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Politics

Climate Change Is Making CEOs Nervous

On corporate climate resilience, the freezing Iowa caucus, and EV tipping points

Briefing image.
Tesla's New Supply Chain Woes
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: New York City’s Central Park has officially broken its 701-day snow-free streak • Extreme flooding from Cyclone Belal submerged cars in the ocean island nation of Mauritius • It’s 24 degrees Fahrenheit and cloudy in Davos, where the 54th annual World Economic Forum gathering begins this week.

THE TOP FIVE

1. Trump’s Iowa speeches offer preview of 2024 climate attack lines

Former President Donald Trump handily won the Republican Iowa caucus on Monday night, and his speeches at the event were sprinkled with anti-climate lines we’re likely to hear more of in his 2024 presidential campaign, writes Heatmap’s Jeva Lange. In his victory speech, Trump made a jab about electric vehicle range anxiety, and promised to do more “drilling” if he gets the White House back. Earlier in the evening he told would-be voters that “I stood up for ethanol like nobody has ever stood up for it” – a dig at Biden’s climate agenda, which has aimed to limit liquid fuel in vehicles, a sensitive issue for Iowa voters during their primary season. On Sunday a group of young climate protesters disrupted one of Trump’s rallies, calling him a “climate criminal.” Trump told them to “go home to mommy.”

This was the coldest caucus in Iowa’s history thanks to a weather system that dragged temperatures below freezing for most of the country. As Lange notes: “Scientists say the arctic blast is exactly the kind of extreme event we can expect more of in a climate-changed world.”

2. Cold snap forces mass school closures

Half a million students in southern states have the day off as a dangerous cold snap forces school closures across Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Texas. ERCOT, which manages most of Texas’ electric load, has asked residents to conserve energy as the state faces wind chill advisories and hard freeze warnings. At least five deaths have so far been attributed to the severe winter weather. More than 70 million people across the country remain under winter weather alerts of some kind, and something like 250 daily cold temperature records are expected to be shattered today. Temperatures could warm slightly Wednesday but the National Weather Service expects another arctic blast to descend Thursday. Here's a look at the temperature lows currently forecast for Friday night:

Temperature lows forecast for Friday nightNOAA and NWS

3. Investors pressure Shell on warming emissions

Oil and gas giant Shell is facing its “most significant shareholder push on climate policy,” reports the Financial Times. A group of 27 investors – including Europe’s largest asset manager Amundi – are backing an independent resolution filed by activist group Follow This demanding the company do more to slash its greenhouse gas emissions. The resolution calls on Shell to better align its pollution targets with the Paris Agreement and focuses specifically on the emissions customers generate when they use Shell’s products, known as Scope 3 emissions. The company called the resolution “unrealistic and simplistic” and insisted its targets already align with the Paris Agreement. This isn’t Follow This’ first resolution aimed at Shell, but this one appears to have the most momentum: Its investor-backers own about 5% of Shell’s shares. Support for the resolution is expected to grow ahead of a vote at the company’s annual general meeting in May, The Guardianreports.

4. Survey: CEOs increasingly worried about climate change

A growing number of company executives across the globe are worried their firms won’t survive the next 10 years unless they undergo a major overhaul, according to a survey of 4,700 CEOs conducted by consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). About 45% of the respondents are concerned about their current business models, up from 39% on last year’s survey. Among their top anxieties are artificial intelligence and – you guessed it – climate change. Nearly one-third of CEOs say they expect climate change to “alter the way they create, deliver, and capture value over the next three years.” About two-thirds of respondents say their firms are improving their energy efficiency, but support is lacking for other climate-related company initiatives:

Company actions related to climate changePwC

5. BMW says it has passed the EV tipping point

The electric vehicle tipping point has come and gone for carmaker BMW, according to the company’s chief financial officer. Most of BMW’s sales growth now comes from EVs, not combustion vehicles, CFO Walter Mertl said at a media event yesterday. He added that “the current sales plateau of combustion cars will continue and then fall off slightly.” After the company’s EV sales nearly doubled in 2023 to more than 375,000, EVs now make up 15% of total sales, and the company expects to sell more than 500,000 EVs in 2024, Reuters reports.

THE KICKER

FEMA has partnered with the Red Cross to create a printable emergency preparedness children’s game featuring a cartoon penguin named Pedro as its main character:

Ready.gov

Yellow

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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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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