Tigers prowling within Nepal’s borders have nearly tripled in numbers in the past decade — a conservation success story celebrated in Kathmandu on Friday’s Global Tiger Day. 

Nepal’s tiger population has grown from 121 to 355 individuals since 2009, according to the results of a national tiger and prey survey published on Friday by the country’s National Trust for Nature Conservation.    

This substantial growth — a 190-percent increase in population size — is the result of Nepal’s protection of tiger habitats and corridors, collaboration with local communities and stricter enforcement against poaching and illegal animal trade, according to the World Wildlife Fund.  

“Nepal’s new tiger population estimate shows that it is possible to a save species from the brink of extinction and gives us a real reason to celebrate this Global Tiger Day,” Ginette Hemley, a senior vice president for World Wildlife Fund-U.S., said in a statement.  

Nepal had set a goal of doubling its wild tiger population in 2010, at the St. Petersburg International summit on tiger conservation, according to the Fund.  

Though many tiger researchers are optimistic about the results, others told The Washington Post that the animal still faces threats of poaching and encroachment upon its territory.  

Meanwhile, an analysis in The Guardian warned that dozens of recent tiger attacks in Nepal have generated concerns that communities “are paying a high price for the animal’s recovery.” 

Nonetheless, conservationists hailed the population’s revival as an achievement for the long-term survival of these ferocious felines.  

“It is remarkable to see what 12 years of high-level political commitment, dedicated conservation action, partnership with local communities, and collaboration between the government and conservation organizations can accomplish,” Hemley said.   

Welcome to Equilibrium, a newsletter that tracks the growing global battle over the future of sustainability. We’re Saul Elbein and Sharon Udasin. Send us tips and feedback. A friend forward this newsletter to you? Subscribe here.

Today we’ll examine why two record-breaking floods hit the southern U.S. in one week, followed by the impacts of new semiconductor legislation on the electric vehicle industry. Then we’ll visit a German city where energy shortages are driving residents to take cold showers.   

Twin record floods devastate Mississippi Valley 

At least 16 were dead in Eastern Kentucky as of Friday morning after a once-in-1,000-year flood hit the tributaries of the Mississippi Valley for the second time this week. 

The record-smashing rainfall came on the heels of a similarly destructive and record-breaking deluge that killed two and wrecked infrastructure across the city of St. Louis just a few days ago. 

Deadly floods: Kentucky’s death toll is expected to double in the aftermath of the heavy rains and will likely include children, Gov. Andy Beshear (D) said in a video posted to Twitter. 

  • “We may have even lost entire families,” Beshear added. 

  • Hundreds of homes have been destroyed in the flood, which has wiped out entire neighborhoods and left 23,000 people without power, USA Today reported. 

Shocking a weatherman: “Folks …  I’ve never seen anything like what happened to southeastern Kentucky this week,” wrote meteorologist Chris Bailey of news station KYWT.  

  • “This was one of the worst flash flood events in Kentucky’s history,” Bailey added, noting that it’s rare to get “such a devastating flash flood” across several counties at once. 

  • There’s still potential for additional heavy rains across the state on Friday and Saturday, Bailey noted.

Even small amounts of rain could “cause even more damage” across the region, National Weather Service meteorologist Brandon Bonds told the Louisville Courier Journal. 

COMPARABLE WEATHER CAUSES COMBINED DISASTERS

The flooding in Kentucky was the second once-in-1,000-year flood event inflicted by the same country-spanning weather phenomenon in two days, Fox Weather reported. 

Storms at the edges: A mass of hot air trapped over the center of the country caused repeating “trains” of thunderstorms to batter towns along its borders — including Hazard, Ky., and St. Louis according to our colleagues at Nexstar station WFLA. 

  • In the case of St. Louis, there was “really no mechanism to push this boundary north or south,” Fox meteorologist Jane Minar explained, meaning “the rain will continue like a train track along that boundary.” 

  • That caused up to 10 inches of rain to fall in 12 hours on Thursday around Hazard, according to WFLA. 

That flooding was a near-repeat of the 9 inches that fell in the same period on Tuesday around St. Louis, WFLA reported. 

Making matters worse: While climate change doesn’t cause this sort of “stalled front” weather phenomenon, it helps makes the storms “significantly” more dynamic, powerful and destructive, according to WFLA.

So did the particular topography of the Appalachians, which “forces wet air up to the chilly mountain tops, where it cools and condenses, forming the clouds that we see at the top of the mountain chain,” Fox’s Minar explained. 

“The air becomes very moisture-rich, leading to some very, very heavy rain, and that has the concern of bringing in some flash flooding,” Minar said. 

Lasting damage: “Like the tornadoes, helping our families rebuild and recover is going to be a long, hard process,” Beshear said on Twitter, referring to the “unbelievable” tornadoes we reported on in December. 

Chips bill passes House in win for clean energy

Two dozen House Republicans defied party leaders to help Democrats deliver a bipartisan package that promises to secure supply chains for U.S.-built semiconductors. 

The new bill could clear the way for a new generation of inexpensive electric vehicles (EVs), in addition to securing new funding for federal science research into areas including clean energy. 

Passing the bill: Twenty-four Republicans joined House Democrats Thursday in voting for the $280 billion bill,which would strengthen domestic production of the crucial computer chips, our colleague Alexander Bolton reported for The Hill.

  • This is a bill that Republicans had threatened to block if Democrats went ahead with a reconciliation package including clean energy measures — which Democrats avoided by announcing a deal on the package only after the chips bill was through the Senate, Bolton noted. 

  • Its passage is a big boost for clean energy, as the average EV incorporates about 2,000 such chips, Scientific American reported last year. 

German city weathers Putin’s gas cuts 

Residents of Hanover, Germany, no longer have access to hot water in public buildings as the city takes steps to survive Russia’s recent gas supply cuts. 

Water, heat, lights: The northwestern German city was among the first in the country to make the change to cold showers earlier this week, according to CNN Business.  

  • Hanover is eliminating hot water from government facilities, gyms and swimming pools.  

  • The city is closing public fountains, reducing heating and no longer lighting up public buildings in the evenings.    

Why the worry? Russia reduced the flow of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline — which supplies natural gas to the European Union through Germany — to 20-percent capacity on Wednesday, as we reported.  

  • Anticipating the cuts, EU energy ministers approved a draft law on Tuesday aimed at decreasing demand for gas by 15 percent. 

  • But energy prices have soared as European countries brace for a cold winter.  

Preparing for shortage: “This is a reaction to the impending gas shortage, which poses a major challenge for the municipalities — especially for a large city like Hanover,” Hanover Mayor Belit Onay said in a tweet translated by CNBC. 

Other cities in Germany — which is heavily dependent on Russian gas — have now joined Hanover in introducing such measures, including Munich, Leipzig, Cologne and Nuremberg, according to CNBC.   

Deep-seated fear: Nowhere is the fear of losing natural gas from Russia “more profound than in Germany,” which received more than half of its gas from Moscow before the invasion of Ukraine, The New York Times reported.  

That gas, according to the Times, was no less than “an underpinning of Germany’s powerful industry.”  

Germany isn’t alone: Towns and cities across Europe are offering different ways for their residents to cut energy usage, the Times reported.  

  • Barcelona is providing home efficiency evaluations. 

  • Warsaw is subsidizing replacements of fossil fuel-burning stoves with heat pumps. 

  • Villages in eastern France are shutting off streetlights at midnight. 

Survival strategy: Wolfgang Hübschle, a municipal official for Augsburg, Germany, told the Times he hopes that such measures will show Russian President Vladimir Putin that cutting off supplies this winter would be ineffective.  

It comes down to money: “If Putin gets the impression that he can really hurt the economy of the biggest European countries, he won’t hesitate to cut off gas supply,” said Hübschle, whose city has likewise enacted a variety of conservation measures.  

“If it’s not hurting too much, he’ll choose taking the money over inflicting the pain,” Hübschle told the Times. 

Russia, Saudi Arabia ‘committed’ to global oil goals 

Moscow and Riyadh are committed to maintaining market stability and balancing global oil supply and demand, according to a Friday statement from the Russian government cited by Reuters.  

The declaration came following a meeting between Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak and Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, according to Reuters.  

Production, prices, policy: The two ministers met just days before members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and their allies are gathering to set oil production policy for September, Bloomberg reported.  

  • Novak and bin Salman discussed this so-called “OPEC+ agreement,” which will also aim to balance oil prices, according to Reuters. 

  • OPEC+ includes oil-producing countries like Russia, which are aligned with OPEC but not official members.     

America awaits OPEC decision: The Aug. 3 gathering will also determine whether OPEC and its allies “heeds U.S. calls to supply more crude to the global market,” according to Bloomberg.  

While the Dubai-based Al Arabiya described a U.S. official’s recent optimism about the OPEC+ meeting, the Tehran Times presented a far more ambiguous outlook. 

Uncertainty prevails: “Biden received no firm commitment from the Saudis for an increase,” Giorgio Cafiero, CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based Gulf State Analytics told the independent Iranian newspaper.  

While Cafiero acknowledged that an increase could come later this year through OPEC+, he stressed that “all Arab states” are interested in “maintaining partnerships with Moscow.” 

Follow-up Friday

In which we revisit some of the issues we’ve covered this week. 

Pacific Northwest benefited from response to last year’s heat

  • We covered the rise of desert-like conditions in the world’s wet regions. As many as four people have died due to the second brutal heat wave to hit the Pacific Northwest in a year — but impacts were limited by preparations officials took in response to the deadly events of summer 2021, NBC News reported.  

Drought makes Plains work ‘like farming in a desert’ 

  • The severe drought afflicting the Southern Plains — which we reported on Tuesday — continues to get worse. “It’s kind of like farming in the desert,” Texas farmer and rancher Russell Boening told CBS on Friday, adding that his harvest of crops like corn or sorghum — used for cattle feed — had been a “total failure.”   

Increased PFAS testing could lead to more lawsuits 

  • The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine declared that blood tests should be available to those facing exposure to “forever chemicals” (PFAS), as we reported. If clinicians begin to offer such tests, a surge in lawsuits seeking medical monitoring could occur as a result, according to Bloomberg Law.  

Please visit The Hill’s Sustainability section online for the web version of this newsletter and more stories. We’ll see you next week.

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