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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.


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.


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%).


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


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.


The Future of Nuclear Fusion Is Clear — Legally, At Least

Now we just need a working commercial reactor.

A bald eagle gripping an atom.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

After decades of research and billions of dollars in funding, nuclear fusion has produced “net energy” (more energy coming out of a reaction than was necessary to start it) in exactly two places in our solar system: Lawrence Livermore National Lab, and the sun. Even the scientists who did it on Earth say that using the technology for real-world energy generation is still a “very distant” prospect.

On the bright side, however, the regulatory path for fusion energy has gotten a lot clearer.

The ADVANCE Act, signed by President Biden last week, contained language that will simplify the path to deployment for fusion, should it ever reach commercialization. The Fusion Energy Act, contained within the ADVANCE Act (which itself was stapled onto Fire Grants and Safety Act), confirmed a decision by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2023 separating the regulatory apparatus for fusion and fission projects. Fission — the only process used to produce nuclear energy commercially today — can lead to runaway nuclear reactions and inevitably creates radioactive waste, and going through the complex regulatory process can take years. Fusion, by contrast, doesn’t have those risks.

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Wind Is More Powerful Than J. D. Vance Seems to Think

Just one turbine can charge hundreds of cell phones.

J.D. Vance.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

It’s a good thing most of us aren’t accountable for every single silly thing we’ve ever said, but most of us are not vice presidential running mates, either. Back in 2022, when J.D. Vance was still just a “New York Times bestselling author” and not yet a “junior senator from Ohio,” much less “second-in-line to a former president who will turn 80 in office if he’s reelected,” he made a climate oopsie that — now that it’s recirculating — deserves to be addressed.

If Democrats “care so much about climate change,” Vance argued during an Ohio Republican senator candidate forum during that year, “and they think climate change is caused by carbon emissions, then why is their solution to scream about it at the top of their lungs, send a bunch of our jobs to China, and then manufacture these ridiculous ugly windmills all over Ohio farms that don’t produce enough electricity to run a cell phone?”

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Republicans Have No New Ideas About Energy

On night one of the convention, the GOP presented a platform that repackages Biden-era achievements with an all-caps flourish.

Donald Trump and J.D. Vance.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

National political conventions don’t make for the best TV. Prime-time speeches are delivered by a parade of party celebrities and last for only a few minutes — typically just enough time to bash gas prices (nonsensically) and get in a few digs at the opposition. The highlight of the Republican National Convention’s broadcast out of Milwaukee on Monday night was, in fact, entirely wordless: former President Donald Trump’s walk across the floor with a conspicuous white bandage over his ear.

The only words that really mattered on Monday were reviewed and approved behind closed doors. “It’s a different kind of platform,” Tennessee Senator and Chair of the Committee on the Platform Marsha Blackburn said by way of introduction during her speech yesterday evening. Reviewing how the 2024 Republican Party Platform’s energy sections compare to the ones in 2016 (the GOP did not write a new platform for its convention in 2020), it’s clear how true that actually is.

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