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Weekly Headlines 7/16/21

California Wildfires Surpass 2020 Damage Records to Date (Los Angeles Times, The Weather Channel, Democracy Now!)

  • Between January 1st and July 4th 2021 4,600 fires have scorched 74,000 acres of land in California, compared with the 3,800 fires and 31,000 acres that were damaged during the same time period in 2020.

  • The wildfires are being exasperated by the increased temperatures and dryness on the west coast in the recent weeks.

  • California is simultaneously experiencing drought across almost the entire state, with a drought emergency declared in 41 of the state's 58 counties.

2011 Report Shows EPA Approved of “Forever Chemicals” for Fracking (New York Times, The Hill)

  • Despite internal concerns, a 2011 report showed that the EPA approved the use of PFAS (toxic chemicals that can cause cancer and birth defects) for companies engaged in drilling and fracking.

  • Though the EPA recommended additional testing after scientists found that the chemicals “could ‘persist in the environment’ and ‘be toxic to people, wild mammals, and birds.’” Those tests were not mandatory and there is no record that they were carried out.

  • The Biden administration is now moving to better regulate PFAS, claiming in a statement to The Hill that they are now “a top priority.”

Record Breaking Heat Cooks Millions of Marine Life (New York Times, LiveScience, NPR)

  • High shoreline temperatures and persistent drought along the west coast of North America has killed millions of marine creatures and threatens freshwater animals as well.

  • Though usually resilient, scientists note that intertidal creatures (like clams, molluscs and starfish) cannot endure high temperatures for long periods of time. Similarly, river temperatures threaten fish species, with Salmon particularly at risk.

  • While it is possible for sea creatures’ population to rebound within a year or two, the threat of more frequent and severe heat waves could jeopardize any chance of long term survival.

US and Russia find “space” for cooperation in combating climate change (Financial Times, ABC News)

  • After a recent visit to Moscow, U.S. climate envoy John Kerry expressed potential for collaboration between the US and Russia on climate change issues.

  • The climate crisis is seen as a “springboard” issue that can allow for greater cooperation between two nations that are strife with distrust.

  • However, there was little elaboration about what this bi-national collaboration will look like going forward.

Drilling on Federal Land Increases, Despite Biden Admin Campaign Promises (AP, NPR)

  • Despite campaign promises to end oil drilling on federal land, the Biden administration approved 2,500 permits to drill on public and tribal land between January and June of 2021.

  • The majority of approvals were in New Mexico, Wyoming, Montana, Colorado and Utah.

  • Administration defenders claim pragmatism in the face of a split senate, but activists believe the move shows the Biden administration has no plans to fulfill their campaign promises.

Senate Democrats Come to Agreement on $3.5 Trillion Infrastructure Budget; Includes Climate (The Hill, Politico, The Guardian, AP)

  • The democratic senate budget committee came to an agreement this week to approve $3.5 Trillion over 10 years for Biden’s infrastructure plan.

  • While a portion of this approved budget will be used to cover the bipartisan infrastructure deal currently being negotiated in congress, the goal is to push the budget approval through congress in a go-it-alone style.

  • The budget plan includes money set aside for climate actions, with more specifics still set to come.

The EU Issues a Sweeping Climate Plan to Meet Emissions Goals (Reuters, CNN, Axios)

  • The European Union put forward a plan on how they are going to meet their ambitious climate goals of reducing emissions by 55% by 2030 this past week.

  • Some of the provisions in the plan call for sweeping carbon taxes, including on imported goods, and drastically raising transportation emissions standards.

  • This is a big because, while many countries have lauded their ambitious climate goals, very few have released a plan on how to achieve these goals.

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