Environment

Updated at 6:01 p.m. ET

Scott Pruitt will no longer lead the Environmental Protection Agency, President Trump announced Thursday afternoon via Twitter.

"I have accepted the resignation of Scott Pruitt," Trump tweeted. "Within the Agency Scott has done an outstanding job, and I will always be thankful to him for this," Trump also wrote.

For many people, the dog days of July mean grabbing an ice pop, lounging outside, and letting the summer sun hit your skin. And for people of color, we're often doing those things sans sunscreen. After all, our melanin will protect us. Right?

Not so fast.

This week on Ask Code Switch we're taking on a question from Liz Mitchell, from New York. She writes:

"Dear Code Switch,

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Scientists think they can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by tweaking the food that cows eat. A recent experiment from the University of California, Davis suggests that adding seaweed to cattle feed can dramatically decrease their emissions of the potent gas methane.

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Hawaii Gov. David Ige is expected this week to sign the world's first ban on the sale of sunscreens containing the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate. The state is banning the products because of concerns they may be harming one of the state's biggest attractions — coral reefs.

While it doesn't kick in until 2021, the move is already prompting pushback.

To cut down on waste from single-use plastic bags, some of Australia's largest retailers are banning them.

And while environmental groups and many shoppers are applauding the move, implementing the change has been tense at times.

“Canada is back.” Justin Trudeau said those words shortly after being elected prime minister of Canada in 2015. He talked about how the country was ready to step up its efforts to become more of a player in the global marketplace, as well as a change agent for minimizing the impact of global warming. 

If you're interested in sustainability, you've probably thought about how to reduce your carbon footprint, from how you fuel your car to how you heat your home. But what about carbon emissions from growing the food you eat?

Most of the crops in the United States are grown using chemical fertilizer – a lot of it: American farmers used over 24 billion pounds of nitrogen fertilizer in 2011. And making nitrogen fertilizer requires fossil fuels like natural gas or coal.

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China Has Refused To Recycle The West's Plastics. What Now?

Jun 28, 2018

For more than 25 years, many developed countries, including the U.S., have been sending massive amounts of plastic waste to China instead of recycling it on their own.

Some 106 million metric tons — about 45 percent — of the world's plastics set for recycling have been exported to China since reporting to the United Nations Comtrade Database began in 1992.

The U.S. Forest Service has offered Nestlé a three-year permit to continue drawing millions of gallons of water from the San Bernardino National Forest.

Under the offer, Nestlé Waters North America — the largest bottled-water company in the country — will be allowed to keep taking water from the Strawberry Creek watershed. That watershed is currently rated as "impaired" and the extraction is to be allowed "when there is water available consistent with the forest's Land Management Plan," according to The Associated Press, citing the offer.

Last year marked another record year of loss for tropical forests.

Updated 1:57 p.m. ET, June 26 with a statement from the Canadian government.

In August 2015, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha was having a glass of wine in her kitchen with two friends, when one friend, a water expert, asked if she was aware of what was happening to the water in Flint, Mich.

Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician in Flint, knew that the city had changed its water source the previous year. Instead of channeling water from the Great Lakes, residents were now drinking water from the nearby Flint River. She had been aware of some problems with bacteria after the switch, but she thought everything had been cleared up.

Few species manipulate their surroundings enough to make big ecological changes. Humans are one. Beavers are another.

A new study published in the journal Science finds that methane emissions from U.S. oil and gas operations are 60 percent higher than previous estimates from the federal government.

Robert Edgell has grown accustomed to seeing bald eagles soar over the family farm in Federalsburg, Md., so, when he discovered the carcasses of more than a dozen dead raptors on the property two years ago, he "was dumbfounded," he told The Washington Post.

"Usually you see one or two soaring over the place, but to see 13 in that area and all deceased. ... In all my years, I'd not seen anything like this," Edgell said.

It's the summer driving season, when millions of Americans take road trips to the beach, big cities, national parks and beyond.

And what goes along with an increase in road trips? A hike in gas prices.

Indeed, historically summer is the time of year gas prices go up because more people are on the road, increasing demand. Oil refineries also introduce special fuel blends during the summer, which emit fewer emissions than winter blends but are more expensive to produce.

Ranking U.S. House Democrats are calling for an ethics investigation into Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. They want to know more about a land deal between Zinke's family foundation and a real estate project with ties to the oil and gas giant Halliburton.

The world has one more extinct ape to mourn.

In a study published Thursday, scientists describe a new species of gibbon, long-extinct, that lived in China as recently as 2,200 years ago. Junzi imperialis is named for its imperial living situation, as the pet of a grandmother of China's first emperor.

The Refugees The World Barely Pays Attention To

Jun 20, 2018

This month, diplomats from around the world met in New York and Geneva to hash out a pair of new global agreements that aim to lay out new guidelines for how countries should deal with an unprecedented surge in the number of displaced people, which has now reached 65.6 million worldwide.

Plants need carbon dioxide to live, but its effects on them are complicated.

As the level of carbon dioxide in the air continues to rise because of human activity, scientists are trying to pin down how the plants we eat are being affected.

Mounting evidence suggests that many key plants lose nutritional value at higher CO2 levels, and scientists are running experiments all over the world to try to tease out the effects.

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With a litany of alleged ethics controversies swirling at home, embattled Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt took the show on the road this week, meeting with farmers in a handful of Midwestern states to talk about his policy agenda.

While Thursday evening's meeting in Lincoln, Neb., was polite, the reception in other states has not been as welcoming, especially when it comes to conversations about his ethanol policies.

The Environmental Protection Agency intends to block an Obama-era proposal and effectively shield companies from scrutiny about how they prevent and respond to chemical disasters. At a hearing Thursday, agency officials got an earful from dozens of people who live and work near refineries and chemical facilities across the country.

McDonald's says it will start using paper straws instead of plastic at all its locations across the United Kingdom and Ireland. And it plans to test sustainable alternatives to plastic straws in some restaurants in the U.S. and elsewhere around the globe later this year.

The number of people graduating with nuclear engineering degrees has more than tripled since a low point in 2001, and many are passionate about their motivation.

"I'm here because I think I can save the world with nuclear power," Leslie Dewan told the crowd at a 2014 event as she pitched her company's design for a new kind of reactor.

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