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Culture

AM Briefing: A Combustion-Engine Crackdown

On Canada's new EV rule, flooding in Australia, and how business travel is changing

AM Briefing: A Combustion-Engine Crackdown
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: More than 130,000 people on the East Coast are without power after a weekend storm • Freakishly strong winds killed at least 13 people in Argentina • China’s deep freeze continues to defy forecasters’ expectations.

THE TOP FIVE

1. Australia’s Queensland flooded by lingering tropical storm

The remnants of Tropical Cyclone Jasper brought intense rain and flooding to several towns in Australia’s northeastern region of Queensland. About 24 inches of rain fell on the city of Cairns in a span of 40 hours, which is more than triple the December average, according toReuters. At least 12,000 people are without power, and officials are worried residents could lose access to drinking water. Rescue teams responded to more than 350 callouts. “We have people stuck on roofs there that have been there all night,” says Queensland Premier Steven Miles.

Twitter/AlboMP

Jasper slammed into the area last week as a Category 2 storm, and the rains haven’t let up since. “We see a lot of natural disasters and this is just about the worst I can remember," Miles told ABC Television. On the other side of the country, in New South Wales, firefighters battled against more than 50 raging bushfires made worse by an intense heatwave.

2. Canada to crack down on new combustion-engine car sales

All new vehicles sold in Canada must be zero-emissions vehicles starting in 2035, Reutersreports, citing an anonymous government official. The new regulations, called the Electric Vehicle Availability Standard, are expected to be announced this week. The official says there will be a gradual transition starting in 2026, when zero-emissions vehicles must represent 20% of all new car sales, increasing to 60% in 2030 and 100% in 2035. In the U.S., President Biden wants to bring in tailpipe emissions rules that would “effectively compel automakers to ensure two out of every three cars and light trucks sold in 2032 are electric models,” Bloombergexplains. Republicans in the House stand opposed to the regulations.

3. Panama Canal to allow more daily crossings – for now

Better-than-expected November rain means the Panama Canal can slightly increase the number of ships it allows through the passage each day, Bloombergreports. The canal is one of the world’s busiest shipping routes, but a record drought in the region has made for low water levels, forcing the canal to cut daily crossings in recent months. Currently 22 ships are allowed through per day, down from 36. Thanks to the November rain the number will go up to 24, at least for now. The number was set to go down sharply to 18 in February of next year.

4. U.S. flood-related migration is creating ‘Climate Abandonment Areas’

More than 3 million Americans have relocated to avoid flood risk over the last two decades or so, according to a new report by data nonprofit First Street Foundation. The analysis underscores the extent to which climate migration is already happening in America, albeit on a hyper-local level. People are moving short distances within their own cities, creating “Climate Abandonment Areas” – whole neighborhoods that are seeing large population losses due to flooding caused by climate change.

Over the next 30 years, more neighborhoods are expected to become Climate Abandonment Areas, and their population losses will grow. “The downstream implications of this are massive and impact property values, neighborhood composition, and commercial viability both positively and negatively,” says Dr. Jeremy Porter, Head of Climate Implications Research at the First Street Foundation. Climate change is causing an increase in extreme weather, and floods are the most common and widespread weather-related natural disaster.

5. Major companies are cutting their corporate air travel emissions

About half of the world’s biggest companies have managed to keep their air-travel emissions low in the years following the pandemic slowdown, according to new analysis. The advocacy group Transport and Environment looked at the emissions from 217 major global companies and found for about 104 of them, air travel emissions remain down by at least 50% compared to pre-COVID levels. The group says this “shows the feasibility of a shift towards less flying, more rail travel, and the increased use of virtual meetings.” The largest emissions reductions came from technology giant SAP (down 86%), pharmaceutical company Pfizer (down 78%), and consulting group PwC (down 76%).

THE KICKER

A Nissan Ariya EV recently become the first vehicle ever to drive from the North Pole to the South Pole.

Instagram/poletopoleev

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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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Politics

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.

THE TOP FIVE

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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Climate

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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Economy

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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