New EPA document tells communities to brace for climate change impacts

New EPA document tells communities to brace for climate change impacts

Washington Post | Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis

The Environmental Protection Agency published a 150-page document this past week with a straightforward message for coping with the fallout from natural disasters across the country: Start planning for the fact that climate change is going to make these catastrophes worse. The language, included in guidance on how to address the debris left in the wake of floods, hurricanes and wildfires, is at odds with the rhetoric of the EPA’s own leader, Andrew Wheeler. Just last month, Wheeler said in an interview with CBS that “most of the threats from climate change are 50 to 75 years out.” Multiple recent studies have identified how climate change is already affecting the United States and the globe. In the western United States, for example, regional temperatures have increased by almost 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the 1970s, and snowmelt is occurring a month earlier in areas, extending the fire season by three months and quintupling the number of large fires.

Democrat-controlled statehouses endorsing clean energy

Associated Press | Marina Villeneuve and Michael Casey

Maine is among 11 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, that either flipped the governor’s seat from Republican to Democrat or saw Democrats win newfound control over the Legislature in the 2018 elections. All have passed or are weighing legislation that would expand renewables in their states, The Associated Press found. Driven by concerns about rising global greenhouse gas emissions , President Donald Trump’s rollback of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan and his plans to pull the United States out of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, some states are turning to renewable energy targets and energy efficiency programs in hopes of addressing climate change. State legislatures have introduced at least 329 climate change bills this year that address greenhouse gas emissions, up from 188 in 2018 and 255 in 2017, according to an AP tally of energy legislation monitored by the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University. About 30% of the bills come from states with new Democratic governors or legislative majorities such as Illinois, New York and Connecticut, the AP tally found. […] Bills around the country go beyond renewables. There’s legislation in Connecticut to help communities adapt to rising sea levels. And a bill in Illinois would address the disproportionate impact of climate change in low-income communities. Vicki Arroyo, executive director of the nonpartisan Georgetown Climate Center, which works with states to address climate change, said initiatives at the state and local level can drive investment in the renewables industry and prompt consumers to buy electric cars and make their homes more energy efficient. “There’s a sense of increasing urgency to tackle this problem and they’re not seeing the leadership out of Washington that we need,” Arroyo said.

Mapping America’s wicked weather and deadly disasters

Washington Post | Tim Meko

The fear of losing everything in a natural disaster sits in the back of our minds no matter where we live. The same diverse physical geography that gives us sunny beaches and crisp mountain air also generates devastating storms and wildfires. Climate change is only making things worse. Data collection for these events has never been more consistent. Mapping the trends in recent years gives us an idea of where disasters have the tendency to strike. In 2018, it is estimated that natural disasters cost the nation almost $100 billion and took nearly 250 lives. It turns out there is nowhere in the United States that is particularly insulated from everything. [This interactive article shows the areas of the U.S. most vulnerable to flooding, tornadoes, hurricanes, extreme heat and cold, wildfires, and other natural disasters, especially those influenced by climate change.]

US farmers count cost of catastrophic ‘bomb cyclone’ in midwest

The Guardian | Susan Cosier

Five weeks after historic flooding in the midwest, waters still cover pasturelands, corn and soybean fields. Much of the water has receded, but rivers still run high and washed out roads force people to take long detours. Residents in Missouri are putting their ruined possessions on the street and corn stalks heaped by floodwaters look like snowdrifts in the fields. In March, more than 450,000 hectares (1.1m acres) of cropland and 34,000 hectares of pastureland flooded, according to an analysis of government and satellite data, prompting governors from Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin and Minnesota to declare states of emergency. In all, the damage could cost the country more than $3bn (£2.3bn). Farmers and ranchers are still tallying the number of bushels and heads of cattle lost. And though the damage is unlikely to immediately affect the national or international price of grain and meat, the farmers who experienced the loss will feel the pinch. “We’re talking about an event here of historic proportions, circumstances that nobody ever recalls ever happening in their lifetime,” said Steve Wellman, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture director and third-generation farmer. The “bomb cyclone” – an intense winter storm – that swept through the US in March followed record-breaking cold in January and unprecedented snow in February. Huge blocks of loose ice jammed waterways, and the Missouri river swelled, topping levees in four states, and breaking dams. Climate change, experts say, is altering the landscape for the American farmer. Climate models predict more extreme weather patterns in the midwest over the coming decades that may further damage small-scale commodity and meat producers, making it more difficult for them to make a profit as hurdles mount. The threat of more flooding still looms over the region. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts that snowmelt could inundate rivers as the spring wears on.