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As the Obama administration reportedly considers delaying a key Clean Air Act rule aimed at cutting greenhouse gas pollution from new power plants, Newton, Mass., has become the 50th city urging the president and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to move swiftly to make full use of the Clean Air Act to reduce carbon in the atmosphere.
The resolution, passed Monday night by the Board of Aldermen, makes Newton the latest U.S. community to join the Center for Biological Diversity’s national Clean Air Cities campaign, which has drawn support from cities such as Los Angeles, Washington, Detroit and Miami.
“Communities from every corner of America are urging President Obama to wield the Clean Air Act against catastrophic climate change,” said Rose Braz, the Center’s climate campaigns director. “Local leaders know their communities face enormous dangers from heat waves, storm surges and other effects of our increasingly chaotic climate. To save our cities, the president must take direct aim at the massive carbon pollution spewing out of power plants.”
The U.S. EPA must finalize a carbon pollution rule for new power plants by April 13, but some Washington insiders say the agency is likely to miss that deadline—and may be considering weakening the rule because of pressure from big polluters. Congress is also once again taking aim at the Clean Air Act’s authority to reduce carbon pollution through an amendment inserted into the latest budget debate.
Meanwhile, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rose by a near-record amount last year, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration recently announced. Recent research has also raised fresh concerns about the dangers of climate change. Among the most disturbing findings are:
- The risk of devastating superstorms like Hurricane Sandy is rising because the rapid disappearance of Arctic summer sea ice is changing the jet stream and other atmospheric phenomena, according to Cornell and Rutgers researchers writing in the March issue of Oceanography.
- The frequency of extreme storm surges is expected to increase by as much as 10 times in the next few decades because of climate change, according to a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
- Climate change is already delivering periods of extreme heat that last longer than any living American has experienced and will warm our country by 10 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100, according to the recently released draft National Climate Assessment.
The Center’s Clean Air Cities campaign is working around the country to encourage cities to pass resolutions supporting the Clean Air Act and using the Act to reduce carbon in our atmosphere to no more than 350 parts per million, the level scientists say is needed to avoid catastrophic climate change.
Similar resolutions have been approved in Albany and Ithaca, N.Y.; Berkeley, Santa Monica, Culver City, Arcata, Oxnard, Santa Cruz, Richmond, San Francisco, San Leandro and Los Angeles, Calif.; Seattle, Wash.; Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and New Hope Borough, Pa.; Tucson, Ariz.; Boone, N.C.; Keene, N.H.; Portland, Maine; Ann Arbor, Mich.; Minneapolis, Minn.; Milwaukee and Madison, Wis.; Cambridge and Northampton, Mass.; Cincinnati and Oberlin, Ohio; Santa Fe, N.M.; Kansas City, Mo.; Salt Lake City, Utah; Miami, Broward County, Pinecrest, Tampa and Gulfport, Fla.; Chicago, Ill.; Teton County, Wyo.; Eugene, Ore.; Nashville, Tenn.; Kauai, Hawaii; Boulder, Colo.; Burlington, Vt.; Detroit, Mich.; Wilmington, Del.; Providence, R.I.; Gary, Ind.; Woodbridge, N.J; and Washington, D.C. Several other cities around the country will be considering resolutions over the next few months.
Visit EcoWatch’s CLIMATE CHANGE page for more related news on this topic.
Yet another former Trump administration staffer has come out with an endorsement for former Vice President Joe Biden, this time in response to President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.