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Technology

Let There Be Cloud Brightening

On the return of geoengineering, climate lawsuits, and a cheaper EV.

Sunrise over a mountain.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: Battered Midwest in for more bad weather this weekend • Tornadoes keep hitting the Great Plains • A heat wave in New Delhi that pushed temperatures above 116 degrees Fahrenheit on Friday is expected to last several more days.

THE TOP FIVE

1. Red states challenge climate lawsuits

Nineteen Republican-led states are asking the Supreme Court to stop Democrat-led states from trying to force oil and gas companies to pay for the impacts of climate change. Rhode Island in 2018 became the first state to sue major oil companies for climate damages and has since been joined by California, Connecticut, Minnesota, and New Jersey. The states pursuing legal action against oil companies are trying to “dictate the future of the American energy industry,” the Republican attorneys general argued in a motion filed this week, “not by influencing federal legislation or by petitioning federal agencies, but by imposing ruinous liability and coercive remedies on energy companies” through the court system.

2. Geoengineering experiment could resume in California

A month after ordering researchers to stop a cloud brightening experiment due to health and environmental concerns, officials in Alameda, California, determined that the experiment poses no measurable risk to people or wildlife. They found that the saltwater solution being sprayed into air is similar to saltwater, a naturally occurring aerosol. Alameda’s city council plans to reconsider the experiment based on officials’ findings early next month.

The experiment is one of the first tests of a form of geoengineering intended to reflect more solar energy back into space. Sarah J. Doherty, director of the Marine Cloud Brightening Program at the University of Washington, told The New York Times that the report “supports our own evaluation that this is a safe, publicly accessible way to further research on aerosols in the atmosphere.”

3. Conservation group sues Biden administration over coal pollution rule

The Center for Biological Diversity is suing the Biden administration over its new standards for pollution from coal-fired power plants. The rule, which the EPA finalized last month, curtails coal plants’ discharges of heavy metals into water sources. But it includes exceptions for plants that are slated to retire by 2034. The Center for Biological Diversity called this an “unacceptable” loophole, emphasizing the risks that heavy metal pollution pose to communities and ecosystems. Brett Hartl, the conservation group’s government affairs director, said in a statement that the rule gives the coal industry “a free pass to dump millions of pounds of toxic pollution into this nation’s rivers for another 10 years.”

4. Kia Debuts Cheaper, Boxier EV

On Thursday, the Korean automaker Kia revealed the EV3, a small crossover that will start in the $30,000s when it comes to America next year or the year after. While slower than some of its rivals — Kia says it will go 0-60 miles per hour in 7.5 seconds — the EV3 will boast a range of 372 miles, “which blows away most current offerings, especially in that price range,” Andrew Moseman writes at Heatmap. The EV3 is the latest piece of the grand plan put together by Kia (and its owner, Hyundai) to offer an electric crossover at every price point — and a sign that more entry-level EVs might be coming over the horizon.

5. Native beetle threatens giant sequoias

General Sherman, the world’s largest tree, passed a recent health check by researchers looking for evidence of damage by bark beetles. Both giant sequoias and bark beetles are native to California’s Sierra Nevada range, but the mounting pressures of climate change, including heat, drought, and fire, are weakening the sequoias and leaving them vulnerable to dying from bark beetle infestations. “The most significant threat to giant sequoias is climate-driven wildfires,” Ben Blom, director of stewardship and restoration at Save the Redwoods League, told The Associated Press. “But we certainly don’t want to be caught by surprise by a new threat, which is why we’re studying these beetles now.”

THE KICKER

Researchers don’t fully understand how climate change is impacting air travel, but evidence suggests that instability in the jet stream may be contributing to the rise in clear-air turbulence.


Nicole Pollack profile image

Nicole Pollack

Nicole Pollack is a freelance environmental journalist who writes about energy, agriculture, and climate change. She is based in Northeast Ohio.

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Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

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