America Rejoining Paris Climate Accord, US Joins Hands with WHO Again, What’s with the Keystone XL Pipeline? Unknown Blue Whale Discovered Through Songs

by | Jan 25, 2021 | Podcasts, The Climate Daily

We tell you what’s even bigger than President Biden rejoining the Paris Climate Accord . Plus, since he’s rebooting relationships, President Biden gets us back into the World Health Organization. Also, guess who just canceled the Keystone XL Pipeline?  And scientists discover a previously unknown blue whale population after eavesdropping on their songs.



While the Biden administration is being celebrated for its decision to rejoin the Paris Agreement in one of its first executive orders after President Joe Biden was sworn in, it wasn’t the biggest step the administration took to advance its climate agenda. Instead, it was a move to get to the basics of monitoring and accounting, of metrics and dashboards. While companies track their revenues and expenses and monitor for all sorts of risks, impacts from climate change and emissions aren’t tracked in the same way. Now, in the same way there are general principles for accounting for finance, there will be principles for accounting for the impact of climate through what’s called the social cost of carbon.

Until now, the U.S. government hasn’t had a framework for accounting for what it calls the “full costs of greenhouse gas emissions” by taking “global damages into account”. This section is so significant, I am going to read this verbatim: Sec. 5.  Accounting for the Benefits of Reducing Climate Pollution.  (a)  It is essential that agencies capture the full costs of greenhouse gas emissions as accurately as possible, including by taking global damages into account.  Doing so facilitates sound decision-making, recognizes the breadth of climate impacts, and supports the international leadership of the United States on climate issues.  The “social cost of carbon” (SCC), “social cost of nitrous oxide” (SCN), and “social cost of methane” (SCM) are estimates of the monetized damages associated with incremental increases in greenhouse gas emissions.  They are intended to include changes in net agricultural productivity, human health, property damage from increased flood risk, and the value of ecosystem services.  An accurate social cost is essential for agencies to accurately determine the social benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions when conducting cost-benefit analyses of regulatory and other actions.

(b)  There is hereby established an Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases (the “Working Group”).  The Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, Director of OMB, and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy  shall serve as Co-Chairs of the Working Group.

(i)    Membership.  The Working Group shall also include the following other officers, or their designees:  the Secretary of the Treasury; the Secretary of the Interior; the Secretary of Agriculture; the Secretary of Commerce; the Secretary of Health and Human Services; the Secretary of Transportation; the Secretary of Energy; the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality; the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency; the Assistant to the President and National Climate Advisor; and the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and Director of the National Economic Council.

DEEPER DIVE: The White House, TechCrunch



On day one of the Biden administration, the United States rejoined the World Health Organization, an agency of the United Nations responsible for international public health. In addition to the retraction of his predecessor’s request to withdraw from the WHO, President Biden appointed Dr. Anthony Fauci to act as the United States’ representative on the WHO’s executive committee.

In a letter to the U.N., President Biden wrote “the World Health Organization plays a crucial role in the world’s fight against the deadly COVID-19 pandemic as well as countless other threats to global health and health security.  The United States will continue to be a full participant and a global leader in confronting such threats and advancing global health and health security.”

During a press briefing on Friday, Director General of the WHO Dr. Tedros welcomed President Biden’s commitment to rejoining and working with WHO to end the pandemic and address global health challenges. Dr. Tedros said, “American public health professionals who work at WHO and in other global health agencies gain valuable experience and lessons to use at home. And a healthier, safer world is a healthier, safer America.”

DEEPER DIVE: White House Press Briefing Room, World Health Organization



Within hours of taking his oath of office, Joe Biden, the 46th president of the United States, several executive orders, including one canceling the permit for the Keystone XL oil and gas pipeline. Along with the project cancellation, the executive order revokes oil and gas development at national wildlife monuments.

Conceived over 10 years ago, the $8 billion pipeline has been fraught with controversy from the beginning. Although oil and gas pipeline proponents point out that the pipeline itself will be carbon neutral, the oil that would have been carried by the Keystone XL pipeline was to be extracted from Alberta’s tar sands, also known as oil sands. Tar sands are a mixture of sand, clay, water and a thick substance called bitumen. This extraction process is more costly and requires more energy than other oil sources. “Tar sands are not compatible with a future that deals with climate change in any meaningful way,” said Charlie Kronick, a U.K. Greenpeace campaigner and oil industry analyst.

Environmentalists, Indigenous groups and ranchers have slammed the project over the years, pointing to the risk of oil spills and saying the pipeline was an abuse of their lands. In 2018, a federal judge temporarily blocked construction, saying that the U.S. government had not properly reviewed its environmental impact. Other lawsuits have repeatedly brought progress to a halt, earning Keystone XL the nickname “zombie pipeline.”

Critics have also accused the project of failing to properly protect pipeline workers from COVID-19. Indigenous tribes and other rural communities located along the route said they feared workers would bring in the virus. A spokesperson for said that cancelling the pipeline is evidence of the United States’ commitment to transitioning to a green energy future.

DEEPER DIVE: DW, The White House



Scientists have discovered a new population of blue whales by eavesdropping on their song in the western Indian Ocean. Reported by Smithsonian Magazine, the recent discovery of one of the world’s largest and loudest sea creatures suggests the population had gone long undetected. Weighing up to 330,000 pounds and stretching up to 110 feet long, blue whales are listed as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. With the exception of the Arctic, blue whales swim oceans the world’s oceans and communicate through unique, low-frequency songs that can travel more than 600 miles underwater.

Published in the journal Endangered Species Research, two or three known blue whale subspecies, categorized into four distinct populations, currently exist in the Indian Ocean. Scientists discovered the new blue whale population by comparing the vocalization records to archives and concluded they discovered an entirely new population. Goes to show just how much of the ocean has yet to be explored.

DEEPER DIVE: Smithsonian Magazine