Green Sheet: Air pollution denial builds under Trump’s EPA watch, say scientists

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Evidence of the increasing effects of climate change is building, as are the investing opportunities and changes in consumer habits linked to environmental concerns and resource use. Here are select dispatches about the companies and government entities responding to customer demands and climate risk, trends for ESG investors and their advisers, and the enterprising individuals and scientists preparing for tomorrow.

EPA to limit pollution science. The Environment Protection Agency plans to limit the scientific research that the government can use to form public health regulations, the New York Times reported Monday, citing its reading of a draft proposal. That has serious implications for how the government measures pollution risk and sets policy, while the EPA claims its aim is greater transparency. According to the World Health Organization, at least 7 million people globally die prematurely every year from exposure to indoor and outdoor air pollution.

The EPA rewrite — which the Trump administration, in refuting some of the Times reporting but not saying which details were wrong, told CNN is still open to comment — would require scientists to disclose raw data, including protected confidential medical records, if they want the agency to seriously consider a study’s conclusions.

The Union of Concerned Scientists said last year that the original draft of the proposal would require agency employees “to put on blinders and only see the science that [administration officials] want them to see.” Pushing for what the White House claims is better transparency is a key priority of Steve Milloy, a former tobacco and fossil fuel lobbyist whose Twitter handle is @JunkScience and who served on Trump’s EPA transition team, said Emily Atkin, in her Heated newsletter. The draft proposal obtained by the Times also expands on a previous version championed by then-Administrator Scott Pruitt.

An internal watchdog report released in September found that the EPA had “exceeded” its goals in cutting back environmental regulations during the first two years of the Trump administration, outrunning the 2:1 ratio for all agencies (two regulations eliminated for every one new regulation) that the White House pledged, while accounting for some $96 million in less spending at the agency.

And: Trump rollback on light bulbs will cost consumers and hurt the environment, lawsuit says

Read: Trump administration rolls back Obama-era regulations on coal pollution

Slow ships for the sake of Earth? A 20% reduction in the speed of cargo ships would cut greenhouse gases, the BBC reported, citing research carried out for advocacy groups Seas at Risk and Transport & Environment and as United Nations officials meet this week in London to consider curbing maritime speeds. Shipping generates roughly 3% of the global total of warming gases, the report said. That’s roughly the same quantity as emitted by Germany.

Read: Fast shipping takes an environmental toll — 7 ways to reduce your Amazon deliveries’ carbon footprint

Hurricanes like Harvey are far more common. New research shows that extremely destructive hurricanes have become more common over the last century — in fact, three times as likely, according to a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Recall, Hurricane Harvey, which hit Texas in August 2017, cost $125 billion in damage. That was second only to 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, which cost approximately $161 billion, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) data.

Australia’s climate track record among worst in G-20. Response to climate change by Australia, — where a “catastrophic” wildfire leaves Sydney and more at risk — is one of the worst among the G-20 most powerful nations, claims the fifth installment of the Brown to Green report. A lack of policy, reliance on fossil fuels and rising emissions leave the country exposed “economically, politically and environmentally,” the findings argue.

Australia’s progress to meeting its already “unambitious” Paris climate targets was third worst, fossil fuel energy was on the rise and policies to tackle high transport emissions and deforestation were also among the worst across the G-20 countries, the report alleges.