Trump to Exclude Climate Crisis Impacts From Infrastructure Planning
The Trump administration will continue its assault on the environment when it unveils new regulations on Wednesday that will limit the types of projects that require environmental review and it will no longer require federal agencies to consider impacts on the climate crisis in new infrastructure projects, as Reuters reported.
The changes to the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) could pave the way for projects like the Keystone XL pipeline and other fossil fuel projects that have been held up by the courts because climate impacts were not considered in an environmental review, as The New York Times reported.
The new rule will also limit the scope of projects that need any environmental review. That means that proposed projects can be easily approved and not have to disclose intentions to discharge waste, increase air pollution or clear-cut trees, as The New York Times reported.
The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), which oversees how almost 80 percent of government agencies meet their NEPA obligations, will announce that federal agencies will no longer be asked to consider "cumulative" climate change impacts when looking at federal projects, as Reuters reported.
Mary B. Neumayr, the president's top environmental adviser, who chairs the CEQ said the changes would allow for faster reviews and is fairer to applicants who must wait an average of 4.5 years to get a final decision on their applications, according to Bloomberg Environment.
"It's a priority for this administration to have a process that's predictable and transparent and timely, so that we can get to a decision," Neumayr said to Bloomberg Environment. "It may not always be the decision that the applicant has requested, but it's important that they get a decision."
Yet, that efficiency comes at a cost, according to critics.
"If your process is so efficient that you undercut getting the right information," then "you've lost something," said Brenda Mallory, former CEQ general counsel under the Obama administration, at a Dec. 17, 2019 panel convened by the Environmental Law Institute, as Bloomberg Environment reported.
In a clever sleight of hand, the CEQ's proposal will not overhaul or replace NEPA. Instead, it will revise the rules that steer how the law is implemented. Once the proposal is released on Wednesday, there will be a 60-day public comment period before the change can go into effect, according to The New York Times.
"This proposal is really about trying to remove that barrier of the courts," said Christy Goldfuss, former chair of the CEQ between 2015 and 2017. She added that the Trump proposal would cause lasting damage, as Reuters reported.
Goldfuss said that environmental groups have relied on the courts to follow a requirement created under the Obama administration that forces applications to consider climate impacts. That rule has put a stop to a dozen big polluting projects, according to Reuters.
If the rule goes through, it will weaken critical safeguards for air, water and wildlife. It will also take away a powerful tool that environmental activists have employed to slow down or put a stop to coal and oil expansion, as The New York Times reported.
"It has the potential to distort infrastructure planning by making it easier to ignore predictable futures that could severely degrade the projects," said Michael Gerrard, director of Columbia University's Sabin Center for Climate Change Law to The New York Times. He added that not only will it lead to more pipelines and an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, it will also lead put new roads and bridges at risk since sea-level rise will not be considered.
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By Alex Kirby
The temperature of the Arctic matters to the entire world: it helps to keep the global climate fairly cool. Scientists now say that by 2035 there could be an end to Arctic sea ice.
Melt Ponds Crucial<p>"The prospect of loss of sea ice by 2035 should really be focusing all our minds on achieving a low-carbon world as soon as humanly feasible."</p><p><a href="http://www.reading.ac.uk/search/search-staff-details.aspx?id=10813" target="_blank">Dr. David Schroeder from the University of Reading</a>, UK, who co-led the implementation of the melt pond scheme in the climate model, says, "This shows just how important sea ice processes like melt ponds are in the Arctic, and why it is crucial that they are incorporated into climate models."</p><p>The extent of the areas <a href="https://nsidc.org/cryosphere/seaice/characteristics/formation.html" target="_blank">sea ice</a> covers varies between summer and winter. If more solar energy is absorbed at the surface, and temperatures rise further, a cycle of warming and melting occurs during summer months.</p><p>When the ice forms, the ocean water beneath becomes saltier and denser than the surrounding ocean. Saltier water sinks and moves along the ocean bottom towards the equator, while warm water from mid-depths to the surface travels from the equator towards the poles.</p><p>Scientists refer to this process as the ocean's global "conveyor-belt." Changes to the volume of sea ice can disrupt normal ocean circulation, with consequences for global climate. </p>
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Russia's Health Ministry has given regulatory approval for the world's first COVID-19 vaccine after less than two months of human testing, President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday.
Putin's Daughter Among Vaccinated<p>The Russian leader also said that one of his daughters has already been inoculated and is feeling well.</p><p>"One of my daughters got vaccinated, so in this sense, she took part in the testing," Putin said.</p><p>After the first vaccine shot, his daughter experienced a slight fever, 38 degrees Celsius (100.4°F). Her temperature came down to just slightly above normal the next day. </p><p>"After the second shot, she had a slight fever again, and then everything was fine. She is feeling well and has a high antibody count," Putin said. </p><p>He didn't specify which of his two daughters, Maria or Katerina, received the vaccine.</p><p>Russian health authorities have said that medical workers, teachers and other risk groups will be the first to receive shots of the vaccine.</p>
Years of Work Reduced to Weeks<p>Russia is the first country to register a COVID-19 vaccine. As <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/germany-coronavirus-vaccine-may-only-be-available-in-mid-2021/a-54362065" target="_blank">countries worldwide race to produce the first vaccine</a>, health experts warn that speed and national pride could compromise safety.</p><p>Scientists in Russia and abroad have questioned Moscow's decision to register the vaccine before Phase 3 trials that normally last for months and involve thousands of people, but Putin emphasized that the vaccine underwent the necessary trials and that vaccination will be voluntary.</p><p>Russian officials have said that large-scale production of the vaccine will begin in September, and mass vaccination may start as early as October.</p><p>Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, meanwhile, has <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/philippines-duterte-volunteers-to-be-putins-russian-coronavirus-vaccine-guinea-pig/a-54523030" target="_blank">lauded Russia's efforts in developing the vaccine</a> and said that the Philippines is ready to work with Moscow on vaccine trials, supply and production. Duterte volunteered to "be the first they can experiment on."</p><p>"I will tell President Putin that I have huge trust in your studies in combating COVID and I believe that the vaccine that you have produced is really good for humanity," Duterte said, adding that he thinks Russia's vaccine will be ready for the Philippines by December.</p>
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