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What a Trump Victory Could Mean for Climate Policy

On the election stakes, Greenland's thaw, and butterfly wings

What a Trump Victory Could Mean for Climate Policy
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: Parts of Indonesia are under water due to heavy rainfall • Tree branches are heavy with ice in Oregon • A no-burn alert is in place for Southern California as an atmospheric “lid” locks in smog.


1. Kerry warns U.S. election stakes for climate policy are ‘as high as they can get’

As election season heats up and a certain bombastic former president looks to take back the White House in November, conversation has turned to what a second Trump presidency could mean for climate policy. Trump has promised to gut the Inflation Reduction Act and cut funding for climate adaptation in poorer countries, among other things. What would his return really mean for the climate movement on a national and global scale? Here’s a quick opinion roundup:

  • The stakes couldn’t be higher: Trump won’t be able to stop the green energy transition that’s already underway, but he could slow it down, U.S. Climate Envoy John Kerry told Bloomberg TV. “The marketplace is going to support this transition and it’s irrevocable now — we’re going to get there. The only question is if we’re going to get there in time to not be ravaged by the worst consequences of the climate crisis.”
  • Gutting the IRA would be very unpopular: Many clean-energy programs funded by President Biden’s signature climate bill are in red states, noted The Economist. If Trump nixes them, “he may face pushback from his own party,” not to mention business leaders. Some automakers, like GM and Nissan, are already warning against the move.
  • Trump can’t stop the global momentum: Of course the U.S. president’s views on climate matter, but “the world’s in a slightly different place than it was five years ago,” World Bank President Ajay Banga told Politico. The bank helps finance climate adaptation in developing countries, and is pushing for more private sector investment in renewables. Banga suggested international momentum on these issues is “much bigger than just the U.S. and the EU.”

Side note: New research from the University of Colorado at Boulder concludes that concerns about climate change have “a significant and growing effect on voting that favors the Democrats” and “that climate change opinion probably cost Republicans the 2020 presidential election, all else being equal.”

2. The South smashes electricity records

The Tennessee Valley Authority, America’s largest public power company, just set a new record for electricity usage thanks to the cold weather system hammering huge sections of the country, reports Heatmap’s Matthew Zeitlin. Consumers used around 34,500 megawatts of electricity yesterday morning, about 1,000 megawatts more than its previous all-time record of around 33,500 megawatts in August 2007. Like much of the region, Tennesseans largely heat their homes using electricity as opposed to fuel oil or natural gas. Cold mornings are particularly challenging for the authority because lots of people are trying to heat their chilly homes between waking up and going to work or school. “By contrast, summer afternoons and early evenings are tough for grids to manage because temperatures stay high even as the sun goes down and people return to their homes and cool them and start operating appliances,” Zeitlin explains. The cold snap is expected to last through the weekend.

3. Study: Greenland is losing way more ice than experts thought

The Greenland ice sheet has lost 20% more ice than scientists previously thought due to global warming, according to new research published in the journal Nature. The researchers came to this conclusion by looking at the amount of glacial ice lost around the edges of the sheet, an area that earlier estimates overlooked. Experts worry the huge amounts of fresh water pouring into the north Atlantic could disrupt ocean currents and wreak havoc on global weather patterns.

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  • 4. Warmer temperatures could change butterfly wing patterns

    Butterflies may lose their spotty wings thanks to climate change, scientists say. The new research focuses on female meadow brown butterflies, and finds that insects that developed in warmer temperatures had fewer spots than those that developed in cooler weather. "This is an unexpected consequence of climate change,” said Richard ffrench-Constant, a professor of molecular natural history at the University of Exeter in the U.K. “We tend to think about species moving north, rather than changing appearance."

    5. Scientists urge swift climate action ahead of EU elections

    The European Union needs to double down on plans to phase out fossil fuels and implement green policies if it wants to reach its 2050 net zero targets, a report from the European Scientific Advisory Board on Climate Change said. "The EU needs to sharply decrease the use of fossil fuels, and almost fully phase out the use of coal and fossil gas in public electricity and heat generation by 2040," the advisers said. The report urges the EU to work quickly to put planned climate policies into law. The timing of the report is interesting because, as the Financial Times explained, the EU faces parliamentary elections this summer, “when rightwing parties that want to slow the pace of progress are expected to focus on rhetoric about the social costs of switching away from fossil fuels to combat climate change.”


    “As the EV transition continues, we are going to have to think about [EVs] more as products, as specific tools that can improve someone’s life by their presence.”Heatmap’s Robinson Meyer on the secrets to selling electric cars


    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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    AM Briefing: SCOTUS Weighs Smog Rules

    On being a good neighbor, Rivian’s results, and China’s emissions

    Will SCOTUS Block a Major Air Pollution Rule?
    Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

    Current conditions: Heavy rain caused extreme flooding outside Rio de Janeiro • Japan is enduring record-breaking warm winter weather • It’ll be 72 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny at Peoria Stadium in Arizona for the MLB’s first spring training game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Diego Padres.


    1. Supreme Court weighs challenge to EPA pollution rule

    The Supreme Court this week has been hearing arguments in what CNN called “the most significant environmental dispute at the high court this year,” and things aren’t looking good for the Environmental Protection Agency. Several states and energy companies want to block the EPA’s “good neighbor” plan, which seeks to impose strict emissions limits on industrial activities in 23 states in an effort to prevent pollution from drifting across state lines and forming dangerous smog. Challengers say the regulation is overreaching and want its implementation delayed. Yesterday the court’s conservative majority appeared skeptical of the EPA’s authority, citing the fact that lower court decisions have paused the regulation in 12 states.

    Environmental groups worry a ruling against the EPA here could set a dangerous precedent. “The Supreme Court — if it were to block this rule — would effectively be saying to industry, ‘Look, any time you face costs from a regulation, come on up and take a shot. We might block that rule for you,’” Sam Sankar, senior vice president for programs at Earthjustice, told E&E News.

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    Why Clean Energy Projects Are Stalling Out on Native Lands

    The urgency of the green transition hasn’t made tribal concerns any less important.

    The Colorado River.
    Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images, Library of Congress

    It’s windy in the Great Plains and it’s sunny in the Southwest. These two basic geographic facts underscore much of the green energy transition in the United States — and put many Native American tribes squarely in the middle of that process.

    The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has estimated that “American Indian land comprises approximately 2% of U.S. land but contains an estimated 5% of all renewable energy resources,” with an especially large amount of potential solar power. Over the past few months, a spate of renewable energy projects across the country have found themselves entangled with courts, regulators, and tribal governments over how and under what circumstances they are permitted on — or even near — tribal lands.

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    Is This the End of American Polyester?

    New federal safety regulations could push PET plastic-makers out of the country for good.

    An x-ray and a clothing tag.
    Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

    There are an estimated 40,000 to 60,000 chemicals used commercially today worldwide, and the vast majority of them haven’t been tested for human safety. Many that have been tested are linked to serious human health risks like cancer and reproductive harm. And yet, they continue to pollute our air, water, food, and consumer products.

    Among these is 1,4-dioxane, a chemical solvent that’s been linked to liver cancer in lab rodents and classified as a probable human carcinogen. It’s a multipurpose petrochemical, issuing from the brownfields of defunct industrial sites, chemical plants, and factories that use it in solvents, paint strippers, and degreasers. It shows up as an unintentional contaminant in consumer personal care products, detergents, and cleaning products and then goes down the drain into sewer systems.

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