Climate and Energy News Roundup 10/26/2019

Joy Loving prepared this week’s edition, with assistance from Les Grady.

Politics and Policy

The Washington Post’s (WaPo) Editorial Board believes that “There’s an effective and progressive solution for climate change. [They ask] Why won’t Democrats embrace it?”  The authors argue that “The science does not change because politicians deny that humans are warming the planet. Likewise the economics do not change because politicians find them ideologically or politically inconvenient.”  The Hill reports that “Trump prepares to formally withdraw US from Paris Climate Accord”. Vice notes that “This Alaskan Forest Eats a Ton of Carbon. The Trump Administration Wants to Let Loggers Cut It Down.

It’s as big as the entire state of West Virginia.”

The Hill prints a joint op-ed by Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Mike Braun (R-Ind.):  “New Senate caucus will seek bipartisan solutions to address the climate challenge”.  Grist asks “Congress is losing a major Republican climate hawk. What now?”  Francis “Rooney is the current co-chair of the Climate Solutions Caucus, a bipartisan group in the House of Representatives whose main objectives are to educate members of Congress about climate change and to push for climate legislation….”  Rooney just announced he’s leaving the House of Representatives.  A CCL spokesperson “cited recent polling that shows growing support for carbon taxes and a Green New Deal among young Republicans. And he said that Republicans from districts that have been touched by extreme weather and other climate-tinged events are wising up to the fact that voters support climate action.”

Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) says that the recent election in our northern neighbor yielded a winner beyond the politicians:  “The big election winner? The carbon tax”.  Jules Kortenhorst of Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) believes “The next US administration has the chance to strike the greatest climate bargain of all time. For less than $3/ton of CO2 abated, the next US government could economically retire the nation’s coal plants and buy back the planet’s future – all while saving US consumers billions.”  In an opinion piece for Utility Dive, Jacob Susman, a partner at Mission Driven Capital Partners, argues that “We’re already paying a carbon price — let’s invoice those responsible and collect the dividends instead”.

Politico reports that “USDA inspector general launches climate change investigation”.  At issue is whether “the department has been routinely burying its work on climate change, even as farmers and ranchers are increasingly dealing with its harmful effects.”  Grist has a story about fired members of the EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee who nonetheless “reconvened to review the latest science and offer recommendations for new air quality regulations… [and later] issued a letter warning that current regulatory limits pose a threat to public health and urging stricter standards to limit particulate pollution, which has been linked to increased risk of a host of heart and respiratory diseases.”  This item in the Allegheny Front says “Pennsylvanians Tell EPA, We Need More Controls on Methane, Not Less”.

The Atlantic has a story about ocean acidification:  “The Worst Day in Earth’s History Contains an Ominous Warning.  One of the planet’s most dramatic extinctions was caused in part by ocean acidification, which has become a problem in our own era.”  The story explores the similarities between the massive extinction that happened after the huge asteroid slammed into Earth, particularly the effects on oceans.  Ocean acidification played an important role in three mass extinctions, suggesting that we should be paying more attention to the acidification going on now.

Climate and Climate Science

The Associated Press reports that the “South Pole’s ozone hole shrinks to smallest since discovery”. The shrinkage “is more due to freakish Antarctic weather than efforts to cut down on pollution,” according to NASA.  WaPo also covered this story.

The Guardian recently pledged to “give the climate crisis the attention it demands.”  Here are 3 recent examples of its coverage:

  1. Renewable energy to expand by 50% in next five years – report”.  “The International Energy Agency (IEA) found that solar, wind and hydropower projects are rolling out at their fastest rate in four years.”
  2. ‘Racism dictates who gets dumped on’: how environmental injustice divides the world”.  The paper’s “new environmental justice reporter, Nina Lakhani, asked five luminaries of the movement to explain “environmental justice”…. They reveal why, alongside global heating and the extinction crisis, it is one of the most pressing issues of our time.”
  3. Alex Preston reviews Jonathan Safran Foer’s new book We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast by Jonathan Safran Foer review – a life-changing book.

This somewhat wonky but interesting reporting by ScienMag on a University of California Irvine study sheds light on how “Plant physiology will be major contributor to future river flooding”.  As if “precipitation anomalies caused by atmospheric warming” isn’t enough of a problem, because “[p]lants get more water-efficient and leak less underground soil moisture out through their pores in a carbon-rich atmosphere,”… there is … more soil moisture stored up underground, so … climate models predict rainfall events will saturate the ground and more rain will run off into rivers.”  A new study in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) has found that climate change is making stronger El Niños, which change weather worldwide and heat up the planet.

Anchorage (AK) Daily News describes how “A Western Alaska village, long threatened by erosion and flooding, begins to relocate”.  National Geographic also covers this story.  The CBC says that “Climate change has turned permafrost into a carbon emitter [and] Social Sharing [and] Tundra plants can’t absorb enough carbon in summer to make up for carbon released in winter”. A paper that was published Monday in Nature Climate Change reported that the amount of CO2 released as a result of thawing permafrost was almost twice as much as that taken up by plant growth, making the Arctic a net emitter of CO2Deutsche Welle (DW) also covers the effects of the climate crisis on indigenous Alaskan peoples in “Alaska: Climate change threatens indigenous traditions”. 

Reuters reports that “Climate change hampers progress on fighting epidemics: Global Fund”.  Grist reports on a “New study [that] pinpoints the places most at risk on a warming planet”.  “As many as five billion people will face hunger and a lack of clean water by 2050 as the warming climate disrupts pollination, freshwater, and coastal habitats…. People living in South Asia and Africa will bear the worst of it.”  WaPo interviews Al Gore about his latest climate-related presentation, this one a stark warning “of a looming food crisis caused by climate change”.  The Intercept interviews Bill McKibben about his new book, Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?  Ozy has a story about Germany’s Minister for Food, Agriculture, and Consumer Protection who “Believes Trees Will Save Germany — If She Can Save the Trees”. Michigan Radio (NPR station) has a story headlined:  “Without widespread cultural change, the climate crisis won’t be solved, says UM expert”. The New York Times publishes an opinion piece by Naomi Orestes and Nicholas Stern titled “Climate Change Will Cost Us Even More Than We Think”.  Bloomberg also covered this story.


In a recent Executive Order, “Governor Ralph Northam Signs Executive Order to Expand Access to Renewable Energy, Support Clean Energy Jobs of the Future”.  The Richmond Times Dispatch headlined the story “State to buy energy from solar, wind projects to power government”.  And so did the Roanoke Times with this item:  “Plans for wind farm in Botetourt County move forward”.  Yale Environment 360 has this related item:  “Small Adjustments to Wind Turbines Can Reduce Impacts on Birds, New Study Finds”.  A recent study in the journal Energy Science found that changes to wind turbine design, such as making them taller with shorter blades, could decrease bird mortalityUtility Dive says “Virginia signs largest state renewable energy contract in US with 420 MW Dominion deal”.  The arrangement “aims to help the state meet new clean energy goals.  Combined with previously announced solar projects, electricity produced by the new wind and solar resources will help meet the equivalent of 45% of the state government’s annual energy use.”

Nearly a third of the Earth’s electricity will come from renewables by 2024, according to the International Energy Agency.  However, they warned that the expansion will still be “well short” of what’s required to meet aggressive goals aimed at fighting climate change.  A bipartisan group of 231 mayors sent a letter to Congress urging them to pass the Renewable Energy Extension Act (HR 3961/S. 2289), a five-year extension of the solar Investment Tax Credit.  Here’s a utility rate request that’s pretty unusual:  Camden News reports that “South Arkansas electric utility seeks rate reduction”.  Why?  “Ouachita Electric Cooperative is preparing to ask state regulators to lower rates for its 7,000 members in five south Arkansas counties. The decrease is fueled by advances in solar power and other efficiencies the utility has created.”  More good news from Ensia:  “New report: Efficiency can cut U.S. energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050”.

The Roanoke Times says that “Work on Mountain Valley Pipeline is winding down” but not because of the coming winter.  “Mountain Valley has lost three sets of key permits — all suspended because of the pipeline’s impact on the environment — that have fallen like slow-motion dominoes for a project that was supposed to be done by now.”  In another recent piece, the Times reports “Another delay, cost increase for Mountain Valley Pipeline”.  The Virginia Mercury has this recent headline, echoing the same stories:  “Mountain Valley Pipeline’s cost rises to $5.5 billion, completion pushed to 2020”.  The Post and Courier asks:  “Will SC need gas pipeline like it needed abandoned coal, nuclear plants?”  The piece questions Dominion Energy’s CEO’s wish to “to bring the [Atlantic Coast Pipeline into South Carolina]… if the demand is there”, concluding “It might turn out that we really do need additional natural gas capacity. Or it might turn out that we need another natural-gas pipeline about as much as we needed the coal plant and the nuclear reactors.”

Maritime transport is a large contributor to CO2 emissions.  This Guardian article reports in “Winds of change: the sailing ships cleaning up sea transport” that “Clean transport is the missing link, as many so-called sustainable or ethical goods are currently carried on ships that pollute the air and sea,” and that several shipping companies are increasing their transport of “sail cargo”.  Grist tells the story of “DREAMBOATS [and how] Space-age sails, bionic hulls, clean fuels drawn from the oceans themselves — the shipping industry is poised for transformation … if the stars align.”

The cost gap between electric and gas model cars is beginning to shrink, according to Rachelle Petusky, the manager of research and market intelligence for Cox Automotive Mobility.  And that shift is going to accelerate.

The Guardian has this opinion piece about New York State’s lawsuit against ExxonMobil.  Discussing how mis- and dis-information campaigns have slowed the public’s grasp about the dangers of carbon pollution, the authors reference their report, “America Misled: How the Fossil Fuel Industry Deliberately Misled Americans About Climate Change”.  They conclude:  “Exposing and explaining the techniques of denial are crucial steps in neutralizing disinformation… from any source. Once people know the ways they can be deceived, disinformation no longer has power over them…. But it’s not enough to offer information – we also have to expose disinformation, so that people understand what we have been up against.” Inside Climate News also writes about this trial and about “Former Exxon Scientists Tell[ing] Congress of Oil Giant’s Climate Research Before Exxon Turned to Denial”. UPI reports on another lawsuit on the same issue: “Supreme Court declines to issue stay in Baltimore suit against oil companies”.  Inside Climate News says Massachusetts has also sued ExxonMobil “Over Climate Change, Accusing the Oil Giant of Fraud”.  Politico has a story explaining how “Researchers can now link weather events to emissions – and to the companies responsible. A string of lawsuits is about to give “attribution science” a real-life test.”

Weather Internal (WI) reports that “Government Loophole Gave Oil Companies an $18 Billion Windfall”.  Excerpting from a New York Times story, WI quoted:  “The United States government has lost billions of dollars of oil and gas revenue to fossil-fuel companies because of a loophole in a decades-old law, a federal watchdog agency said…, offering the first detailed accounting of the consequences of a misstep by lawmakers that is expected to continue costing taxpayers for decades to come.”


NBC News has a story (and video) about a Columbia University light exhibit that lets “visitors … imagine what life would be like under 10 feet of water as humanity is confronted by the effects of climate change.”  Thompson Reuters has a somewhat related story:  “As climate impacts hit, cities are still struggling to prepare, researchers warn”.

From comes this 6:25 minute video about one marine biologist’s love of parrotfish, their unusual lifecycle and behaviors, and the news that humans have overfished them and that their habitat—the coral reefs—may not be around in 30 years unless we do something to stop their destruction.

BBC News has pictures that illustrate the dramatic loss of glacier ice in Iceland since the 1980s.  CNN reports on the wildfires raging in California.

On November 7, the “Byron Allen’s Weather Channel to host Special on Climate Change’s Impact on Black Communities With Presidential Candidates”.  The Weather Channel “will air 2020: Race to Save the Planet, a one-hour, primetime special featuring conversations with the network’s meteorologists and nine presidential candidates on climate change and produced in partnership with The Climate Desk, a media consortium.”

NOTE:  Solar United Neighbors/VA announces its 2019 Solar Congress, to be held in Williamsburg on November 16.  The list of topics includes basic solar information, electric vehicles and solar, advancing rooftop solar policy in VA, organizing to advance solar on the local level, battery storage and solar, equity in solar, organizing for solar in rural electric cooperatives, solar for schools/churches/non-profits, solar workforce development, and the business case for solar.  To learn more and register, visit this link.