Environment

Updated at 4:40 p.m. ET

The Southern California Gas Co., or SoCalGas, has agreed to pay $119.5 million in a settlement with several government entities over the company's massive methane natural gas leak in 2015 and 2016.

The settlement still needs to be approved by the courts.

In a shaded stream in the middle of Berlin's rambling Tiergarten park, fisherman Klaus Hidde lowered himself into the water recently. Several children stood on a platform above him and watched him wade in, wearing high rubber overalls. Hidde pulled a netted trap out of the water and shook it in the air.

"There's too few," Hidde says, shaking his head.

After more than three months, the volcanic eruption on Hawaii's Big Island appears to be slowing.

Geologists at the Hawaiian Volcanic Observatory say the flow of lava from a crack in the earth at the foot of the Kilauea volcano has greatly diminished in recent days. It was lava from that vent, Fissure 8, that ran toward the coast in a molten river, inundating two seaside communities and reshaping the island's southeast coast.

That doesn't mean the event is over. Tina Neal, the scientist in charge of the observatory, noted that eruptions like this typically wax and wane.

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Tangier Island is disappearing. It lies 16 open-water miles from the closest mainland town in Virginia. The island loses around 15 feet of coastline per year, due to rising sea levels and erosion.

Tangier Island, and its 450 residents, vaulted onto the national stage after an interview the mayor and some town residents gave to CNN. In it, they asked President Trump for help in saving the island. Eighty-seven percent of island residents voted for Trump, who has previously called climate change a “hoax.”

Each year, Dylan Jennings harvests wild rice from the lakes and rivers near his home in northern Wisconsin. He and a partner use a canoe, nosing carefully through rice beds and knocking rice kernels into the boat's hull using special sticks.

"It's a really long process," he says. "It starts with identifying the area where you are going to go ricing and knowing those areas in a very intimate way."

Resources are wearing thin as wildfires burn in 11 western states. Firefighters are getting an international assist from Australia and New Zealand. Teams from the two countries spent the weekend in Idaho training before being deployed to the West Coast to battle flames in California, Oregon and Washington.

Before they hit the fire lines, the 140-member team got an orientation and some last-minute training at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise.

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The Battle for the Beach

Aug 6, 2018

The world is running out of sand. And it’s a problem.

Here’s how Vincent Beiser, writing for Wired, puts it.

Changing Autos, Changing Climate

Aug 6, 2018

The Trump administration wants to relax fuel efficiency standards. But some states are fighting back.

From Reuters.

The Real Estate We're In

Aug 6, 2018

Home prices and rents are skyrocketing, especially in urban areas. Wages are stagnating.

“The national median rent [rose] 20 percent faster than overall inflation in 1990–2016 and the median home price 41 percent faster,” according to the State of the Nation’s Housing report, produced by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University.

Updated at 4:12 p.m. ET

Germany enjoys a reputation as a pioneer of clean energy. Its leader Angela Merkel was even dubbed the "climate chancellor" when she decided to ditch nuclear power in 2011. But the reality is much dirtier.

Centuries-old villages across the country are being bulldozed to make way to mine brown coal — one of the filthiest and cheapest fossil fuels. As the world's biggest brown coal miner, Germany is at risk of missing its 2020 carbon emissions targets.

A team at Stanford University has started using a genetic editing tool called CRISPR to identify the genes that make corals more heat-tolerant.

As the climate changes, warming oceans pose a huge threat to coral reefs. In 2016, nearly a third of the corals on the Great Barrier Reef died off. A quarter of all the fish species in the sea rely on corals for habitat, so die-offs aren’t just bad news for corals.

It was, so to speak, a perfect storm for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The agency was already stretched beyond its capacity when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico last year, so much so that it did not properly attend to the damage done by the worst storms in memory. 

First, Hurricane Irma had just leveled the Virgin Islands two weeks prior. In response, all of the supplies in FEMA’s warehouse in San Juan had been moved and used there. Second, a string of massive wildfires were raging in California at the time. Hurricane Maria was the third strike.

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Sand. It's everywhere, even in places you don't expect.

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Last week was a momentous one for the future of genetically engineered foods, both in the U.S. and in Europe. On July 24, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the Impossible Burger, an all-veggie burger that "bleeds" and sizzles just like meat.

Local NGOs repair Puerto Rico’s coral reefs in Maria’s aftermath

Aug 4, 2018

On a beach in Vega Baja on Puerto Rico’s northern coast, Ernesto Vélez Gandía stands next to a fallen loved one.

“We got a lot of love for him,” he says. “We saw him alive, very alive … so we just admire him and remember him. It’s very sentimental. I don’t know, but it’s deep in the heart.”

The deceased in this instance is a dead piece of coral, sitting in shallow, warm water at the entrance to a reef — a likely casualty from a warming ocean. This particular piece of coral was one of the oldest in the reef, he says.

Boston faces a daunting future of rising seas

Aug 4, 2018

Boston got a wake-up call earlier this year when the first of a string of nor’easter storms hit just as the tide was peaking. The ocean spilled into the subway and into homes up and down the coast.

The Union of Concerned Scientists projects that by the end of the century, Boston will see close to 7 feet of sea level rise, putting 89,000 Massachusetts coastal homes worth $63 billion at risk from tidal floods.

At a pier in San Diego, researchers on Wednesday recorded the warmest sea surface temperature since record-keeping began there in 1916.

Every day, researchers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego collect data — by hand — from the Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Pier.

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Farmers face a growing dilemma. Specifically, a food-growing dilemma.

How do you feed an increasing number of people without harming the environment?

As it turns out, growing as much food as possible in a small area may be our best bet for sustainably feeding the world's population, according to new research.

It all comes down to how we manage greenhouse gases and climate change.

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NOAA has released the latest State of the Climate report, its annual checkup on our planet.

So, how did Earth fare in 2017?

Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere: record highs. Global surface temperature: near-record high. Sea surface temperature: near-record high. Global sea level: highest on record.

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For a brief moment last week, just off the coast of southwestern Canada, the typically grim outlook confronting orcas took on a hopeful hue. A whale watch operator, staring through binoculars, had caught sight of a healthy calf swimming beside its mother — a rare beacon for a population that had not seen a healthy infant in years.

It was not to last, however. By the time experts with the Center for Whale Research arrived, just half an hour later, the calf had already died.

But that's not the end of this story.

Updated on Wednesday at 11 a.m.

Ruben de Kock has been training South Africa's park rangers for over two decades — but last month was the first time one of his former students was killed on the job.

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A mother orca was still carrying her dead calf in the waters off the Pacific Northwest on Tuesday more than a week after the baby whale died.

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