Week in Review: Environmental News for Aug. 19-25

Here’s our roundup of the top environmental stories of the week, with stories on climate impacts and action, threats to public health, progress in the fight to end plastic pollution, efforts to safeguard science, and more.

19 mayors from cities around the world have committed to regulations to make buildings carbon-neutral — new buildings by 2030 and existing buildings by 2050. (Umberto Bacchi, Thomson Reuters Foundation News)

Houses, offices and other buildings account for more than half of all planet-warming gasses emitted by urban areas, according to C40 Cities, a network of cities pushing climate action that shepherded the latest commitment. More…

Scientists raise concern after the oldest and thickest sea ice melts in the Arctic. (Jonathan Watts, Guardian)

The sea off the north coast of Greenland is normally so frozen that it was referred to, until recently, as “the last ice area” because it was assumed that this would be the final northern holdout against the melting effects of a hotter planet. But abnormal temperature spikes in February and earlier this month have left it vulnerable to winds, which have pushed the ice further away from the coast than at any time since satellite records began in the 1970s. More…

Wildfire smoke is choking us. (Umair Irfan, Vox)

Loosening rules on dirty coal could cause 1400 premature deaths a year. (Lisa Friedman, New York Times)

…new rules could also lead to as many as 1,400 premature deaths annually by 2030 from an increase in the extremely fine particulate matter that is linked to heart and lung disease, up to 15,000 new cases of upper respiratory problems, a rise in bronchitis, and tens of thousands of missed school days. More…

California is the first U.S. state to pass a bill to restrict the use of plastic straws in restaurants. (Patrick McGreevey, LA Times)

Ban backers including the bill’s author, Assemblyman Ian Calderon (D-Whittier), say oceans, rivers and other areas of the environment have been harmed by discarded plastic. Calderon noted that the California Coastal Commission has recorded roughly 835,000 straws and stirrers picked up between 1988 and 2014 during beach cleanups and other pollution reduction campaigns. More…

Grocery store chain Kroger — the largest in the U.S. — announced it will be phasing out plastic bags.

Kelvin Droegemeier, the nominee to lead the White House Office of Science and Technology, agrees that the Trump administration has shown a “lack of appreciation” for keeping science independent from politics. (Stephanie Ebbs, ABC News)

“We owe that to the American taxpayer, we owe it to science, and we owe it to the future of our country to be honest and to conduct science in the absolute most honest way, and full of integrity and without being encumbered by political influence.” More…

Recommended Reading

“Not surprisingly, Trump’s new Affordable Clean Energy plan is anything but” by the LA Times Editorial Board

“Even Trump’s EPA Admits His Power Plan Will Kill Thousands of Americans” (Dan Spinelli, Mother Jones)