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Trump to Strike Biggest Blow Against Obama Climate Legacy

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President Trump will travel to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today at 2 p.m. to sign a broad executive order that will take aim at key Obama-era climate policies, setting the stage for several extended energy fights in the months and years to come.

Ordering a review and rewrite of the Clean Power Plan is the main target in the executive order's crosshairs, but the order will also highlight several other policies in jeopardy, including the social cost of carbon figure, regulations on coal plants and methane emissions and the moratorium on coal leasing on federal lands.


"The Trump Administration continues to fulfill its campaign promise to trample on environmental protections and prioritize the jobs of fossil fuel executives under the guise of protecting American workers," said Ken Berlin, president and CEO of The Climate Reality Project.

While the move to scrap the Clean Power Plan raises questions on the efficacy of the U.S. involvement in the Paris agreement, a White House official said on a Tuesday night press call to review the order that staying in Paris is "still under discussion."

"Trump is sacrificing our future for fossil fuel profits—and leaving our kids to pay the price," said Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council. "This would do lasting damage to our environment and public lands, threaten our homes and health, hurt our pocketbooks and slow the clean energy progress that has already generated millions of good-paying jobs."

Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club agrees. "The best way to protect workers and the environment is to invest in growing the clean energy economy that is already outpacing fossil fuels, and ensuring no one is left behind," Brune said. "At a time when we can declare independence from dirty fuels by embracing clean energy, this action could only deepen our dependence on fuels that pollute our air, water and climate."

For a deeper dive:

General Executive Order: Washington Post, AP, WSJ, Reuters, ABC, USA Today, FT, Bloomberg, LA Times, The Guardian, Vox, CNBC, Fox News, Daily Beast, Mother Jones, Washington Examiner, The Hill, Huffington Post, Grist

Clean Power Plan: NPR, Vox Paris: NPR, Bloomberg, Mashable Planning: Bloomberg FAQs: New York Times Backgrounders: Climate Nexus

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Farms with just one or a handful of different crops encourage fewer species of pollinating and pest-controlling insects to linger, ultimately winnowing away crop yields, according to a new study.

Up to half of the detrimental impacts of the "landscape simplification" that monocropping entails come as a result of a diminished mix of ecosystem service-providing insects, a team of scientists reported Oct. 16 in the journal Science Advances.

Monocrop palm oil plantation Honduras.

SHARE Foundation / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0​

"Our study shows that biodiversity is essential to ensure the provision of ecosystem services and to maintain a high and stable agricultural production," Matteo Dainese, the study's lead author and a biologist at Eurac Research in Bolzano, Italy, said in a statement.

It stands to reason that, with declines in the sheer numbers of insects that ferry pollen from plant to plant and keep crop-eating pests under control, these services will wane as well. But until now, it hasn't been clear how monocultures affect the number and mix of these species or how crop yields might change as a result.

Aiming to solve these questions, Dainese and his colleagues pulled together data from 89 studies cutting across a variety of landscapes, from the tropics of Asia and Africa to the higher latitudes of northern Europe. They tabulated the number of pollinating and pest-controlling insects at these sites — both the absolute number of individuals and the number of species — along with an assessment of the ecosystem services the insects provided.

In almost all of the studies they looked at, the team found that a more diverse pool of these species translated into more pollination and greater pest control. They also showed that simplified landscapes supported fewer species of service-providing insects, which ultimately led to lower crop yields.

The researchers also looked at a third measure of the makeup of insect populations — what they called "evenness." In natural ecosystems, a handful of dominant species with many more individuals typically live alongside a higher number of rarer species. The team found as landscapes became less diverse, dominant species numbers dwindled and rare species gained ground. This resulting, more equitable mix led to less pollination (though it didn't end up affecting pest control).

"Our study provides strong empirical support for the potential benefits of new pathways to sustainable agriculture that aim to reconcile the protection of biodiversity and the production of food for increasing human populations," Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter, one of the study's authors and an animal ecologist at the University of Würzburg in Germany, said in the statement.

The scientists figure that the richness of pollinator species explains around a third of the harmful impacts of less diverse landscapes, while the richness of pest-controlling species accounts for about half of the same measure. In their view, the results of their research point to the need to protect biodiversity on and around crops in an uncertain future.

"Under future conditions with ongoing global change and more frequent extreme climate events, the value of farmland biodiversity ensuring resilience against environmental disturbances will become even more important," Steffan-Dewenter said.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.

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