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Climate

Brazil’s Displacement Fears

On the Biden administration’s carbon removal investments, the climate refugees of Brazil, and more

Wednesday sunrise.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: More storms and possible tornadoes are forecast to hit Texas and the Plains, where millions of people are still without power • Cyclone Remal, the first tropical storm of the season, killed at least 23 people in India and Bangladesh • Brazilian authorities are investigating up to 800 suspected cases of waterborne illness following unprecedented flooding over the past month.

THE TOP FIVE

1. Biden administration invests in carbon removal

The Department of Energy on Tuesday gave $1.2 million to companies competing for a chance to sell carbon removal credits to the federal government. These 24 semifinalists, which were each awarded $50,000, include nine direct air capture projects, seven biomass projects, five enhanced rock weathering projects, and three marine-based projects. Up to 10 of them will be offered federal contracts amounting to $30 million. “The Department of Energy hopes that by selecting 24 companies that have been vetted by government scientists, it’s sending a signal to the private sector that there are at least some projects that are legitimate,” Heatmap’s Emily Pontecorvo writes, referencing struggles in the broader carbon credits marketplace.

2. Brazil floods leave some permanently displaced

Weeks of deadly flooding in Brazil displaced hundreds of thousands of people. Many of them now are — or will become — climate refugees. Residents of the cities devastated by the floodwaters are now rethinking how to live alongside the increasingly unpredictable rains. As climate refugees, they join the survivors of other climate disasters in recent years and the millions more who are expected to follow in their footsteps over the coming decades. “Brazil is not going to be a one-off,” Andrew Harper, a senior official at the U.N. High Commission for Refugees, told The Washington Post. “What we are seeing is the start of something that will become more frequent and more extreme and lead to more people left vulnerable, with no choice but to move to a safer location.”

3. New satellite will study clouds and climate

SpaceX launched the EarthCARE (Earth Cloud, Aerosol, and Radiation Explorer) satellite, a joint project between the European Space Agency and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, on Tuesday in a mission that will study the impact that clouds have on the climate. The satellite, which has been 20 years in the making, will use four instruments, including radar and imaging systems, to measure clouds’ altitude, structure, and movement. The mission will take place at a relatively low orbit and is expected to last at least three years. Researchers hope the data it collects will lead to improvements both in long-term climate modeling and short-term weather forecasting.

4. Supreme Court to hear San Francisco’s case against the EPA

The Supreme Court will hear a lawsuit brought by the city and county of San Francisco against EPA Clean Water Act discharge regulations. Lawyers representing San Francisco argued in their petition that the federal regulations — which prohibit violations “of any applicable water quality standard” rather than setting numerical pollution limits — are too vague. “These prohibitions effectively tell permit holders nothing more than not to cause ‘too much’ pollution,” the petition said. The EPA argued in response that the requirements are meant to keep permits in line with regional and state discharge standards. “Those standards, in turn, establish specific limits to which petitioner’s discharges must conform,” the EPA’s brief said. In recent years, the conservative Supreme Court has ruled against the EPA in high-profile cases.

5. Poll: Voters favor climate accountability

Almost two-thirds of U.S. voters want oil companies to ”be held legally accountable for their contributions to climate change,” The Guardian reported Tuesday. A poll conducted by consumer advocacy nonprofit Public Citizen and progressive polling firm Data for Progress found that 62% of voters — including 84% of Democrats, 59% of independents and 40% of Republicans — supported the idea. Asked about their stance on “criminal charges being filed against oil and gas companies to hold them accountable for deaths caused by their contributions to climate change,” 49% expressed support and 38% said they were opposed. A growing number of states, counties, and cities are suing major oil companies for climate damages. “These national findings show these cases may be able to earn popular support, particularly in blue jurisdictions,” Grace Adcox, senior climate strategist at Data for Progress, told The Guardian.

THE KICKER

A five-bedroom house in Rodanthe, North Carolina, has become the sixth house along its stretch of seashore to fall into the ocean in the past four years as coastal erosion increasingly threatens homes built near the water.

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Nicole Pollack

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

Sparks

Nuclear Energy Is the One Thing Congress Can Agree On

Environmentalists, however, still aren’t sold on the ADVANCE Act.

A nuclear power plant.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

While climate change policy is typically heavily polarized along party lines, nuclear energy policy is not. The ADVANCE Act, which would reform the nuclear regulatory policy to encourage the development of advanced nuclear reactors, passed the Senate today, by a vote of 88-2, preparing it for an almost certain presidential signature.

The bill has been floating around Congress for about a year and is the product of bipartisanship within the relevant committees, a notable departure from increasingly top-down legislating in Washington. The House of Representatives has its own nuclear regulatory bill, the Atomic Energy Advancement Act, which the House overwhelmingly voted for in February.

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Technology

AM Briefing: America’s Long Bake

On Equatic’s big news, heat waves, and the Paris Olympics

Ocean-Based Carbon Removal Is About to Take a Big Step Forward
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: Tropical storm warnings have been issued for Texas and Mexico • Parts of southwestern France were hit with large hail stones • The temperature trend for June is making climate scientists awfully nervous.

THE TOP FIVE

1. Lengthy heat wave threatens nearly 80 million Americans

About 77 million people are under some kind of heat advisory as a heat wave works its way across the Midwest and Northeast. In most of New England, the heat index is expected to reach or exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit. What makes this heat wave especially dangerous is its “striking duration,” Jake Petr, the lead forecaster with National Weather Service Chicago, toldThe New York Times. Temperatures are projected to stay exceptionally high for several days before beginning to taper off only slightly over the weekend. According toThe Washington Post, temperatures could be up to 25 degrees higher than normal for this time of year. And forecasters expect it to be unseasonably hot across the country for at least the next three weeks. Below is a look at the NWS HeatRisk projections today (top) and Thursday (bottom). The darker the color, the warmer the temperature and the higher the health risks.

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Economy

Crux Is Getting Some Powerful New Backers

The New York-based startup aims to create a market for clean energy tax credits.

Green energy and money details.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

One of the least-noticed changes in the Inflation Reduction Act may be one of the most important.

For years, the government has encouraged developers, power utilities, and other companies to build clean energy by offering tax credits. But those tax credits were difficult to transfer to other companies, meaning that complicated financial instruments had to be created to allow them to share in the wealth.

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