Environment

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Volkswagen has agreed to pay $4.3 billion to settle civil and criminal allegations over its diesel emissions cheating scheme involving some 590,000 vehicles in the U.S.

The company has also agreed to plead guilty to three criminal felony counts.

The tiny village of Newtok near Alaska's western coast has been sliding into the Ninglick River for years. As temperatures increase — faster there than in the rest of the U.S. — the frozen permafrost underneath Newtok is thawing. About 70 feet of land a year erode away, putting the village's colorful buildings, some on stilts, ever closer to the water's edge.

West Coast crab fishermen just ended an 11-day strike over a price dispute. But a more ominous and long-term threat to their livelihood may be on the horizon. A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has found a link between warming ocean conditions and a dangerous neurotoxin that builds up in sea life: domoic acid.

Beijing is launching a new police force aimed at tackling its persistent smog problem.

This comes after a month of particularly severe air quality that left the capital and dozens of other Chinese cities blanketed in thick, brown smog.

Seven years ago, the Navajo tribal council in southeastern Utah started mapping the secret sites where medicine men and women forage for healing plants and Native people source wild foods. They wanted to make a case for protecting the landscape known as Bears Ears, a place sacred not only to their tribe but to many other tribes in the region, going back thousands of years.

A powerful winter storm in California has brought down an ancient tree, carved into a living tunnel more than a century ago.

The "Pioneer Cabin Tree," a sequoia in Calaveras Big Trees State Park, saw horses and cars pass through it over the years. More recently, only hikers were allowed to walk through the massive tree.

Over the weekend, a powerful winter storm slammed into California and Nevada, prompting flooding and mudslides in some regions. The Associated Press reports it might be the biggest storm to hit the region in more than a decade.

When South Korea's mountain town of PyeongChang hosts the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games next year, a white tiger and a black bear, respectively, will serve as mascots. They've been introduced as cuddly icons of Korean history and folklore.

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If you've never laid eyes on a dogfish — or tasted one — you're not alone.

Yep, it's in the shark family. (See those telltale fins?) And fisherman Jamie Eldredge is now making a living catching dogfish off the shores of Cape Cod, Mass.

Right now, a big chunk of Antarctic ice is hanging on by a frozen thread.

British researchers monitoring the crack in the Larsen C ice shelf say that only about 12 miles now connect the chunk of ice to the rest of the continent.

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The U.S. could become a net exporter of energy in coming years, according to the federal government's Annual Energy Outlook 2017. This continues a trend the Energy Information Administration has highlighted before in its annual report.

Just before dawn Thursday, at Tokyo's historic Tsukiji market, a familiar face walked away with the biggest fish in town. Kiyoshi Kimura won the first auction of the year at the market, just as he has for six years running.

And to the winner go the spoils: a 466-pound Pacific bluefin tuna, which ultimately cost Kimura 74.2 million yen — or about $632,000. That comes out to more than $1,300 a pound for Kimura, whose Kimura Corp. owns a restaurant chain called Sushi Zanmai.

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The vaquita is a small porpoise found only in the northern Gulf of California, in Mexico. Today, the species is critically endangered, with less than 60 animals left in the wild, thanks to fishing nets to catch fish and shrimp for sale in Mexico and America. The animal is an accidental victim of the fishing industry, as are many other marine mammals.

Hurricane Matthew. The earthquake in Japan. Flooding in the Deep South, China and Europe. Wildfires in Canada.

Last year sometimes felt like one natural catastrophe after another. Now, new figures from reinsurer Munich Re suggest that it was indeed a particularly bad year.

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It's been more than 10 years since the U.S. was hit by a major hurricane. Scientists mark that up to chance. But as NPR's Christopher Joyce reports, new research suggests a reason for our good fortune.

Even though most of the protesters fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota have left, hundreds still remain here atop what is essentially a sheet of ice.

One group of campers say there's a change taking hold at camp, which was once overrun by thousands who felt a sense of excitement about the gathering.

Louisiana is losing its coast at a rapid rate because of rising sea levels, development and sinking marshland. Officials are trying to rebuild those marshes and the wetlands, but much of the coast can't be saved. This makes Louisiana's history an unwitting victim. As land disappears and the water creeps inland, ancient archaeology sites are washing away, too.

Richie Blink was born and raised in Plaquemines Parish, La. — way down south of New Orleans along the Mississippi River. Now he works for the National Wildlife Federation.

Beijing's sky appears blue at the beginning of the 13-second video. Then it completely disappears from view, blotted out by a cloud of brown smog.

The time-lapse video shot Sunday by Chas Pope, a British citizen, dramatically illustrates the extent of China's pollution problem. Pope says the thick haze moved into Beijing over the course of 20 minutes.

Dozens of Chinese cities have suffered heavy smog for nearly a month.

At leave five people have been killed after strong storms pummeled the Southeast on Monday.

One man in the Florida Panhandle drowned. And four people died in southern Alabama when a tree fell on their mobile home.

The mobile home was in the small town of Rehobeth, near the Florida-Alabama line, Andrew Yeager of NPR member station WBHM in Birmingham, Ala., reported. He added:

There's more methane gas in the atmosphere than there used to be, by every scientific measure. The Obama administration has been trying to stem the increase of this powerful greenhouse gas, but the incoming Trump administration appears bent on keeping the government's hands off methane.

Almost a million elephants roamed Africa 25 years ago. Assessments of their population now vary but suggest there are fewer than half that many. The main reason for the decline is ivory. Despite a 1989 ban on ivory trade, poachers continue to kill elephants for their tusks.

Now China, the destination for most of that ivory, has announced it will shut down its domestic ivory market.

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From West Virginia to Wyoming, coal country overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump and his message that he will bring coal jobs back. Now, those same voters are eyeing his incoming administration closely, careful to see if he will keep his promises to revive the coal industry and get miners back to work.

Eighteen years ago, on New Year's Eve, David Fisher visited an old farm in western Massachusetts, near the small town of Conway. No one was farming there at the time, and that's what had drawn Fisher to the place. He was scouting for farmland.

"I remember walking out [to the fallow fields] at some point," Fisher recalls. "And in the moonlight – it was all snowy – it was like a blank canvas."

The Colorado River is like a giant bank account for seven different states. Now it's running short.

For decades, the river has fed growing cities from Denver to Los Angeles. A lot of the produce in supermarkets across the country was grown with Colorado River water. But with climate change, and severe drought, the river is reaching a crisis point, and communities at each end of it are reacting very differently.

President Obama has designated two areas in the deserts of southern Nevada and Utah as national monuments, after years of fighting and debate over the management of both areas.

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