Climate and Energy News Roundup 10/2/2020

Thanks to Joy Loving for compiling these news items while Les Grady is away this week!

Politics and Policy

The New York Times (NYT) Climate Forward covered climate in the 1st presidential debate and Inside Climate News speculated about how a Justice Amy Coney Barrett would rule on EPA and other climate actions.  There are questions about what listeners learned from the Trump-Biden exchanges.  Capital & Main fact-checked both candidates’ claims; so did Grist.  The American Conservation Council touted its role in pushing for including climate questions in the debate.  Grist addressed whether US farmers will support TrumpCNBC described “How Biden’s $1.7 trillion climate plan would change America after Trump’s Big Oil presidency”.  Financial Advisor explains how renewable energy investors will fare “under Biden versus Trump”.  A Gizmoto climate reporter said “much worse” will follow the end of climate denial because of risks to our democracy and our social order and policies favoring continued use of fossil fuels. Michael Mann said Trump’s reelection would be “game over” for addressing the climate crisis.

EPA will release a final rule on lead testing of water that “rejected top medical and scientific experts who urged … [requiring] the replacement of … [6 to 10M] lead service lines, an expensive but effective way to avoid crises like” Flint MI’s.  EPA finalized rules “allowing some major polluters to follow weaker emissions standards” and “estimated … the changes will result in up to 1,258 tons per year of additional emissions of hazardous air pollutants.”  US Geological Survey’s Director “refused to make public the study, by his own scientists, of the number of female polar bears that den and give birth on land near the southern Beaufort Sea”—the location the Trump administration okayed for oil and natural-gas development.

A Trump appointee to the SEC warned big business understands climate risks and should be required to disclose them.  The insurance industry is making it more expensive to insure high-risk homes; some are excluding climate-related natural disasters and dropping high-risk properties from coverage.  Fast Company made the case for a green climate bank, suggesting it “could spur private investment in clean energy and create millions of jobs—paving the way for a low-carbon future post-COVID-19”.  ”Germany’s DW Akademie presented several “big ideas” for “saving the planet.  A group of law students issued a climate scorecard for law firms that specialize in representing polluters.  Of 100 top firms, four scored ‘A’, 41 ‘D,’ and 26 ‘F’.  SCOTUS has agreed to hear lawsuits against major oil companies, “but that may not be a win for environmental groups looking to hold Big Oil accountable.”

“New plans from Ameren and Entergy show the trend to renewables [among large US utilities] is accelerating because coal just can’t compete.”  Rocky Mountain Institute reported “Clean Energy Is Canceling Gas Plants”.  Coal giant Arch Resources Inc. announced it dropped “coal” from its name; it is curtailing production.  The US government used emergency pandemic aid to purchase $355+M in bonds issued by oil and gas industry companies. Some believe the investments amount to a bailout.

A federal judge removed the acting director of the Bureau of Land Management following MT’s lawsuit, finding he “was illegally serving in his role through a series of temporary orders.”  “Tribes, archaeologists are working to identify sites in Greater Chaco for protections from oil and gas” leasing the Trump administration approved.  A one-year moratorium expired September 30.

Ahead of a major UN biodiversity summit, leaders of over 60 countries—not including the US, China, or Brazil—“promised to put wildlife and climate at [the] heart of post-Covid recovery plans.”  Rolling Stone asked and answered:  “Will We Be Able to Reverse Trump’s Climate Damage?”

Global consultant Accenture said cities with goals of 100% renewable energy by 2050 may find those goals difficult, or impossible, to meet.  Despite AZ’s climate-change-related droughts, fires, and heat, its legislature has pulled back from its focus and actions of 15 years ago; its cities and counties are stepping upGrist explored the likelihood of China’s meeting its net-zero goal by 2060.

Climate and Climate Science

New CA wildfires erupted, damaging Santa Rosa, displacing many and killing several.  “The emerging field of climate attribution helps explain the wildfires and hurricanes of 2020.”  San Francisco Bay area air quality, already bad from CA wildfires, could worsen.  Southeastern WY forest wildfires destroyed 50 structures and are expected to continue burning for a while.  Satellite data revealed the Amazon rainforest has experienced huge losses from 2020 fires and drought, “with a 61% rise in hotspots over September 2019”.  Two scientists warned about what continuing such losses will mean, as part of a NYT series, The Amazon Has Seen Our Future.

The EPA’s relaxation of the Clean Water Act’s protections put many bodies of water and waterways in danger.  A popular NC lake may be a casualty because of coal ash detritus, despite a 50-year-old agreement between NC and Duke Energy protecting nearby wetlands but not the lake. NC’s Dept of Environmental Quality is investigating collapse of structures built over a coal ash deposit

Global warming puts forests and trees at risk of changed distribution and forest cover loss.  An international report from 210 scientists in 42 countries said the natural world may lose 40% of plant species; the race is on to identify species now unknown that may be sources of “food, medicines and biofuels”. Gaps in food insecurity will continue to widen as climate crisis effects increase, though results will vary by country and region.

Scientists reported nighttime temperatures are increasing faster than those in daytime, affecting species active at night.  Ironically, China’s cleanup of coal plants could increase warming because their reduced sulfur dioxide emissions had previously reflected sunlight away from Earth; continued efforts could mean +.01°C by 2100.  Climate change is the #1 environmental concern, but worries about plastic’s ubiquity in our world continue.  Climate change effects include risks to superfund toxic waste sites, like those in NJ and TX.  A recent study warned about the ubiquity of “forever chemicals” and the difficulty regulators have in identifying and regulating them.

“While climate change was among the least-cited reasons [in a recent survey] for those who do not currently have children (behind financial, political and career concerns, among others),” a quarter of respondents said it influenced their decision to remain childless.

New scientific research concluded:  “By 2100 … [Greenland’s] ice sheet will shrink to [its] size … during the last time the world was hotter than today.”  By 2070 Australia’s inland rivers and waterways will be unrecognizable—thanks in part to changes in their physical structures from the effects of global warming. A recent study found “Mixing of the planet’s ocean waters is slowing down, speeding up global warming”.  Another study revealed the deep ocean off British Columbia is losing oxygen and becoming more acidic at an alarming rate.


Sierra Club asked and answered:  When hurricanes strike from the Gulf, “what happens to the offshore pipelines, deep-sea platforms, and underwater wellheads?”  One hurricane, 6 years ago, still causes massive pollution.  Big Springs TX-area residents are worried about effects on their water from a recent oil spill.

Xcel Energy wants to raise its TX customers’ electric bills because of falling natural gas prices but said a new wind farm will reduce them in early 2021.  Dominion Energy WV wants to charge customers a higher base rate for natural gas service, a rate consistent with increases of other WV gas utilities over the last decade.

Southern Company, GA Power’s corporate parent, “announced plans to convert 50 percent of its system fleet vehicles across the auto/SUV/minivan, forklift and ATV/cart/miscellaneous segments by 2030.”  Three House members—2 Democrats and 1 Republican—introduced the “Community Health and Clean Transit Act, [which] would provide zero-interest loans to help finance the purchase of zero-emission buses.”  Sierra Club reported that the DC Metro system is lagging behind other transit systems in upgrading to electric buses.

Tampa Electric Co wants to install 200 charging stations at “workplaces, retail businesses and government buildings.”  Dominion Energy announced rebates for charging stations “for multi-family communities, workplaces, transit bus depots and fast-charging locations….  A rebate program for the company’s residential customers will launch in Virginia in early 2021.”

Solar and wind power made the news:  Utility-scale project growth in several states; renewable energy supplied the majority of new power plant capacity in Q220; Duke Energy’s first floating solar array will be at NC’s Fort Bragg; TX is becoming a big player in the solar arena; a federal 10-year moratorium on “all offshore energy leasing, including conventional and renewable energy, beginning on July 1, 2022”.  The moratorium includes FL, SC, and NC, but not VA.

Recent Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP)-related actions/activities have included: legal challenges to re-issued stream crossing permits; and MVP won’t tell VA Health Dept about its Covid-19 plan.

The Dept of Energy awarded WVU engineers $3M to develop a process “to mitigate the emissions of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere … [from] natural gas flaring and harness the gas into high-value solid carbon and hydrogen for fuel.”  Canadian scientists are studying whether “blue carbon” in salt marshes and peatlands can mitigate sea level rise and be a carbon sink; they’re flooding marshes to find out.

Scientists created a “super-enzyme that degrades plastic bottles six times faster than before … and could be used for recycling within a year or two.”


Doug Tallamy: “A Guide to Restoring the Little Things that Run the World

Sir David Attenborough:  Now on Instagram.  His 1st-time video broke records for fastest accumulation of 1M followers.

“A major supermarket chain in Denmark lets customers know the carbon footprint of their groceries”.

Take the latest Washington Post Climate Quiz to learn what you know about climate effects, actions and events.

On NPR, OR Governor: “Confronting Reality of Longer and Hotter Fire Seasons

Forbes video:  Covid-19’s effect on bird song.

Closing Thought

“Looking at the skies, it makes you feel like you’ve traveled somewhere even when you haven’t.” 

Compiled by Joy Loving for Les Grady
CAAV Steering Committee