The disease after tomorrow

Many of us have spent the last two-and-a-half years worried about the health risks posed by other people. In the United States alone, more than 1 million have died from COVID-19, a painful consequence of how ill-prepared the nation was (and, in many ways, still is) for an infectious disease outbreak.
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Better late than never: Biden administration unveils new push for offshore wind

The Biden administration and 11 states on the East Coast are working together to accelerate the construction of offshore wind projects in the United States. For the last two decades, the U.S. has been lagging far behind Europe and Asia — in no small part because of opposition from the fossil fuel industry. Now, with a push from the federal and state level and growing investment from the private sector, the country may finally begin to close the gap.
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Pollen and heat: A looming challenge for global agriculture

This story was originally published by Yale Environment 360 and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration. Last June, Aaron Flansburg felt the temperature spike and knew what that meant for his canola crop. A fifth-generation grower in Washington state, Flansburg times his canola planting to bloom in the cool weeks of early summer. But last year, his fields were hit with 108-degree Fahrenheit heat just as flowers opened. “That is virtually unheard of for our area to have a temperature like that in June,” he says.

Low-cost sensors are helping communities find gaps in air quality data

For years, residents of Belmont County in Eastern Ohio suspected something was wrong with their air. Their corner of rural Appalachia was far from the vehicle exhaust and heavy industry of big cities, but many regularly experienced headaches, nausea, and fatigue, as well as trouble breathing. They suspected that fracking operations, which are heavily concentrated in this part of the state, might be releasing toxic compounds into the air.

Louisiana’s insurance market is collapsing, just in time for hurricane season

Last week, Louisiana insurance commissioner Jim Donelon held a press conference to announce some very bad news. A few months earlier, a major insurance company called Lighthouse had gone bankrupt, leaving almost 30,000 homeowners in the state without storm coverage. The company went under thanks to last year’s Hurricane Ida, which led to $400 million in damage claims, far more money than the company had on hand. It had been up to Donelon to find a new company to take over these abandoned policies, but no other company wanted them. In fact, other companies were fleeing the state en masse.

Indigenous Ogiek win ‘landmark’ reparations ruling from African Court

The Republic of Kenya must pay the Indigenous Ogiek people reparations for decades of illegal evictions from their ancestral land in the Mau Forest. That’s according to a ruling from the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The decision, which is the first time the court has called for reparations for an Indigenous community, said that the Kenyan government must pay the Ogiek for both material and moral damages. The case may set the tone for other Indigenous rights cases in Africa.

Five months later, the Ancón oil spill’s effects linger

This story was originally published by Hakai Magazine and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration. The port in Ancón, just north of Lima, Peru, should be bustling. It’s a cold and gray Friday morning, around the time when fishers should be returning to port and unloading their catch. But ever since January, when the Spanish oil company Repsol spilled 11,900 barrels of crude oil just off the coast — a spill the United Nations calls the worst environmental disaster in Peru’s recent history — the port has come to an almost complete standstill.

Biden’s new vision for the National Flood Insurance Program

The Biden administration is proposing a major overhaul to the National Flood Insurance Program, or NFIP — the main source of insurance for homeowners who are required to or choose to obtain coverage for flooding. Last month, Alice Lugo, assistant secretary for legislative affairs at the Department of Homeland Security, put forth 17 legislative proposals that would collectively represent the biggest reform to the Federal Emergency Management Administration’s National Flood Insurance Program since the program’s inception.

The push to ban new gas stations is coming to Los Angeles

A couple of years ago, banning the construction of new gas stations anywhere in the United States would have seemed like a far-fetched idea. But it could soon become a political reality, not in a public transit dreamland, but in the sprawling, car-centric city of Los Angeles. Last March, the...

One family, three generations of cancer, and the largest concentration of oil refineries in California

This story was produced in collaboration with High Country News. When I visited Christina Gonzalez and her family in April, she sat slumped in her family’s worn black faux-leather couch, trying to recall which explosion had shaken her neighborhood the most. The seven decades they’ve lived in Wilmington, California, are marked by the dates of the high-octane industrial fires that have erupted at each of the five refineries that surround their home.

New Jersey releases blueprint for landmark environmental justice law

New Jersey is one major step closer to implementing a groundbreaking environmental justice law. Two years ago, the state passed legislation to limit industrial pollution in neighborhoods with a high concentration of people of color, low-income households, or residents who don’t speak fluent English. Now, the state’s environmental protection agency has proposed regulations spelling out exactly how it will do that.

A rule to make corporate climate action more transparent is one step closer to reality

Labels like “carbon neutral” and “climate positive” can make it seem like some brands have climate action all figured out. But anyone who tries to look behind the curtain at what companies are actually doing to cut emissions will find a more complicated reality. There are no standards for how companies should account for or report their emissions, making comparing one company or product to another nearly impossible.

No friend of the coal miner

While working at a West Virginia mine, Gary Hairston dashed up a set of stairs to get out of the rain, but he only made it halfway. Doubled over and breathless, he didn’t yet know how completely his life had changed. Hairston was eventually diagnosed with coal worker’s pneumoconiosis...

Olúfémi O. Táíwò’s theory of everything

On an overcast spring day in Washington, D.C., Georgetown University professor Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò paced the length of a triptych blackboard, telling his students a story: In the 18th century, European men published iconoclastic arguments declaring that all individuals were born free and equal.

Solar is one of the cleanest power sources we’ve got. But it could be even greener.

There are only four companies that manufacture polysilicon, a critical material for solar panels and semiconductors, in the United States. This spring, one of them got a big influx of cash. In April, a Korean company called Hanwha Solutions announced it had become the largest shareholder of REC Silicon, which can produce 16,000 metric tons of polysilicon annually from a refinery in Washington State—enough to meet more than a quarter of the U.S. solar industry’s demand. Hanwha, which already operates the largest U.S. solar panel factory in Georgia, described the acquisition as part of a plan to “revitalize the U.S. solar market” by creating a made-in-America supply chain from raw materials to finished products.

In New Jersey, Ford faces lawsuit over polluting tribal land

New Jersey is suing Ford Motor Company, one of the country’s largest automobile manufacturers, for allegedly dumping waste on the homelands of the Ramapough Lenape Nation, a Native American tribe recognized by the state. The lawsuit, filed Thursday in state court, accuses the company of disposing of thousands of...

Canadians’ $100 billion oil and gas problem

This story was originally published by Canada’s National Observer and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration. Canadians stand to lose over $100 billion in the energy transition as investors around the world continue to pour money into fossil fuel assets that will eventually become worthless, a recent international study finds.

As the Louisiana coast disappears, the Mississippi River’s newest channel is building much-needed land

About 55 miles southeast of New Orleans, just before the leg of the Mississippi River splits into its three-toed foot of a delta, a crack in the river’s east bank has swollen into a massive channel. Over the past several years, it’s continued to expand, diverting more and more water from its parent river into the body of water on the other side, Quarantine Bay. Like any river, the Mississippi seeks efficiency: shorter, steeper paths to sea. That’s exactly what its new branch, known as Neptune Pass, offers.

Where have all the climate activists gone?

On November 13, 2018, a group of nearly 200 activists gathered outside Representative Nancy Pelosi’s office, just south of the Capitol Building, and knocked on the door. Without waiting for an answer, they entered and began chanting and singing protest songs. The crowd was made up of representatives of...