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Climate

Landfills Are Bigger Climate Culprits Than We Thought

On methane emissions, an extreme heat summit, and endangered species

Landfills Are Bigger Climate Culprits Than We Thought
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: Cyclone Gamane killed at least 18 people in Madagascar • A Saharan dust storm is choking tourist hot spots in the Mediterranean • It’ll be wet and stormy across large parts of California for Easter weekend.

THE TOP FIVE

1. Study: Methane from landfills is underreported

A new study suggests America’s landfills are releasing 40% more methane than what’s being reported. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas responsible for about one-third of global warming since pre-industrial times. It spews from landfills as organic waste breaks down. Most U.S. landfills have to measure their methane emissions, but this new study suggests current monitoring methods – which usually involve sending a worker to check for emissions by walking around the landfill armed with a sensor – are falling short. The research, published in the journal Science, utilized aerial surveys to identify emissions from more than 200 active landfills in 18 states between 2018 and 2022. The researchers detected methane plumes at 52% of the landfills and found most releases went on for months if not years. “If we’re going to hit our climate targets, reductions in methane emissions can’t come from oil and gas alone,” Daniel Cusworth, the study’s lead author and scientist with the non-profit Carbon Mapper, told CNN. “Landfills should be garnering a similar type of attention as oil and gas.”

2. Ford set to slash F-150 Lightning workforce

Starting next week, Ford will begin cutting the workforce at its F-150 Lightning plant in Michigan. Only about 700 of 2,100 workers will remain at the facility. The rest will either be transferred, reassigned, or take a retirement package. Demand for Ford’s electric pickup truck has been “slower than expected,” the company said in January. “The workforce reduction comes as Ford shifts plans from larger EVs to smaller, more affordable ones,” noted Peter Johnson at Electrek, adding that the company faces mounting pressure from competing pickup manufacturers like Tesla, Rivian, and Chevy.

3. Biden restores protections for threatened species

The Biden administration yesterday reinstated regulations in the Endangered Species Act that protect threatened species and their habitats. Under the Trump administration, the regulations were weakened to protect “endangered” but not “threatened” species. The new rules also say agencies can no longer consider economic impacts when deciding whether to list a species as threatened or endangered. “As species face new and daunting challenges, including climate change, degraded and fragmented habitat, invasive species, and wildlife disease, the Endangered Species Act is more important than ever to conserve and recover imperiled species now and for generations to come,” said Martha Williams, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

4. New global summit sounds the alarm about extreme heat

The first ever Global Summit on Extreme Heat took place yesterday. The virtual event, co-hosted by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), aimed to highlight the growing dangers of extreme heat and encourage commitments from governments to develop heat action plans. “At a time when some have grown numb with increasingly familiar headlines about ‘hottest days on record,’ we absolutely need to resolve never to get used to the scale of this problem, never to get used to the threat it poses to human life,” said USAID administrator Samantha Power. The summit ended with the launch of an online Heat Action Hub “where people can share experiences and best practice when it comes to tackling extreme heat.”

5. Oregon bans ‘parts pairing’ to make it easier to repair devices

In case you missed it: Oregon finalized its right-to-repair law this week. It’s the fourth state to enact Right to Repair rules for consumer electronics, but the new law, SB 1596, is the first in the nation to ban manufacturers from “parts pairing,” a gatekeeping practice in which a device’s software must “pair” with a replacement part in order for that part to work. Banning such practices will make it easier for consumers to fix their devices rather than throw them away. “Electronic waste is growing five times faster than our electronics recycling capacity,” said Nathan Proctor, director of the PIRG Right to Repair Campaign. “We need to cut down the insane cycle of churning through personal electronics — and that starts by empowering repair.” The law will take effect next year.

THE KICKER

America's largest banks and asset managers enable substantial greenhouse gas emissions with their investments. If these emissions were to be compared to those of other nations, they would represent the third-largest emitting country in the world, behind China and the U.S.


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Jessica Hullinger

Jessica Hullinger is a freelance writer and editor who likes to think deeply about climate science and sustainability. She previously served as Global Deputy Editor for The Week, and her writing has been featured in publications including Fast Company, Popular Science, and Fortune. Jessica is originally from Indiana but lives in London. Read More

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