll back climate policies, climate deniers are growing increasingly vocal with their demands for extreme action from Washington.

As the New York Times reported, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt faces ire from the far right over his refusal to challenge the agency's 2009 endangerment finding, which found that carbon emissions were harmful to human health and underpins most climate change rules.

Denier critics are also becoming more vocal on their discontent with the administration's silence on the Paris agreement and Rex Tillerson's approach to running the State Department, as Time reported. Pruitt may be feeling more pressure than usual: Leaked EPA budget documents show a 24/7 security detail request for Pruitt, an increase in the level of security from what was provided to his predecessor Gina McCarthy.

For a deeper dive:

Denier pushback: New York Times, TIME Security detail: Washington Post, Greenwire, ThinkProgress

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The Desert Sunlight Solar Farm is a 550 megawatt photovoltaic power station approximately six miles north of Desert Center, California, in the Mojave Desert.

Solar power met roughly half of California's electricity demand for the first time on March 11, according to new estimates from the federal Energy Information Administration (EIA).

EIA estimated that almost 40 percent of electricity on the grid between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. came from California's large-scale solar plants, with smaller solar installations on homes and businesses supplying the rest. When factored with other sources of clean energy in the state, renewable energy accounted for more than 55 percent of power on the grid on March 11.

The abundant supply of solar in California this winter and spring has driven wholesale prices near zero or into the negative during certain hours.

"In March, during the hours of 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., system average hourly prices were frequently at or below $0 per megawatthour (MWh)," the EIA said in its report.

"In contrast, average hourly prices in March 2013–15 during this time of day ranged from $14/MWh to $45/MWh. Negative prices usually result when generators with high shut-down or restart costs must compete with other generators to avoid operating below equipment minimum ratings or shutting down completely."

For a deeper dive:

AP, USA Today, SF Chronicle, Quartz

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China, Brazil, India and South Africa issued a joint statement Tuesday calling on wealthy countries to stick to their finance commitments under the Paris agreement, and representatives from the four major developing economies highlighted concerns over the U.S.'s new climate policies at a subsequent press conference.

China's lead climate negotiator, Xie Zhenhua, told Reuters that U.S.-China climate "discussions were going on at multiple levels." Xie's assurances may echo a firmer stance from the international community: Deputy UN Chief Amina Mohammed told Newsweek Tuesday that world leaders will be working to bring Trump "back to the table" on the Paris agreement and climate change.

"I think that where people are not well-informed, we have to go back and do that," Mohammed said. "It seems as though we are taking 10 steps forward and five back, but it's an imperative. We don't have an option. The U.S. is an important leader in this and we believe that they will do the right thing once they are better informed about it."

And draft G-7 documents obtained by Politico show that during Monday's negotiations over an ultimately scuttled statement, G-7 officials "refused to agree to stronger language touting fossil fuels without assurances from the United States that it would stay in the Paris climate change agreement."

At a media briefing, South Africa's deputy minister of environmental affairs, Barbara Thompson, said changes in U.S. policy were "of major concern," but perhaps not entirely a lost cause. "The position of the U.S. is still very unclear to us," she said. "We believe there are different views within the U.S. administration."

For a deeper dive:

Finance: Bloomberg, Reuters, FT Mohammed: Newsweek G-7: Politico

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Arch Coal's Black Thunder Mine, Powder River Basin, Wyoming. Photo credit: EcoFlight

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is readying a new "priority list" for the agency with a heavy focus on fossil fuel development on public lands, new documents leaked to E&E News reveal.

The documents, including a "BLM Priority Work" list accompanying talking points memo, were drafted by BLM administrators and have been reviewed by Trump transition team members, but have not yet been circulated to staff.

While wind and solar development earn small mentions, the documents emphasize main goals of making more federal lands available for energy development and streamlining leases and permits for oil, gas, coal and hardrock mining projects.

The draft priority work list under the "Making America Safe through Energy Independence" includes:

  • Make additional lands available for "all of the above" energy development
  • Address backlog of Applications for Permit to Drill (APDs) and Expressions of Interest (EOIs)
  • Streamline Federal coal leasing and permitting, and address backlog
  • Streamline oil and gas leasing and permitting
  • Streamline rights-of-way processing for pipelines, transmission lines and solar/wind projects
  • Streamline leasing and permitting for hardrock mining

The priority list was "assembled by the team at the BLM to clearly lay out our continued commitment to ensure opportunities for commercial, recreation and conservation activities on BLM-managed lands," Megan Crandall, an agency spokeswoman, told E&E News in an email.

"No one voted to pollute our public lands, air or drinking water in the last election, yet the Trump administration is doing the bidding of powerful polluters as nearly its first order of business," Earthjustice attorney Jenny Harbine said after Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke ordered the lifting a moratorium on federal coal leasing. A coalition of groups, including Earthjustice, are suing the Trump administration over the order, which opens tens of thousands of acres of public lands to the coal industry.

For a deeper dive:

E&E, Politico Pro

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ARC conducted an aerial and underwater survey of the reef which concluded that two-thirds of it has been hit by mass coral bleaching for second time in 12 months. Photo credit: Ed Roberts / ARC

Warming oceans have caused a large bleaching event in the Great Barrier Reef for the second year in a row, new aerial surveys show.

This year's bleaching extends much further south than areas impacted by the 2016 event and two thirds of the reef's corals have now been impacted by bleaching.

Reef scientists worry that the "shocking" back-to-back bleaching gives the reef little chance to recover and that increasing frequency of bleaching events could be ultimately devastating. Scientists recorded previous bleaching events at the Great Barrier Reef in 1998 and 2002.

"The significance of bleaching this year is that it's back to back, so there's been zero time for recovery," Professor Terry Hughes, who led the surveys, told the Guardian. "It's too early yet to tell what the full death toll will be from this year's bleaching, but clearly it will extend 500km south of last year's bleaching."

ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies

Jon Brodie, a water quality expert, told the Guardian the reef was now in a "terminal stage."

"We've given up. It's been my life managing water quality, we've failed," Brodie said. "Even though we've spent a lot of money, we've had no success."

News: Washington Post, CNN, The Guardian, Mashable, BBC, Buzzfeed

Video: Washington Post, The Guardian

Commentary: The Guardian, David Ritter op-ed, The Guardian, video explainer

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for daily Hot News.

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