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Climate

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.

THE TOP FIVE

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.”

    THE KICKER

    “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

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    Jessica  Hullinger profile image

    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.

    Technology

    Florida’s Climate Tech Hub Has a Florida Problem

    One of the most vulnerable states in the U.S. wants nothing to do with “climate change.”

    A Florida postcard.
    Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

    The Biden administration loves a hub. There are the hydrogen hubs, the direct air capture hubs, and now there are the tech hubs. Established as a part of the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, the $10 billion program has so far seeded 12 such hubs across the country. Four of these are focused on clean energy and sustainability, and one is located in the great state of Florida, which recently passed legislation essentially deleting the words “climate change” from state law.

    The South Florida ClimateReady Tech Hub did not, in the end, eliminate climate from its name. But while Governor Ron DeSantis might not approve, the federal government didn’t seem to mind, as the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration awarded the hub $19.5 million to “advance its global leadership in sustainable and resilient infrastructure.”

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    Climate

    America Wasn’t Built for This

    Why extreme heat messes with infrastructure.

    Teton Pass.
    Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

    America is melting. Roads are buckling everywhere from Houston to Aurora, Colorado, and in June caused traffic jams in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Last week, a New York City bridge that had opened to let a ship pass got stuck after expanding in the heat, forcing thousands of commuters to detour. The mid-June heat wave led to thousands of flight delays; more recently, even Toronto’s Pearson International Airport warned travelers to brace for heat-related complications. Commuters along Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor have been harried by heat-induced delays for weeks.

    The train delays have affected an especially large population. The Northeast Corridor is the most trafficked commuter rail system in the country, with over 750,000 daily commuters. In late June, Amtrak notified customers that trains in the corridor could face delays of up to an hour in the coming weeks as heat interfered with tracks and overhead power lines. Since it issued that warning, tens of thousands of people have experienced heat-related delays.

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    Green
    Climate

    AM Briefing: Turbine Troubles

    On broken blades, COP29, and the falling price of used electric vehicles

    Vineyard Wind Is Having Turbine Troubles
    Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

    Current conditions: Torrential rain brought flash flooding to Toronto • A wildfire on the Hawaiian island of Kauai has been contained • Parts of southern Spain could hit 111 degrees Fahrenheit this week.

    THE TOP FIVE

    1. Intense heat waves and thunderstorms torment millions of Americans

    The extreme heat wave over the East Coast may very well break a record in Washington, D.C., today that was set during the 1930s Dust Bowl: the longest stretch of days with temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The mercury yesterday hit 104 degrees, after similarly scorching numbers on Monday and Sunday, tying the existing record of three days. The National Weather Service forecasts a high of 98 degrees for Wednesday but The Washington Post said there’s “an outside chance that it hits 100 (or higher).” Either way, with humidity at 55%, it will feel torturously hot, with a potential heat index of 110 degrees. An “Extended Heat Emergency” is in effect in the city through today. Nearly 75 major cities across the Northeast, South, and Southwest are currently facing dangerous heat levels, according to The New York Times.

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