Climate and Energy News Roundup 2/28/2020

Politics and Policy

A poll, conducted by Climate Nexus, the Yale University Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication found that climate change is the second-most important issue for Democratic voters in 26 states, behind only health care.  Umair Irfan of Vox evaluated presidential contender Mike Bloomberg’s record and plans on climate change.  On Thursday, the top two senators on the U.S. Senate energy committee unveiled a bipartisan energy legislation package, called the American Energy Innovation Act, that would support renewable energy, efficiency measures, and nuclear power.  The Trump administration announced on Wednesday that it will resume coal leasing on public lands.  On the other hand, a federal judge in Idaho ruled Thursday that a Trump administration policy limiting public input on oil and gas leasing decisions was “arbitrary and capricious,” overturning the 2018 directive and voiding nearly 1 million acres of leases out West as a result.  Climate change could become a “catastrophic” threat to global security, as people lose their livelihoods, fall ill, and battle over scarce water and food, a host of U.S. security, military, and intelligence experts warned in a report by the Center of Climate and Security.  A new paper in the journal Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development reported that almost 60% of Americans support making fossil fuel companies pay for a portion of the damages to local communities caused by global warming. 

In a yet-to-be-released report, Climate Works Australia has found that the country can achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 with known technologies, provided the electricity market is 100% renewables by 2035 and other benchmarks are achieved.  The EU plans to impose costs on imports from other countries based on the carbon emissions associated with those imports in order to protect EU industries from competitors in countries with less stringent climate policies.  Incoming UN special envoy on climate action, Mark Carney, has told banks and investors that every private finance decision must take into account climate change and how to decarbonize the world economy to net zero.  The world’s financial services sector risks losses of up to $1 trillion if it fails to respond quickly to climate change and is hit by policy shifts such as the introduction of a carbon tax, a new report by consultants Oliver Wyman shows.  EU countries need to invest to prepare their transport infrastructure for the impacts of climate change or face hundreds of millions of dollars in repair costs, a U.N. regional commission said in a new report.

Virginia lawmakers have given final approval to a measure that will make the state a full participant in the Regional Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Initiative (RGGI), a multistate carbon cap-and-trade program.  In an opinion piece in The New York Times (NYT), Justin Gillis brought us up to date on the status of the Transportation and Climate Initiative, which is patterned after RGGI and involves the same states, but with a focus on lowering GHG emissions from transportation rather than electricity.  Under legislation that passed through both houses of the Virginia General assembly, state agencies cannot grant leases or easements for any pipelines or other infrastructure for oil and gas produced offshore under a permit or lease from the federal government.  The oil and gas industry substantially rewards U.S. legislators with campaign donations when they oppose environmental protections, according to a new analysis of congressional votes and political contributions published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).  Writing in Scientific American, the authors of a recent study in Nature exploring fossil-fuel subsidies argue that the funding of them must end.

In an opinion piece for the NYT, Australian physician Lisa Pryor wrote: “The question I have been asking myself is, what does it matter that I accept the science of climate change if I continue to live my life as if climate change were a hoax?  Who cares how many people accept the data if we are still consuming, traveling, investing, eating, dressing, voting and planning for the future as if global warming were imaginary?”  Similarly, the Los Angeles Times took both President Trump and the oil companies to task over their “fig-leaf solutions” for the climate crisis.  So how can you tell whether a proposal is likely to be effective?  Ensia asked experts and came up with three criteria that are good starting places for separating legitimate climate plans from false and hollow claims.  JPMorgan Chase, the world’s largest financier of fossil fuels, has warned clients that the climate crisis threatens the survival of humanity and that the planet is on an unsustainable trajectory, according to a leaked report obtained by The Guardian.  And, at Rolling Stone, Bill McKibben had an article entitled “How JPMorgan Chase Became the Doomsday Bank.” 

Climate and Climate Science

According to new research published Tuesday in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, the world’s major wind-driven ocean currents are moving toward the poles, potentially depriving important coastal fishing waters of nutrients and raising the risk of sea level rise, extreme storms, and heatwaves for some adjacent land areas.  Climate change could add around $100 billion, or more than 20%, to the annual global cost of extreme weather events by 2040, Cambridge University said on Wednesday.

In a paper published this week in the journal Nature Climate Change, nearly two dozen Arctic experts described how over the last three years, Alaska’s northwestern coast has experienced a series of unusual climate-related changes.  Grist had an interesting article about paralytic shellfish poisoning, caused by saxitoxin produced by the algae Alexandrium catenella, which appears to be increasing in frequency as Alaskan waters warm, putting indigenous people in danger.  In 2014-2016 unusual warming of the northern Pacific, referred to as “the Blob” led to widespread die-offs of sea birds, whales, and other sea mammals.  Now, scientists are concerned there may be a repeat of the phenomenon this summer.

The Great Barrier Reef is still at risk of a widespread outbreak of coral bleaching despite a cyclone to the far west helping to temporarily cool stressed corals.  Climate scientists have concluded that the recent bushfires in Australia were more catastrophic than any simulation of our changing climate predicted.

If you would like to hone your debate skills, Jeff Berardelli, a meteorologist with CBS news, has prepared an excellent piece entitled “10 common myths about climate change – and what science really says.”

In an essay at Yale Climate Connections, Kristen Pope summarized the findings of two studies involving penguins, one in Global Change Biology about emperor penguins and one in PNAS about chinstrap and gentoo penguins.  Emperor penguins are expected to fare far less well than the other two as the climate warms.


Last week, Dominion Energy notified PJM, the regional electric grid operator from which Virginia gets its energy, that it plans to deactivate its two coal-fired units at the Chesterfield Power Station and Birchwood Power Partners announced plans to close its King George facility.  The closures will take more than 1.2 GW of coal-fired energy offline.  The Virginia State Corporation Commission has approved three battery-storage pilot projects proposed by Dominion Energy.

If you are interested in buying an electric vehicle (EV), you might have a hard time finding one.  E&E News investigated why.  The Los Angeles Department of Transportation will add 155 electric buses to the city’s fleet over the next two years, officials said Thursday.  A looming problem for battery-powered EVs is that cobalt, which is essential in the production of today’s lithium-ion batteries, is in limited supply.

Foresight Climate and Energy provided an in-depth analysis of H2 as an energy carrier.  The UK is about to experiment with a H2 fuel cell train.  Anglo American, ENGIE, and Williams Advanced Engineering are working together to create the world’s largest H2-powered mining truck capable of performing just as well, if not better, than its diesel-powered counterparts. 

Recently, researchers from Carnegie Mellon, Princeton, and Stanford Universities released a comprehensive study on the environmental, social, and economic impacts of industrial fracking on the Appalachian Basin.  Their findings were summarized in Eos, a publication of the American Geophysical Union, a professional society.

For years the U.S. military has blocked the installation of off-shore wind turbines on the coast of California.  Although much remains to be worked out, it appears that a deal will be reached to allow them off the central part of the state.  Because of the water depth, they are likely to be the nation’s first floating turbines.


Bill McKibben had a lengthy essay, “A Very Hot Year,” in The New York Review of Books.  A new book by Michael T. Klare, entitled All Hell Breaking Loose: The Pentagon’s Perspective on Climate Change looks at climate change from the perspective of people in the military.  Alex Ward interviewed the author for Vox.  Perhaps you’ve been offered the opportunity to buy carbon offsets along with your airplane ticket to help reduce the climate impact of your flight.  Vox had an article explaining them.  Carbon Brief had a fact-check on the carbon footprint of streaming video on Netflix.  Seems as if some recent “news” was off-the-mark.  There is a list of all the cli-fi books that Amy Brady has reviewed at  At Chicago Review of Books, Amy Brady interviewed author Anne Charnock about Bridge 108, which “reveals how large, systemic problems like economic stratification and climate change are tightly entwined.”  The Tyee’s Andrew Nikiforuk spent two days with the globally bestselling botanist, author, and filmmaker Diana Beresford-Kroeger.  Their conversation was so rich it merited five parts, ranging “from plant medicine to climate change to healing the planet and the human heart.”  Greta Thunberg’s mother, Malena Ernman, had an edited extract in The Guardian from the family’s new book Our House Is on Fire: Scenes of a Family and a Planet in Crisis, which focuses on Greta’s “transformation from bullied teenager to climate icon.”

These news items have been compiled by Les Grady, member and former chair of the CAAV steering committee. He is a licensed professional engineer (retired) who taught environmental engineering at Purdue and Clemson Universities and engaged in private practice with CH2M Hill, the world’s largest environmental engineering consulting firm. Since his retirement in 2003 he has devoted much of his time to the study of climate science and the question of global warming and makes himself available to speak to groups about this subject. More here.