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Electric Vehicles

Biden’s Shifting Tailpipe Emissions Rules

On the EV transition, natural gas prices, and reforestation

Biden’s Shifting Tailpipe Emissions Rules
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: A sandstorm blanketed China’s Xinjiang region in a cloud of yellow dust • Perth, Australia, has seen seven February days with temperatures over 104 degrees Fahrenheit • At least three planes hit speeds of 800 mph thanks to a powerful jet stream over the Atlantic.

THE TOP FIVE

1. Biden administration expected to ease tailpipe emissions rules

The Biden administration will scale back a proposal to set aggressive limits on vehicle tailpipe emissions, a move seen as a “concession to automakers and labor unions,” The New York Times reported over the weekend. Two sources confirmed the news to Reuters, as well. The Environmental Protection Agency’s original proposal, aimed at speeding the nation’s shift to zero-emissions electric vehicles, would have resulted in EVs making up 60% of new vehicle sales by 2030, rising to 67% by 2032. For context, EVs accounted for just 7.6% of new car sales last year. Carmakers and the United Auto Workers union called the proposal unreasonable, citing high EV prices and a lack of charging infrastructure. The new rules are expected to give manufacturers more time to ramp up EV sales. The move “could be worth it” if it boosts Biden’s re-election bid against Donald Trump, analysts told the Times. But some researchers warn it will lead to faster warming.

2. Another atmospheric river drenches California

The West Coast isn’t getting much relief from the rain. Another atmospheric river is lashing California, following intense rain earlier this month that triggered flooding and landslides across cities including Los Angeles. Those regions are expected to see “much less rain” with this storm, which will continue through Wednesday, but some areas remain at risk of flooding and mudslides because they’re still saturated from the last soaker. Flood watches are in effect up and down the coastline, covering nearly 30 million people. The flood risk will be highest Tuesday morning, according to weather service meteorologist David Gomberg.

3. Natural gas prices plummet

Natural gas prices in the U.S. are nearing their lowest levels in 30 years thanks to a lack of demand combined with soaring production, the Financial Timesreported. The country is experiencing its warmest winter on record due to a combination of global warming and El Niño, so demand for the fuel to help heat homes is low. Meanwhile, gas production hit a record high in December. But some producers have signaled they plan to cut back on drilling programs.

4. Therapists report rise in patients with climate anxiety

Therapists are seeing more patients experiencing climate anxiety, and they’re grappling with the best ways to treat them, reportedBloomberg. Weather disasters and big climate conferences tend to be followed by an uptick in patients, and scientists studying the crisis are especially vulnerable. Most therapists aren’t making any diagnoses, because “anxiety about climate change isn’t a disorder.” Instead they’re looking for a new playbook for treating a rising existential threat. One interesting observation? It seems climate anxiety and climate denial can sometimes overlap: “The conspiracy theorists are reassuring,” psychotherapist Caroline Hickman said. “If you can’t tolerate anxiety, you will then spin off into believing somebody who gives you false promises.”

5. Study: Forest restoration cools eastern U.S.

Research suggests that reforestation efforts in the southeastern United States have helped cool the region over the last century. “In addition to regulating atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, forests modify surface and near-surface air temperatures,” the authors wrote. They estimate the annual cooling effect of forests to be between 1.8 degrees and 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. On sweltering summer days, the trees lower temperatures by up to 9 degrees Fahrenheit. “Moving forward, we need to think about tree planting not just as a way to absorb carbon dioxide but also the cooling effects in adapting for climate change, to help cities be resilient against these very hot temperatures,” Mallory Barnes, an environmental scientist at Indiana University, told The Guardian.

THE KICKER

“[R]ather than echoing the concerns of a vocal minority that opposes any form of climate action, we need to effectively communicate that the vast majority of people around the world are willing to act against climate change and expect their national government to act.” –A team of researchers behind a recent study that found we may be vastly underestimating global support for climate action

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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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Current conditions: Torrential rains forced Mauritius to shut down its stock exchange • “Once in a century” flooding hit southern China • In the Northern Hemisphere, the Lyrid meteor shower peaks tonight.

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