Joy Loving prepared this week’s edition.
Politics and Policy
Notwithstanding the Trump Administration’s actions to promote continued reliance on fossil fuels, there are many leaders, including in the President’s party, who favor putting a price on carbon. The Washington Post reports: “The fastest way to cut carbon emissions is a ‘fee’ and a dividend, top leaders say”. The Houston Chronicle documents that “Climate bills sweep Washington, as GOP and Democrats compete on approach”. Reuters says “A group aiming to spur climate change legislation that would tax carbon emissions stepped up efforts by issuing a blueprint on Thursday after previewing it with a group of bipartisan U.S. senators earlier this week…. The Climate Leadership Council’s plan aims to halve carbon emissions by 2035 from 2005 levels with a tax starting at $40 per ton. While that would make products like gasoline more expensive, the plan would return dividends to families of about $2,000 in the first year.” Politico warns that “Kevin McCarthy faces uneasy right flank over climate push, [noting] Some Republicans are wary of the minority leader’s narrow proposals.”
In Australia, the country’s massive bush fires haven’t dissuaded its leaders from their coal-friendly policies, as the Washington Post notes in this article: “Record fires and dead coral reefs aren’t dulling Australia’s lust for coal”. The fondness for coal continues in the U.S. also, as noted in this Inside Climate News item: “Trump May Approve Strip Mining on Tennessee’s Protected Cumberland Plateau”. Also, The Hill reports that “Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette on Friday announced a $64 million dollar initiative to fund research and development for coal, giving an assist to an industry that appears to be on the decline.”
The Administration’s budget proposal includes significant cuts in the science, health, and environmental arenas, including elimination of 50 Environmental Protection Agency programs. Inside Climate News asks “Is Trump’s USDA Ready to Address Climate Change? There are Hopeful Signs. Though critics are dubious, in a new 5-year plan the agency addresses weather disasters that have battered American farms and specifically mentions climate change.” These critics say “[t]he plan … pushes an agenda that fails to fundamentally change an agricultural system that degrades soil health, continues to emit greenhouse gases at a growing rate, and relies heavily on fossil fuels, chemicals and synthetic fertilizers.” Inside Climate News also suggests that “Drilling, Mining Boom Possible But Unlikely Under Trump’s Final Plan for Southern Utah Lands. The biggest climate impact will be on the lands’ capacity to reduce carbon emissions and provide carbon sinks.”
Vox reporter David Roberts says “The next president can force the financial sector to take climate change seriously”. He notes that thanks to Dodd‑Frank legislation, Congressional authorization isn’t needed because of the financial industry’s extreme vulnerability to climate change. Also, Axios has several stories about pro-climate actions by some members of the President’s party.
The Church of England “voted overwhelmingly to target net zero emissions for its operations by 2030, strengthening the original proposal to reach that target by 2045.” (Fortune article) The New York Post says “Voters claim they want a leader who’ll actually do something about climate change”. Mother Jones says “poll numbers don’t lie”: “Trump’s Biggest Vulnerability Is His Climate Change Denial”. Inside Climate News: An Obscure Issue Four Years Ago, Climate Emerged as a Top Concern in New Hampshire
Climate and Climate Science
Jennifer Rankin, of The Guardian, reports on maps of Europe projecting the massive scale of “possible forest fires, floods, droughts and deluges that Europe could face by the end of the century.” Phys.org describes a Centre for research on Energy and Clean Air report that concludes “Air pollution costs $2.9 trillion a year…, [or] $8 billion a day, or roughly 3.3 percent of the entire world’s economic output.”
Inside Climate News reports that “Billions of Acres of Cropland Lie Within a New Frontier. So Do 100 Years of Carbon Emissions…. As the climate warms in the decades ahead, billions of acres, most of them in the northern hemisphere, will become suitable for agriculture and could, if plowed, emit a massive, planet-altering amount of greenhouse gases.”
On February 6 “Antarctica [Was] Warmer than Los Angeles” at 64.9 degrees. Amazingly and on February 14 “Temperature in Antarctica soars to near 70 degrees, appearing to topple continental record set days earlier”.
Augusta Free Press reports that some VA Tech scientists are working “with the New Zealand government-owned research entity Scion [to] understand … the dynamics of water and nutrients in forest systems.” These systems are “a crucial resource for fresh water around the world.” The Washington Post Magazine’s story, The Green Miles, details how “Kentucky was devastated for decades by mountaintop removal. Now scientists have figured out a way to undo the damage — one tree at a time.” Ohio Valley Resource reports that “Heavy rainfall events have already increased by 20 percent since the early 20th century in eastern Kentucky, and climate scientists believe that the region is likely to see more extreme rainfall in the future.”
As if its bushfire woes haven’t been terrible enough, Sydney Australia is facing a severe flooding threat, according to this Sydney Morning Herald item and this one from the BBC. Drinking water can be contaminated from the wildfires, notes Inside Climate News.
A recent survey of 1000 South Florida residents whose properties were at some risk from flooding tried to assess the residents’ understanding of those risks. The survey wanted to test the effectiveness of tailored messages – visual, local and dramatic – … that will get the public’s attention … and are intended to help people understand risk as it relates to them, and perhaps, change their behavior. The messages were First Street Foundation “maps that represent what flooding in the future might look like. The results? “Those who saw the maps were no more likely to believe that climate change exists, that climate change increases the severity of storms or that sea level is rising and related to climate change. Even more dramatically, exposure to the scientific map did not influence beliefs that their own homes were susceptible to flooding or that sea level rise would reduce local property values.” CNBC says Scientists are using Twitter to measure the impact of climate change. “Minor and recurring floods — also known as nuisance flooding — may be more frequent than official figures would suggest, according to a new study published by Nature Communications.”
“The Trump Administration is allowing, even encouraging, drilling on public lands. Resulting emissions will severely “undermine global climate policy.” (The Guardian article) “The Trump administration has offered oil companies a chunk of the American west and the Gulf of Mexico that’s four times the size of California – an expansive drilling plan that threatens to entrench the industry at the expense of other outdoor jobs, while locking in enough emissions to undermine global climate policy.” (The Guardian article) A piece in The Hill echoed this activity.
The 2020 General Assembly (GA) session has seen a deluge of clean energy legislation. As the GA begins the second half, Ivy Main provides a comprehensive summary of what’s being proposed and where the various bills stand. The Daily Energy Insider offers its description of one of the major bills, the Virginia Clean Economy Act. Blog posters on Bacon’s Rebellion offer their takes on the many aspects of this bill in Omnibus, Omnibus II, and Omnibus III. The Associated Press also weighs in.
Another area before the GA this session relates to the large utilities’ regulated monopoly status and what implications there are for their customers to seek renewable energy-sourced power from other energy providers. The Virginia Mercury’s Sarah Vogelsong describes what’s happened so far on two legislative proposals addressing the current restrictions, and exemptions, in the VA code.
Remember BP and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico? According to the Washington Post, this week brought some bad news about the latter and (maybe) some good, or too-good-to-be-true news about the former. Axios suggests that “BP’s climate move could mean new pressure on Exxon and Chevron”. Bloomberg Green suggests “BP Sets Bold Agenda for Big Oil With Plan to Eliminate CO2”. The Guardian notes that “BP, Shell, Chevron and Exxon have made almost $2tn in profits in the past three decades as their exploitation of oil, gas and coal reserves has driven the planet to the brink of climate breakdown….”
Bloomberg Green reports that “Energy Markets Need Winter, and Climate Change Is Taking It Away. The warmest January on record is making life difficult for oil and gas traders.” Axios agrees: “There’s more oil and gas than ever — and the industry is tanking.” Why? Because “The industry’s stocks are in the toilet, and climate change is fast becoming a mainstream investor worry. These problems overlap and neither is going away anytime soon — if ever.” The PBS Newshour reports that “The International Energy Agency expects demand for oil to fall in the first quarter as a result of the virus outbreak that emanated in China. Any fall would represent the first quarterly decline in a decade.” Perhaps this reality in part explains this ProPublica item, “How Louisiana Lawmakers Stop Residents’ Efforts to Fight Big Oil and Gas”. The headline describes Louisiana as a “Polluter’s Paradise”. Energy News Network reports on a similar effort to silence protesters in Ohio. In Louisiana, meanwhile, The Times-Picayune reports that “Louisiana high school students study coastal restoration amid climate change.”
This Reuters article on International Energy Agency report says: “Global CO2 emissions from power generation flatten out … after two years of increase. Why? “The growth of renewable energy and fuel switching from coal to natural gas led to lower emissions from advanced economies. Milder weather in several countries and slower economic growth in some emerging markets also contributed….” The Washington Times also reports on this story.
NC Policy Watch says Lumberton NC may soon be home to another wood pellet plant, describing the town as an “area already home to multiple pollution sources”. These include solid waste and toxic waste landfills and brownfield and coal ash sites, among others. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that the delivery service company UPS is working to increase its use of electric trucks and self-driving vans. Indigenous peoples are vigorously protesting a planned Canadian pipeline project, halting rail traffic across the country, according to this National Public Radio story.
Mother Jones heralds “The Biggest Municipal Solar Farm in the US Is Coming to…Cincinnati?”
Virginia recently destroyed a habitat used by thousands of migratory birds as part of an infrastructure project for the Hampton Roads Tunnel. The state initially cited recent Trump Administration policy changes that lessened protections for migratory birds. The Augusta Free Press reports that “Virginia releases plan to address loss of habitat for birds on South Island”. “Virginia is a world class outdoor recreation destination, and the birds using the Atlantic Flyway that stop along our shores are a big reason why,” said Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler. “Protecting wildlife resources is challenging under the best of circumstances and it becomes even harder when federal partners weaken longstanding policies.”
A recent Washington Post article on parenting describes “How climate experts think about raising children who will inherit a planet in crisis”.
Yale Environment 360 brings us the story of “How Native Tribes Are Taking the Lead on Planning for Climate Change”. The Walrus says clothing from alpaca wool is more sustainable than that from sheep. Max Aung pens this essay in Environmental Health News: Source of pride and pollution: Balancing energy needs and community health. Canadian Broadcasting Company explains “How produce stickers contribute to climate change”. Ozy has this story about a plan in Europe to combat climate change using plastic. Huh? It’s about building a plastic-to-fuel technology market. Ozy also educates us about “How Solar Roads Could Make Transport Cleaner”. Ensia enlightens us about how African farmers are working to reverse the long-time degradation of soils by planting trees—“farmer managed natural regeneration”. Bloomberg Green sounds this alarm: “Climate Change Is Coming for Your Oreos”. Wha’? Why? Because “Drenched fields across the U.S. make wheat a scarcer commodity.”