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A Weekend of Deadly Weather

On a devastating landslide, the most active storm day of the year so far, and more.

City in the morning.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: Early summer heat wave threatens the South • Temperatures climb to a near-record 125 degrees Fahrenheit in Pakistan • It’s 60 degrees and rainy in Paris where the French Open is underway.


1. Over 2,000 people buried by landslide in Papua New Guinea

A massive landslide reportedly buried alive more than 2,000 people in northern Papua New Guinea on Friday. Over 670 people have already been reported dead but experts warn the death toll will rise far higher as rescuers pick through the devastation. Aid workers have also reportedly struggled to reach the affected area with roads blocked and the ground still unstable.

2. At least 23 killed by weekend storms in the South

Severe storms killed almost two dozen people across the southern United States over Memorial Day weekend and left hundreds of thousands without power. Arkansas reported eight dead, Texas seven, Kentucky five, and Oklahoma two, with the causes of death ranging from falling debris to a weather-induced heart attack. With 622 preliminary reports of severe weather, including 14 tornadoes, Sunday was the most active severe storm day of the year so far.

3. Biden administration sets principles for voluntary carbon markets

The Biden administration on Tuesday released a joint policy statement and a set of seven principles for voluntary carbon credit markets. Highlighting the discrepancies among crediting methodologies and the resulting doubts about the credits’ integrity, the documents are intended to serve as guidance for credit buyers and sellers and will shape how the U.S. government interacts with the market.

The “voluntary principles” include:

1. Carbon credits should meet credible standards and represent real decarbonization.

2. Credit-generating activities should avoid environmental and social harm.

3. Corporate buyers should prioritize credits that reduce emissions from their own value chains.

4. Users should publicly disclose the credits they’ve used.

5. Users should be precise about the climate impact of credits and should only rely on credits that meet high integrity standards.

6. Market participants should contribute to efforts that improve market integrity.

7. Policymakers and market participants should work to make the market more efficient and cheaper to use.

4. EPA denies Alabama coal ash plan

The EPA rejected Alabama’s plan to manage its coal waste last week, with federal officials deeming the state proposal “significantly less protective of people and waterways than federal law requires.” The decision comes amid a push from the agency to strengthen its oversight of the toxic coal ash stored in ponds and landfills around the country. Only three states — Texas, Oklahoma, and Georgia — have secured permission to run their own coal ash programs. Alabama is the first state to have its plan rejected. The EPA cited “deficiencies in Alabama’s permits with closure requirements for unlined surface impoundments, groundwater monitoring networks, and corrective action (i.e., investigation and clean up) requirements” as reasons for the denial. The Alabama Department of Environmental Management has said it will appeal the decision.

5. Study: Communities will benefit from electric school buses

Electrifying school bus fleets is good for health and the climate, a new study found. Researchers at Harvard University’s school of public health determined that replacing the average diesel school bus in the U.S. with an electric version yields $40,400 per bus in climate benefits and $43,800 per bus in health benefits. The health benefits of replacing particularly old and polluting diesel buses in urban areas could amount to more than $200,000 per bus. But electric buses will still cost schools an estimated $156,000 more over their lifetimes compared to new diesel buses, according to the study. “In a dense urban setting where old diesel buses still comprise most school bus fleets, the savings incurred from electrifying these buses outweigh the costs of replacement,” said Kari Nadeau, a professor of climate and population studies, in a statement.


On Saturday, NASA launched the first of two small satellites that will study heat loss at the poles and collect data that can be used to refine climate models.

Nicole Pollack profile image

Nicole Pollack

Nicole Pollack is a freelance environmental journalist who writes about energy, agriculture, and climate change. She is based in Northeast Ohio.


The Saga of SunZia

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Arizona, New Mexico, and wind turbines.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images, Library of Congress

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Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

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1. At least 14 pilgrims die from extreme heat during Hajj trip to Mecca

At least 14 Jordanians died over the weekend from exposure to extreme heat during the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Another 17 pilgrims are missing. The holy trip, which all Muslims are encouraged to make during their lifetimes, began Friday and will run until Wednesday. It is expected to attract nearly 2 million people. But temperatures this year are dangerously hot, reaching 110 degrees Fahrenheit Sunday and forecast to stay in that range through the rest of the week. As Heatmap’s Jeva Lange explained last year, “because the dates of the annual Hajj are dictated by the lunar calendar, the pilgrimage season has fallen during Saudi Arabia’s hottest months since 2017 and won’t move out of them until 2026.”

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To Win a Climate Election, Don’t Say ‘Climate’

“High-paying jobs”? “Good for our economy”? “Powering our future”? Totally cool.

Money above solar panels.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Earlier this month, an odd little ad began appearing on TVs in Michigan. On first watch, it plays like any other political advertisement you’d see on television this time of year. In it, Michigan governor and Biden surrogate Gretchen Whitmer touts the high-paying electric vehicle manufacturing jobs that the Democratic administration has brought to her state. Watch the spot a few times, though, and it soon becomes clear what it’s missing.

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