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What Climate Deniers Want Next After Winning Paris Pullout

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What Climate Deniers Want Next After Winning Paris Pullout

President Trump's decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement earlier this month was a clear win for conservative groups and individuals that support the weakening of environmental regulations.

So what do these politically powerful forces have next on the agenda?


The first target could be the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) endangerment finding, David Stevenson, a former EPA transition team member and policy director at the libertarian think tank Caesar Rodney Institute told New Republic.

This Obama-era finding that greenhouse gas emissions endangers public health and welfare might seem wholly unremarkable. However, the endangerment finding not only cemented a consensus within the scientific community, it also legally obligates the EPA to regulate sources of that pollutant under the Clean Air Act—including power plants, cars, trucks and other sources that combust coal, oil and natural gas. By unraveling the endangerment finding, the U.S. is legally washing its hands of climate change litigation brought by environmental groups.

"As long as that's sitting there, the potential for legal challenges just goes on and on and on, and that's not productive for any of us," Stevenson explained.

Undoing the 2009 finding was a major topic of discussion at a March conference hosted by the Heartland Institute, the nation's leading climate skeptic think tank. Reuters reported that at least three conservative groups has petitioned the EPA to undo the finding. Myron Ebell, who led Trump's EPA transition team, similarly considers it a major priority.

As it happens, current EPA administrator and former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt filed a lawsuit in 2010 to overturn the endangerment finding, which he and his fellow litigants characterized as "arbitrary and capricious." And let's not forget that Pruitt, who urged Trump to exit from the Paris accord, does not even believe that carbon dioxide is a "primary contributor" to climate change.

However, there could be more sinister moves at play. For one, "undoing the endangerment finding would also empower the federal government to instantly repeal all existing regulations that reduce global warming," New Republic's Emily Atkin noted, such as the Clean Power Plan and Obama-era fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks—two of the Heartland Institute's top five environmental policy priorities.

Other potential post-Paris moves include gutting the scope and powers of the EPA. Stevenson lauded Trump's proposed EPA budget, which cuts the agency's funds by 31 percent.

"There are about 50 small EPA programs that look like they're ineffective," he said. "They're going to be cut."

Lastly, the New Republic piece highlighted one of the most daunting post-Paris goals of all: the "intellectual validation" of climate denial.

"Now that denial is the official policy of the U.S. government, they are getting the legitimacy they desire, whether they deserve it or not," Atkin wrote. "For an ideology based in falsehoods, that is perhaps the greatest victory they could possibly achieve under Trump."

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A quality engineer examines new solar panels in a factory. alvarez / Getty Images

Transitioning to renewable energy can help reduce global warming, and Jennie Stephens of Northeastern University says it can also drive social change.

For example, she says that locally owned businesses can lead the local clean energy economy and create new jobs in underserved communities.

"We really need to think about … connecting climate and energy with other issues that people wake up every day really worried about," she says, "whether it be jobs, housing, transportation, health and well-being."

To maximize that potential, she says the energy sector must have more women and people of color in positions of influence. Research shows that leadership in the solar industry, for example, is currently dominated by white men.

"I think that a more inclusive, diverse leadership is essential to be able to effectively make these connections," Stephens says. "Diversity is not just about who people are and their identity, but the ideas and the priorities and the approaches and the lens that they bring to the world."

So she says by elevating diverse voices, organizations can better connect the climate benefits of clean energy with social and economic transformation.

Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.

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One of the challenges of renewable power is how to store clean energy from the sun, wind and geothermal sources. Now, a new study and advances in nanotechnology have found a method that may relieve the burden on supercapacitor storage. This method turns bricks into batteries, meaning that buildings themselves may one day be used to store and generate power, Science Times reported.

Bricks are a preferred building tool for their durability and resilience against heat and frost since they do not shrink, expand or warp in a way that compromises infrastructure. They are also reusable. What was unknown, until now, is that they can be altered to store electrical energy, according to a new study published in Nature Communications.

The scientists behind the study figured out a way to modify bricks in order to use their iconic red hue, which comes from hematite, an iron oxide, to store enough electricity to power devices, Gizmodo reported. To do that, the researchers filled bricks' pores with a nanofiber made from a conducting plastic that can store an electrical charge.

The first bricks they modified stored enough of a charge to power a small light. They can be charged in just 13 minutes and hold 10,000 charges, but the challenge is getting them to hold a much larger charge, making the technology a distant proposition.

If the capacity can be increased, researchers believe bricks can be used as a cheap alternative to lithium ion batteries — the same batteries used in laptops, phones and tablets.

The first power bricks are only one percent of a lithium-ion battery, but storage capacity can be increased tenfold by adding materials like metal oxides, Julio D'Arcy, a researcher at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, who contributed to the paper and was part of the research team, told The Guardian. But only when the storage capacity is scaled up would bricks become commercially viable.

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