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Trump EPA Takes Credit For Obama-Era CO2 Reductions

Climate
Trump EPA Takes Credit For Obama-Era CO2 Reductions
Fossil fuel use is the primary source of CO2. eflon / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 2.7 percent between 2016 and 2017, according to a report released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released on Wednesday.

Andrew Wheeler, the acting administrator of the EPA, touted that the report shows that regulations are unnecessary to slash carbon emissions.


"Thanks to President Trump's regulatory reform agenda, the economy is booming, energy production is surging, and we are reducing greenhouse gas emissions from major industrial sources," Wheeler said in a press release. "These achievements flow largely from technological breakthroughs in the private sector, not the heavy hand of government. The Trump Administration has proven that federal regulations are not necessary to drive CO2 reductions."

But as Axios' Amy Harder reported:

"This drop, between 2016 and 2017, is due largely to market forces and moves by President Obama and Congress, and occurred before President Trump officially took office. EPA's announcement contrasts with Trump, who in recent days has dismissed climate change as an issue."

Reuters reporter Timothy Gardner also pointed out that the country's falling carbon emissions coincides with the decline of coal, which produces more pollution than any other energy source.

America's coal plants are closing despite the Trump administration's efforts to bolster the struggling industry. The coal industry has also been unable to compete with the rise of the renewable energy sector as well as cheap natural gas, which emits less carbon dioxide than coal, Gardner said.

"In 2017 utilities shut or converted from coal-to-gas nearly 9,000 megawatts (MW) of coal plants," he noted. "The trend of U.S. coal plant shutdowns is expected to pick up this year, with power companies expecting to shut 14,000 MW of coal plants in calendar year 2018."

John Walke, a senior attorney and Clean Air Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, was skeptical of the new EPA report.

Walke tweeted Wednesday that the Trump EPA "deserves zero credit" for falling greenhouse gas emissions and that the president's pro-fossil fuel agenda will actually "increase" emissions.

Greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. have been falling steadily since 2007 but environmentalists warn that the trend could reverse. The president intends to kill the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which caps coal plant emissions; he is letting fracking companies emit more methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than CO2; and he has blocked new fuel economy standards.

Last month, the Trump administration quietly released a study admitting that carbon pollution from cars and other sources will trigger a 7-degree rise in average worldwide temperatures by 2100.

President Trump also announced he's pulling the U.S. out of the Paris agreement after his advisors reportedly warned to him that the U.S. could not lower its emissions reductions commitments while remaining in the international climate accord.

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A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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