Plant a trillion trees: Republicans offer fossil-friendly climate fix

By Valerie Volcovici

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican lawmakers on Wednesday will propose legislation setting a goal for the United States to plant a trillion trees by 2050 to fight global warming, a plan intended to address climate change by sucking carbon out of the air instead of by cutting emissions.

The proposed legislation reflects an acknowledgement in the Republican party of rising voter demand for action on climate change, even as it seeks to preserve the economic benefits of an historic drilling boom that has made the United States the world’s biggest oil and gas producer.

President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly cast doubt on the science of climate change, had expressed support for the idea of a massive tree-planting campaign during a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos last month.

“I’m working on legislation that would do just this: plant 1 trillion trees by 2050, with the goal of sequestering carbon and incentivizing the use of wood products,” said Arkansas Congressman Bruce Westerman, a member of the House natural resources committee, which is expected to unveil the bill.

Other elements of the plan, which will be released in additional bills over the coming weeks, will focus on sequestering carbon from power plants, recycling plastics and boosting “clean” energy, including natural gas and nuclear, according to congressional staff.

Democrats, including all the top presidential hopefuls in this year’s election, have made proposals for a rapid shift away from fossil fuels to help the United States and other countries avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Environmentalists argue that focusing on planting trees while ignoring emission cuts from fossil fuels is counterproductive. An overwhelming majority of scientists believe emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels are the main driver of climate change.

“Planting trees is good of course, but it is nowhere near enough of what is needed, and it cannot replace real mitigation and rewilding nature,” Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg said in Davos last month.

Nature-based carbon removal measures like tree planting have gained traction globally. Last July, for example, Ethiopia set a world record by planting over 350 million trees in 12 hours as part of a green campaign by Prime Minister Aiby Ahmed.

James Mulligan, a senior associate at the World Resources Institute, said mass tree planting could reduce 180 million–360 million tons of carbon dioxide per year by 2040 if implemented correctly.

“Funding is key,” he said, adding that the program needs a “smart governance system.”

(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Dan Grebler)

Greenpeace members face felony charges in Houston bridge protest

FILE PHOTO: Greenpeace USA climbers form a blockade on the Fred Hartman Bridge, shutting down the Houston Ship Channel, the largest fossil fuel thoroughfare in the United States, ahead of the third Democratic primary debate in nearby Houston, near Baytown, Texas, U.S. September 12, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

By Erwin Seba

HOUSTON (Reuters) – Texas authorities on Friday charged climate change protesters who shut down the largest U.S. energy-export port for a day by dangling on ropes from a bridge in Houston.

The Harris County Sheriff’s Office charged 31 people, including Greenpeace protesters and others who supported them, under a state law that makes it a felony to disrupt energy pipelines and ports. The group shut a portion of the Houston Ship Channel all of Thursday.

Those charged include six people not in custody, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office said. All face up to two years in prison if convicted under the Texas “critical infrastructure” law that took effect last month.

All 31 also face charges for trespassing and obstructing a roadway, the spokesman said.

“This is a bullying tactic that serves the interests of corporations at the expense of people exercising their right to free speech,” said Tom Wetterer, Greenpeace’s general counsel.

Texas this year was one of seven states nationwide that passed laws seeking to curb protests that broke out across the nation over energy projects such as the Dakota Access Pipeline and Bayou Bridge pipeline.

“Critical infrastructure laws like Texas’ were created by oil and gas lobbyists and secretive groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council to restrict First Amendment rights and to try to bring to bear extraordinary consequences for legitimate protests,” said Wetterer.

Greenpeace could face a $500,000 fine under the Texas law for supporting the protests, said Jennifer Hensley, director of state lobbying and advocacy for environmental group Sierra Club, which is fighting some of the laws.

The Houston Ship Channel on Friday reopened for vessel traffic, the U.S. Coast Guard said, after the last of 11 protesters who had disrupted traffic by hanging from ropes above the key energy-export waterway was removed by police earlier in the morning.

A large portion of the channel was closed when protesters attached themselves and banners to the bridge over the waterway to bring attention to climate change during Thursday’s debate of Democratic presidential hopefuls in Houston.

Police early on Friday arrested 23 Greenpeace members involved in the protest, with the last removed at about 1 a.m. by Harris County Sheriff’s officers, said Travis Nichols, a Greenpeace spokesman. The 23 were taken to the Harris County jail in Houston.

The protests had halted movement on a large portion of the Houston Ship Channel, which stretches 53 miles (85 km) from its entrance in the Gulf of Mexico to the Port of Houston. The area affected is home to five major oil refineries as well as chemical and oil-export terminals.

Day-long shutdowns caused by fog are typically cleared within a day, a Coast Guard official said on Thursday.

(Reporting by Erwin Seba in Houston; Writing by Gary McWilliams; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Sandra Maler)

The sky never goes dark while the Amazon burns

Smoke billows during a fire in an area of the Amazon rainforest near Humaita, Amazonas State, Brazil, Brazil August 14, 2019. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

By Jake Spring

HUMAITA, Brazil (Reuters) – There are no lights in sight but the night sky glows a dusky yellow, for the Amazon is burning.

Smoke billows during a fire in an area of the Amazon rainforest near Humaita, Amazonas State, Brazil, Brazil August 17, 2019. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

Smoke billows during a fire in an area of the Amazon rainforest near Humaita, Amazonas State, Brazil, Brazil August 17, 2019. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

The smell is of barbecue, of wood charcoal up in flames. During the day the sun, usually so fierce in these parts, is obscured by thick gray smoke.

For the last seven days Reuters has repeatedly driven a 30-kilometer (18.6 miles) stretch from Humaita towards Labrea along the Trans-Amazonian highway, watching a fire eat its way through the jungle.

At first, on Wednesday of last week the raging fire stood just a few yards (meters) off the roadway, the yellow flames engulfing trees and lighting up the sky. By the weekend the fire had receded into the distance but cast an orange glow several stories high.

The fire is just one of thousands currently decimating the Amazon, the world’s largest rainforest and a bulwark against climate change.

Wildfires have surged 83% so far this year when compared to the same period in 2018, according to Brazil’s space research agency INPE.

The government agency has registered 72,843 fires, the highest number since records began in 2013. More than 9,500 have been spotted by satellites since last Thursday alone.

On Wednesday, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro enraged environmentalists by making unfounded claims that non-governmental organizations were starting the fires out of anger after he cut their funding.

Global outrage has torn through social media, with #PrayforAmazonas the world’s top trending topic on Twitter on Wednesday.

Reuters observed plumes of smoke billowing from the forest, reaching hundreds of feet (dozens of meters) into the air, during a weeklong trip to southern Amazonas and northern Rondonia states.

“All you can see is smoke,” said Thiago Parintintin, who lives in an indigenous reserve just off the Trans-Amazonian highway, pointing to the horizon.

A yellow truck bearing the logo of Brazil’s forest firefighters had just rushed past.

“It didn’t use to be like this,” Parintintin added.

A 22-year-old trained indigenous environmental agent, Parintintin blames the increasing development of the Amazon for bringing agriculture and deforestation, resulting in rising temperatures during the dry season.

Fires start in the underbrush that has been drying over the dry season. Smoke envelopes still lush patches of fronds and palm trees, as the understory smolders before the upper tiers of vegetation catch fire.

Environmentalists also say farmers set the forest alight to clear land for cattle grazing.

The smoke from the resulting fires hangs at the horizon like a fog.

Gabriel Albuquerque, a pilot in Rondonia state’s capital city of Porto Velho, said that in four years of flying his small propeller plane it has never been this bad.

“It is the first time that I’ve ever seen it like this,” he said, as he prepared to go up.

From the sky, the fires ranged from small pockets to those bigger than a football field, with the smoke making it impossible to see behind the front line of flames to discern the full extent of the blaze.

Sometimes the smoke was so thick the forest itself appeared to have disappeared.

(Reporting by Jake Spring; Editing by Sandra Maler)

Democrats and Republicans can’t even agree on the weather: Reuters/Ipsos poll

The contents of grain silos which burst from flood damage are shown in Fremont County Iowa, U.S., March 29, 2019. REUTERS/Tom Polansek

By Maria Caspani

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Only 200 miles separate Michael Tilden and Miranda Garcia in rain-soaked Iowa. But they are worlds apart when it comes to their opinion of the weather.

Garcia, a 38-year-old former journalist and Democrat from Des Moines, thinks flooding has been getting worse in the state, which just came out of its wettest 12-months on record. Tilden, a 44-year-old math teacher and Republican from Sioux City, thinks otherwise: “I’ve noticed essentially the same weather pattern every single year,” he said.

Their different takes underscore a broader truth about the way Americans perceive extreme weather: Democrats are far more likely to believe droughts, floods, wildfires, hurricanes and tropical storms have become more frequent or intense where they live in the last decade, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.

The divergence shows how years of political squabbling over global warming – including disputes over its existence – have grown deep roots, distorting the way Americans view the world around them. The divide will play into the 2020 election as Democratic hopefuls seek to sell aggressive proposals to reduce or even end fossil fuel consumption by drawing links between climate change and recent floods, storms and wildfires.

Nearly two-thirds of Democrats believe severe thunderstorms and floods have become more frequent, compared to 42% and 50% of Republicans, respectively, according to the poll.

About half of Democrats, meanwhile, think droughts, hurricanes and tropical storms are more common in their region, versus less than a third of Republicans, according to the poll.

Similarly, nearly seven in 10 Democrats said in the poll that severe weather events such as thunderstorms have become more intense, compared to 4 of 10 Republicans. And nearly half of Republicans said there has been no change in the intensity of severe weather over the past decade, versus a fifth of Democrats.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online in English between June 11 and 14 and gathered responses from 3,281 people. It has a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of 2 percentage points up or down.

U.S. government researchers have concluded that tropical cyclone activity, rainfall, and the frequency of intense single-day storms have been on the rise, according to data compiled by the Environmental Protection Agency.

For example, six of the 10 most active years for tropical cyclones in the Atlantic basin since 1950 have occurred since the mid-1990s, and nine of the top 10 years for extreme one-day precipitation events nationwide have occurred since 1990, according to the data.

“We do expect to see more intense storms,” said David Easterling, a spokesman for the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Information.

An overwhelming majority of scientists believe human consumption of fossil fuels is driving sweeping changes in the global climate by ramping up the concentration of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere. But it is impossible to draw a direct link between the changes in U.S. weather in the recent past to the larger trend of warming.

President Donald Trump has cast doubt on the science of climate change, saying he believes that research into its severity, causes and effects is not yet settled. Two years ago he announced the United States would withdraw from a global pact to reduce carbon emissions, the Paris Climate Agreement, a deal Trump said could damage the U.S. economy.

Still, a majority of Republicans believe the United States should take “aggressive action” to combat global warming, Reuters polling shows.

Some Republican lawmakers have offered proposals for “market-based” approaches to fend off climate change, such as cap-and-trade systems that would force companies to cut carbon emissions or buy credits from those that do.

Democrats are pushing more aggressive ideas. Nearly all of the party’s presidential hopefuls, who seek to unseat Trump in next year’s election, have put forward proposals to end U.S. fossil fuels consumption within a few decades to make the country carbon neutral.

Trump has slammed the idea, saying it would “kill millions of jobs” and “crush the dreams of the poorest Americans.”

PARTISAN GOGGLES

Jennifer Marlon, a research scientist at the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, said the divergence in the way American perceive the weather is being driven by factors including the news they consume and their social circles.

Liberals are more likely to expose themselves to news outlets and people who believe climate change is an urgent threat that affects current weather patterns. For more conservative Americans, the link between weather and climate change is “not a typical conversation,” Marlon said.

Last year, the Yale program – which carries out scientific research on public knowledge about climate change – set out to map the partisan divide on how people perceive the effects of global warming across the United States.

It found that 22% of Republicans reported personally experiencing climate change, compared to 60% of Democrats.

Scientists and researchers at the University of Michigan, the University of Exeter and others came to a similar conclusion in a 2018 study which found that political bias and partisan news reporting can affect whether people indicate experiencing certain extreme weather events.

(Reporting by Maria Caspani; Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Brian Thevenot)

Climate change protesters descend on France’s SocGen, energy companies

Environmental activists block the entrance of the Ministry of Ecology, Energy and Sustainable Development during a "civil disobedience action" to urge world leaders to act against climate change, in La Defense near Paris, France, April 19, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

By Bate Felix

PARIS (Reuters) – Climate activists blocked thousands of employees from entering the headquarters of French bank Societe Generale, state-run utility EDF and oil giant Total on Friday, environmental group Greenpeace said.

Greenpeace said it was protesting against company links to the oil and gas industry, which it calls a driving force in global warming. Activists also obstructed the entrance to the environment ministry near La Defense business district.

Protesters plastered giant posters of President Emmanuel Macron carrying the slogan “Macron, President of Polluters” and a banner reading “Scene of Climate Crime” on the glass facade of Societe Generale, Reuters TV images showed.

Police pepper-sprayed one group blocking the bank’s main entrance in a sit-down protest.

Some demonstrators taped themselves together while others cuffed themselves with plastic ties to metal poles to make it harder for police to dislodge them.

Employees in business suits milled around outside their offices. “I just want to get inside and on with my work,” one frustrated bank employee said.

Greenpeace and action group Les Amis de la Terre (Friends of the Earth) have previously criticized Societe Generale for its role in financing oil and gas projects, in particular the Rio Grande LNG gas project in the United States.

A Societe Generale spokesman declined to comment.

ACTION NOT EASY

A spokesman for EDF, which relies heavily on nuclear and hydropower plants to generate electricity, said 96 percent of its power was carbon dioxide-free. He said EDF was committed to curbing its total carbon footprint by 40 percent by 2030.

A Total spokeswoman said two senior company executives had held talks with representatives of Greenpeace and Les Amis de la Terre.

At an oil industry summit in Paris on Friday, Total Chief Executive Patrick Pouyanne acknowledged the climate change protests.

The Societe Generale logo is covered by molasses representing oil as Environmental activists block the entrance to the headquarters of the French bank Societe Generale during a "civil disobedience action" to urge world leaders to act against climate change, in La Defense near Paris, France, April 19, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

The Societe Generale logo is covered by molasses representing oil as Environmental activists block the entrance to the headquarters of the French bank Societe Generale during a “civil disobedience action” to urge world leaders to act against climate change, in La Defense near Paris, France, April 19, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

“Many people are demonstrating in Paris and are asking for more action. We all know it is not so easy because the population’s primary request is for access to more energy, affordable energy and it has to be clean,” he said.

He added that Total was trying to address climate change by improving the efficiency of its operations, growing its natural gas business and developing an electricity business based on low-carbon gas and renewables.

He also said Total had increased its output to 2.95 million barrels of oil equivalent per day this year, passing its 2018 record, aided by increased production in Australia, Angola, Nigeria and Russia.

Friday’s protest echoed a series by the Extinction Rebellion group of climate-change campaigners in London this week that have caused transport snarl-ups in the British capital.

Teenage demonstrators staged an emotional protest, weeping and singing, at political inaction on climate change near London’s Heathrow Airport on Friday.

(Reporting by Antony Paone, Bate Felix, Inti Landauro and Geert De Clercq; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

As California fires blaze, homeowners fear losing insurance

Local residents react as numerous homes burn on a hillside during a wind driven wildfire in Ventura. REUTERS/Mike Blake

By Suzanne Barlyn

(Reuters) – California homeowners and regulators have a new fear about wildfires ravaging the state: that insurers will drop coverage.

Massive, out-of-season fires in northern and southern California are causing billions of dollars in claims and challenging expectations of when and where to expect blazes. State law gives insurers more leeway to drop coverage than to raise rates, and some are taking the opportunity, concerning California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones.

Homes in the Sierra Nevada foothills were dropped after wildfires swept through the region in recent years, and some other Northern California homes also have been cut from rosters, Jones said.

“We may see more of it,” he added in an interview. Insurers must renew fire victims’ policies once, but after that homeowners could be driven to unusual, expensive policies.

Retired firefighter Dan Nichols of Oroville, California was surprised when Liberty Mutual dropped his coverage this year, following a wildfire in the region.

“I was shocked and angry,” said Nichols, 70, by email.

Liberty Mutual must “responsibly manage” its overall exposure to California’s wildfires as part of a strategy to safeguard its ability to pay homeowners’ claims, a spokesman said. The insurer still issues policies in California and its strategy is not in response to recent fires, he said.

Nichols found a better deal through AAA, but others are not as lucky. In San Andreas, a community northeast of San Francisco, homeowners typically use specialty insurers, known as “surplus lines carriers,” for policies that cost about 20 to 40 percent more than a mainstream insurer, said Fred Gerard, who owns an insurance agency in the area.

Insurers must be cautious by not covering too many homes in one area, said Janet Ruiz, a spokeswoman for the industry’s Insurance Information Institute. “They tend to spread their risk so they can pay claims,” Ruiz said.

COMPUTER MODELS

Drier weather and higher variability of weather patterns often seen as effects of climate change have led insurers to turn to new computer models that provide house-by-house predictions of risk, using factors such as local topography and brush cover, a change from past practices that were based on a region’s history of blazes.

“Relying solely on company history leaves many (insurers) exposed,” said Matt Nielsen, Senior Director, Global Governmental and Regulatory Affairs at modeler RMS. A new wave of models coming out next year will “revolutionize the way insurers understand and manage risk for wildfires,” he said.

“You can’t control mother nature, but you can identify her target zones,” wrote rival Verisk Analytics Inc in a brochure for its FireLine model.

Jones said the state was reviewing the new models, partly in light of drier weather conditions, more frequent, unpredictable and severe fires, and climate change.

A California poll by consumer advocacy group United Policyholders found that computer scoring was a reason for a significant number of policy cancellations in the last few years.

United Policyholders Executive Director Amy Bach said that the differences in scores generated by various models raised questions about their accuracy.

“We want to make sure it’s a fair system,” Bach said.

(Reporting by Suzanne Barlyn; Editing by Peter Henderson and James Dalgleish)

G20 communique agreed apart from climate issue: EU officials

Delegates attend the official dinner at the Elbphilharmonie Concert Hall during the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany July 7, 2017. REUTERS/Kay Nietfeld

By Paul Carrel and Noah Barkin

HAMBURG (Reuters) – World leaders meeting for a summit in Germany have agreed every aspect of a joint statement apart from the section on climate where the United States is pushing for a reference to fossil fuels, European Union officials said on Saturday.

The officials said aides had worked until 2 a.m. to finalize a communique for the Group of 20, overcoming differences on trade after U.S. officials agreed to language on fighting protectionism.

“The outcome is good. We have a communique. There is one issue left, which is on climate, but I am hopeful we can find a compromise,” said one EU official, speaking on condition of anonymity. “We have all the fundamentals.

“We have a G20 communique, not a G19 communique,” he added.

The section that needs to be resolved by the leaders relates to the U.S. insistence that there be a reference to fossil fuels, the official said.

With the final statement almost nailed down, the summit marked a diplomatic success for Chancellor Angela Merkel as she finessed differences with U.S. President Donald Trump, who arrived at the two-day summit isolated on a host of issues.

Trump, who on Friday found chemistry in his first face-to-face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, congratulated Merkel for her stewardship of the summit.

“You have been amazing and you have done a fantastic job. Thank you very much chancellor,” he said.

Trump and Putin on Friday discussed alleged Russian meddling in the U.S. election but agreed to focus on future ties rather than dwell on the past, a result that was sharply criticized by leading Democrats in Congress.

For Merkel, the summit is an opportunity to show off her diplomatic skills ahead of a federal election in September, when she is seeking a fourth term in office.

She treated the leaders to a concert at Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie on Friday night, where they listened to Beethoven while their aides began their all night slog to work out a consensus on trade that had eluded the leaders.

Trade policy has become more contentious since Trump entered the White House promising an “America First” approach.

The trade section in the statement the aides thrashed out read: “We will keep markets open noting the importance of reciprocal and mutually advantageous trade and investment frameworks and the principle of non-discrimination, and continue to fight protectionism including all unfair trade practices and recognize the role of legitimate trade defense instruments in this regard.”

CLIMATE CLASH

Climate change policy proved a sticking point, with the United States pressing for inclusion of wording about which other countries had reservations.

That passage read: “… the United States of America will endeavor to work closely with other partners to help their access to and use of fossil fuels more cleanly and efficiently …”

The climate section took note of Trump’s decision last month to withdraw the United States from the landmark Paris climate accord aimed at combating climate change, and reaffirmed the commitment of the other 19 members to the agreement.

Merkel chose to host the summit in Hamburg, the port city where she was born, to send a signal about Germany’s openness to the world, including its tolerance of peaceful protests.

As the leaders met on Saturday, police helicopters hovered overhead. Overnight, police clashed with anti-capitalist protesters seeking to disrupt the summit.

In the early morning, heavily armed police commandos moved in after activists had spent much of Friday attempting to wrest control of the streets from more than 15,000 police, setting fires, looting and building barricades.

The summit is being held only a few hundred meters from one of Germany’s most potent symbols of left-wing resistance, a former theater called the “Rote Flora” which was taken over by anti-capitalist squatters nearly three decades ago.

Police said 200 officers had been injured, 134 protesters temporarily detained and another 100 taken into custody.

(Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Noah Barkin and Janet Lawrence)

Trump pulling U.S. out of Paris climate deal: source

FILE PHOTO: The Eiffel tower is illuminated in green with the words "Paris Agreement is Done", to celebrate the Paris U.N. COP21 Climate Change agreement in Paris, France, November 4, 2016. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen/File Photo

By Valerie Volcovici

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump will follow through on a campaign pledge to pull the United States out of a global pact to fight climate change, a source briefed on the decision told Reuters, a move that should rally his support base at home while deepening a rift with U.S. allies.

Trump, who has previously called global warming a hoax, did not confirm the decision in a post on Twitter, saying only, “I will be announcing my decision on the Paris Accord over the next few days.”

Trump had refused to endorse the landmark climate change accord at a summit of the G7 group of wealthy nations on Saturday, saying he needed more time to decide. He then tweeted that he would make an announcement this week.

The decision will put the United States in league with Syria and Nicaragua as the world’s only non-participants in the Paris Climate Agreement. It could have sweeping implications for the deal, which relies heavily on the commitment of big polluter nations to reduce emissions of gases scientists blame for sea level rise, droughts and more frequent violent storms.

The accord, agreed on by nearly 200 countries in Paris in 2015, aims to limit planetary warming in part by slashing carbon dioxide and other emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. Under the pact, the United States committed to reducing its emissions by 26 to 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025.

Axios news outlet, which first reported the withdrawal, said details of the pullout are being worked out by a team that includes EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. The choice is between a formal withdrawal that could take three years or leaving the U.N. treaty that the accord is based on, which would be quicker but more extreme, according to the Axios report.

The decision to withdraw from the climate accord was influenced by a letter from 22 Republican U.S. senators, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, calling for an exit, Axios reported.

Former President Barack Obama, who helped broker the accord, praised the deal during a trip to Europe this month.

The United States is the world’s second-biggest carbon dioxide emitter behind China.

Supporters of the climate pact are concerned that a U.S. exit could lead other nations to weaken their commitments or also withdraw, softening an accord that scientists have said is critical to avoiding the worst impacts of climate change.

Canada, the European Union, and China have said they will honor their commitments to the pact even if the United States withdraws. A source told Reuters that India had also indicated it would stick by the deal.

PROMISE KEPT

Trump had vowed during his campaign to “cancel” the Paris deal within 100 days of becoming president, as part of an effort to bolster U.S. oil and coal industries. That promise helped rally supporters sharing his skepticism of global efforts to police U.S. carbon emissions.

After taking office, however, Trump faced pressure to stay in the deal from investors, international powers and business leaders, including some in the coal industry. He also had to navigate a split among his advisers on the issue.

Trump aides including Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, lawyer Don McGahn and Peter Navarro, along with EPA chief Pruitt, argued hard for leaving the accord. They said the deal would require the U.S. government to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, which would hurt business.

Trump’s administration has already begun the process of killing Obama-era climate regulations.

The “stay-in” camp, which included Trump’s daughter Ivanka, chief economic adviser Gary Cohn, and Energy Secretary Rick Perry, had argued the United States could reduce its voluntary emission-cuts targets while still keeping a voice within the accord.

Oil majors Shell and Exxon Mobil have also supported the Paris pact, along with a number of Republican lawmakers. Several big coal companies, including Cloud Peak Energy, had publicly urged Trump to stay in the deal as a way to help protect the industry’s mining interests overseas, though others asked Trump to exit the accord to help ease regulatory pressures on domestic miners.

Trump has repeatedly expressed doubts about climate change, at times calling it a hoax to weaken U.S. industry. An overwhelming majority of scientists, however, say climate change is driven by human use of fossil fuels.

(Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu)

Economies could shrink by mid century due to scarce water

A shrimp farm affected by drought is seen in Bac Lieu province, in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam

By Sebastien Malo

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Economies across large swathes of the globe could shrink dramatically by mid-century as fresh water grows scarce due to climate change, the World Bank reported on Tuesday.

The Middle East could be hardest hit, with its gross domestic product slipping as much as 14 percent by 2050 unless measures are taken to reallocate water significantly, the Washington-based institution said in a report.

Such measures include efficiency efforts and investment in technologies such as desalination and water recycling, it said.

Global warming can cause extreme floods and droughts and can mean snowfall is replaced by rain, with higher evaporation rates, experts say.

It also can reduce mountain snow pack that provides water, and the melting of inland glaciers can deplete the source of runoff, they say. Also, a rise in sea level can lead to saltwater contaminating groundwater.

“When we look at any of the major impacts of climate change, they one way or the other come through water, whether it’s drought, floods, storms, sea level rise,” Richard Damania, World Bank lead economist and lead author of the report, told reporters in a telephone conference.

Fresh water shortages could take a toll on sectors from agriculture to energy, the World Bank said.

“Water is of course at the center of life, but it’s also at the center of economic activity,” Damania said.

Water scarcity would not have the same impact worldwide, and Western Europe and North American economies would likely be spared, according to the World Bank models.

But rising economies such as China and India could be hard hit, it said.

In the Sahel belt that stretches across Africa below the Sahara, GDP could well dip some 11 percent with water scarcity, the World Bank said. A similar impact would be felt in Central Asia, it said.

But measures to reallocate fresh water could show gains in some regions, the bank said.

For example, a shift in allocation could lead to GDP growth of about 11 percent by 2050 in Central Asia, the bank said.

The World Bank also advocated pricing water consumption, a proposal that has stirred controversy and is opposed by those who do not think water should not have any price tag.

“If you’re making money out of water, particularly if you’re using a lot of water as a commercial user, then it’s reasonable to suggest that you pay minimally enough to cover the cost of providing you with that water,” Damania said.

“This might well mean free water if you are exceedingly poor,” he said.

About a quarter of the world’s population, or some 1.6 billion people, live in countries where water already is scarce, according to the World Bank.

Last month, 175 nations signed a deal reached last year in Paris to slow global warming and cut greenhouse gas emissions.

(Reporting by Sebastien Malo, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

New research suggests 20th century sea levels rose at quickest pace since 800 B.C.

Climate scientists studying the Earth’s sea levels have determined that it was “extremely likely” those waters rose more rapidly in the 20th century than any other century in nearly 3,000 years.

Human-induced climate change contributed to the increase, the scientists wrote in Monday’s edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

The research team found sea levels rose 14 centimeters (5.5 inches) in the 20th century, and its models suggest those numbers may have been different without the effects of climate change.

Without it, the team wrote it was “very likely” that seas would have seen a change that ranged from a 3 centimeter (a little more than an inch) drop to a 7 centimeter (2.75 inch) increase.

The study’s lead author was Bob Kopp, a climate scientist from Rutgers University.

In a message on his website, Kopp wrote that he and his colleagues concluded “with 95 percent probability” that the levels rose more rapidly last century than any other century since 800 B.C.

The study’s cutoff, which stretches back 28 centuries, “is not because the rate of global sea-level rise was probably faster before then,” Kopp wrote on his website, “but simply that the reconstruction quality isn’t good enough before then to have the same level of confidence.”

NASA says the global average sea level has risen another 6 centimeters since January 2000 and is currently rising at a rate of .4 millimeters every year. The agency says the increases are “a direct result of a changing climate,” as melting ice sheets and glaciers fuel the expansion.

Kopp wrote last century wasn’t the only time when global temperatures and sea levels moved together, pointing to a 400-year stretch from the 11th to 15th centuries. Temperatures fell about .2 degrees Celsius during that stretch, while sea levels dipped approximately 8 centimeters.

But the study found it was “very likely” that global sea levels have risen “over every 40-year interval since 1860,” as societies became more industrialized.

In December, 195 countries agreed to a landmark climate change pact that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prevent temperatures from reaching 2 degrees Celsius above their pre-industrial averages, a long-feared threshold.

But Kopp’s team warned that even with “extremely strong emissions abatement,” their models suggest seas could rise another 24 to 61 centimeters (9 to 24 inches) during the 21st century.

If emissions were to continue at “business-as-usual” levels this century, the research team said that sea levels could potentially rise between 52 and 131 centimeters (20 to 51 inches).